Tuesday, November 26, 2013

CCXI - Psalm 73 - 89

A short reminder:  The Book of Psalms places the psalms in order of theme, the first of which was the first forty-one being of man’s struggles.  The second deals with man’s plea for deliverance from his oppressions, which are in Psalms 42-89.  Today we will pick back up in this section with Psalm 73.

Many of the psalms we will look at today were written by Asaph.  I wrote a little bit about this wonderful man back in post CCIX, but he is worth a look back as a refresher.  In Psalm 73 Asaph had a problem, one that many of us struggle with on occasion:  He was jealous.  Bad people seemed to have everything that was good: - money, things, happiness.  They seemed to be healthy and sleep peacefully.  These things seemed to elude good people.  But Asaph did not slip away from his faith in God.  But he admits he ALMOST did.  He spends much of this psalm venting frustrations about how the wicked seem to do so very well, and the righteous seem to struggle so much.  But this venting eventually turns into praising God as Asaph realizes the foolishness and short-sightedness of the wicked.

Psalm 74 states as a sub-title that Asaph wrote this psalm.  I must question that somewhat, as the psalm speaks of Nebuchadnezzar destroying the Temple, which was generations beyond the life of Asaph.  But the authorship is unimportant next to the message, in which the writer pleads with God to not allow the destruction of His Temple which was the place God chose to dwell.  {Sometimes we get confused when God allows such things as this.  We are not to beat ourselves up when we get confused and find ourselves questioning God.  As you can see, David and many other Psalmists did the same thing.}

Psalm 75 takes us back into praising God for His faithfulness to those who are faithful to Him.  Abruptly we go from Psalms of Asaph to an unknown author of Psalm 77.  This psalm tells of something happening that was very bad.  The writer is frustrated that God has not intervened.  So frustrated is he that he cannot sleep (vs 4).  There are parallel passages to those found in the Book of Habakkuk, which we will look at later.  Habakkuk wrote that they must have faith; that God will intervene in His chosen time.

Psalm 78 is a rather lengthy psalm, as it goes through much History of Israel.  Some scholars suggest that Isaiah wrote this Psalm.  This makes perfect sense to me.  This story of History covers from the giving of the law to the time of King David.  It mentions many things we are familiar with, such as Moses striking the rock for water, the cloud and pillar of fire, manna, the plagues on Egypt, and more.  But the theme of the whole psalm is that Israel was disobedient to God.  God always was faithful to Israel, but Israel was hardly ever faithful to God.  {So many times in the Bible do we see God’s prophets pleading with the people to return to God and His statutes, trying desperately to convince them that it is the only way they can be delivered into the abundant life God had intended for them.  We need this today, here in this society.}

The subjects of the psalms, going from one to the other in the order they are placed, skips around not only in subject, but in dates of the event to which they refer.  Psalm 78 goes through an entire story of History.  Then Psalm 79 speaks of the Babylonian invasion and captivity.  Then Psalm 80 speaks about when Israel became divided and Rehoboam and Jeroboam were made kings of the two nations.  Psalm 79 mentions an appeal to God to intervene so as to protect His name.  Psalm 80 is one of the few times we hear an earnest prayer that Israel and Judah be reunited.

Psalm 81 shifts subjects and events as it rallies the people to play instruments of music in celebration of harvest.  82, appeals to God to act now, as the heathens and pagans are growing in strength and confidence.  Psalm 83 lists some if the enemies of Israel, which the psalmist insists that any enemy of Israel is an enemy of God.  Then the writer goes on to appeal to God that He again rescues Israel from its oppressors.

Although Psalm 84 states that it was written by the sons of Korah, it certainly has the ring of David.  It is a short but refreshing read at this place in the book of Psalms.

I see Psalm 85 as a prayer when one of the groups of exiles had returned to Jerusalem from Persia.  The psalmist prays in hopes that the Jews who will re-inhabit Jerusalem will not make the same mistakes as did their ancestors.

86 is a psalm of David, pleading for God to deliver him from those trying to kill him.  87 is a psalm about Jerusalem, the old and the new Jerusalem after the return of the exiles.
Psalm 88 is interesting.  Somewhat sad if you reflect on it as you read.  We think it may have been written by Heman.  (Heman was a grandson of Samuel and (with Asaph and Ethan) was appointed as a musical leader by King David.}  But this psalm is written by a person who has been afflicted with an illness for a very long time.  He is suffering and is desperate for God to hear his prayers.  The writer seems to think that he is being punished by God.  Puts you in mind of Job as you read verse 8 and others.

I’ll close this post with Psalm 89.  This psalm was written by Ethan, the third leader of musicians appointed by King David.  Although this psalm is fifty-two verses long, the subject is simple.  David was anointed king of Israel.  With that came the Davidic covenant which promised that a descendant of David would always be king of Israel.  But now that was not possible because all of Israel had been taken away to Assyria and Babylon.  Therefore there was no descendant of David that was Israel’s king.  To the writer this was a problem that must be figured out and dealt with.  Early Christians sang this psalm to the accompanying of musical instruments because Jesus was placed as the permanent King of Israel.  And Jesus’s lineage is in keeping with God’s covenant.


Friday, November 22, 2013

CCX - Psalms 51-72

Psalm 51 is one of the most often used Psalms.  David wrote this after Nathan the prophet had made David realize that not only he had sinned, but the horrid nature of his sins.  David had committed adultery with the beautiful Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah.  Uriah was a soldier who was away in battle with the Philistines at this time.  Bathsheba told David that she had become pregnant.  David immediately had Uriah brought home so he could lie with Bathsheba, making Uriah believe the baby was his.  But Uriah would not take such pleasure while his fellow soldiers were suffering in battle.  David then proceeded to order his military commander to send Uriah on a suicide mission in battle, making sure he would be killed.  So David committed a number of sins:

1) He coveted
2) He committed adultery
3) He lied and deceived
4) He plotted evil
5) He committed murder
When Nathan had exposed David’s sins to him, David at first was not repentant or even apologetic.  But as time went on he began to realize what he had done.  He truly repented and wrote this psalm.  It is a psalm of confession and regret.  He wants God to forgive him and cleanse him of his sins (vs 2).  In verse 7 we see the familiar phrase used by Christians today, “….wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”  He uses all three terms for wrong-doings:  Sin, Transgressions, and Iniquities.  I feel one of the most important things in the psalm is found in verses 16 and 17.  David understands God.  He always did.  Burning sacrifices was not enough and David knew it.  He understood that physical sacrificing of animals was not what God was interested in.  God wants our hearts.  {The Pharisees never understood this.}  David found forgiveness from God when he felt true remorse for what he had done.
Psalm 52 shifts back to the time when Saul was trying to kill David, then in psalm 53 we see the opening verse saying, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.””  Unfortunately we have many today that not only think this, but say it aloud.
Psalms 54-57 are written during the time David is running from Saul.  These psalms speak of people (including some friends) betraying David, and also of David so desperate that he ran to Gath, a Philistine city. 
Psalm 58 breaks in as one of the psalms that actually asks God to punish wicked people.  David thinks this way when he gets weary from seeing the wicked seemingly winning so often.
In Psalm 64 David mentions how the words of people (including his friends) are more painful than arrows piercing his flesh.  {David always seemed bothered by people saying bad things about him.  He, like us, places a disproportionate value on what others think and say about us.  I am reminded of the seventy-year-old gentleman who said, “When I was about sixty years old, I stopped worrying about what other people thought of me.  I’ve been happy ever since”.}
Psalms 67 and 68 seem to be songs to be sung by the nation of Israel when masses of people are assembled for observances.
Then Psalm 69 turns rather dark.  Many scholars attribute this psalm to Jeremiah, rather than David.  I’m not sure, but the entire psalm is written while the writer was in despair and desperate for deliverance.
If you have a good memory you will recognize much of Psalm 70 to be like Psalm 40.  The author of Psalm 71 is not certain, but it was written by a man who was old.  This is considered a “Psalm for Old Age”.
I’ll conclude this post with Psalm 72.  It says right beneath the Psalm number the words, “Of Solomon”.  I think it would be a mistake to assume it was written by Solomon.  As I read it, I see David writing it about Solomon and how he envisions his son’s reign as king of Israel.  In this psalm he speaks of righteousness, justice, prosperity, long life, peace from enemies, fame, wisdom, honor, compassion, and other attributes he wishes for his son.
Next post:  NIV Book III of Psalms

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

CCIX - Psalms 42-50

We have completed the first section (Psalms 1-41) which had the theme of "man’s plight on earth".  The second and third sections (42-89) deal with man’s pleas for deliverance from his oppressors.

I’ve mentioned the “Sons of Korah” in CCV.  Briefly, they were Levites, descendants of Korah who had been punished by God for rebellion against Moses following the exodus.  Today’s post will cover eight psalms that were written by the Sons of Korah.  Asaph and Ethan were also descendants of Korah, although they are identified by name.  Evidently all of Korah’s descendants carried their heritage with pride, referring to themselves as just that, rather than by specific names.

It seems 42 and 43 were originally the same psalm.  It appears that this was written by a man once a working member in the Temple, but has been taken captive.  He longs for God to rescue him and place him back at his previous place of service.  (Verse 4) “I used to go to the house of God”.  This man also indicates that God is in His dwelling place (The Temple), and that he longs to get back there so he can be close to God again.  This man longs for his past.  Something has interrupted his life and he is miserable.  But then he awakens to the realization that God is everywhere, as he adjusts the flavor of his words.  {It is my guess that this man had been taken captive by the Assyrians and is somewhere near Damascus.}

Psalm 44 is written by a man who is pleading for God to come rescue himself and other Jews.  He is confused that God had allowed this awful captivity to have happened.  He mentions early in the psalm how God provided Moses and Joshua victory over the ancestors of the same people who are oppressing them now.  The Psalmist says he “lives in disgrace” but claims they have done nothing to deserve this.  While he has faith in God, he is so confused by God waiting so long to deliver them.

Psalm 45 is a somewhat refreshing break.  It is a beautiful poem set to music.  It is what we today would call a “Love Song”.  Actually is was written to be sung at a wedding.  Kind of nice.

Psalms 46, 47, and 48 seem to have been written by the same person.  He breaks out in praise for God.  As we read these three psalms we sense a celebratory tone.  Some scholars suggest this was written right after God had protected Jerusalem from Sennacherib’s first attack.  {Whenever you see the word “Zion”, it generally means Jerusalem, but it is also used to refer to a future perfect city built by God Himself.}

Psalm 49 is written for people who get discouraged about the unrighteous seeming to be so successful.  The psalmist reminds his readers that the wealthy will die and perish just like the animals.  From verse 17 we get the phrase “you can’t take it with you”.  {Some Christians today need to bookmark this psalm (and there are others) to read when they get a bit down due to these all too familiar circumstances.}

Psalm 50  -  The first psalm placed in order that was written by a man named Asaph.  Asaph is probably the most under-heralded figures in the Old Testament.  I cannot in good conscience proceed without breaking to talk about this man, stating facts about him that will hopefully give you better insight into the psalms he wrote.  {We can understand a person’s writings fully, only if we understand their lives.}  Asaph was a Levite, another descendent of Korah.  Asaph, among other things, was an accomplished musician, a gifted leader, a loyal and trustworthy friend, and a man who loved God.  Asaph was selected by David as one of the leaders of music to escort the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem on that glorious occasion.  It is also traditionally recognized that Asaph was appointed David’s musical director.  (Music was important to David.)  Asaph is credited for writing the music that went with many if not all of David’s psalms.  But he wrote twelve psalms himself, and is one of the sons of Korah who is mentioned by name.  Asaph was very young when David appointed him as a member of his service (probably in his late teens or early twenties).  He lived through David’s, Soloman’s and into Rehoboam’s reign.  He worked in the Tabernacle as music director.  He helped oversee the building of the Temple, then assumed the position of music director in that complex.  Asaph lived through David’s conquests in war, then lived through Jerusalem’s years of prosperity and power under Solomon’s reign.  He witnessed the great Solomon turn his back on the very principles that made him great.  {Asaph must have shed many tears during this disappointing period.}  A quick story about Asaph’s character:  He and his brother Zechariah had been openly critical of Solomon’s shift from Godliness toward honoring paganism, influenced by his many pagan wives and concubines.  They both were warned to silence their criticisms, but they both refused to recant their comments publicly.  Solomon’s guards executed Zechariah because of this.  {They dared not go so far as to kill Asaph for fear of public outrage, as Asaph was considered a great patriarch and close friend to the ever revered King David.}  But Asaph nonetheless feared for his life for years, a great portion of his adult life.  To add to his sad adult life, after the death of Solomon, he (a very old man by this time) saw the great David’s kingdom divided into two nations.  This was not David’s vision and neither was it Asaph’s.
We will see Asaph’s life being reflected in the psalms he wrote.  73 definitely tells of his bitterness when his brother Zechariah was executed.  But we’ll discuss that when we get to those.  {Scholars have said that Asaph was over a hundred years old when he wrote some of the psalms.}

