Sometimes as I read the Psalms I wonder what people would think if someone was to pray this way in our Church Prayer Meetings. The great thing about the Psalms is that they reflect every emotion of the human soul,they express fears and joys, penitence and assurance of God’s love and we could go. Below i want to look at just one or two examples of what the Psalms can teach us today.
Firstly lets look at Psalm 42,
42 For the music director. A maskil of the sons of Korah.
1 As a deer longs for streams of water,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,
while they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
4 These I remember and I pour out my soul within me:
that I would go with the multitude;
I led them in procession to the house of God,
with a voice of rejoicing and thanksgiving,
a crowd celebrating a festival.
5 Why are you ⌊in despair⌋, O my soul,
and disturbed within me?
Hope in God, because I will again praise him,
for the salvation of his presence.
6 O my God, within me my soul is ⌊in despair⌋;
therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan
and the heights of Hermon, from the mountain of Mizar.
7 Deep is calling to deep
at the thunder of your waterfalls.
All your breakers and your waves
have passed over me.
8 By day Yahweh commands his loyal love,
and in the night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God, my rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a shattering in my bones
my oppressors taunt me,
while they say to me ⌊all day⌋,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why are you ⌊in despair⌋, O my soul?
And why are you disturbed within me?
Hope in God, because I shall again praise him,
⌊my salvation⌋ and my God.
The Psalmist here says things to God like why “have you forgotten me?” surely a spiritual person should not be feeling so low should they? Yet the whole Psalm shows that the greatest desire of this man’s heart is to be close to God, he does not need to cloak his feelings in pious words. He feels that he can be totally honest with God and we need to learn from that. How often do we think to ourselves that we cannot tell God how we really feel, yet God knows anyway and he longs for us to be real with him. This Psalm and many others encourage us to come to God when we are feeling low and tell him exactly how we feel. He inspired the Psalms for our use so it must be OK with him even if our fellow Christians feel we are a little odd. When we are feeling depressed the Psalms can be a great help to us.
In other Psalms we find a more meditative mood, take Psalm 23 as an example,
23 A psalm of David.
1 Yahweh is my shepherd;
I will not lack for anything.
2 In grassy pastures he makes me lie down;
by quiet waters he leads me.
3 He restores my life.
He leads me in ⌊correct paths⌋
for the sake of his name.
4 Even when I walk in a dark valley, I fear no evil
because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare before me a table
in the presence of my oppressors.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup is overflowing.
6 Surely goodness and loyal love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will stay in the house of Yahweh
⌊for a very long time⌋.
The Psalmist here quietly meditates upon the goodness and grace of God. Here we find notes of quiet assurance that God will provide because he cares for the sheep of his pasture. We are so familiar with this Psalm that we need to stop and ask ourselves, what this Psalm really means for us. Do we see that our God cares for us in this same tender way as the Psalm describes or is our God a remote deity? The Psalmist here is quietly assured of the love,care and sovereignty of God. This shepherd cares for his sheep with a love which is invincible, if we are in Christ then we too have that same knowledge that this shepherd is our shepherd.
On other occasions the Psalmist is fill with exuberant praise for God, lets look at Psalm 150,
1 Praise the LORD. j
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.
The Psalmist here wants everybody to praise God with their whole being, he sees the greatness of God and wants to praise and worship him. Notice how he wants the band to strike up in praise of God, this is lively worship indeed. We should notice that he enjoys this joyful sound because it praises the Lord. He does not want aloud noise because that is the fashion rather he wants to make a loud noise because God is worthy of praise.
The Psalms teach us that we can be ourselves before God and express what we really feel. This does not give us a license to be selfish in our worship times, sometimes the worship will be quiet when we feel like shouting out our praises. In such situations we need to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, who will always help us to worship in a way that reflects booth our love to God and for our fellow believer. In our own homes we can express exactly how we feel and mostly in church on a Sunday morning there is enough diversity for us to express our feelings. The important thing is that we know the presence of God in every part of our being. The God of the Psalmist is our God therefore we can be real before him and express exactly what is on our hearts and he will listen to us.
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Thanks for your thoughts. I like the balance you bring out of the different Psalms. As you say there is quite a variety of encounters with God. Maybe its because of some of the situations that I have been in, but with Psalm 23 I see a grittier side. The beginning comes across as very gentle and caring, but then when it is walking through the dark vale or when I eat in the presence of my enemies, I know that in such situations it is only by faith that I know He is there with me. There is a sense of holding onto the memories of being with Him by streams of waters, and the assurance that his rod and staff will challenge me if I leave the path that encourages me to keep going without fear.
Thank you for your comments. They are very encouraging. I can see what you mean about the 23rd Psalm.
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