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
Friday, June 5
By Jeni Cook Furr
Psalm 131 (NIV)
1. My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. 2. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child, I am content. 3. Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forever.
Psalm 131 (CEV)
1. I am not conceited, Lord, and I don’t waste my time on impossible schemes. 2. But I have learned to feel safe and satisfied, just like a young child on its mother’s lap. 3. People of Israel, you must trust the Lord now and forever.
This little psalm distinguishes itself in several ways. First, it is short. It’s short enough to consider at least two different translations (above) to allow for a better understanding. Charles Spurgeon called it “one of the shortest psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.” Second, we should consider the author. While the subtitle identifies David as author, this psalm is in a collection (120-134) considered “ascent psalms,” or “traveling up to Jerusalem” songs, and thus, some scholars attribute 131 to a woman, perhaps one traveling in pilgrimage to Jerusalem for a festival with her young child. Let’s consider both possibilities. Finally, we must take note that this is one of scant passages in which God is strikingly portrayed as our Loving Mother.
It has been said that you can’t speak about your humility, for as soon as you do, you’re being proud again. Yet here, “My heart is not proud, Lord,” is immediately followed by the acknowledgement that some “things are too wonderful (or impossible) for me.” It is a prayer, a confession, clearly not a boast.
If David is the author, he has certainly learned from his mistakes. He had been accused of being too ambitious for the throne, and too prideful, dancing in triumph while leading the way for the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. But now, he has learned the lessons of Proverbs 3:34: “God opposes the proud but to the humble he shows favor.” This is not arrogance. This is a humble acceptance of the author’s place in the world and before the Lord God.
Much like Job’s resolution in chapter 42, this author demonstrates honest humility before God. Some things are beyond the understanding of mortals, and we must each finally digest that truth for ourselves. Life holds many mysteries (both wonderful and terrifying) that we cannot understand. We have plenty of questions and doubts. Sometimes we have fear and anger. But there are some things in life we will never understand. Hopefully, like the psalmist, we can learn that we don’t need to know it all. And there is no need to inform everyone about our opinions. In the age of social media, this can be especially tempting! I am reminded of some wise advice attributed to Abraham Lincoln: It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt. Instead of an inordinate desire to feel important, the author of Psalm 131 models a child-like humility, yet not without confidence.
Furthermore, we humans can’t, and don’t need to control it all. When I used to travel frequently for work, (and especially right after 9/11), I developed a litany of prayers for boarding an aircraft. I prayed for the pilot, co-pilot, flight-attendants, passengers, air traffic controllers, mechanics, screeners of passengers and luggage, weather conditions, the aircraft itself, and flocks of birds. I also asked God for special care during take-offs and landings. I always wondered if God was slightly amused by or annoyed with my feeble attempts to “name it and claim it” in prayer. Of course, my litany neither gave me more control, nor made God more attentive or caring. It didn’t change the reality of terrorism. But as I sat in my middle seat, I found comfort in talking with God about these things, in knowing that Someone much greater than I was in control. “These things are too great and too marvelous for me.”
This leads the psalmist to claim, “But I have calmed and quieted myself,” or better yet, “But I have learned to feel safe and satisfied, just like a young child on its mother’s lap.” This is a “weaned child,” one not seeking food or provisions. He/she is old enough to have some experience with this troubled and fallen world. The child still recognizes his/her dependence, and has learned that there is sometimes pain and fear in separation from the Mother. This verse makes me wonder about that mother/psalmist/song-writer traveling with her young child up the rugged terrain, the mile-high trek to the holy city of Jerusalem. What mother cannot identify with the experience of her child racing head-long into her arms with double-skinned knees, the world’s largest splinter, or the monsters of another bad dream? What mother hasn’t experienced this a hundred times over? And what child has not found the very best comfort, contentment and healing in that secure and loving embrace?
If we are honest with ourselves, in a world of COVID-19, we face fears we never imagined, an enemy we can’t even see. We fear touching an infected surface, touching our faces, forgetting to bring a mask, or going to public places where others don’t wear them. The danger seems to surround us.
In recent days, we’ve also seen violence unleashed again in our streets. This goes far beyond the “usual” violence we’ve come to think of as “baseline”. We’ve been horrified to watch violence hiding again as “excessive force,” and peaceful protests turned into senseless destruction and chaos by those who would take advantage of a raw moment.