I would suppose that Asaph wrote Psalm 50 when he was reflecting on what was happening to the hearts of the Israelite people when Solomon’s character and leadership were turning dark.  Some describe this psalm as a court of law setting where God, as the ultimate Judge, will hold everyone accountable for ALL of their actions, holding the complete Law as the standard against which they will be judged.  I believe this to be an effort by Asaph to persuade Israel to “see the Light”.

Monday, November 18, 2013

CCVIII - Psalms 31-41

These eleven Psalms we will look at today will be the final psalms that carry the theme of man’s struggles.  David is credited to have written all of these.

Psalm 31 was probably written when Saul and his army was bearing down on David.  {I’m not absolutely certain of this because there are references to “those who cling to worthless idols”.  Saul had many weaknesses, but this was not one of them.  But I shall yield to the many scholars and Historians.}  In the twenty-four verse of this psalm there seems to be two separate events.  In the first eight verses we see where David prays for help and God sends him help and delivers him.  Then in verses 9-24 we see where David prays again for God’s deliverance and again God saves him from his enemies.  {This somewhat leans toward Saul because Saul chased David many times when David narrowly escaped his capture.}

Psalm 32 seems to be a bit different in nature.  In many of these psalms David pleas for God to deliver him from his enemies, as they have no reason to hate David.  In these, David declares his innocence and righteousness.  However in this psalm, David is confessing sins and sinfulness.  This leads us to believe that this was written right after David’s dealings with Bathsheba and her husband Uriah.  David’s sins were adultery, lying, and murder.  As I’m sure you remember, David had slept with Bathsheba.  The then sent her husband Uriah on a suicide mission in battle.  David knew this was terribly wrong, but did not confess and repent (vs 3) for quite a while, making himself miserable.  {Huge lesson to be learned here.  Knowing David, he must have been tormented by this.}

Psalm 33 is an interesting psalm as it seems to have 6 subjects.  The first four verses tell us to sing joyfully to the Lord and play musical instruments.  The next five speak of the power of God in His creation.  Next it shifts to the folly of man’s plans, and how God interrupts them.  In verses 13-15 tells of God keeping watch over all people, both the wicked and the righteous.  16 and 17 tell of man’s foolish confidence in his armies, none of which could win a battle if God does not allow it.  The remaining verses encourages us to wait on the Lord, as He is faithful and will delivers us.

I find Psalm 34 as another interesting one.  It is another “acrostic poem”.  Remember, an acrostic poem is one that uses the Hebrew alphabet (in order) as they begin each stanza.  The Hebrew alphabet contains twenty-two characters, the first being “aleph”, the second being “beth” and so on.  It is recorded in the Bible as a sub-title that Psalm 34 was written by David when he pretended to be insane when he was in the presence of Abimelek.  The timing of this event was when Saul declared that he was going to kill David.  David ran away and went to Gath, which was a city inhabited by Philistines.  The king of Gath was a man named Abimelek.  He, like all Philistines, did not like or trust any Israelite, especially David.  So in order to save his own life, David pretended to be crazy.  {I’m not certain how he did this, but David was a very smart man.}  It worked.  Abimelech did not kill David, but sent him away.  This was when David went to Adullam where he hid in a cave.  {There was mental illness then, as there is now.  At that time people didn’t know what to do with the mentally ill, but it was considered taboo to kill them.  This ethic among even the heathen nations saved David’s life.}

In Psalm 35 it’s easy to assume that David is being hunted down by either his son Absalom or Saul.  We know this because in this psalm, David clearly wants God to deal with his enemies because David could not have brought himself to kill either one of them.

Psalm 36 opens with David saying that God has placed a message on his heart concerning the wicked.  He talks about them briefly, describing them by their actions.  They flatter themselves, thus encouraging wickedness upon wickedness.  He says in verse 4 that they lie in their beds, thinking of ways to out-do each other in their wickedness.

Psalm 37 seems to contrast the good and the evil, speaking also of the evil being successfully prosperous as opposed to the righteous poor.

Psalms 38, 39, and 40, like Psalm 32, are written by David in his time of distress right after he had caused Uriah to be killed (II Samuel 11).  He was waiting to feel that God had forgiven him for these atrocious sins David had committed.  David knew he was guilty and he was ashamed.  (37:4) “My guilt has overwhelmed me”.  During this time, David was actually ill and he felt that his days were about to come to an end.  I want to draw attention to 40:8.  He writes, “I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”  This is our goal.  This is why God loved David so.  David understood the Ten Commandments and what God meant when He wrote them.  Jesus came to the earth not to make new laws, but to place the laws in our hearts, thus changing us forever.  The Pharisees were the opposite of David.  They made mountains of additional laws on scrolls, rather than teaching the intent of the Law for people to adopt them into their hearts.

