Christ in the Psalms: Contents

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Christ in the Psalms: Contents

I. Bibliographies

Bibliography of Works Cited

Annotated Bibliography

II. Introduction

  • Introducing Psalms 2 – A Second Go Round … Link
  • Pursue Your Hunger … Link
  • God Is Willing to Talk to You … Link
  • Jesus Evangelizes a Sinful Woman … Link
  • Jesus Evangelizes a Rabbi … Link
  • The Holy Spirit in the Reader … Link
  • Which Bible Should I Use? … Link
  • Psalms as Prayers of Christ … Link
  • Presuppositions–Where I’m Coming From … Link

III. Specific Psalms

  • Psalm 132 Intercession and Divine Speech … Link
  • Psalm 132 Concrete-Literal and Spiritual-Literal … Link
  • Psalm 116:1-9 (114 LXX) … Link
  • Psalm 116 Christ Loves the Father … Link 
  • Psalm 116:11 All Mankind Are Liars … Link
  • Psalm 88 A Tenebrae Psalm … Link  
  • Psalm 89 History to the Foot of the Cross … Link  
  • Psalm 89 A Short Devotional … Link
  • Psalms 18 and 118 Up from the Grave He Arose! Link  
  • Psalm 18 Papa Roars and Rescues … Link 
  • Psalm 116:11 All Mankind Are Liars … Link
  • Psalm 1: Headwater to the Psalter … Link    
  • Psalm 1: God’s Instruction Freely Given … Link         
  • Psalm 2: God’s Son the King … Link   
  • Psalm 3: Is God Schizophrenic? … Link     
  • Psalm 4: Jesus’ Prayer Closet … Link     
  • Psalm 4: A Peek Inside the Prayer Closet … Link   
  • Psalm 5: Characteristics of Unrighteousness … Link    
  • Psalm 6: Enter God’s Wrath … Link 
  • Psalm 7 and Psalm 37: Dynamic Duo … Link   
  • Psalm 8: Humanity in General or Christ in Particular? … Link  
  • Psalm 9 and Psalm 10: Justice … Link   
  • Psalm 9 and Psalm 10: A Readers Theater … Link   

Link to the First Article of This Series

Link to Prior Series on Psalms

 

Psalms: Poetic Prophecy

Photo by Dương Trần Quốc on Unsplash

 

Media service providers love to bundle–TV, internet, land lines. Why do some Old Testament scholars deny God that privilege? God bundles. Psalms can be grouped according to themes. This is not news. But God does more than repeat themes and scatter them throughout Psalms. He loves to string psalms like pearls on a single strand.

The major thread running through Psalms is the story of God’s Son, especially what happened to him on the cross. When God foretells a story centuries before its occurrence, the foretelling is called prophecy.

Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (ESV)

25 For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 

30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 

Acts 13:36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 

Why did God prophesy the events of his Son’s life centuries before they occurred? I can think of a few reasons. Perhaps collectively we can think of more:

  1. to prove the presence of the supernatural
  2. to provide supernatural credentials for his incarnate (born as a human) Son
  3. to provide a road map of education and warning for the Son’s journey through human existence
  4. to prepare a people ready to receive his Son
  5. to bolster the faith of his Son during a very rocky ride
  6. to bolster the vision and understanding of the first disciples, the first followers of Christ
  7. to bolster the faith of the first disciples-turned-missionaries
  8. to convince all that God is for us, not against us, as we discover that the very human voice of the psalmist is my voice, and your voice, and the voice of people everywhere

God told the events ahead of time, so that we who were to follow could see, understand, and believe.

Why poetry? Why write prophecy as poems? Is there a better media than poetry to convince us “stubborn of heart” people that Christ, God’s chosen and anointed, was and is every bit as human as we are? Poems can be a subjectively accurate display of the heart, feelings, mind, and thoughts of the person speaking them.

God loves people so much that he sent himself in the person of his Son to bring life to us–to raise us from the dead. And with his Son, even before his Son’s arrival, he sent these magnificent poems to display the utter humanity of his Son in a way that an itinerant preacher/healer could not do in real time. Think of Jesus and his disciples so pressed upon by the anxious crowds that they had time neither to eat nor sleep. Think about the thousands of people Jesus healed, the thousands (?) of miles they walked, the hundreds of sermons he preached in three years, the hours and hours of private praying he did. Who would be there to write down his meditations and prayers? God provided. He sent a prophet-poet named David centuries ahead of time to record the thoughts, feelings, and prayers of his yet-to-be-incarnated Son. In this way God foretold the life of his Son.

