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”.

No comments:

Post a Comment