Archives For Old Testament Theology


Great day I experienced with classes, super-sessions and keynote messages from some of the finest people in Christianity. I typed 10 pages of notes yesterday so I cannot include everything here but I want to give you some highlights that stood out to me.

Tuesday Morning, Mike Cope “Spiritual Intubation: How Community Keeps Us Alive” The Wizard of Oz: Revelation’s View of Community

  • “No church ever existed in a pure state. The church is made up of sinners. The fleas come with the dogs.” (Eugene Peterson)
  • Four characters who are known by their deficiencies. Much like Christians today.
  • Showing of who Oz really is. “The great Oz has spoken, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
  • Pergamum
    • It’s a great distance from Colorado Springs to Pergamum.
    • In Pergamum it was very, very different.
    • Everywhere people went they told two stories: the power of Rome and Greek gods and goddesses. Everywhere they went they are told that they are caught up in and how could they not believe it. It “has to be true.”  Every market, athletic event, silver item told them about temple worship.
    • Where is the Pergamum church of Christ?
      • A tiny…insignificant few.
      • Imagine holding on to the story of Jesus while walking among the temples and other places where the minority is huge.
      • Have you been the minority?
      • Power, honor, identity was wrapped up into gods and Rome not Christ.
    • Persecuted Christians get it
    • “Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw he saw no creatures so wild as one of his own commentators.” G. K. Chesteron
  • Deep Community is anchored in Jesus
  • Deep community has to be eschatological in nature.
  • Deep community is at its best when it is part of a mission…a larger story.

Tuesday Morning Keynote Kurt Johnston @kurtjohnston “Deep, Redefined”

  • Have you ever stopped and thought about all the things in youth ministry that you don’t do very well? We are great at trying to control the perceptions of other people. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are great at creating perception of us.
  • Four truths I have learned that have 1) pointed out my shallowness and 2) led him into a deeper experience in faith.
    • Life is a squiggle
    • I need a travel partner
    • Busyness will keep you in the shallow end.
    • When you begin to have a long view of youth ministry

Tuesday Super Session Frank Viola @FrankViola “The Missing Ingredient”

Observations about ministry to young people:

  • Catch30 Crisis – Human beings go through developmental stages as they get old. When they are 30 they reassess every decision they made in their 20s and they either abandon what hey believed or abandon them. You don’t know where someone is spiritually until they are thirty. You could not serve in the house of God until you were 30. Jesus did not begin his ministry until he was 30. Young people need to be prepared for this.
  • There is a difference between youthful enthusiasm and spirituality. Most of the big Christian movements are built on youthful enthusiasm. The problem is that many operates on youthful enthusiasm and the well runs dry
  • You can’t pass on to those whom you minister to what you have not experienced yourself.
  • I have to prepare them for the forgotten beatitude. Blessed is he who is not offended by me.

Other Notes from class…

  • If you cut the bible in any place it will bleed Jesus Christ.
  • Moses and Christ
  • Creation and Christ
  • Isaac and Christ
  • Jacob and Christ
  • Conclusion  – #1 – Find Christ in the bible. #2 – Do business with the Lord

Tuesday Afternoon Class 1 Josh Graves @JoshGraves “The Bible Jesus Read: Genesis 1-2”

2 Timothy 3:14-17; John 5

  • We need a more mystical understanding of Scripture. But also how it calls us to new spaces.
  • “All Scripture” does not exist yet and he has in mind Torah.
  • Inspired…he does not infallible, inerrant. They never show up in the bible. Sometimes the most important work we do is not learning new things but relearning old things.
  • 2 Timothy is not about proving Scripture over science but it is about inviting people into God’s world in order to see the world differently and “to do something about it.”
  • These stories carry the freight in any given culture.

Genesis 1

  • God can’t help but to create. He is in control. The things God creates would not be believable if we have not seen them.
  • Everything else that has creativity or imagination that somehow it is all linked back to the God who started.
  • One of the ways Genesis invites us to go deeper and that we live in a good creation. Does not deny the dark side of life but he made everything and called it good.
  • Most people who tell the story of God begin with Genesis 3 and not Genesis 1.
  • We have to introduce paradox to our students. Life is full of joy and pain. Paradox is one of the greatest contribution to the Western world.