Who in the culture of that day would have expected that God’s Son, his anointed, the mighty King to be (see Psalms 2 and 110), would live a life of poverty and suffering? Who in their wildest dreams would even dare to imagine that God would reject his Son unto death? Who would possibly dare to claim that the nakedly shamed and beaten Jesus of Nazareth was…Messiah? Impossible! No one but God would think these things. Therefore God predicted in advance through the prophecies of Psalms and other books, such as that written by Isaiah, so that at the right moment, we could recognize the divine Christ in his human form when he came.

In the voice of the suffering psalmist, I hear my own voice. As I do, I realize the fact that God ultimately wrote these words and included them in his book. This tells me that just as God sees the psalmist, God sees me, he sees you, he loves me, and he loves you. And just as the psalmist turned to God through all his trials, cried out to him for help, and praised him, God wants me to do the same. God is love.

 

 

 

The Paradox: Psalm 13

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Good and evil, life and death, pleasure and pain are a paradox as old as human history. Why are these opposites so intertwined, even in the fabric of existence itself? The Bible answers this question for those who will receive: God created good, while his enemy brought evil.

Psalm 13 reveals the heart cries of God’s Son incarnate [1], even as he falls victim to the inescapable paradox of humanity. It is a short psalm. Verses 1-4 present the bad and ugly of his seeming abandonment by God, while verses 5-6 present the equally real blessings of God’s faithful love.

1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
(Psalm 13, ESV)

The life, death, resurrection, ascension, and reign of Christ perfectly exemplify the human paradox. Psalm 13 prophetically expresses the complete humanity of Jesus Christ, God’s anointed, as he lives and dies through this paradox. God the Father could never know experientially what  Christ knew. It was necessary for him to send his Son in human flesh, living through the basic paradox all humans experience, so that he could perfectly represent them before God’s throne of grace. Jesus lived and died in suffering. He rose, ascended, and reigns in blessed triumph. What he did, all humanity can now do through him. Truly his sufferings lead us to life [2].

 

[1] These posts on Psalms presuppose that they are written about Christ and express his feelings and prayers during the time of his incarnation. For more information on this theme, consult this author’s Annotated Bibliography, https://onesmallvoice.net/2018/03/22/psalms-2-annotated-bibliography/. See also this author’s former series, Christ in the Psalms,  https://onesmallvoice.net/2018/01/19/psalms-contents-second-go-round/.

[2] Other psalms written in the same pattern as Psalm 13 include Psalms 43, 73, and 143. Each of these displays the human paradox of pain and blessing combined.

Psalms Are Interactive

Human hands wrote the Psalms. Even so, God stands behind them all. He has complete charge. He makes the rules for his own Psalms. He states this principle elsewhere in the Bible. “All writings are inspired by God.”[1]

Psalms are amazingly interactive. When the reader brings her heart to bear upon her reading, God often responds by personally placing a word, a line, or a thought from one of the psalms directly into the intelligent or feeling portion of her comprehension. By this I mean that God brings the poem home into the reader’s heart and mind, applying what she is reading to her personally. It’s amazing and fun when this happens. Reading Psalms is like reading no other book.

This means that a psalm can change its emphasis with each reading. Just because you’ve read one once doesn’t mean you’ve finished reading it. Just as audience response affects performers on a stage, or a teacher interacts with her students, or a choir interacts with the music they are singing, or an orchestra interacts with the score or a conductor, so God himself can interact with those who read his Psalms. God is alive and present as you read.

This doesn’t mean I’m saying that Psalms can mean any old thing whatsoever that readers desire. The meaning must always stand within the nature, or character, of God. But critics often suggest that each line of the Bible has one exact meaning. They define that meaning as whatever they think the original human author meant when he physically wrote the words. Additionally, they enjoy limiting the meaning of portions of the Bible, including Psalms, to what they might imagine it meant to its original readers. I say “imagine,” because these critics weren’t there either when the Bible was written, or when a supposed “original” group of readers or listeners saw or heard it read.

For you who are reading this blog, that’s neither here nor there. For now, I just want to encourage you to pick up Psalms and read them for yourselves. You might be amazed to discover that God may choose to speak directly into your heart, which he often does for readers of Psalms. It’s totally delightful when this happens, even when he addresses the hurting and painful spots in your heart, like a doctor or a surgeon might your body. Always remember, God is love, and he loves you. He wants you to grow to love him, as well. Reading Psalms can help you do this.

