This Psalm is a praise psalm. The Psalmist furnishes us with all kinds of reasons why we should praise God: the creative power of God, His wisdom and care, His great love and grace and His salvation. I think the basis for our praise has to be trust. Often, I try to do things on my own (and sometimes they work) and I forget to praise God for everything. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of being self-sufficient. When the Psalmist reminds us to sing a new song, I think the meaning is wrapped in new mercies and new blessings. We can certainly thank God every day for those. In a small frame by the coffee pot in my house (which is where everyone goes first thing in the morning), is this reminder: “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.” I need a reminder to do just that, trust. When I think I know what to do and when I don’t know what to do, turning to God is always a good idea. Worship and praise are natural bookends for conversations with God. Recognizing His creation, His power and wisdom and His love are always good starting points of adoration. One commentary (Horne) said, “Although the Psalmist lists several instruments and adjectives for how to praise, the most important instrument is the heart.”
I’m not sure how I acquired the following prayer; I like it and have it taped to my desk as a reminder:
God of our life, there are days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and weigh us down; when the road seems dreary and endless, the skies grey and threatening; when our lives have no music in them, and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have lost their courage. Flood the path with light, run our eyes to where the skies are full of promise; tune our hearts to brave music; give us the sense of comradeship with heroes and saints of every age; and so quicken our spirits that we may be able to encourage the souls of all who journey with us on the road of life, to your honor and glory. Augustine
Sunday, June 14
By: Daniel Zamora
1 I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
21 Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.
Quarantine time is not something most people would be happy about or would look forward to it and yet, the first sentence of this psalm is an open invitation to praise God at all times. When we think of the Psalms being the songs of God’s people, our minds could think they were written during happy, untroubled, easy going days. That could be true of some, but on this particular, it was written by young David as he was running for his life from king Saul.
This psalm is as gem in the Jewish literature. It is written as an acrostic: each of the twenty-two verses begins with the next letter following the Hebrew alphabet which only has twenty-two characters. A blogger named Richard, on Charisma, gives us an idea on how this psalm would be if it had been written in English. Let us look at the first seven verses of it.
At all times, I will praise the Lord!
Because I boast in the Lord, the afflicted will hear and rejoice.
Come let us praise his name together.
Desperate, I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from my fears.
Everyone one who looks to him is radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
From all his troubles the poor man was saved when he called on the Lord.
Great is the Lord, whose angel guards those who fear him, and he delivers them.
David not only wrote a beautiful piece of poetry, but also made it a Maskil, a psalm that contains wisdom. Beginning on verse 4, each has a teaching and a promise. Let us consider four teachings that can provide for us a new perspective during this pandemic. First, verse 4, “the Lord delivered me from all my fears.” The definition of fear is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” We certainly have experienced some degree of fear towards Covid 19 as we know it is potentially dangerous. In addition, the strict measures placed at the beginning caused us more fear: empty shelves in grocery stores, high possibility of getting infected and extended duration of the quarantine, to name a few.
Second, verse 7, the angel of the Lord encamps around … and delivers them. Our present enemy is invisible to our eyes, it is microscopic and, so far, science has not found an effective way to protect us from it. In other versions, the word “delivers” is translated as “rescues” or “defends.” The one who knows the exact number of hairs in our heads provides for us in all circumstances.
Third, verse 8, blessed are the ones who take refuge in him. It is very revealing that David, the most powerful king that Israel had, refers to God as his refuge. And it all began when the Lord helped him to defeat Goliath, the armies’ most feared enemy.
Fourth, verse 18, the Lord is close to the brokenhearted. As we might be concerned or worried about our families, friends, frontline health workers, and feel so terribly bad for those already infected, we are reminded that God is near to us.
Time for reflection
1. Do we praise God every time we find ourselves during troubles or adverse circumstances?
2. Is God our first source and resource of help during difficult times or we come to the Lord when everything else has failed us?
Music to our souls
As the people of Israel sang the psalms, would you like to sing this psalm? Hymnwriter Timothy Dudley-Smith metrified Psalm 34 to be sung with the tune HOLY MANNA. Here are the lyrics and an mp3 attachment with the accompaniment.
Tell his praise in song and story, bless the Lord with heart and voice;
in my God is all my glory, come before him and rejoice.
Join to praise his Name together, he who hears his people’s cry;
tell his praise, come wind or weather, shining faces lifted high.
To the Lord whose love has found them cry the poor in their distress;
swift his angels camped around them prove him sure to save and bless.
God it is who hears our crying though the spark of faith be dim;
taste and see! beyond denying blest are those who trust in him.
Taste and see! In faith draw near him, trust the Lord with all your powers;
seek and serve him, love and fear him, life and all its joys are ours:
true delight in holy living, peace and plenty, length of days;
come, my children, with thanksgiving bless the Lord in songs of praise.