Tuesday Afternoon Class 2 Sally Gary @centerpeaceinc “Reaching out to Teens Who Identify as Gay and Lesbians”

Many who struggle with same sex attraction but still love the Lord.  Struggles do not divide us.

Starved for Intimacy. Facebook and its struggles for intimacy. Question is: How can we meet this need? This desire for community. There is a great need for this connection.

What teens learn from the world: Glee, Modern Family.

What teens learn from the church: Nasty messages about homosexuals from the church

What they need is looking for a safe place.

How to be a safe place?

Deal with our own fears.

  • Change our thinking
  • Change our language
  • Listen
  • Be consistent
  • Model the Love and Acceptance of Christ

Tuesday Night Keynote Frank Viola @FrankViola “God so loved the world vs. Love not the world.”

The world in the New Testament is used in two ways…

  1. Speaks of the material universe. Jesus of Nazareth is this world’s true Lord.
  2. A system or network or order of things designed to draw us away from God.

Historically Christians have taken two postures: 1) Retreated from the world’s system (Isolationism) 2) Enmeshed by the world and married to it.

The most miserable person is a Christian who is living in a way where deep inside them they are told to give something up and they can’t. When we are in community with other Christians the Holy Spirit is clearest.

The Holy Spirit will reveal to you what is of the world.

2 Kind of legalists: 1) Salvation by works 2) I am going to take what the Holy Spirit has shown me personally and make it a law to you.

“The gospel spreads best not through force but through fascination” (Shane Claiborne)

Dinner in Colorado Springs: Uchenna Ethiopian Restaurant

This was ranked #2 in Colorado Springs by TripAdvisor and it was awesome. I had Yebeg Alecha which was tender pieces of lamb marinated with butter then sautèed with ginger, garlic, and 12 spices. There were no forks but you had this roll that you put the meat and the sauce in. It was excellent. The owner’s name is Maya and they cooked everything to order so it took a while but the food was worth it. They have mostly organic food and a substantial vegetarian menu. I have never tried authentic Ethiopian cuisine but this was a must! Went a left the owner looked at me and said, “Go in peace.” I love her already.

 

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1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Remember the four-fold process from the last post? Let’s follow it through this psalm just to let you get a hang of how to organize it?

Introduction:

1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.

Report of Crisis:

Verse 2 – “Cried for help”

Verse 3 – “Sheol”

Verse 9 – “The pit” “death”

Verse 11 – “Mourning” “Sackcloth”

Deliverance as An Accomplished Fact:

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Conclusion: A Vow to Praise

O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Do you see how this works? Remember, there are always nuances to this but you saw the format as it played out. This is an individual psalm of thanksgiving, meaning, it is a very personal psalm. We do not know the circumstances behind this psalm but it probably was during a time in David’s life where he experienced some type of physical illness or even some depression. Perhaps there was loss (“mourning”) somewhere but the thankfulness expressed to God was an accomplished fact. God did it and it was a time to rejoice.

Verse 11 shows just how joyful David was. His mourning was turned to dancing (If you have a legalistic background change the word “dance” to choreography if that makes you feel better :)). But the moment of joy came in God hearing his lament. Because of this, David will come to God with a gracious and grateful heart. David got a little cocky (vv. 6-7) with God trusting perhaps in his own riches rather than the riches of God.

“Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” (Rom. 11:33).

You ever trust in yourself rather than in the Almighty? Do you trust in your strength? Do you trust in your intellect? Do you trust in your status? David said God made his mountain stand strong. Any strength he had came from God and God alone. Give thanks to God for his wonderful blessings.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss a time when your weeping/mourning was turned into joy/dancing?
  2. Has the Western mindset of “do-it-yourself” hindered our spiritual growth? How so?
  3. Why is it important to remember God’s deliverance and to be thankful for those times He answered?