Psalm 41 is the last psalm to carry the theme of pleading for God’s deliverance from the burdens of man.  In this psalm David continues to ask God to have mercy on him, but as I read this, I can’t help but think of Job.  David was still ill, to the point he thought he was dying.  Many people came to visit him and comfort him.  These were supposed to be friends, but David discovered that they were actually saying bad things about him (vs 7), and actually wanted David to go ahead and die, so that a king more favorable to them would be crowned.  In verse 9 he says “even my close friend”, which indicated to me that this was his “best” friend, has turned against him.  We don’t know who this “best” friend was, but he was certainly not the true friend that Jonathan was in David's younger years.

This concludes the section of Psalms that deals with the struggling of man.  In the next post we will begin the section of Psalms that carries the theme of man’s pleas for deliverance from his oppressors.

Friday, November 15, 2013

CCVII - Psalms 19-30

We have looked at eighteen of the first forty-one Psalms that carry the theme of man’s difficulties, those difficulties being mostly enemies.  We will continue this with Psalm 19.

I like Psalm 19.  In this Psalm David is praising God as he sees God’s testimony of Himself in the night and in the day.  It seems to me that David writes this psalm as he is watching daybreak, wondering how anybody could question God’s magnificence, as both the day and the night reveal so much about Him.  Then David suddenly (vs 7) begins talking about God’s written Law, and how perfect it is.  He continues to talk about how God is faithful in His Law, ready to reward all of those who will abide by it fully.

While Psalm 20 seems to be a prayer for others, 21 is a prayer for David himself as a leader going into battle.  Then (I think this is in progression) David seems to be in deep agony, perhaps sick or even wounded in battle.  He seeks God’s immediate help, being careful not to show any doubt that God is with him.

The all-familiar Psalm 23 – a precious Psalm.  Probably the most quoted, most memorized.  But this Psalm has earned this status.  Look at it with me.  I promise to be as brief as this Psalm will allow.  It begins with “The Lord is my Shepherd.”  We need the Lord as our Shepherd.  What better situation could we have?  Shepherds are the most protective people.  They must possess this quality in order to successfully perform their duties.  They often risked their lives for the sake of their flock.  They would even abandon the entire flock briefly to find one sheep that has gone astray.  A sheep’s instincts are not as sharp as those of other animals.  Sheep easily can go astray because of their eating habits.  They will keep their heads down, looking only for the next tuft of grass, totally disregarding the rest of the flock.  As they graze, they are totally unaware of their surroundings.  When they finally look up and realize they are lost, they cry aloud, confident that their ever-faithful shepherd will come for them.  And He will.  {Shepherds are special to God.  He chose shepherds to be the first to hear the news of the birth of Christ.}  “I shalt not want.”  This means we will lack for nothing.  The Shepherd constantly sees to it that His sheep have everything they need, every day.  "He leads his sheep to green pastures"; the best pastures, "beside still and quiet waters" where they can drink without fear of attack.  (Vs 4) Although life takes us through many difficult trials and grievous situations (valley of the shadow of death) we are to fear no evil because our Shepherd is always there to protect us.  God’s protective hand (His rod and His staff) should remind us that He is there for us and no evil can penetrate His protective shield.  (Vs 5) God will not only deliver us from our enemies, He will prepare a banquet setting, honoring us in the presence of our enemies, showing them that we are victorious because we kept our faith in God.  He will further honor us in their presence by anointing us with oil, giving us great honor.  “My cup runneth over” (KJV) means that my heart is so full of blessings, it seems like it can contain no more.  So much that I cannot even reflect on one before another one comes, one right after another.  {Ever feel like that.  I have.  It’s wonderful.}  So much so, that David cannot even imagine an end to this flow of blessings (vs 6).  And to top it off, "we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever".  A beautiful psalm.

Psalms 24-29 are all psalms of David, in times of his distress, seemingly in battle.  He continues his praise to God and his pleas for God’s help.

I’ll end this post with Psalm 30.  This Psalm is written to be sung during the dedication to the Temple (Tabernacle).  At this time David seems to have been given victory in battle and was able to direct his attention to something besides war with his enemies.  He praises God for deliverance from those enemies.  He praises God for healing him of his wounds.  And in the final verses, God has turned David’s clothing from sackcloth to fresh clothes of joy.  Parts of this Psalm 30 are beautiful.  We might be reminded of this Psalm in times when God has answered our prayers after one of our many lengthy battles in life.

In the next post we will finish the Psalms that deal with man’s struggles.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

CCVI - Psalms 2-18

As stated in the introduction to Psalms in the last post, the first forty-one Psalms carry the theme of man’s struggles on earth.  We should be on this theme for no more than three posts, including this one.  I am not going to comment on each post, but rather will pull what I consider significant verses within various Psalms in this section.  I encourage you to keep reading ahead of my blog postings.

Psalm 2 speaks of the kings and other rulers of the earth, feeling like they do not need God, as they themselves are self-sufficient, especially when they band together.  This is folly, as proven throughout the History of civilization.

Psalms 3-6 were written by David.  He was fearful for his life at this time, ironically at the hands of his own son Absalom.  {Note that these psalms are not placed in chronological order.}  He prays for God to show Himself to the many enemies who are hunting David down, confident that if his enemies saw the living God on David’s side they would retreat from their attack on him.  {What must be going through David’s mind when his own son is trying to kill him?  I cannot imagine.}  In Psalm 5 David pleads for God to give victory to all people who are righteous and honor God.

Psalm 7 shifts from Absalom to specifically Cush, the Benjamite.  {As a reminder, Cush was a close confidante to King Saul, and stirred up Saul’s anger toward David.  Cush was a trouble-maker, and gained authority among Saul’s councilors.}

Scholars consider Psalm 8 to have been written when David was a young boy.  In this psalm he speaks of human beings being a little lower than angels.  We will later learn that this statement is not necessarily true.  {Anything about angels draws my attention.  I am intrigued by them.  I think I get this from my beloved wife Peggy, who has always been fascinated by these lovely and interesting creatures.}

Psalms 9-10 are considered to have originally been one psalm.  This makes sense because together, they form an “acrostic poem”.  Acrostic poems use the Hebrew alphabet in order, as they begin each stanza.  Psalm 10 shows a continuation of this in the Hebrew language.  It is also thought that these two psalms were written right after David killed Goliath.  {I have a hard time seeing this in these two psalms, but these scholars are more knowledgeable than I.}  In the latter part of Psalm 10 David comments that the wicked don’t even give God a thought.  He is amazed with this.

