Saturday, January 16, 2010

Week 2 - Understanding Psalms - Answers

This week, I went digging through some chosen and some random psalms. Personally, I have a difficult time pulling meaning out of them, so going through them carefully and thoughtfully proved to me greatly understanding them. However, my greatest outside source this week was a book: How to Read the Bible for All its Worth by Fee and Stuart. The following are a few good passages that really got me to focus in on the meanings on the Psalms I read.

"Hebrew poetry, by its very nature, was addressed to the mind though the heart. Therefore, one must be careful to not "overexegete" psalms by finding special meanings in specific words or phrases where the poet may have intended none. For example, you will recall that the nature of Hebrew poetry always includes some form of poetry always involves some form of parallelism and that one common form is called synonymous parallelism." [pg. 207]

Later on the same page:

"The Psalms themselves are musical poems. A musical poem cannot be read the same way as an epistle or a narrative or a section of law. It is intended to appeal to the emotions, to invoke feelings rather than propositional thinking, and to stimulate a response on the part of the individual that goes beyond a mere cognitive understanding of certain facts - this, after all, is the very reason musical poems are so well loved. While psalms contain and reflect doctrine, they are not intended to be repositories for doctrinal exposition.

Without hesitation - my selected psalms.

Psalm 1 - A Psalm of Wisdom and Instruction
When I finished reading this, it reminded me of one of my favorite Old Testament passage Deuteronomy 30:11-20. After you read it and Psalm 1, I think you'll see the similarities too. The first three verses talk about the blessed path - or the path that leads to a full, abundant and purposeful life. Verse three uses the analogy of a tree whose fruits yields in season. This reminded me of the fruits of the spirit. Oppositely, we have the choice to the path walked by the wicked - like the wheat chaff that gets blown away by the smallest of winds. If the righteous path is characterized by the fruits of the spirit, then the wicked are identified by anger, pride, selfishness and hatred. Just like the Israelites at the sight of the Jordan, present-day Christ Follwers try to walk both paths and end up yielding mixed "fruits." This psalm serves as a reminder to us to choose carefully and devote ourselves to it.

Psalm 8 - A Psalm of Praise
God’s work is so impressive, even children recognize it in people (v.2) and nature (v.3). The poet confesses that its amazing that such a powerful God not only creates us as objects of his love, but that He cares also so much for us that he listens to what we have to say when we need to communicate. This is what makes God mindful of us. But he doesn’t stop there; He gives us dominion and stewardship over the land and life that He Created in Genesis. This is the equivalent of giving a stranger your most prized possession and hoping they will treat it with the same amount of care and respect as you do. Of course, God knows that we will fall short of meeting His expectations, yet He still gives us this task so that we have a purpose and the opportunity to discover true enjoyment. In awe and wonder, we give God our highest praise.

Psalm 26 – A Psalm of Validation and Salvation
David, feeling frustrated with those who are hard-pressing him, speaks to God through this psalm. During this time of difficulty, David beckons God to keep him even more accountable for his actions and thoughts as he is leading the kingdom of Israel. He understands that even though these times are difficult, it is more important for him to act as a godly-king now because the promise of heaven is worth more than the troubles of today. In this, I’m sure we all can relate to an extent. We all experiences times of difficulty from people or certain circumstances. The lesson here is to turn to God for instruction and guidance in tumultuous times and the Holy Spirit will comfort you in the things that are eternal, and thus much more important then today.

Psalm 30 – Psalm of Praise and Deliverance of Pride
David writes this psalm as a personal testimony overcoming his own pride in accomplishments as King. When he gloats about himself, he realizes that he has put distance in his relationship between him and the God who has made his accomplishments possible. We are always at God’s mercy when it comes to the physical possessions and earthly accomplishments in life. So when we are blessed with them, we should be giving thanks and praise to the Lord. Although not the same context, the book of Job can attest to how quickly unnecessary blessings can be taken away. In the same breath, God can accelerate the healing and give abundantly when we are right with Him. Moral of the story is to make sure your pride is much, much less than God’s glory.

Psalm 37 – Psalm on Wisdom and Instruction
I noticed that this psalm is much like an expanded and musical version of any given chapter in proverbs. The poet writes (alphabetically, in Hebrew), about a multitude of different tidbits of godly wisdom. Here is a short list: being anxious because of evil schemes, trusting the Lord and finding joy in God’s Word, being patient with the Lord and with people, controlling your anger, protection from evil schemes, trying to live a blameless life, impermanence of wicked ways, turning from impure thoughts, and the salvation comes from the Lord alone and ultimately delivers those who trust in that promise.

Of course, I want to mention here also that just because the Lord protects us from evil schemes doesn’t mean He will let no harm come to us. The Bible is littered with examples pertaining to persecution, and even death, because of our faith. If nothing else, we are guaranteed protection from the most evil of schemes – death to our bodies and soul – but God certainly has helped a multitude
escape from more earthly plots against those who chose to follow Christ.

Psalm 53 – An Instructional Psalm – The Folly of the Wicked
As a disclaimer, this was the most difficult of the group for me to work with. Verse 1 says that there are those who confess that there is no God, and in turn, want nothing to do with faith or religion. God still views these people, the ungodly, as his children but children who have been corrupted and been influenced by great evil. (Although his passage mentions that God despises this, I recall what my reference book says about this type of language and taking it literally. Maybe a more appropriate word here is “rejects” in regards to the person, although I certainly believe that God despises the evil itself.) God created us to live with a holy and righteous fear, however, when we choose not to fear God, we choose to fear each other on the basis of power. So when this psalm mentions that the ungodly fear where there is nothing to fear, it is because the ungodly live for this world and fear those who are more powerful than themselves – all things that a Christ Follower need not to fear with the promise of salvation.

Just as the previous week helped me greatly in prayer, I was impressed with how much I was pulling out of Psalms. If I have another week later on and I don't know what to do more investigations on, look for me to pick up another set of Psalms to work with.

No comments: