April 11, 2009 § Leave a Comment
The byline for this psalm is “a psalm, a song for the Sabbath day”. It’s yet another mention (among countless in the Bible) of the Sabbath’s importance, and I’m not referring to the false Sabbath of Sunday, which many obstinate and misguided churches are lobbying for, but the true Sabbath, Saturday, which was sanctified by God from the creation of the Earth.
As a photographer, I couldn’t agree more with verse 5: “How great are your works, O LORD, how profound your thoughts!” The more time I spend in nature, seeking natural beauty, and the more I examine that beauty, the more I realize how great God’s work truly is, and how beautiful He made this Earth before we spoiled it. As for the second part of this verse, I don’t know if we’ll ever know how profound God’s thoughts can be. We are too limited to realize how He thinks, how much He loves us, and how He cares for us.
The rest of the psalm is eschatological, and includes clear references to the destruction of the wicked, and to everlasting life with God, in heaven and here on the renewed Earth:
“Though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be forever destroyed.” (verse 7)
“For surely Your enemies, O LORD, surely Your enemies will perish; all evildoers will be scattered.” (verse 9)
“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” (verses 12-14)
Verse 15 echoes the promises made in Daniel and the Revelation, that all will realize God’s perfect nature and goodness, and will proclaim it aloud, saying: “The LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”
Not all of the promises made in this psalm are prophetic. Some are for the present. Verses 10 and 11 say:
“You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox; fine oils have been poured upon me. My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.”
My Bible’s footnotes indicate the term “horn” refers here to one’s strength. The original Hebrew version is likely even clearer on that meaning. It’s encouraging and inspiring to see that God sometimes blesses His faithful ones during their lifetimes, not just in heaven. He chooses the time and method, but when He pours out His blessings over them, there is no mistaking His hand. I can attest to this myself, and I’m sure many others can. When we’re in the direst of circumstances and things cannot possibly be solved by human means, He works something out miraculously and we are delivered in a way we could not have imagined if we hadn’t seen it.
Praise be to God!
March 28, 2009 § 2 Comments
Some of the most beautiful promises of reassurance I know of are contained within this psalm:
“A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” (Psalm 91:7)
“For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11,12)
“I will rescue him; I will protect him.” (Psalm 91:14)
Aren’t those promises amazing? I don’t know about you, but shivers run down my spine when I read them. To think, God will personally command His angels to protect me completely, no matter what the circumstances! All that He asks in return is:
- Make Him my dwelling place (Psalm 91:9)
- Love Him (Psalm 91:14)
- Acknowledge His name (Psalm 91:14)
That’s not too much to ask, is it? Of course, the key is to dwell in the Lord, as verse 9 says. How does one do that though? It’s got to be a symbolic statement, one that likely refers to keeping our minds on God, all day, every day, and inviting Him into our lives. It’s a natural extension of that second thing we must do in order to qualify for His full protection, which is to love Him, as verse 14 above says. Or, as another Christian puts it, to dwell in the Lord is to keep His word in our minds all day — to study the Bible carefully and to meditate upon it. Once we love Him and dwell in Him, it’s only natural that we acknowledge His name, or that we speak about Him to others, and give Him credit for all the blessings He bestows upon us.
The wonderful thing about God is that He loves us so much He’ll protect us even when we don’t love Him. He’ll bless us even when we curse Him. He is truly amazing. I’ve heard stories of people who were atheists or pagans, and yet God protected them in terribly dangerous situations. What do you think happened afterwards? Many became Christians. They began to believe in Him, to love Him, and to acknowledge His name publicly. They realized He exists, and He watches out for all His children, even though He may not always answer our prayers the way we expect. Yet if only we could see His angels at our side when in dire circumstances, we would know He never fails to deliver on His promises.