In our need he walks beside us, ears alert to every cry; watchful eyes to guard and guide us, love that whispers `It is I.’ Good shall triumph, wrong be righted, God has pledged his promised word; so with ransomed saints united join to praise our living Lord!
St. John’s University, Collegivelle, MN, 56231 2006
Thursday, June 11
By: Grayson Hanchey (10 years old)
Psalm 147 (New Revised Standard Version): Praise for God’s Care for Jerusalem
This psalm is a celebration. It’s like 3 verses of a hymn where the community of Jerusalem (Israel) praise God. There are 3 parts of the psalm, where each part calls people to praise God (verses 1, 7, 12), and then verses that follow explaining why (the reasons) we should praise God. Each part shares something that shows God’s greatness.
Let me break it down for you. I have separated the 3 parts of the psalm and written each verse as well as how I understand it.
Part 1 (147:1-6) Praise the Lord – Because the Lord delivers the oppressed
1 Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
We should be full of praise for God and we should show it.
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He built up the walls and restored the city and brought people back to their homeland.
3 He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
Our Lord does not cast the hurting aside, but He brings them up and heals them in body, mind and spirit.
4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.
God is great, for He knows every star, galaxy, and constellation by name just like He knows every one of us.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
God is great, for He has power and knowledge beyond human imagination.
6 The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground.
The LORD shows pity on the weak, and lifts them up. The wicked who passed them over shall be cast aside.
Part 2 (147:7-11) – Praise the Lord – Because the Lord provides for the faithful
7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre (harp).
We should give thanks to our God with praises, songs, instruments and from a full heart.
8 He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills.
Our Lord sends rain as part of His blessing to the Earth and people so crops can grow.
9 He gives to the animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry.
Some cannot provide for themselves, so they wait on God and get their food. God feeds the animals and the people. He feeds those that need protecting.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
No matter how great and strong a person or animal might be, God prefers those who are humble and those who truly believe in Him.
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
God is glad and happy with the people that worship him, however simple, poor, and unknown they may be.
Part 3 (147:12-20) – Praise the Lord – Because the Lord especially protects Israel
12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!
We should praise God as a united group of people and as a whole church of believers.
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you.
This probably refers to the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls, and God’s protection of the children of God. God protects us and strengthens us.
14 He grants peace within your borders; he fills you with the finest of wheat.
God brings peace throughout the land and to people, to those who are chosen and follow Him.
15 He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
God commands nature and nature follows Him, so God’s power covers the whole Earth.
16 He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes.
He covers the earth with snow, so it looks blanketed in wool. He scatters the hail and frost easily.
17 He hurls down hail like crumbs—who can stand before his cold?
No one can withstand the hail that God drives forth because it is too powerful.
18 He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.
God commands, or He speaks, just as He sends the wind, the snow and the rain.
19 He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
His commands, His words, and His promises are what God gives to His people as His laws.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances. Praise the Lord!
In the Old Testament, God did not give any of this to any other nation because Israel was the chosen nation and truly believed.
This psalm speaks about praising God, because there are many reasons to praise Him and because He showed His power to the people of Israel. He is so far above human understanding that our way to show Him our love is to praise Him. Do not forget to praise Him with your whole heart and spirit!
The 2 verses that mean a lot to me are Psalm 147:4-5 … He determines the number of the stars. He gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.
It reminds me of my Grappa, my mom’s dad. He is an astronomer, and he taught me how to use a telescope to look at the stars and find planets and distant galaxies. He is also an astrophotographer, which means that he takes pictures of stars and galaxies using his telescopes and computers. He and I have taken pictures together and looked for stars and galaxies. We even discovered the star in one of the attached images that wasn’t listed on the star maps! It was a remnant of a supernova explosion that happened before the Psalms were ever written. To us, this star was new. However, Psalm 147:4 makes me think that you will never find a “new” star because it is already known by God. It reminds me of how GREAT God is! He has power and knowledge beyond human understanding (Psalm 147:5), and the creation that God made is infinite and amazing! I have included some pictures that my Grappa has taken so you can see and feel God’s greatness. This also makes me think about the astronauts that recently went on the SpaceX Dragon Rocket to the International Space Station. They have a front row seat to God’s greatness. I bet it’s an awesome view! If I was up there, I would sure praise God!
Friday, May 29th
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
One of the common things that I hear from you at Woodland and from friends in other churches is how much we all miss physically worshipping together. Obviously, as we’ve seen in news reports, this is difficult for worshippers around the world. I’m thankful for our pastoral leadership team who have been diligent in creating our virtual worship experiences. For me, these times offer gratitude for the week completed, guidance for the week ahead, and the welcome recognition that I am not alone. One of the remarkable benefits of worship is its ability to turn our minds and hearts from lamenting the world as it is toward a perspective of gratitude for the overarching grace of God. This spiritual practice of giving thanks and praise, which we know as doxology, is vital for health – physical and spiritual.
