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Prayers and Praises to God: An Introduction to the book of Psalms
Psalm 1 – Godly Wisdom
Psalm 2 – An Appeal for God’s Power
Psalm 3 – An Appeal for God’s Safety
Psalm 4 - An Appeal for God’s Relief
Psalm 5 - An Appeal for God’s Help
Psalm 6 - An Appeal for God’s Mercy
Psalm 7 - An Appeal for God’s Justice
Psalm 8 – The Majesty of God
Early in the 20th century, Robert Frost wrote a poem called “The Road Not Taken.” Many know its famous last line – “two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” This is often quoted to reference how we should make decisions in life that, although difficult and unpopular, will end positively. Ironically, earlier in the poem Frost notes that both paths are essentially the same. He looks back on his decision to take a certain road with a sigh and seems to realize that they really both would have led to good outcomes. I wonder, is this true in life? Will we end up in the same place no matter how we live? And does it actually matter what choices we make?
God’s Word makes it clear that it does matter how we live our day-to-day lives. This is spelled out in Psalm 1 where two “roads,” or “ways,” are described. One is the “way of sinners” (v. 1) and the other is the “way of the righteous” (v. 6). These are not physical paths, but spiritual ones that reflect our life choices. These ways do not end in the same place, or with the same outcome.
Verse one states that “blessed” is the person who does not order his/her life around the advice and lifestyle of wicked. The “wicked,” also referred to as “sinners” and “scoffers,” are continually doing evil, ridiculing God, and rejecting him. However, they will not prosper in the end, as they will be blown away by the wind (v. 4), and unable to withstand God’s judgment (v. 5).
On the other hand, the righteous person orders their lives around God’s commands and will. They take delight in God’s law and they meditate on it day and night (v. 2). Therefore, they will be fruitful and prosper in God’s kingdom and by his blessings (v. 3).
We will often face choices in life that test our devotion to God. Some choices may look very attractive, but if they are not in accordance with his commands, they will lead to nothing but heartache and destruction. Others may look difficult, but if they are honoring to God, they will lead to joy and life. Faithful followers of Jesus always walk down roads that delight in his Word!
The Nations Your Inheritance
The psalms are Hebrew poetry written for a variety of reasons. Some are to offer thanksgiving, some lament, some are hymns or songs of praise, and some comment on the royal figures of Israel’s history. Psalm 2 fits within the latter genre.
While there is no mention of David or one of his specific sons, the psalm is steeped in language which reflects the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7; 1 Chron 17)—the subjection of the king’s enemies (vv. 2-3), identification with Zion as the capital city (v. 6), a reference to divine “sonship” (v. 7). This royal psalm paints a picture of nations that rebel against the authority of God’s anointed king, failing to realize God himself is behind his enthronement and he is going to give the nations of the world to the king as his inheritance. Thus, if the nations want to be wise and blessed, they will make allegiance with the king and take refuge in him.
By the time of the New Testament, we see Jesus as the true Son of God—not just in the political sense, but in the theological as well. But the nations rejected him, including the religious leaders of Israel. For Jesus’s followers then, we will stand in the tension of proclaiming good news to all nations while being rejected by many of them. One day, however, God’s kingdom will be represented by every tribe, every tongue, every nation (Rev 7:9), all to the glory of the Father and of his Lamb.
Psalm 2 is sometimes considered the second half of Psalm 1—the first begins with a beatitude (“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked”) and the second ends with one (“Blessed are all who take refuge in him”). Together, they teach us not to follow the ways of the wicked who reject God, but instead to submit ourselves to God’s authority and to live under the reign of his righteous King. May it be so, throughout all generations.
“Lie Down in Safety”
Sleep is important. In fact, it is essential to your life and health. Experts say that adults should average at least seven hours of sleep per night. Yet, if you are like me, you probably struggle sometimes to reach that number each night. We have too much going on in our lives and too much on our minds, so it is not always easy to lie down with peace of mind. Despite this, most of us would probably agree that we at least can lie down in our own beds in safety. We are not in danger for our lives, or constantly on the run. Yet, can you imagine if you were? It would be very hard to sleep unless you had some sort of assurance that you would be safe.
The author of Psalm 3 was facing great adversity from his enemies. In fact, his enemies were increasing in number and were threatening his life (v. 2). They were also taunting him by saying that God would not deliver him and save him from the dangers that he faced (v. 3). This probably made the author quite afraid and on edge.
This psalm has traditionally been attributed to King David because of his son Absalom. Before this, there had been a conspiracy in the kingdom and many were turning to follow Absalom, who wanted to take over royal control of the land (2 Sam. 15:1-12). David, thinking that his son would come into town striking everyone down with the sword (16:14), fled the city and traveled towards the Jordan River to cross over into the wilderness.
The Psalm is therefore an appeal for God’s safety and deliverance. King David likely felt threatened and in danger, with people telling him not to trust in God, a God who might have seemed to have rejected and abandoned him. Yet David responds with hope and trust. He says that in spite the danger, the LORD (YHWH) is the shield that is protecting him, his glory, and the One who gives him true victory (v. 3). In fact, when David cries out to God, he is confident that he hears him and answers him (v. 4). David beautifully proclaims that he can lie down, sleep, and wake up again, because the LORD sustains him (v. 5). Therefore, David has no fear, even of tens of thousands of enemies who might rise up against him (v. 6).
The Psalm ends with a final cry for God to deliver him, with the trust that God has already dealt with David’s enemies (v.7). For with the LORD there is sure deliverance and blessing (vs. 8).
When life gets hard and scary, you might have trouble sleeping. Yet, this Psalm reminds us that although we may face many dangers, God will hear us and answer us when we call. He will deliver us and sustain us because he is our shield. Therefore, we can cry out to him in trust, and sleep in peace, knowing that he is in control, and he is our salvation!
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