Many of these “psalms of despair” are written by David when he was being hunted by Saul, who wanted to kill David.  He is in deep despair and is desperate for God to help him.  He is hiding from Saul and living in a cave much of the time.  {No wonder he was depressed.}  In Psalms 12 and 14, David sounds a bit like Elisha.  He talks like there are no more good people on the earth, ie (12:1-2) “…no one is faithful anymore;  …those who are loyal have vanished from the human race; Everyone lies; (14:3) “All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one”.

Interesting in Psalm 15 David refers to the Tabernacle as a “tent”.  This must have been when David pleaded for God to allow him to build God a proper house, but He would not allow David to be the one to build it.  God had pre-selected David’s son Solomon for this task.

Psalms 16 and 17 still seem to be written when Saul was wanting to kill David.

I’ll finish this post with Psalm 18.  This is a lengthy psalm, but it is a good read.  It seems to have been written right after David was delivered from Saul.  In this psalm, David breaks out in praise and thanksgiving to God for delivering David from his enemies.  This is a good read because you can feel David’s love for God in this psalm.  In the beginning verses he is trying to describe God’s power, (which is impossible).  In the middle verses of this psalm, David is not boasting because he has been faithful in righteous living, but rather he is encouraging the righteous to “stay the course; God hears your prayers; He will come through for you as He did for me if you remain faithful to Him”.  In the latter verses David praises God with whatever words his human mind can come up with.

The next post will continue with Psalm 19.

Monday, November 11, 2013

CCV - Psalms

Our lives are a series of ups and downs; highs and lows.  Most of us try to prolong and concentrate on the highs and try to avoid the lows altogether, knowing that it is not possible.  In the History of civilization as we know it, long before the birth of Christ, believers in God Almighty poured out their hearts to the Lord during the extreme periods of highs and lows, those periods of profound joy and those of deep sorrow or personal crisis.  Those extreme periods in the lives of the various writers served as the catalysts for the Psalms.  We refer to this collection of 150 hymns as the Book of Psalms.  The Hebrews refer to it as the Book of Praises.

{This introduction of the Book of Psalms does not flow at all eloquently.  I’m trying to provide you with facts and thoughts that will enhance your reading of this wonderful and insightful book, trying not to leave anything out, so please bear with me.}

I’m not certain who assembled this collection of songs, prayers, and poems, but whoever it may have been, was resolved to confine it to worshipful writings, filled with praise and adoration for God the Creator.  Many, if not all, of the Psalms are considered to have been put to music.  This is assumed because of its very name.  The word “psalm” comes from the Greek, meaning “a song sung to the accompaniment of a musical instrument”.

The Book of Psalms is different from the books we have studied thus far.  I consider the previous eighteen books as divine sources for facts and information.  They should be read to gain knowledge and understanding, which is the way I have tried to teach them.  Somewhat in contrast, the Psalms are to be read in such a fashion that would cause the reader to reflect, rather than seek to gain knowledge.  Many Jews and Christians read the Psalms not only for reflection, but also for comfort.  There are those who read out of the book of Psalms every day, being like a daily devotional.  This is not a bad idea, as it serves as a reminder of our loving and omnipotent God Almighty.  These Psalms are also heralded as some of the most beautiful poetry ever written.  If you are a lover of poetry, you will probably agree.

Also in contrast to the other books of the Bible:  We consider the Bible as God writing to man.  In the Psalms, man is writing to God.  Think on that.

About the Authors:  Many people consider David to have written all of the Psalms.  This is not true, although he wrote more of them than anyone else (73).  There are other writers of the Psalms.  Scholars generally agree on the authorship of 104 of the psalms.  The remaining 46 are unknown.  The list below is generally accepted among Biblical scholars:

David – 73
Asaph – 12
Sons of Korah – 11
Solomon – 2
Moses – 1
Ezra - 1
Ethan – 1
Heman – 1
Haggai – 1
Zechariah – 1
Unknown – 46

All of the authors listed are Levites, except David, Solomon, and Moses.  These are all familiar names with the possible exception of the “Sons of Korah”.  {I must be careful not get too side-tracked into the interestingly colorful and ironic story of Korah and his ancestors.  Korah was the leader of a rebellion against Moses (Numbers 16).  You might remember the story about the earth opening up and swallowing all of Korah, his family and followers, killing them all.  But apparently, two of Korah’s sons were not in that group and they survived.  Seven generations later the great prophet Samuel was born out of this lineage.  We learn further about these Korahites in Chronicles that David assigned them, including Asaph and Ethan, to escort the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, playing music, adding to the pageantry of the occasion.}

The Order of the Psalms

Many assume that David wrote the first 73 Psalms.  Not so.  The order of the Psalms is not by author, but rather by content or theme.  There are three basic themes in the Psalms.  I’ve always taught Psalms from the King James.  I notice that the NIV divides this book into five sections.  The first section (Psalms 1-41) tells of man’s plight on earth.  The second and third sections (42-89) deal with man’s pleas for deliverance from his oppressors.  The fourth and fifth sections (90-150) are expressions of thanksgiving and praise.

