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.


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