It’s us, and God.
Us at our most arrogant, berating God, daring him not to love us. At our most complacent, forgetting him over and over. Lost in love of him. Full of awe, and complaints. Suffering, humble. Aware we are nothing without the author of life. Triumphant, wicked, ashamed, repentant. Waiting for God, impatient with him.
God rarely if ever speaks first person in Psalms.
But in praise he is revealed; grand, impossibly powerful, yet tender and loving. Always reminding us to lift up the weak and vulnerable.
In memory he is revealed; faithful, just, keeper of promises. A safe refuge, the ultimate comfort. Pulling the strings of history, and knitting us in the womb. From the eternal we understand the immediate, and by the the quiet waters, we understand the eternal, and pant for it like parched deer.
In visions he is revealed; enthroned, mighty, saviour, king, priest and suffering sacrifice on our behalf.
It’s all here, it’s songs drawn together to tell the whole story of God: Father, Spirit and Messiah. Sin, forgiveness, depending on him in everyday life. It’s a mini Bible.
Solo songs, group songs loud and quiet. All of the emotions, nothing hidden from god. Songs are for catharsis, for healing. They are teaching aids, cheerleader chants, mesmerising dances, shouts of joy, cries from the heart of desperation, anger and of love.
You could spend the rest of your life dipping into Psalms, it’s the way to do it. They can get repetitive, there’s not that much literary structure in how they are arranged as far as I can see (some would passionately disagree)… But their content is structured around the consistency of eternal truths, so they fill out your understanding in every direction.
During the course of reading them it was a little like Jesus’ parable of the sower, some fell by the wayside, but some took hold of my heart. It covered some huge events like losing and getting a job, illness and death, my rising awareness of injustice around me in Australia, fears for the world and for me, big struggles with identity, pride, and how to love those closest to me. The connecting of God’s love to my life, in any circumstances, was profound. They comfort and challenge me.
Like any poetry, you can’t be too destination driven, you have to take it slow, ruminate and let them speak.
1 kicking off with the word “blessed” the nourishing stream of God’s word starts to flow, will you be a tree or chaff?
2 Jesus and the father share a joke about kingdoms who invest so much hope in their plotting and planning
3 David asks god to slug his enemies… in love, no doubt. I ask him to slug my problems on a Monday morning
4 seeing the wicked, all David can do is pray that they will be blessed as he has been.
5 calling down punishment on enemies, is like uncensorsed thoughts of us
6 David’s resilience from knowing God. He won’t break no matter how low he goes
7 David’s fears for his deteriorating situation in Saul’s court moves beyond self pity to a lament over sin
8 Childlike wonder over the heavens and the largeness of God compared to man becomes a stronghold against enemies
9 David contemplating that his enemies will pass away gives rise to compassion for those who face God’s judgement
10 a psalm of yearning and personal pain about how the arrogant and ungodly thrive
11 David’s courage as he takes refuge in God rather than hide in the hills from pursuers, and trusts that death will simply bring him face to face with God.
12 about words, lying self seeking ones and the Word that is a balm and a cool drink.
13 a psalm of impatience. God, who is almost jeered into action, is better than Baal at least he exists!
14 longing for evil not to succeed, horrified by it’s power, contemplating original sin.
15 an enduring portrait of a righteous person, still heroic today, simple, easy to pray through
16 David’s contentment uses day and night as metaphors for knowing God during life and eternally, practical help and a satisfied mind.
17 telling God to smite your enemies is not always a violent wish fulfillment. It’s giving them to God. Does he control your enemies, or do they control you?
18 with God I can scale walls. A huge outpouring of love for God as the daughter of a friend of mine fights for her life
19 comparing the heavens and sweetest honey to the law, which if you think about it the content is selflessness, compassion, justice. It’s beautiful, and tells of God as the heavens do.
20 a benediction, wishing good things for the readers, and reminding them to trust God not chariots and horses.
21 celebration psalm, a sequel to yesterday’s. Psalms are moments, about what is, not what should be, it’s very important as a Christian to be like that
22 from self obsession to God obsession, the venting of misery causes an abrupt shift of tone to praise.
23 the most famous psalm knocks down our deepest fears like nine pins.
24 here’s God! Being prepared to meet, experience blessing, on a sad day for a friend with a gravely ill daughter
25 waiting for God… Going deeper into God as a response to panic and pressure
26 the King boasts of living a blameless life. A surprising picture of grace and equality before God
27 David’s seeming military pre-battle psalm is actually about submitting to God, not enlisting God to your side
28 David’s request for earthly punishment of enemies is not a crude undertaking of eternity, is an awareness of an eternal perspective to transform our minds in the present
29 a poem about the wild, chaotic, mighty voice of God ending with a blessing of peace
30 shaking not shaken.. examples of God turning suffering into dancing.