This has been a rather lengthy introduction, but Psalms is a lengthy book.  Psalms is the second largest book in the Bible (Isaiah is the largest).  However, at the risk of making this entire post loo long, I want to comment on the very first Psalm.  Please read this short psalm.  (It contains only six verses.)  Then turn back to the very first verse wherein we will find some wisdom, containing somewhat of a warning.  The entire Book of Psalms opens with, “Blessed is the one who does not walk with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers”.  Study on the progression:  When you WALK with someone, your conversation is generally casual, and influence is slight.  However, if you stop walking and STAND with that person, you are giving more serious attention to his words.  Then if you should decide to SIT with that person, you are placing yourself in a position of exchanging thoughts in a conversation, and possibly yielding to the influence of someone you perhaps should have avoided in the first place.  Isn’t the Bible wonderful?  {This warning is to urge you to stand guard, not to be confused with trying to avoid contact with the ungodly, as we are commissioned to be a positive influence on them.  This often times requires us to spend time with them.  The apostles Paul and Peter spent time with some unsavory characters in order to spread the Gospel.}

Saturday, November 9, 2013

CCIV - Finishing Job - Chapters 38-42

{If you have read the entire book of Job, you will have already found that there are three parts of the book.  The first part (chapters 1-2) tells what happened to Job; how Satan had afflicted Job to the limits God allowed.  The afflictions were tremendous.  The second part, which we have just finished was a rather lengthy series of conversations Job had with his friends, most of which were unpleasant for him.  These conversations filled chapters 3-37.  Now we get to the third and final part, which is more than just an epilogue.  God actually speaks to Job in the presence of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu.}
In review of the last post, Elihu spoke for a very long time, covering six chapters.  Although his speeches were eloquently delivered and much of what he said was correct, his tone was provocative and accusatory toward Job.  I’m certain Job would have had some words in response to Elihu, but in the very next chapter, God Himself speaks.

Chapter 38  -  God Speaks

The opening verses set the tone that will extend through God’s entire speech.  It is a reality check for Job and his friends.   Verse 2 says, “Who is this that obscures My plans with words without knowledge?”  He goes on to tell Job to brace himself, because the next few moments are going to be difficult.  God stated that Job was speaking about things he could not possibly understand.  I like verse 4:  “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”  Let’s look back to Genesis.  When God created everything on and in the earth as we know it, man came last.  When the foundation was laid, man did not exist, therefore any knowledge to have been handed down did not exist.  God comments on the creation, then in verse 7 He speaks of the celebration that took place after He completed it.  {This is not unimportant.  God’s creation which took six days was so magnificent that the entire heavenly host (angels) broke out in celebration.  This is the earliest account of the heavenly choir bursting out in song.  It must have been beautiful to hear.}  God goes on in the chapter to make Job aware of just how little he knows.  In verse 21, we detect a bit of sarcasm.  Remember, God's existence dates back into eternity past.  Job has been in existence for only about forty years, which is smaller than the blink of an eye in relationship to eternity.  God says in this verse, “You have lived so many years!”

Chapter 39

God continues His speech to Job with a series of simple questions, many asking Job to explain about how animals do the things they do, i.e. how do bears know when to wake up after hibernation; how do birds know when to go south for the winter; why do oxen submit themselves to servitude to man; why does an ostrich lay her eggs on the ground, in harm’s way; how does an eagle see a five-inch rodent from a distance of half a mile.  All of these rhetorical questions exposed Job and his friends for their lack of knowledge.

Chapter 40-41

God points to Job as His accuser.  God then demands Job to speak.  Job humbles himself, confessing total inferiority, placing his hands over his mouth, which suggests that he has nothing to say that could be worthy of hearing.  {In Job’s speeches to his friends, he was very self-confident that his wisdom went beyond theirs.  God spoke so that Job’s wisdom could be exposed as miniscule.}  But God is not finished.  Verses 7-14 are rather difficult to read.  God is asking Job how he would run the world if it was up to him.  Then God goes in to a monologue about two animals.  One being a behemoth (hippopotamus), then the leviathan.  {Most scholars have said this leviathan is a crocodile, but to me, it sure sounds like a dragon.  Check out verses 18-20.  You might be saying to yourself that dragons never existed.  Really?}

Chapter 42

Verses 1-6  -  Job’s Confession

Job had listened to God’s words.  He realized his error.  Job was a good and wise man who allowed his emotions to affect his words, and actually made him complain about God.  But now Job sees the error of his ways and humbly asks for God’s forgiveness.

Verses 7-17  -  Job Is Restored to His Former Self

In the following verses God refers to Job’s friends, speaking directly to Eliphaz.  {I think Eliphaz was the oldest of the four.  Although there are exceptions, God generally honored the oldest as being the leader.}  God told him that He was angry with all four of them because they had misrepresented God’s thoughts.  He went on to instruct them on their path to atonement for their words, and that they would be fully forgiven only after Job prays for them.  {Note the shift back to honoring Job and his past life.  God places the four friends in the hands of Job.  I always at this point remember that Job spoke out of a state of extreme pain and grief.  His friends could not make that claim.}  They obeyed God’s instructions.  Job indeed prayed for them and God accepted his prayer, thus forgiving each of them.  In verse 10 it says that God gave Job twice the fortune he had before Satan was allowed to enter his life.  All of his extended family had joined him and his wife in celebrating Job’s deliverance, with a feast and the giving of gifts.  In verses 12-14 we see that all of Job’s possessions were doubled, but he was blessed with the identical number of sons and daughters as he had before.  Before I end this study of Job, I want to draw your attention to verses 14 and 15.  Herein is a rare tribute to daughters more so than sons.  Very rare indeed.  The Scripture specifically states the names of the daughters, but the names of the sons were not given.  It also specifically states that the daughters would be given equal inheritance with the sons.  {Not to belabor the point, but Hebrew writings never did this.  This is the only such occurrence to my knowledge.  Is it significant?  EVERYTHING in the Bible is significant.  If you have thoughts on this matter, please share.}  The final two verses say that Job lived a hundred and forty more years, making his life very long; long enough to see four generations of children.  One of the greatest pleasures for a man or woman is to see their descendants.

And such is the book of Job

Next post  -  Psalms

Thursday, November 7, 2013

CCIII - Elihu Comes on the Scene - Job 32-37

The last post ended with chapters 29-31, in which we found Job’s final monologue somewhat summing up his plight, firstly looking back on the good days and the description of what a wonderful life he had.  Secondly he spoke of his current condition and how terrible it is.  Lastly, he defended himself against any wrong-doing that might have brought on such afflictions.

Now entering the scene is a man named Elihu.  Evidently, Elihu had been present for most of the conversation among the four, and felt compelled to speak.  This post will cover six chapters which will contain four speeches given by Elihu.