 


We sing a song in our hymnals that have beautiful words:

For all that You’ve done, I will thank You
For all that You’re going to do
For all that You’ve promised and all that You are
Is all that has carried me through
Jesus, I thank You

and I thank You
thank You Lord
and I thank You
thank You Lord

Thank You for loving and setting me free
Thank You for giving Your life just for me
How I thank You
Jesus, I thank You
I gratefully thank You
And I thank You

Beautiful words that ring true in many of our circumstances. We are in a season now where being thankful is on the minds of our nation seeing as it is a national holiday. Gratitude though is not an American tradition but a tradition rooted deep in Ancient Israel. In 1 Chronicles 16:4 the writer shares with his readers that David, “appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel.” Imagine that you are given a task to do and your job is simply to thank God for what he has done. You might say, “Dude that seems boring!” But if you think about it for long enough you understand that at any given point we can be thankful for what God has done.

The category known as Thanksgiving Psalms is a particular category that has a specific formula:[1]

  • Introduction
  • Report of Crisis
  • Deliverance as an Accomplished Fact
  • Conclusion

The difference between lament psalms and thanksgiving psalms is that the thanksgiving psalms provide for us a window into God answering their lament whereas the lament psalms are offered with no foreseen deliverance. That does not mean there was no trust but the deliverance just could not be seen. Consider Psalm 30:

2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. (30:2-3)

Deliverance was realized in this instance. Rescue was seen. It was time for rejoicing but I time for thanksgiving to God who provided the deliverance. Like the lament psalms, the thanksgiving psalms are both offered individually and corporately. There is a time for thanksgiving in both circumstances and both are offered to God. We are going to journey through the thanksgiving psalms this week in an effort to experience gratitude on an individual and corporate level. In a time where we live in such an iEverything culture it is important to humble ourselves and express our gratitude for the one who created us. Bullock summarizes it better than I:

The psalms of thanksgiving tap one of the great spiritual resources of Holy Scripture and offer us a spiritual home where the passions of life can find their moorings in a source outside the human self. One of the great tragedies of the human spirit is to become a prisoner of ingratitude, for ingratitude shuts the human spirit up in a world lightened only by self, which is no light at all.[2]

Let us bow at the feet of our Master and learn the spiritual discipline of gratitude.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Define gratitude?
  2. What are some moments where you felt the most grateful?
  3. What are some moments where you felt the most ungrateful?

[1] Bullock, Encountering the Psalms, 152-53. As with all categories there are various nuances but for the most part the thanksgiving psalms will follow that 4-part formula.

[2] Ibid., 162.


1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

I saw a video[1] that said when Jesus quoted the beginning of Psalm 22 that he was using a rabbinic technique called “ramez” where the entire Psalm applies when Jesus mentions the first verse. I would like to believe that and it still may be true but the problem is that we do not have a shred of evidence to support this. It sounds more like something you would hear in a Rob Bell video (not slamming him but just sayin’) than you would in a commentary. Having said that, Psalm 22 is the most popular lament psalm in the entire psalter. Why? Jesus quoted this (already mentioned) in his prayer to God while dying on the cross (see Matthew 27:45-50). Yet this was first uttered by David hundreds of years before Christ died. It was a personal lament that placed him in perspective but also asked God the brutal question of “Why?”.

Why did he ask the brutal question? Certainly because of his enemies:

  • They mock him – v. 7
  • They are bulls surrounding him – v. 12
  • He experiences physical pain because of them – vv. 14-16
  • They divide his garments – v. 18

I am tempted to talk about Christ as Christ later exemplifies this in many aspects. Yet, David, in our context, is enduring much at the hands of many. He struggles with this not because the concept of impending pressure of enemies is uncommon but for David the struggle lies in the very nature of God himself. God, you are holy (v. 3), you answered our fathers when they cried (v. 5) and you protected and will protect your people but right now you have left me (v. 1), you are not answering me (v. 2) and because of this I find no rest.

Let’s stop for a minute and think about this. Have you ever felt like that before? I talk with teenagers all the time who experience in part what David experiences in whole. I hear comments like, “Robbie, it’s so hard to trust in God because it feels like he is not there and not listening.” If pressed they would probably admit that they feel like God has left them. Ever felt that way before? Ever experience that type of brokenness before?

What’s David’s solution?