He doesn’t falter. Only we do, and that’s the hard part to accept, isn’t it? The Bible is full of God’s promises, and yet we have a hard time believing them, because we either don’t think He, who created the entire Universe, has the power to help us, or because we think He slighted us in the past when we prayed for something and didn’t get it. But that’s our pride that stands in the way, isn’t it? We can’t seem to be able to swallow it down and to accept the fact that God did what was ultimately best for us, even if it wasn’t the outcome we expected. Let’s face it, sometimes, when those arrows come our way, as verse 7 says above, we may be among the ones that fall, not among the ones that are left standing. Don’t ask me why — only God knows that. The thing to do is to put it in His hands and let Him figure things out. Let the chips fall where they may, knowing He is in control.
I think that’s the hardest lesson to learn.
July 26, 2008 § 1 Comment
The thing that I find amazing about this psalm is its subtitle: “A prayer of Moses the man of God”. That’s what it says in my KJV Bible. If you’d like to follow along, you can read the NASB (New American Standard Bible) version here.
If this psalm was indeed written by Moses, then it was put down on papyrus at a very interesting time of his life. Given the tone of the psalm, it was composed before Moses set out to free the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt. It may have even been written while he was still a prince of Egypt and had just discovered his true origin, or — the more likely possibility — while he was living a quiet life of dedication to the Lord in the deserts of Midian.
The psalm as a whole doesn’t necessarily stand apart from others — it is a prayer to God for the deliverance of Israel. There are numerous psalms like it. But the possibility that this one is written by Moses makes it interesting. And the tone in general is more subdued, more wise, less whiny than in other psalms.
Verse 10 in particular draws my attention: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten ; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years , yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
Isn’t that true? Even nowadays, our life expectancy is generally around 70 years. Some people live to 80, and much fewer live to 90, but mostly through the help of modern medicine, not “by reason of strength”. At the time he wrote this, Moses didn’t know it, but his life was to be especially long. He lived to the ripe old age of 120 years (40 years more than he’d predicted), and his strength and vision were unabated to the moment of his death. That’s amazing!
If you’d like to read Moses’ life story, the Bible (book of Exodus) is your best bet. But if you want a good summary, you can find it here. That’s where you’ll find out that Moses’ life was divided into three periods of 40 years. He spent the first forty in Egypt, his second forty in Midian, and the last forty years leading the people of Israel out of Egypt.
Given this information, I think you can understand his reluctance to be their savior when asked by God. He still thought he was on the brink of death — after all, he was 80 years old when God asked him to go back to Egypt, and according to his own calculations, he didn’t have much more to live.
Finally, does God answer prayers? Yes. This psalm is a great example of how God answers them. It is usually not when we want Him to answer, and not how we want Him to answer, but He comes through, and miracles occur. The impossible becomes possible. Moses kept praying for Israel’s deliverance, all the while not realizing he was going to become their deliverer, and at an age when he thought he was going to be in the grave.
Furthermore, God performed so many miracles for Israel during their exit from Egypt, and their time in the desert, and while re-establishing them in their original lands, that no one, in their wildest imagination, could have predicted how much God was going to bless them.
Isn’t this amazing? You sit there praying, and you wonder if your words even reach God. Have faith! They do! And He will act on your prayer, in order to bring about the best possible outcome for you. It may not be what you expect, but it will be just what you need.
June 7, 2008 § Leave a Comment
You start reading Psalm 89 — it’s a fairly long psalm — and you’re literally fooled by its author into thinking it’s a text praising God and His many blessings bestowed on David and the nation of Israel. There are 52 verses in the psalm, and up to verse 37, that’s all the author does: praise God until the cows come home.
Then, in verse 37, the other shoe drops. We see now why he’s been praising God so much: it was all done because he wants to take Him to task for failing to live up on His promises — or so the author would have us believe. The whole three quarters of this psalm taken up by the excessive praises are a setup — a farce — and when the author reveals the truth, we see him for what he is: an angry person who’s been lying to the reader — and to God, one might say — all along.
Even the psalm’s byline is false. It’s called a “hymn and prayer to God the faithful”. Hah! Look what the author says in verse 49: “Lord, what of those pledges of your faithful love? You made an oath to David by your constancy.” And then he goes on and on, throughout verses 37-52, reminding God that He is NOT faithful. That’s mockery, plain and simple as the nose on my face.