31 earthly salvation connects David to contemplating God’s. This psalm inspired Luther to protest, and has Jesus’ last words. Our times are in his hands
32 feeling the weight of sin compared to feeling forgiven, being enveloped in love, surrounded by songs.
33 psalms are moments, like pop songs. This is a praise moment, to be sung, not overthought.
34 “I will extol the Lord at all times” a praise psalm from desperate need, as I talk to a work colleague with a gravely ill baby daughter
35 bringing grievances about your enemies to God… The right starting place. Longing for justice when living with corrupt power structures.
36 kingly self talk from David… The wise guys, the operators, got it wrong. So much more on offer from casting your lot with God
37 an alphabet acronym psalm comparing righteous with unrighteous life choices, and a bit of encouragement to close. I contrasted that life is complex, things need to be reinforced sometimes daily.
38 a messy unresolved cry of doubt, self pity and guilt
39 David at the extreme of futility and angst, silent to man, inadequate before God
40 bringing problems to God starts to solve them because they lose their power. David is in such a pickle that even after realising this he ends with “don’t delay!”
41 David’s reaction to coups and betrayals by some of those closest to him. Asking for mercy, aware that you are a sinner yourself
42 like a deer panting for water, this aches with longing and sadness “deep calls to deep” – deep misery, deep love of God
43 the delicate matter of challenging God to vindicate you via a vis your enemies, based on his revealed character.
44 Understanding frustration to God. When God seems “asleep”… It can actually be a time of mercy
45 an idealised bride and groom is like the Messiah and the chosen people, a giddy happy wedding day psalm about heaven
46 God’s presence in the chaos of life… Though mountains shake and crumble, be still and remember your creator
47 proclaiming God king of all nations. Is this a universalist theology, was it on hold until Jesus sent out missionaries? I speculate at length
48 the glory of knowing we are saved, now. It throws evil into chaos. It bought peace for a generation of Israel, and can buy peace for ours
49 highlight of old testament revelation: eternal life through God’s is worth more than all the wealth of the world. It’s old news, theologically, to us, yet money still has us in an iron grip.
50 A two pronged critique aimed at believers. Don’t hope in your rituals to earn God’s approval or grace. And your hypocrisy serves to deny God’s grace to his people, it is most publically judged
– David: sinner, outcast, King 51-72
51 Penitence. Acknowledging the whole ugliness to God means experiencing the whole beauty of forgiveness and renewal
52 a moral exploration David comparing himself to Doeg, an opportuniatic henchman of Saul. How is he different? Another penitential psalm of sorts.
53 Preparing for battle David observes corruption on both sides. Handing God your fear, giving him the result is the key.
54 Prayer that starts as a scream of emotion, and the process of saying it starts to unpack it. David pursued by Saul
55 now king David, surrounded by political betrayers, he’d like to escape to an empty desert, but casts his problems on the Lord
56 psalms of David’s problems, this self talk leads from physical aid to the assurance of his salvation. I go the other direction, from heaven to job seeking prayers.
57 A night in a cave to a glorious morning, David feels the protection then sings for joy
58 one of those bloodthirsty psalms, I compare a sincere love of justice with jealousy of winners, or vindictiveness. It has its place, were allowed to enjoy it
59 David’s reaction to first being hunted by Saul. First finding safety, then vindication, then in the morning, love of God.
60 going into battle aware of God’s size and his ownership of the outcome… The nations are his shoe rack, his hand basin. That’s how big he is!
61 David in anguish, stuck in a loop, up all night, praying the same thing over and over and asking “how long, how long”. Thinking of him, and of me, I thank God for his patience.
62 In the face of palace intrigue, David finds strength in his weakness – describes himself as a tottering fence – knock me over, have it all, the rock is my calm, the two great commandments my law
63 David lost in the desert, parched, gets quite trippy, lost in God’s love
64 David’s psalm about treachery makes me happy I have so little in my life
65 praising God’s blessing, what he does more than who he is, but using the spreading fingers of sustenance, the rivers, and the abundance of the harvest, to celebrate God’s character.
66 In praise of God’s salvation, via Jews, abundantly for all nations. Reading it on the day of a vile anti semitic attack in the U.S.
67 Even “the chosen people” praise the god of all nations, assigning the truth of their monotheism. It’s like sunshine, the world is under control
68 Grand processional psalm for the arrival of the ark in Jerusalem. Zooms through great moments in their history, calls blessing on the city
69 an emotional journey though despair. David is a suffering king here, his emotional nature made him a figure of fun. There are messianic echoes, but adding to it is his sense of his own sin.