Both of these evils seem endless. COVID-19 is new, but our need to quarantine may drag on week after week. Violence, including racial violence, is systemic and generational. How long, Lord? How long? Imagine the fear that David felt, running and hiding from the murderous Saul for years. Did he “calm and quiet himself” in writing this psalm? Did he think of God’s protection like a loving, maternal embrace?
My own mother had a wry sense of humor. In my earliest memories, she would lift me into her arms, hug and “love on” me and say, “I love you so much, I think I’ll just keep you.” That became the definition of the word for me. Whenever I needed an expression of love, comfort, healing, assurance or intimacy, I would run into her arms and ask her to, “Keep me, Momma! Keep me!” The psalmist knows that contentment and comfort are found in the loving embrace of God. “The Lord bless you and keep you.”
Where do you find the loving embrace of God during these trying times? Maybe you have experienced it most often in a pew on Sunday mornings. So now where do you find the calming, comforting, loving lap of God? How often are you willing to humbly run into that embrace?
Our final verse addresses the people of Israel and exhorts them to trust in the Lord, or hope in the Lord. As the child implicitly trusts the Mother, we are to trust God’s wisdom and God’s timing. “Now and forever” is a statement of hope that our relationship with God is truly never ending. Christians trust in and hope for eternal life with God. Perhaps the “now” part is harder that the “forever” part. This psalm now leads us back to the beginning. We don’t control everything, or know that they will all work out like we want, or think they should. We must trust God, our good and faithful Parent, who is working them out as Paul says in Romans 8:28. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. So for now…”May the Lord bless you and keep you.”
Questions to Ponder:
As the threat of COVID-19 drags on and on, how and where do you find comfort, security and hope? Can we really come to think of that middle seat on an airplane as being seated in the lap of God?
Psalm 125 says, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people now and forevermore.” Is it possible to think of God surrounding our community, much like a Mother embraces her children? If so, what would this mean for our church?
What does it mean to you, in practical terms, to “trust in the Lord” now? Are there behaviors that demonstrate this?
You have probably seen or heard this before, but I was surprised several years ago, when I found this sign on the wall in my very capable and humble physician’s treatment room:
This is God,
I will be handling all of your problems today.
I will not need your help.
So, relax and have a great day!
And finally, from the very best poet:
Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened,
And I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
For I am gentle and humble in heart,
And you will find rest for your souls,
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Mt 11:28-30)
Tuesday, April 14th
Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
This unsettling time has caused us to wonder and ponder about things we may not have considered in quite a long time. I recently received an email from a student who was in one of the churches I’ve served. He had a number of questions about what he could do or not do as a disciple of Jesus, about prayers that are appropriate and those that are not. His questions spurred thoughts of my own, especially about prayer. It seems to me that we lack confidence about how to pray. What is proper in approaching the Almighty?
I think Jesus’ disciples were captivated by this desire to know how to pray, so much so, that from time to time they even asked him for lessons. Jesus responded by giving them/us that model prayer earlier in his sermon. But I wonder if Jesus noted that those listening were fixated on trying to memorize it in such a way that they could pray in the right manner; and when he did, he gave them/us this simple lesson about prayer found in today’s text.
Professor Tom Long has a wonderful related insight in his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew:
Sometimes people wonder about what is appropriate to ask for in prayer. Is it fitting to pray for rain, for help on an exam, for strength to forgive, for healing? The line between what we genuinely need and what we merely want is often quite thin. Should we try to edit our prayers to remove all flecks of self-gratification? Jesus’ word in this passage pushes us the other way, toward prayer that is daring, even brash. We can spill out our prayers to God, not attempting to sift wheat from the chaff, because God hears beneath our words to our deepest needs and knows how to give gifts.
Overly careful prayers betray an assumption that we, the ones who do the praying, are in control. We must then be cautious and meticulous about our prayers lest we pray for something we shouldn’t. What are we thinking? That our prayers will somehow put God in a bind or that prayers are magic words that manipulate God’s will? Jesus calls for an open, free, venturesome prayer, a communion with God that is like a child curling up in the lap of a parent, pouring out fears, dreams, desires, needs and wishes.
So, rather than being straight-jacketed with getting it right, immobilized by concern about proper structure or words, the primary goal of prayer is being conscious and concerned with relationship. Jesus guides us in that direction by using a particular grammatical style, the present imperative, which in Greek issues a command that should continue. Thus, His word to us is to keep on asking, keep on knocking, and keep on seeking.