Because the whole first three quarters of this psalm is a farce, I’m not even going to discuss those verses. Instead, I’ll focus on the “rebukes to God” section…
In verse 47, the author writes: “for what pointless end did you create all the children of Adam?” What the man is really saying is why he’s still alive, and why Israel’s enemies exist. First, let’s remember that everyone on earth, back then, and now as well, is a child of Adam. As to why God created us, and we we live, and why things are happening to each of us that we may not understand, I answer with God’s own words: “Who is this, obscuring my intentions with his ignorant words?” (Job, 38:2).
I encourage you to read God’s entire answer there in the Book of Job, from chapter 38 to chapter 41. If you don’t understand any of it, it’s okay. That’s the point. We don’t understand God, and no matter how hard we try, we never will. When He chooses to reveal something to us, He does so of His own will, and only when we can understand it.
As for this whole blaming God thing, I understand the author’s viewpoint. We all tend to blame God when things go wrong. And when they’re right and we’re doing great, we tend to ascribe the credit for that to ourselves, not to God. Because we can do it all, right? Well, if we’re so damned smart and capable, why can’t we manage to get ourselves out of situations like the one that the author of this psalm writes about?
The author acknowledges that when God made the covenant with David, He said:
“Should his descendants desert my law, and not keep to my rulings, should they violate my statutes, and not observe my commandments, then I shall punish their offences with the rod, their guilt with the whip, but I shall never withdraw from him my faithful love, I shall not belie my constancy.” (verses 30-33)
What did he expect? That God would wag His finger at Israel and say “No, no, bad country! Don’t do that again!” Did he expect God’s punishment to equate to a slap on the wrist? God made it clear through the ages (and even when He made his covenant with Israel during the time of Moses), that He would punish Israel severely if they did not stay faithful to Him. He threatened to dissolve their country and to spread them throughout the world, and that happened repeatedly throughout history. The longest such punishment took place after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
God’s wrath is awesome. Don’t take His punishment lightly. I think that’s the lesson to be gotten from this psalm. His blessings are bountiful and go beyond measure. Our cups overflow when He pours them out, but let’s keep in mind that they will overflow as well when He pours out His punishments. He is to be feared. He is God. Don’t mess with Him, and don’t attempt to understand Him. Don’t blame Him, either, especially after He made it clear what would happen to you if you didn’t obey Him. The author of this psalm doesn’t seem to get this part, but I have a feeling that he learned his lesson at some later point of his life.
January 27, 2007 § Leave a Comment
The author of this psalm remembers the times of God’s tremendous miracles — the times (then) of old, when God had delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt, and took them through the Red Sea as if it were dry land. He wonders if God will ever act like that on behalf of Israel.
It’s obvious the nation of Israel was going through hard times when this psalm was written, and this psalm is a plea for action from God. The author is afraid that the Lord abandoned them forever, and His anger with them will not cease. It’s interesting that the psalm is open-ended. There is no final plea, simply a remembrance of the times of old: “You guided your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” It befits the psalm. It gives the impression that the author expects God to make the next step, whatever that will be.
The questions asked in this psalm apply to all of us. After we do something bad, after we sin, we feel terrible, too. We begin to wonder, was this it? Has God now abandoned us? Will He never again “show favour” to us? But the answers depend purely on us, you see. That’s because God is constant. He always loves us. His anger with us ceases. He wants to show us favor. But we must do our part. Even if we have fallen, we must continue to come to Him. We must ask confess our sins in prayer and ask forgiveness.
Then the healing process begins. As we continue to walk with Him, we feel His presence in our lives once more. We begin to discern the blessings He pours out on us. We feel His love encircling us, protecting us from danger, taking us through our days and strengthening us. We begin to know He exists again, and His wonderful Holy Spirit makes its dwelling place in our souls once more. But we must stay close to Him. The moment we stray, we fall again, and depending on the gravity of our sin, we must start from scratch again. It’s a painful process for us, and it’s even more painful for God, because He loves us and every one of our sins hurts Him, no matter how little they are. The most important thing though, is to continue in our walk with Him. If we seek Him earnestly, we will find Him. He will be there for us, always.