70 This psalm escapes the complexity that engulfed 69. Pleas for help beginning and end sandwich practical and eternal salvation
71 My life is easy compared to David’s hunted one. I toy with the idea that my faith is a huge example of confirmation bias, and conclude that I don’t care.
72 A beautiful and poignant picture of an ideal king, who gives glory to God. Rich in the gentle and abundant love shown by caring for the poor and vulnerable
– Remembering 73-80
73 Greedy selfish immoral people can seem beautiful, successful and glamorous. God promises to be sufficient.
74 When God is silent about terrible events, crying to him on others behalf is, ironically, a work of the spirit.
75 the challenge to be honest about god’s judgement.
76 Recalling the glory days of Israel, but calling on the deeper blessing of God that is larger than their rises and falls
77 Continuing the theme of remembering, the chaos of current times of compared to the wild sea and god’s protection to the escape from Egypt through the sea.
78 reviewing the whole history of god’s people, how wild and yet how patient is God
79 it’s ok to tell God things are not living up to his promises, to challenge him on the basis of his character.
80 The fall of the northern Kingdom, and a plea for it’s restoration. The answer was no, in it’s literal sense
81 sing joyfully to God. A festival Psalm to cheer myself into a new year of work despite uncertainty.
82 the “gods” of earth vs God. Jehovah is above all. Our gods are a bit broken. Maybe they are the ones we know before we know God.
83 frustration with enemies, I apply it to crafting a Christian message for modern australia.
84 singing about the loveliness of God’s dwelling place, longing to be in god’s presence
85 from a time of distress, remembering god’s mercy in the past, an extended image of blessing coming down, fruitfulness and praise reaching up
86 a pile of praise phrases as David gets lost in God. I call alignment of your mind to God “good brainwashing” because you discover your humanity, free your identity.
87 about Zion, metaphor for salvation, the city of God I miss out on a job, but glory in this citizenship
88 the saddest Psalm, full of pain and doubt that god is listening. But full of faith as well
89 misery wrapped both ends in praise. Clinging to God’s eternal truth when it seems impossible
90 numbering our days. Moses’ Psalm about our sense of eternity giving our lives a span and a context animals never have
91 A warm cocoon of god’s love and protection, worn by soldiers, made complete by the truth about eternity
92 Praise Psalm about god’s faithfulness over the long game: we are trees. The grass may seem to have more spectacular growth short term, but we see it come and go.
– Enthronement Psalms 93-100
93 A vision of God in heaven, enlarging their understanding of God’s geographical rule and timelessness.
94 God’s two responses to evil, discipline or destruction. Discipline is better
95 Venite, do not harden your hearts, a praise Psalm with a sting in the tail, waiting for Jesus.
96 A new song, for all nations, a perfect sequel to yesterday’s despair in Psalm 95. Ends with judgement that is liberation from injustice.
97 A Psalm about God’s global reign, describes the truth of his power in terms that were true at the start of the gospel sorry are engaging true today, years after being written, in ways the psalmist couldn’t have imagined.
98 A joyous Psalm, all is creation singing for joy, trees clapping etc, another (!) New song
99 God enthroned, and memories of his great deeds through Moses, Jacob, Aaron and Samuel.
100 About being god’s sheep, he owns us, he’s good, he’s faithful. Don’t think of praise as unrealistic, think of it as a moment of joy to carry you through the contradictions.
101 David’s high standards for his kingship. He didn’t keep them, but he was about the best they ever had. It is about the value of absolute in a compromised world, as long as you are humble about it
102 The smashed, exiled Israel is compared to a lonely vulnerable bird, but then prophesy is recalled to find encouragement
103 An airy, spacious praise song, the size of God, the distance he’s rejoice our sin from us, the eternal blessing and abundance
104 A celebration of God’s teeming endlessly varied creation, like a response to genesis
105 Promises made, premises kept. A review of Israel’s history.
106 God’s promises defy our lack of consistency. The history again, focusing on the people rather than God.
107 Four examples of God’s saving power, grandly written, Isaiah like messianic passages of blessing and judgement
108 a join of Psalm 58 and 60, both about God being big and the key word: steadfast.
109 Very strong curses prayed about enemies. It the right thing to do with them. The well of anger in your heart, laid on the altar, stops owning you.
110 Amazing comparison of David’s military machine to the kingdom god will establish though the world with the Messiah, king and priest forever.