Intense trust in God’s ETERNAL character (vv. 8-10), a request for his presence and deliverance (vv. 11, 19-21) and in all of this personal anguish he promises (fancy word is “vows”) to praise God (vv. 22-31).

You tracking with that?

David vows to praise God in the midst of impending destruction and intense physical, emotional and spiritual anguish. We think the world is going to end because a democrat got elected president but last time I check people don’t want our heads on a platter. Our issues are not even a blip on David’s radar. He would consider many of our issues as wastes of time. But even David said, “I will tell of your name…” (v. 22).

What would it look like for many of us who have cancer, terminal illnesses or many of us who have lost loved ones to proclaim in the midst of intense anguish, “I will tell of your name”?

“Yeah God, you have left us and I don’t fully understand it all but I trust in your divine purposes as one who created me (see vv. 9-10) and because of your infinite ways I will tell of your name.”

That is what you call BIG FAITH!

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does this psalm help in your ups and downs with God?
  2. Why praise God in the midst of intense suffering?
  3. In what ways does this entire psalm help inform you about Christ’s suffering and death?

1 By the waters of Babylon,
    there we sat down and wept,
    when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
    we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
    required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
    “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How shall we sing the Lord’s song
    in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
    let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
    above my highest joy!

Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
    the day of Jerusalem,
how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,
    down to its foundations!”
O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
    blessed shall he be who repays you
    with what you have done to us!
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
    and dashes them against the rock!

Continuing our journey through some lament psalms we come to a particularly interesting category of lament psalms called community laments. Individual lament looks at individual problems where the community laments approach God from the standpoint of a group of people. The difference is that the psalmist intends on voicing the psalm as a representative of his people. Sins may be involved (aren’t they always ;)) but it is the sins of the people (i.e., collective disobedience) rather than specific sins of a person.

This particular psalm is voiced from the context of Babylonian captivity (i.e., Exile) and comes to us without a specified author.[1] Babylon took many of the people of Israel away (hence Exile) in the sixth century BCE and many of the Israelites would not return for decades (70 years?). This particular season brought many Israelites to two recognitions: 1) the brevity of their communal sin and 2) their dependence should not be in their own ability to write history but in the one who created it.

Notice in this Psalm the community is weeping and longs to return to Zion, the holy city. They find that they have to endure the context they are in but their understanding is that “this world is not their home” and Zion is the place they need to be both physically but ultimately, spiritually. Notice that they can’t even sing the “Lord’s song” in a land where the song is not recognized (v. 4). This land that they are in is filled with injustice as implied in verses 8-9 is that their little ones were dashed against rocks. Whether that’s literal or figurative does not take away from the fact that they are experiencing a communal low.

So what is their solution? Trust in God that he will repay their enemies for evil and to remind themselves of the hope that is protected in the memory of Jerusalem, their highest joy. I am reminded how important this psalm is as we find ourselves in post-election America. I will not go far as to say the U.S. is Babylon (some make a strong case for this) but I also am reminded that our hopes, our dreams, our greatest reality can never be in a human institution. The monarchy of Israel was never God’s intention nor is it his intention to wield the wills of his kingdom through the United States of America or any other human institution.

There is a sense where we all struggle with singing the Lord’s song in a foreign land. We all are living in tents and our temples have yet to be built. We read Scripture that reminds us (like Zion reminded the Psalmist) of better things. Our hope does not lie in parties, partisanship or policies. Our hope lies in the Kingdom of God. It always has, it always will.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are some things your church community could possibly lament about?
  2. Why is it important to stick to the kingdom of God rather than human institutions?
  3. Why is it so hard to have a kingdom-vision for your community rather than a democratic, republican or whatever vision?

[1] Was this psalm written pre-Exile anticipating Babylonian captivity or was it post-Exile written during the experience of Exile? Not sure. In the end it does not matter as it seems the point is clear that the captivity was a cause to approach God and make their requests made known to him.


1O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
    nor discipline me in your wrath!
For your arrows have sunk into me,
    and your hand has come down on me.

There is no soundness in my flesh
    because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
    because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
    like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

My wounds stink and fester
    because of my foolishness,
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
    all the day I go about mourning.
For my sides are filled with burning,
    and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed;
    I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

O Lord, all my longing is before you;
    my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
    and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
    and my nearest kin stand far off.