January 14, 2007 § Leave a Comment
A recording of Psalm 68 from the KJV Bible.
:arrow: Download Psalm 68 (MP3, 64kbps)
Text of podcast is given below:
1Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.
2As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
3But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.
4Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.
5A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.
6God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
7O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah:
8The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
9Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary.
10Thy congregation hath dwelt therein: thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor.
11The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.
12Kings of armies did flee apace: and she that tarried at home divided the spoil.
13Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.
14When the Almighty scattered kings in it, it was white as snow in Salmon.
15The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan; an high hill as the hill of Bashan.
16Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the LORD will dwell in it for ever.
17The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.
18Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.
19Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.
20He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.
21But God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses.
22The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea:
23That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same.
24They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary.
25The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the damsels playing with timbrels.
26Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel.
27There is little Benjamin with their ruler, the princes of Judah and their council, the princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali.
28Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.
29Because of thy temple at Jerusalem shall kings bring presents unto thee.
30Rebuke the company of spearmen, the multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the people, till every one submit himself with pieces of silver: scatter thou the people that delight in war.
31Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.
32Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah:
33To him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old; lo, he doth send out his voice, and that a mighty voice.
34Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the clouds.
35O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.
January 13, 2007 § Leave a Comment
A recording of Psalm 67 from the KJV Bible.
:arrow: Download Psalm 67 (MP3, 64kbps)
Text of podcast is given below:
1God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah.
2That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.
3Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.
4O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah.
5Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.
6Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.
7God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.
January 12, 2007 § Leave a Comment
A recording of Psalm 66 from the KJV Bible.
:arrow: Download Psalm 66 (MP3, 64kbps)
Text of podcast is given below:
1Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands:
2Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious.
3Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee.
4All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah.
5Come and see the works of God: he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men.
6He turned the sea into dry land: they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in him.
7He ruleth by his power for ever; his eyes behold the nations: let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah.
8O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard:
9Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved.
10For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.
11Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins.
12Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.
13I will go into thy house with burnt offerings: I will pay thee my vows,
14Which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble.
15I will offer unto thee burnt sacrifices of fatlings, with the incense of rams; I will offer bullocks with goats. Selah.
16Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.
17I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue.
18If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
19But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.
20Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.
December 11, 2006 § Leave a Comment
This psalm praises God for the power He displays in battle with Israel’s enemies. Various military events are recounted, and God is given the credit for the wins. The futility of human anger is also set in contrast to the awesome power of God’s wrath: “You, you alone, strike terror! Who can hold his ground in your presence when your anger strikes?” The psalm is ended with an entreaty to all people to “make and fulfill [their] vows to Yahweh [their] God”.
The writer of the psalm is certainly correct in attributing Israel’s military victories to God. However, as we’ve seen with past psalms, Israel blamed God when their military pursuits failed, forgetting that in order to receive God’s much-needed help in battle, they needed to live their daily lives in accordance with His will. This was something they didn’t often do, and then they wondered why when God abandoned them. Perhaps this is what makes the entreaty in the last verses more poignant. There was a covenant between Israel and God, and that covenant had two parts: one which described what God was responsible for, and one which described what Israel was responsible for. As we examine the biblical record, we see how often Israel strayed away from the covenant, and every time they did so, they suffered for it. Did they learn their lesson? No. Single generations might have, but later generations managed to repeat their parents’ mistakes anew.
The futility, the powerlessness of human anger is another theme dealt with in this psalm. Nowadays, when we have all sorts of machines that amplify our anger and let us do damage, like guns, vehicles and bombs, it’s hard for us to see how impotent we really are. But during those times, when all people had were swords, lances and arrows, a single human being couldn’t do too much. I think it made them a little humbler, at least on the whole. What we need to learn these days is that none of our weapons, none of our anger can win us a war or affect God in any way. His power is what counts, and His anger is what destroys. With a single utterance or gesture, He can raze us from the face of the earth. Without Him on our side, we have nothing but “heroes”, “sleeping their last sleep”.