– Passover and novelty Psalms 111-119
111 Pure praise, which I compare to my love of pure pop. God, help me smile, help me relax and get on with the stuff I need to do.
112 this and 111 are a pair, both alphabet acrostics, “sun and moon”: one is god’s glory, the second his glory reflected in us. It’s about life being better with God
113 a Psalm for Passover, praising that God lifts up the lowly. Salvation so often works as practical and spiritual
114 ‘when Israel came out of Egypt’ Passover Psalm about physical and spiritual salvation, creation bending, dancing, to save God’s chosen people
115 A praise Psalm that makes me think about the value of praise for focusing on god’s true character, not a made up version
116 Psalm calls for humble acceptance of god’s gift of salvation, it is the service god would like us to render. I draw parallels with Australia’s history particularly failure to make a treaty with the Aboriginal people, as this Psalm was the first text preached.
117 The middle chapter of the whole Bible, very short: everybody praise god’s love. I note that statistically fewer and fewer Australians are praising God. But it remains true.
118 The rejected rock becomes the enduring cornerstone of god’s architecture, a profound truth that stays constant through many different circumstances of rejection
119 A detailed, personal appreciation of god’s law, showing how it reveals god’s character, pointing to the Messiah, but also passionate and messy, pleaing to God for help.
– Songs of ascents 120-134
120 Longing for Jerusalem, means longing for peace, resisting the malice of enemies. We can’t be complacent, because they are for war.
121 living the Christian life, eyes on the hill, feet on the ground. Each step towards loving God with all your heart is a step toward loving all people more perfectly. The two greatest commandments align
122 Jerusalem as the place of peace, imagined here by David before the temple was ever built. My holy city is evoked in context by thinking about the simple word “peace”
123 standing as slaves before God, fearing him but remembering his promises of mercy. Unique sense of unresolved tension.
124 David remembers examples of god’s saving grace in the past, and points it to god’s nature, and the salvation of all the world in the eternal plan
125 Jerusalem is a picture for being enveloped in god’s love. I wonder about god’s love and those outside the holy city
126 The lords promise to turn weeping to joy, initially for the returned exiles, then in the kingdom of the Messiah. It’s here but not complete. When lord, when?
127 Building a godly household, I settle for the praying rather than achieving this on earth
128 A promise of blessing in earth and heaven and I contemplate the role of gentleness in that
129 Israel’s identity as survivers, the confidence to feel sorry for your oppressors
130 Knowing god’s forgiveness, but desperately waiting for Gods plan in a crisis. The waiting is not resolved, but it becomes about the power of hope.
131 Humility as focus, a prayer to stop ambition controlling you like a baby
132 in praise of David’s thone and the city of God. Today the increase of that Kingdom is the increase of God in my heart
133 Unity. Compares to calming oil with finest perfume and most verdant productive rural conditions. I experience a lot of toxic discord, but pray for the calm
134 Literally in praise of the priests who keep sacrifices going though the night at the temple, I take it as symbolising resilience though the hard times
135 Reasons to praise God… Past present and future. I apply to my situation.
136 His love endures forever. Repeated many times with examples. A great mantra of the core of God’s character.
137 The people of Israel being asked to sing for their conquerors. The challenges of sanctifying raw emotion
138 God above all others. Is it him or is it his love? A positive psalm praising god’s character
139 David asks God to search him, go before him and behind, side by side in life, and all around in the universe, in the womb before he was born and after he dies
140 From asking God to smite enemies because of his own fear, to wanting God to protect the weak and vulnerable
141 David considering rebukes by God of his enemies with a mix of schadenfreude and awareness of his own dependence on grace.
142 The lord is enough (our portion) for whatever life has to offer. I consider the need to step up to some of my own problems, confident in the lord
143 the middle of the night prayer, when everything seems impossible, opens up the biggest awareness of god’s grace
144 David’s prayer in preparation for war is not “God be on our side” it’s longing for abundance of blessing and knowing he has no strength apart from god’s will.
– Five hallelujahs
145 David’s praise of God expanding beyond the borders of his kingdom. Everything he knows and loves about God.
146 God is eternal, God is good. A cheer chant for god’s gentleness towards the vulnerable.
147 Praising God who doesn’t always act as we expect, chooses some to be drawn to him and some to be hard hearted.
148 Praising God in heaven and earth. Because he is eternal, and because praise draws us to him, strengthens our bonds.
149 Recognising that praise of God inherently means recognising the limited span of rule and time of vengeance that will come upon earthly rulers.
150 praise God in the holy places… And everywhere else, everything living. Playing the loudest music you can, with singing and dancing.