12 Those who seek my life lay their snares;
    those who seek my hurt speak of ruin
    and meditate treachery all day long.

13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
    like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14 I have become like a man who does not hear,
    and in whose mouth are no rebukes.

15 But for you, O Lord, do I wait;
    it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16 For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me,
    who boast against me when my foot slips!”

17 For I am ready to fall,
    and my pain is ever before me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
    I am sorry for my sin.
19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty,
    and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20 Those who render me evil for good
    accuse me because I follow after good.

21 Do not forsake me, O Lord!
    O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me,
    O Lord, my salvation!

There is a lot to unpack here but this Psalm is a beautiful example of an Individual Lament that may be categorized as a prayer song of a sinner. Sin (or iniquity) is mentioned four times. If we are careful with our interpretation we will note that he has his complaint against his enemies but the enemies is not the problem but only a hint at the problem.  It’s like the smell of something bad but not the bad thing itself. For David, clearly the root of the problem is his sin. Smarter people than I am tell me that this is a common theme in the Ancient Near East. People do bad things so bad things happen to them (retribution). God surely warned them of the blessings and curses that would come from their obedience or disobedience (see Deuteronomy 28). So David’s symptoms are not the problem.

But that’s just it. The lament is real and the pain is real but it comes from somewhere else. Notice the physical symptoms:

  • no health in his bones – v. 3
  • sides are filled with burning – v. 7
  • he is feeble -v. 8
  • his heart throbs – v.10

You get the picture. There is an association with physical pain and mental anguish for David. Makes sense though when one considers times of anguish in their own lives. I remember a season in my life when I was going through a tough time and there were serious physical ramifications. I could not eat and I remember experiencing severe heartburn. My body ached over the anguish I was experiencing and it was gut-wrenching. The solution for David to all of this anguish seems to be in verse 18: his confession of sin and remorse for wrong-doing. There was no grey-area for David as the pain (both internal and external) he was experiencing was directly correlated to his own spiritual brokenness. You and I can sit down over a cup of coffee and smirk at his rather “unlearned” theology but David was a staunch warrior for God. He was in the trenches.

Discussion Questions

  1. Talk about a time where you experienced physical pain from spiritual anguish. What was it like? Describe the circumstances.
  2. Do you think it is right to say that many of our difficult times is due to our sinfulness? Explain.
  3. How is David’s resolve to confess his sin a helpful solution for our laments?

This week we plan on journeying through a category of psalms called Lament Psalms. If you could envision psalms of praise being the expressions of the heart at its most joyful point you might say that lament psalms are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Lament psalms are those expressions of the psalmist that come from moments of deep angst, torment and often fear. Have you ever had a moment where you were so confused and had no clue as to what God was doing? In walks the lament psalm. Typically there are two types of lament psalms: individual laments (these are personal) and laments of the people (these are communal or corporate).

Think of it this way: there are some seasons in our lives where we are individually going through painful experiences and so we take (i.e., “lament”) these expressions to God but then things happen to us corporately (church, nation, etc.) that cause us to “lament” expressions to God. Laments vary in form but typically will have a few (some have all) of the components below:[1]

  1. Address and Introductory Petition
  2. Lament
  3. Confession of Trust
  4. Petition
  5. Vow of Praise

You can even divide the Psalms of Lament into their own subcategories: 1) prayer songs of the individual, 2) community prayer songs and 3) thanksgiving songs.[2] There is a lot more we could do to unpack these psalms as far as form and function but at the core of these psalms lies a basic truth: It’s ok to be real with God. Did you catch that?

IT’S OK TO BE REAL WITH GOD!!!

We live in a Western Culture that hides behind facades, masks and lies to cover real heart issues. The people of God has always been able to express their doubts, fears, frustrations, anger and other raw emotions to God knowing that he is the only one who can place those fears into their proper contexts. Perhaps you have heard a preacher pound the lectern while preaching proclaiming, “We should never, ever doubt the ways of God!” That’s kind of funny when you read what David wrote in Psalm 22, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” I guess David was weak in his faith right?