I began to think more about this several years ago, when I criss-crossed the country visiting a number of different churches – from Seattle to Orlando, from New York City and Chicago to Los Angeles. Specifically, I was involved in a project studying churches with innovative approaches in relating to young adults. One thing I noted about their worship was that, although I heard a lot of energetic “praise songs”, few of those churches seemed to me to incorporate a sense of doxology into their worship. Now, I suppose a word of explanation is in order here. Doxology is, in the traditional sense, a hymn, a piece of music, sung in many churches — “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow…” The Gloria Patri and the sung Lord’s Prayer are also forms of doxology. More importantly, though, “doxology” has a broader meaning. It is really an effort to respond in awe and gratitude for the indefinable, inexpressible Mystery that we call God. A sense of the Holy is intensely personal. For me, Daniel’s preludes are a deep doxology every week. What is it that evokes that sense for you?
Today’s Scripture is a doxology, an effusive, grateful outburst of praise beginning with the word, “Blessed,” and ending with the phrase, “to the praise of His glory.” The eleven numbered verses are actually just one long, breathless Greek sentence, composed by an inspired author!
This “doxology” is the beginning of a letter traditionally regarded as having been written by Paul from his Roman prison, although some scholars believe that it may have been written by one of his associates after his death. It was a common and accepted practice within the biblical tradition of the ancient world to write in the name of a revered figure, and so, if this were the case, although it may seem strange to our modern perspective, the letter would have still been valued as a valid expression of the faith of the apostle. It is also believed that the letter was meant to be a circular letter shared by many regional churches, which would explain why there are no personal references to Paul’s deep and long-lasting friendships in the church at Ephesus where he spent so much time and had much personal investment. Those historical questions are fascinating. However, for the meaning we find in its teaching, we will simply take the letter at face value and consider it to be from Paul to the church at Ephesus.
The structure of Ephesians is more like a sermon than a letter. And if that is the case, then this introduction we are considering today is more like a hymn. You might even consider it as the special music right before the sermon itself. But as in all worship, music is vital to the experience. It has been said that singing is perhaps the purest form of prayer.
Back in the days of the Civil Rights Movement in the South, Will Willimon remembers attending a freedom march. He, along with many other students, had gathered to march for justice, to bravely stand up and be counted, to demand that the government do something for the rights of African-Americans. Will said that he was astounded that the first thing the organizers of the march made them do was to gather in a hot, rural black Baptist church for hours of endless singing and praying and preaching. The white students got edgy. “Let’s get on with the real work of justice. Let’s get out on the streets where we can do some good. What does all this singing have to do with the work at hand?” The organizers patiently reminded the students that they had been at this a lot longer than they had. They told the students that they were not contending against a few bad laws or people; they were struggling against principalities and powers, against cosmic evil. “If all we have to sustain us out in the streets,” they said, “is optimistic humanism, then we won’t be here long.” What Will and those others discovered was that they were there to be in church, to be reminded of Who called them together, Who sent them out, Who marched with them. Will said that he discovered in that little rural church that the most important revolutionary act he could make was to sing a hymn, praise God, and trust God. He said, “Praise always precedes Christian action, calls it forth, sustains it. We love — in the streets, in the office, at school — because we have been loved.”
Worship is vital for us as the church, and as we glean from this Scripture passage, worship is formed by grateful praise – doxology! Therefore, sister and brothers, let us, in W.H. Auden’s words, “stagger onward rejoicing.”
A Time of Reflection and Prayer
What sorts of things tend to encourage you in gratitude… personal relationships, creating or sharing meals, reading or study, the natural world, music, prayer, worship? During these difficult times, purposely incorporate into your days things that inspire thankfulness for life as gift.
Carl Jung, the eminent psychologist, had this phrase carved in Latin over the front door of his Zurich home, Bidden or unbidden, God is present. Thank God for continual Presence.
Ask for “doxology” to travel with you this day, to see life in terms of grace for which to be grateful.
A Poetic Guide for Prayer: Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Two Countries”
Skin remembers how long the years grow
when skin is not touched, a gray tunnel
of singleness, feather lost from the tail
of a bird, swirling onto a step,
swept away by someone who never saw
it was a feather. Skin ate, walked,
slept by itself, knew how to raise a
see-you-later hand. But skin felt
it was never seen, never known as
a land on the map, nose like a city,
hip like a city, gleaming dome of the mosque
and the hundred corridors of cinnamon and rope.
Skin had hope, that’s what skin does.
Heals over the scarred place, makes a road.
Love means you breathe in two countries.
And skin remembers–silk, spiny grass,
deep in the pocket that is skin’s secret own.
Even now, when skin is not alone,
it remembers being alone and thanks something larger
that there are travelers, that people go places
larger than themselves.