Chapter 32-33  –  Elihu’s First Speech

Elihu was a man younger than Job and his three friends (vs 4), and said in verse 6 that he had kept silent up to this point, yielding to his elders out of respect.  But as he says in verse 9, “not only the old are wise”.  In this first speech we can tell that Elihu thought a lot of himself, rather boastful at times, constantly boasting his qualifications.  There is much repetition in this first speech, constantly demanding that Job pay attention to his words (ie 33:31).  So, after Elihu finishes talking about himself in chapter 32, he then addresses Job more directly in chapter 33, in which he states matter-of-factly that Job’s claim of innocence is wrong.  He often refers to himself and his own experiences to describe God, His actions, and His reasons.  {I’m sure Elihu and his haughtiness rubbed Job the wrong way with such statements as in the last verse in chapter 33 when he says, “listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom”.  Job did not need to hear things like this.}

Chapter 34  -  Elihu’s Second Speech

In his second of four speeches, Elihu addresses all four men and seems to enjoy having an audience.  He suggests in the first nine verses that Job’s attitude was bad, which might be a part of his problems.  In verse 5 he quotes Job as saying, “I am innocent, but God denies me justice …….. I am guiltless”.  Elihu scolds Job for suggesting that God has done something unjust.  In verses 16-30 he explains that God treats everyone the same in handing out His justice.  {This further claims that Job is guilty.}  In the last seven verses he advises Job to confess his wrong-doings, and promise to sin no more.

Chapters 35-36  -  Elihu’s Third Speech

{I want to interject at this point that much of what Elihu says is true and wise.}  But in this third speech his theme seems to be that people pray for the wrong reasons (including Job).  They call on Him only to get something, when they should be praying in thanksgiving and praise.  {Although Elihu is correct, he keeps drifting from the subject at hand, which is Job.}  In chapter 36, Elihu is very eloquent in his praise to God and His power, but he seems to be taking on the position of “teacher” to four men who are already knowledgeable in each subject Elihu is addressing.  At this point Elihu, like Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, is not being helpful to Job, which should be the main objective of all of their speeches.
Elihu’s Final Speech  -  Chapter 37

In the first part of this chapter Elihu eloquently describes a storm as the voice of God.  This was actually Elihu’s most impressive speech.  But he was still unnecessarily critical of Job, blaming him for all of his own troubles.  He was trying to teach Job and the others the meaning of suffering and to warn Job against further rebellion.  He urged Job to bow in humility before God and accept the lesson God was trying to teach.

I’m certain Job would have had some words in response to Elihu, but in the very next chapter we will look at in the next post, God speaks.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

CCII - Job Wants a Fair Trial

Chapters 22-31

The conversation between Job and his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar has deteriorated into more of an argument than a conversation.  Job is openly at odds with all three of them, and considers their words to be worthless and empty.  He has accused them of cruelty and condescension. His speeches reveal that Job considers himself wiser and more Godly than they are.  The speeches we will look at today have a continuing theme from the standpoint of his three friends, but Job seems to more frequently plead for God to hear him out.  I will go through these chapters quickly, giving the main emphases.
Chapter 22  -  Eliphaz’s Last Speech
Eliphaz begins to talk about the fact that God has nothing to gain by man’s behavior, good or bad.  After expressing these thoughts, he finally gets around to telling Job to make peace with God.  Confess, repent, and stop behaving so sinfully.  {This is bound to rub Job the wrong way, as he has been trying to convince these three men that he is not aware of any wrong-doing he has committed.  Eliphaz is grossly over-simplifying the problem, further frustrating Job.}
Chapter 23-24  -  Job Replies to Eliphaz
Job again expresses his desire to speak to God face-to-face.  He has done everything within his power to convince God to meet with him, but he claims that God eludes him (vss 8-9).  Job pleads with God to tell him why He refuses to meet.  Then in chapter 23 Job begins to talk about wicked people, and why they do the things they do.  But ultimately, the wicked and the righteous will go down the same path, which is death.  Job, more so than in previous speeches, seems to drift into a soliloquy, but is suddenly interrupted by Bildad.
Chapter 25  -  Bildad Interrupts
This is a short chapter because Bildad didn’t really have much to say.  He simply reiterates how wonderful and powerful God is, but does not say anything that hasn’t been said before.
Chapter 26 – Job Responds to Bildad
Job elaborates even more on the devastating power of God, saying it more eloquently and completely than Bildad.  {I think Job was telling Bildad what he should have said.  Remember, Job was more intelligent and more knowledgeable of spiritual matters.}
Chapter 27 -  Job Continues with His Final Speech

Job acknowledges that he has suffered many troubles.  He assumes that God was the source of these troubles, but he still trusts God.  He still seeks audience with God, confidant that he can convince God of his innocence.  {I don’t want to pick on Job, but he is in error right here.  He wants his day in court to convince God that there has been a mistake made.  The error in his thinking is that if he credits God with having afflicted him, then he is suggesting that he can convince God that God Himself has made a mistake.  God does not make mistakes.  But in defense of Job, he is sick, tired, sleep-deprived, grief-ridden, and in constant pain.  All of these things together, especially sleep-deprivation, can influence our thinking, rendering us confused and given to irrational thoughts and words.

Chapter 28  -  A Poem About Wisdom

This chapter is good reading.  In it Job speaks of many wonderful things in God’s creation, (Verse 6 NIV speaks of “lapis lazuli”, which is precious stones inside rocks).  Then the rest of this chapter Jobs speaks about wisdom, which is more wonderful than everything else, but elusive.  Wisdom cannot be found in all the traditional hiding places.  Verse 28 – “The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding”.

{I realize this post includes a lot of reading, but I want to finish Job’s final speech, which goes through chapter 31.}

Chapter 29 – Job’s Past Life

This chapter is rather sad.  Job reflects life before Satan had his way with him.  He spoke of how respected he was.  For example, when he spoke in the city gate, all men would silence themselves to hear what Job had to say on any subject.  And he was always the last to speak.  {This was a show of respect, giving he wisest the last word.}

Chapter 30-31 – Job Describes His Present Situation in Contrast

As opposed the distinguished status he enjoyed before, now he is but a laughing stock.  Even children disrespect him openly.  He mentions that even the fathers of these children were so far beneath Job that he had refused to hire them as laborers.  In closing his final speech, Job reflects back on his life and how he lived it.  He was proud that he did not yield to normal practices of living on the edge of God’s expectations, but rather staying in the center, always shunning anything that hinted of compromise.