Or maybe David had an intense faith knowing that God understands our hearts so we might as well be brutally honest and place those laments at the feet of the Almighty God! Bullock has an amazing comment that we would be wise to read… and re-read:

While the boldness and naked honesty of the psalmists may shock us, this attitude is nevertheless instructive for our spiritual lives. We sometimes hold back too much from God, conceal our true feelings in prayer, and create a false image of ourselves at the heavenly throne of grace. What would happen to us and to our relationship to God if we were truly honest with him and with ourselves?[3]

I think many of us know the answer to Bullock’s question: our relationship would strengthen and become as deep as it is wide. So this week we are going to journey through some lament psalms and talk about our own struggles. But… some questions for discussion…

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do we tend to mask our true feelings from God?
  2. Does doubt have its place in the Christian faith? Why or why not?
  3. What are some experiences in your life that led you to lament to God?

[1] Bullock, Encountering the Book of Psalms, 136.

[2] Ibid., 138.

[3] Ibid., 138.


Bless the Lord, O my soul!
    O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
    covering yourself with light as with a garment,
    stretching out the heavens like a tent.
He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
    he rides on the wings of the wind;
he makes his messengers winds,
    his ministers a flaming fire.

He set the earth on its foundations,
    so that it should never be moved.
You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
    the waters stood above the mountains.
At your rebuke they fled;
    at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.
The mountains rose, the valleys sank down
    to the place that you appointed for them.
You set a boundary that they may not pass,
    so that they might not again cover the earth.

10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
    they flow between the hills;
11 they give drink to every beast of the field;
    the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
    they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
    the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.

14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
    and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
15     and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
    and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

16 The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
    the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 In them the birds build their nests;
    the stork has her home in the fir trees.
18 The high mountains are for the wild goats;
    the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers.

19 He made the moon to mark the seasons;
    the sun knows its time for setting.
20 You make darkness, and it is night,
    when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
21 The young lions roar for their prey,
    seeking their food from God.
22 When the sun rises, they steal away
    and lie down in their dens.
23 Man goes out to his work
    and to his labor until the evening.

24 O Lord, how manifold are your works!
    In wisdom have you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.
25 Here is the sea, great and wide,
    which teems with creatures innumerable,
    living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships,
    and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.

27 These all look to you,
    to give them their food in due season.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
    when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
    when you take away their breath, they die
    and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
    and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
    may the Lord rejoice in his works,
32 who looks on the earth and it trembles,
    who touches the mountains and they smoke!
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
    for I rejoice in the Lord.
35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
    and let the wicked be no more!
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Praise the Lord!

Think about what you have control over in your own little context. You probably control whether you brush your teeth, comb your hair, what clothes you put on and you even control whether you get out of bed or sleep the whole day. There are even some people in this world who have control over armies, policies, and they can even control the price of fuel and have nation’s economies in the palms of their hands.

Yet…

It was not by their power or word that caused the blades of grass to grow, the waters to gush forth, and they don’t even control the darkness like God does. No wonder the Psalmist is praising God because when we consider what we have control it is nothing…

…and I am nothing in comparison to what God controls. God even has control over this mysterious beast named Leviathan because, get this, he formed it! Verse 27 is formative for me as he says, “These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.” In other words, everything that is created is dependent on something or someone else to provide for its basic necessities. The bird longs for the water to bathe itself, the deer desires the cloves to feed itself and we humans desire (all too much all too often) shelter, clothing and food to sustain life.

But as we know, these things can be taken from us in an instant (enter Hurricane Sandy) and so we are ever present that by looking at God’s creation we are compelled to praise him. No wonder he closes with a plea that he will continually worship God and that all sinners be consumed. I love the idea of verse 24 where the Psalmist declares, “How manifold are your works!” An exhaust manifold in a vehicle takes multiple exhaust outlets and combines them into one. It takes complex entities and unites them. God’s works are all over creation and their are outlets upon outlets but the manifold is brought together by God himself.

Questions for Discussion

  1. In what ways do we try to control our own lives?
  2. What are some experiences that have pulled you closer to the Creator?
  3. What are some “manifold” works of God you have seen in your life and in the lives of others?

