Monday, December 2, 2013

CCXIII – Psalms 90-103

Psalm 90 begins the last of the three major theme sections of Psalms, which is “expressions of thanksgiving and praise”.  The sub-title to Psalm 90 is “A prayer of Moses the man of God”.  Both Jewish and Christian scholars agree that this was not written by Moses himself, but perhaps a psalmist who was reflecting back on the origins of the Israelite nation, which would of course concentrate on Abraham or Moses.  Interesting in verse 10 we see we are gifted with “seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures”.  Psalm 91 is considered by many as an extension of 90.  I am inclined to agree.

Psalm 92 is sub-titled “A song.  For the Sabbath day.  This is a song of praise and thanksgiving to God and His might, although I do not see references to the Sabbath.  Perhaps it was on the Sabbath that the psalmist could take a break from his regular duties and was able to reflect on God and His greatness.  Take note of verse 7.  Countless times in the entire book of Psalms do we see this reference of evildoers flourishing, but they will be dealt with harshly.  This must have been a subject of conversation among Jews for generations.  I understand their frustrations with this.

I’ve seen Psalms 93-99 referred to as the “Royal Psalms”.  The word “royal” describes someone who is a king, referring to God as King who rules the earth and the universe.  I consider this a rather loose interpretation, and not wholly accepted as a description of these seven psalms.

I like Psalm 100.  It is a short psalm but it says a lot.  It tells us what our attitudes should be when we go to church.  This was perhaps written right after the building of the Temple or the re-building of it.  But whichever, the writer is thankful for the Temple and tells us how blessed we are to have a place to worship God, and the privilege of attending.  Again, God enjoys music.  Our church services should always include music.

Psalm 101 seems to have been written by David when he had been established the King of Israel.  In this Psalm he seems to be describing the type of king he wants to be.

Psalm 102 seems to shift subjects abruptly to a dark subject.  This seems to have been written by a young man who was ill and feared that he would die from his affliction.  Although he was careful to praise God, he asks God in verse 7 not to let him die in the middle of his years, meaning he had so much life ahead of him, and did not want to die young.

This brings us to Psalm 103.  Many psalms from 90-150 relate to public concerns, and some are very personal, such as 103.  This is David reflecting on God and how great God has been to David and all who know and understand God.  In the very first verse David is urging himself to praise God from the depths of his innermost being.  The NIV opens with “Praise the Lord”.  The King James Version opens with “Bless the Lord”.  Significant difference?  In this case, yes.  {Years ago when I studied this psalm to teach to a Sunday School class, I needed to research this phrase in order to understand it.  It didn’t make sense to me that we could possibly “bless the Lord”.  The word “bless” in its origin prior to translation meant to praise all of the characteristics of a person (in this case, God).  It was an all-inclusive praise, often followed by a listing of all of one’s attributes, detailing each.}  But this opening verse says more.  It says, “oh my soul”.  This phrase is not often seen.  It is special.  The word “soul” stands for the whole person, not just one’s mind or heart or mouth, but the entire being.  That is what David is trying to project.  We often see the word “holy”.  The definition of the word is “set apart; unlike anything else”.  (Godly people are to be holy, and live their lives as such.)  Verse 2 repeats the opening phrase from verse 1:  "Bless the Lord, Oh my soul", and goes on to say that he wants to bring to his mind all about God that he knows; all of God’s magnificent benefits (attributes).  By repeating the opening phrase David intensified his call to himself and was trying to create an atmosphere of undisturbed reverence.  I think he wanted to go beyond what he normally prayed and how he normally praised God.  I really think he wanted God to know just how much David loved Him.  His tone was serious and he wanted to come up with the words that could make God realize this.  {We do this often.  Most of the time when we desperately seek God’s attention, it is in times of personal affliction when we need God’s help.  But this is not the case with David as he wrote this psalm.  In this moment David wanted God’s attention so David could tell Him how much he loved Him.  WOW!  No wonder God loved David so much.}  Still on verse 2:  David urges in hopes that he never “forgets” all or any of God’s magnificent characteristics.  He wants to constantly be aware of them all.  I urge you to read this psalm with some thought.  One reason I chose this particular psalm to focus on, is that David praises God for some different characteristics than he had before.  We see throughout the Old Testament how powerful God is, and how perfect was His creation.  But in this psalm, David concentrates on God’s compassion for man.  He forgives our sins and our sinfulness.  He satisfies our desires.  He is slow to anger (however often provoked).  He does not treat us as we deserve, but rather abounding in His grace and forgiveness.  He removes our transgressions far from His mind (which is the only way to accomplish true forgiveness).  He keeps in His remembrance of how short and fragile our lives are, and how precious life is itself.  Then, in the final verses of this lovely psalm, David speaks to the angels.  Bear with my somewhat loose interpretation, but I see this as David wanting God to be happy and full of receiving praise, therefore he appeals to the angels to put forth extra effort to praise God.  Sing extra loud!  Put on a parade!  Let heaven and earth join in praising God at the same time and hope God considers Himself as truly blessed.  This psalm is special indeed.

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