Perhaps there is no better example of that than the movie/play, Fiddler on the Roof, whose main character is a man by the name of Tevye, a poor Russian laborer with five daughters. Tevye talks with God throughout his workday in an easy yet respectful manner, and honestly shares his complaints and his joys and his hopes.
What a liberating way to pray . . . what a liberating way to live . . . what a liberating way to love!
A Time of Reflection and Prayer
Saint Augustine said, “He who sings prays twice.”
- Today in your prayer, thank God for music and for those who are passionate about conveying truths through music — those who compose, play, sing and dance.
- What are your favorite pieces of music that connect you with God? Thank God for them. Better yet, play them and imagine you and God listening together.
- Consider finding a song each day that yokes your heart with the heart of God. Sing it aloud, and let it sing through you all day long.
A Guide for Prayer: A Benediction by The Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, at the funeral of author Rachel Held Evans
“Blessed are the agnostics. Blessed are they who doubt. Blessed are those who have nothing to offer. Blessed are the preschoolers who cut in line at communion. Blessed are the poor in spirit. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.
“Blessed are those whom no one else notices. The kids who sit alone at middle-school lunch tables. The laundry guys at the hospital. The sex workers and the night-shift street sweepers. The closeted. The teens who have to figure out ways to hide the new cuts on their arms. Blessed are the meek. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.
“Blessed are they who have loved enough to know what loss feels like. Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried. Blessed are they who can’t fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else. Blessed are those who “still aren’t over it yet.” Blessed are those who mourn. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.
“I imagine Jesus standing here blessing us because I believe that is our Lord’s nature. This Jesus cried at his friend’s tomb, turned the other cheek, and forgave those who hung him on a cross because He was God’s Beatitude— He was God’s blessing to the weak in a world that only admires the strong.
[And shall Rachel have this last word…]
“‘Jesus invites us into a story bigger than ourselves and our imaginations, yet we all get to tell that story with the scandalous particularity of this moment and this place. We are storytelling creatures because we are fashioned in the image of a storytelling God. May we never neglect that gift. May we never lose our love for telling the story. Amen.’”
Luke 2:11-14 (NIV)
11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
This past year, Jennifer and I welcomed the birth of our third grandchild, our first granddaughter, Annalise. As I’ve watched her grow from those very first 3-D sonogram images to the tiny preemie who was born five weeks early and now to a sweet and wonderful almost toddler, I’m reminded every day of the potential she carries inside her. As humans, we invest ourselves in our progeny. We have all kinds of dreams for them. We try to ensure they have all they need to grow into loving, giving, responsible adults.
I often think of Joseph and Mary in their role as the earthly parents of a young Jesus. While both understood the role they were chosen by God to play, I suspect they were still very human parents. They had hopes and dreams for their infant son. They both knew who their child was. I’m sure they both understood there would be times of joy, times of trial, and even times of heartbreak ahead. Imagine the responsibility they felt knowing who their child would grow to be. In the end, Joseph and Mary likely had to trust God to take care of their child. You know, just like all parents – at the end of the day, we choose to worry ourselves to death or to trust God to look out for our children. And that’s one of the hardest things for any of us to do – trusting God. In this Advent season, let’s choose to trust God and focus on hope.
Romans 15:13 (NIV) 13“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
By Nate Newell
King David writes in Psalm 27 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, oh whom shall I be afraid?”
When people remember King David they often remember his great feats, and his courageous faith, but no one ever brings up how scared he must have been … I look back at the things he had to face: lions, bears, giants, and even entire nations waging war against him. I think to myself, if I was alive back then, would I be as brave as David? Then I go on to think, what dangers do I face? Are they even remotely as dangerous? While we might not have to do battle with a 9 ft warrior we do have to battle traffic on Loop-1604. We don’t have to wrestle lions and bears to protect our flock of sheep, but we do have to worry about the mergers on I-410.
We should take our cue from David and put our trust in God, not our GPSes. In Psalm 27 David says the Lord is his stronghold, the bible also says God is an ever present help in trouble.
Put your trust in God, pray, sing praise! For he is our salvation, we need not fear anything. Psalm 27 puts into words the thing that everyone wants to hear, salvation from sin, and defense from danger. God protects us from all things and all he asks in return is that we talk with him. Pray before a meal, thank God for a friendship, for “The Lord is our salvation.”