© marques.silvaclan.net

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
    and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
    and strips the forests bare,
    and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace!

This is a beautiful praise Psalm that coincides with the praise theme that God is universally present and sovereign. Sovereign is a fancy word that simply means God is king and reigns over all of creation. It is said that David wrote this Psalm (or it was for David…) and we are unsure as to the situation when David wrote it. Perhaps you could imagine David strolling through his kingdom on a donkey or a hummer and he looks at everything that is around him. Immediately he asks the people to stop so he can have his scribe jot down a few lyrics he is thinking about. As he looks at everything he is moved by the vastness of God’s awesome power and the only thing due to God is giving him the glory!

That’s exactly what he asks the readers and the heavenly beings to do: give God the glory. “Ascribe” is a fancy term that simply means assign or designate. Note why God is designated with glory (vv. 3-9): he is over the waters, thunder, the trees, regions of land, fire, and even a deer giving birth. Notice the contrast in verse 9 between birth of a deer and death of a forest. But the comparison is that both are naked: one entering and one existing. I am reminded of Job when he says, “Naked I came into the world (mother’s womb) and naked I shall return…blessed (or praise) be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

God’s be praised because he is universally sovereign and universally present.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Give a time when you felt pulled to praise God? What were some words you used to describe God’s glory?
  2. Talk about specific things (write them down) where you see God’s sovereignty?
  3. Why do you think David asked God to give us strength and peace to his people (v. 11)? In other words, what is so important about strength and peace?

“…to praise God is to live, and to live is to praise God.”[1]

The psalms of praise are those psalms which seek to shine the light on God. The psalmist will either praise God by declaring him generally or they will praise God descriptively in specific ways. [2] Psalm 113 helps us a little as the Psalmist goes from declaration to description in a few sentences:

Praise the Lord! (DECLARATIVE)
Praise, O servants of the Lord,
praise the name of the Lord!

2 Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore!
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the Lord is to be praised!

4 The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens!
5 Who is like the Lord our God, (DESCRIPTIVE)
who is seated on high,
6 who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!

I know what you are asking though, “What are the psalmists praising God about?” That is a great question. I mean what is the point of praising God? What does it mean to praise anyways? Typically the psalmists (btw… those are the guys who wrote the psalms anyways) hovered around four major themes that they offered God praise about: 1) creation[3] 2) God is always present and reigns over everything 3) Israel’s history and 4) God’s awesome deeds.[4]  To put that into terms you might understand think about a time when you were at a place in this world or in nature where you paused for a second and you were captivated by just how powerful that place was. The psalmist in you might say, “God, you are amazing because of this (for example) river that flows so effortlessly through the mountains.” That would be a theme of creation.

Or maybe you were drawn to the work of God in your life and through the life of your family. The psalmists looked at what God did in their own history (like parting the Red Sea, taking them out of Egypt, etc.) and that was a moment to praise God.  There are moments that captivate our attention and cause us to fall down on our knees and declare that God is in control. Think of Hurricane Sandy and how devastating that storm is throughout the northeast. As powerful and evil as that storm is God is still reigning over that storm. It cannot escape the power of God. Praise be to God!

Think about it… you cannot escape God’s knowledge and God’s power. Everywhere you go God’s fingerprint is on this world. Why? Because he made everything in it. You, me, the whole shebang! God made it! No wonder the Psalmist asks, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”[5] Why does God even care about us? No doubt that is something theologians like to debate but for the psalmist, and maybe for you and I, that is a cause for us to praise him!

Questions for Thought:

  1. What are some moments that trigger you into praise?
  2. In a negative sense, if we are not praise God what is it that is getting our praise?
  3. How can your life be viewed as praise to/for God? Give some examples.
  4. What do you think would happen if all of God’s people with all of their hearts could praise God simultaneously? How might the kingdom of God advance?

 


[1] C. Hassel Bullock, Encountering the Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001): 124.

[2] Ibid., 124.

[3] Bullock states that there are four ways the Psalmists discuss how God created things: 1) by his word or command, 2) by his personal deed, 3) by his attribute of wisdom or understanding, and 4) by his strength (p. 127).

[4] Ibid., 126-33.

[5] Psa. 8:3-4