November 29, 2006 § Leave a Comment
There are certain clear prophetic elements in this psalm that make me believe the author was inspired by God when he wrote it. However, there are also certain phrases that make me think he corrupted the message with his own weak thoughts instead of relying solely on God for inspiration. Let’s have a look at it.
The beginning is formulaic, and the author then writes in God’s voice from verses 2-5. I have no quarrel with verses 2 and 3: “At the appointed time I myself shall dispense justice. The earth quakes and all its inhabitants; it is I who hold its pillars firm.” The language sounds right, and refers directly to prophecies made in Daniel and the Revelation. God promises that He will hold the final judgment. We know not the hour. Only He knows when that will be. Furthermore, at that time, the earth will quake in a very specific way, as described in Revelation 6:12-17:
“In my vision, when He broke the sixth seal, there was a violent earthquake and the sun went as black as coarse sackcloth; the moon turned red as blood all over, and the stars of the sky fell onto the earth like figs dropping from a fig tre when a high wind shakes it; the sky disappeared like a scroll rolling up and all the mountains and islands were shaken from their places. Then all the kings of the earth, the governors and the commanders, the rich people and the men of influence, the whole population, slaves and citizens, hid in caverns and among the rocks of the mountains. They said to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us away from the One who sits on the throne and from the retribution of the Lamb. For the Great Day of His retribution has come, and who can face it?’”
Unfortunately, I think the psalm’s author improvises in verses 4 and 5. Here he supposedly continues to speak in God’s voice: “‘I said to the boastful, “Do not boast!” to the wicked, “Do not flaunt your strength! Do not flaunt your strength so proudly, do not talk with that arrogant stance.”‘” Given the strength and calamity of those end-time events, do you really think that’s all that God will say to the wicked? Do you think He’ll bother to open His mouth to say such things? Sure, clearly this is symbolic language, but it’s so weak in its strength, so lacking in authority when compared with what will happen, that I have to believe the psalm’s author made it up by himself.
Verses 6 and 7 establish that God’s judgment will extend to the entire earth, and won’t just stop at the heathen nations surrounding Israel, which is once again inspired, and furthermore, verse 8 is clearly prophetic, because it refers to the cup of indignation that God will pour out over the entire earth (metaphorically speaking) during the time of the end. Here’s what Revelation says about this. Keep in mind that while God is described as holding the cup here, the “great prostitute” is shown as holding that cup in Revelation. This is because God knows the exact moment when that will happen, and will allow it to happen, in order for prophecy to be fulfilled. But He is not causing it to happen. The people, fallen into apostasy, are doing it on their own. Here is the passage:
“One of the seven angels that had the seven bowls came to speak to me, and said, ‘Come here and I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute who is enthroned beside abundant waters, with whom all the kings of the earth have prostituted themselves, and who has made all the population of the world drunk with the wine of her adultery.’ He took me in spirit to a desert, and there I saw a woman riding a scarlet beast which had seven heads and ten horns and had blasphemous titles written all over it. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet and glittered with gold and jewels and pearls, and she was holding a gold winecup filled with the disgusting filth of her prostitution; on her forehead was written a name, a cryptic name: ‘Babylon the Great, the mother of all the prostitutes and all the filthy practices on earth.’ I saw that she was drunk, drunk with the blood of the saints, and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; and when I saw her, I was completely mystified. The angel said to me, ‘Do you not understand? I will tell you the meaning of this woman, and of the beast she is riding, with the seven heads and the ten horns…” (Revelation 17:1-7)
The author of the psalm then goes on to proclaim his faithfulness in verse 9, then messes up again in verse 10: “I shall break down all the strength of the wicked, and the strength of the upright will rise high.” There is no indication that he is writing in God’s voice again, since there are no quotes around that verse. So I have to assume that he means to do that himself, although we all know that a single human being has no such powers. Either the quotes were lost as this psalm was transcribed through the centuries, or the author of this psalm is pulling words out of his pocket again, and managing to sound awful, just like he did in verses 4 and 5.