Next post  -  Elihu Comes on the Scene

Sunday, November 3, 2013

CCI - Job Chapters 15 -21 - Conversation Turns Argumentative

{The reading of this book of Job might seem difficult.  One reason for that might be that Job goes in and out of prayer.  He speaks directly to each of his friends individually, then shifts his words to all of them in general, then abruptly turns his words to address God.  So to follow him in his speeches takes concentration.  I think what is more important is the flavor of his speeches and the downward direction of his attitude while speaking.}

Job has heard all three of his visitors make their speeches concerning Job and his afflictions.  Job is disappointed with how little their help has been to him.  In fact they have made his attitude worse.  In response to each of them, he has increasingly vented his frustration with them.  In their first round of speeches, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar focused on the general nature of God.  In this second round of speeches they seem to concentrate on their perceptions of the fate of sinful people which seem to point fingers at Job.

Chapter 15  -  Eliphaz’ Second Speech

In his first speech Eliphaz opened politely.  Not so in this second one.  He is accusatory against Job.  He is actually suggesting that Job was being blasphemous in his words.  In vs 5 he accuses Job of adopting the tongue of the crafty.  {This is an insult.  A crafty person was considered a trickster that no one could trust.}  Eliphaz goes on in vs 10 to suggest that older and wiser men “are on our side”.  {This speech is damaging to Job because it casts Job in the category of wicked sinners.}

Chapters 16-17  -  Job’s Response

Job has now resorted to returning insults.  Chapter 16 begins with him telling all of them that they are “miserable comforters”.  They were all too long-winded and full of empty words.  Then in chapter 17 he returns to self-loathing and wishes to die.  {As I read chapter 16, I am even more convinced that all Job wanted from his friends was for them to feel sorry for him.  This is not unusual.  We all find ourselves in this state of mind on occasion and we just want a moment of pity rather than correction or a sermon centered around our own short-comings.}

Chapter 18  -  Bildad’s Second Speech

Bildad is starting to voice frustration with Job because Job is not listening to any of this great advice.  After reading the previous two chapters, Bildad seems to be “kicking a man while he’s down”, as he is turning Job’s own words against him.

Chapter 19  -  Job’s Reply to Bildad’s Second Speech

Look at verse 2.  Job has become in direct contention with these three men.  He asks, “How long will you torment me?”  He now considers them not only foolish, but cruel.  He accuses them of placing themselves beside God and condemning Job, when none of them has any real knowledge of what had brought on this calamity in Job’s life.  He lists some of the tragic events that has happened to him, then in verse 21 he directly asks them to have pity on him.  This should have made these men adjust their thoughts and attitudes.

Chapter 20  -  Zophar’s Second Speech

It seems Zophar actually interrupts Job.  Zophar is beyond frustration with this whole visit.  He suggests that there is a wide gap between the thoughts of Job and the thoughts of the three men.  He repeats his earlier thoughts that God punishes wicked men, suggesting that Job is guilty, thus deserving of all that has befallen him.

Chapter 21  -  Job’s Response to Zophar

{I realize this seems to be getting monotonous as this conversation has turned argumentative and the two sides have grown further apart with each speech.}  Job tells them they can go ahead and laugh at him if they want to, but he has not changed his mind.  Interesting are verses 7-13, as Job again waxes philosophical, still confused why God seems to reward the wicked and punish the righteous.  This weighs heavily on Job’s mind and consumes his thoughts.  To add to this are verses 14-16 as Job tells how the wicked go so far as to mock God, but seem to be blessed anyway.  Verse 34 tells us that Job’s attitude toward his visitors has now deteriorated to calling their words lies (falsehood).

Next post  - Job Wants a Fair Trial

Friday, November 1, 2013

CC - Think on These Things

As I mentioned before, on the first of each month I will send a list of things for you to think on as a review of what we've covered thus far.  If you are unable to bring to mind significant thoughts concerning each of these, you might want to scan the pertinent blog posting.  This list will get lengthy as we proceed through our study.  Also helpful is the Timeline.

The Creation
Adam and Eve
The Fall
Cain Kills Abel
Noah and the Ark
Noah's Son:  Shem, Ham, and Japheth
Tower of Babel
Sodom and Gomorrah
Isaac Is Born
Hagar and Ishmael
Abraham Tested
Isaac and Rebekah
Jacob and Esau
Stolen Birthright
Jacob's Ladder
The twelve sons of Jacob = Israel
Joseph the Dreamer
Joseph and Potifer's Wife  =  Prison
Cupbearer and Baker
Joseph and Pharaoh
Jacob's Son's Reunite
Israel Goes to Egypt
400 Years of Slavery in Egypt
Moses is Born
God Commissions Moses
Ten Plagues of Egypt
The Exodus
Israel Through the Wilderness
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle
The Ark of the Covenant
The Golden Calf
Levitican Law
Forty Years in the Wilderness
Twelve Spies sent to Canaan
Moses Gives Final Sermons
Joshua Replaces Moses as Leader of Israel
Rahab the Canaanite Prostitute
Crossing the Jordan; 12 Stones
Battle of Jericho
Land Allotments for the 12 Tribes
Baal and Ashteroth
Gideon Lays Out the Fleece
Samson and Delilah
Ruth and Boaz
Hannah Dedicates Samuel
Saul - Israel's First King
David and Goliath
Jonathan, David's Friend
The Ark Returns to Jerusalem
David and Bathsheba
Solomon Crowned King
The Temple in Jerusalem
Rehoboam and Jeroboam
Leaders Matter
The Ungodly Kings of Israel
The Godly Kings of Judah
The Fall of Israel to Assyria
The Fall of Judah
The Three Groups Return and Rebuild Jerusalem
Queen Esther and Mordecai

Job Afflicted by Satan