[1] 2 Timothy 3:16. See also John 10:35.

Love Letter from the Cross: Psalm 42

Photo by Phil Botha on Unsplash

Psalm 42 is a remarkable love letter from the Son to the Father. The Son used to have an eternal existence in heaven face to face with his Father (John 1:1-3). But now, by his Father’s will, he has come to earth as a human being to open a pathway for humans back to the throne of God, their creator who loves them.

God the Son had many enemies on earth. The loudest of these were those who claimed for themselves the position of God’s favorites. They weren’t. They studied God’s books of law and interpreted them according to the standards of their own wicked hearts. They completely missed God’s love for his people. These self-styled favorites lorded it over others and condemned everyone who didn’t worship God exactly as they themselves did. They were blind to the fact that they worshiped themselves, not God, and what they really wanted was to be at the very top of the heap. Far from respecting them, even with outward deference, Jesus called out their hypocrisy. He loved his Father with a true and passionate heart, and he loved his Father’s people. He condemned the false religious favorites, and for this cause, they wanted to kill him. And finally, they did kill him.

Psalm 42 records the heart cries of the Son to his Father during the period when he was being tried and executed by the false religious leaders. His death was very painful, because in those days, the Romans, who performed the actual execution, nailed convicted criminals to a wooden cross and let them suffocate for as long as it took. These are the Son’s words of trust and love to his Father during this horrendous event. Other psalms record Jesus’ thoughts, most notably Psalm 22.

The plot line of Poem 42 runs like this, “Father God, I am all alone here. Where are you? You’ve been hiding yourself for a long while. They’re killing me, and everyone has noticed that you’re not here. This discourages my soul so much. But my soul’s response doesn’t make sense to me, because I know you will rescue me. I know that eventually I will pass through this situation and come to a place where I will be thanking and praising you again. So come on, Soul. Perk up and hope in God. He is my help and my God.”

Here is the poem:

NIB Psalm 42:1 For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah. As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.
5, 6 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon–from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
8 By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me–a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
(Psalm 42:1-11 NIV, 1984)

Parallels with Other Scripture, Indicating that Psalm 42 Is a Prophetic Reference to Christ on the Cross

1.    Psalm 42:10 My bones suffer mortal agony… (NIV)

Psalm 22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint… (NIV)

Psalm 22:17 All my bones are on display; (NIV)

2.    Psalm 42:10foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” (NIV)

Psalm 22:7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8 “He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” 
(NIV)

Matthew 27:42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. (NIV)

3.    Psalm 42:7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

Jonah 2:2 He said: “… From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. (NIV)

Psalm 42:1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (NIV) [Also, the entire psalm is a heart cry of a prayer to God]

Jonah 2:4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ (NIV)

Jonah 2:7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. (NIV)

Matthew 12:40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (NIV)

Final Words

I have been so very blessed to see the heart of the Son’s love for the Father in this psalm, and to see the heart of the Father’s love for his Son in so many other psalms. The love between Father and Son is extended to us, the recipients of the marvelous gift of redemption, a gift that cost the Son so much pain. If you can, ask God to help you soak in the deep richness of Psalm 42, this marvelous love letter from Christ to his God.

Intellectual Assent Versus Desire

 

 

 

I know a little girl who loves the story of the baby born under a star in a stable. The young mother had ridden a donkey a long way with her husband so the infant could be laid on straw shared by cattle and sheep. The visitors came–wise men, kings, and shepherds. “I love this story so much!” the little girl responds.

Then along comes thought, the thinking brain. “I know God lives in our hearts. But does he live out there?” gesturing with a wide arm to the outside world. “How do we know?” She asks these questions in her barely five year old head, because her dear gramma says God created and her even dearer papa says there is no God.

Little girl, I just want to say to you, “It’s not about your gramma or your papa. It’s about you. Follow your heart.”

Your heart is the head and your head is the tail. Don’t let the tail wag the dog. If you want to believe in God, then believe. God in his kindness will accept your desire, even if you lack reason for it. As years pass, over time, he may or may not answer the questions of your head. If God had wanted the blessing of belief to come through the head, he would have made it so. As it is, he chose faith. Turn your heart toward God, and your head will follow.

 

 

Waiting Out the Storm: Psalm 130

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The prayers have been prayed. The battle has been fought. In Psalm 130, the psalmist finds himself alone in a deep, deep place. If we see Christ praying this psalm, we would say that his human body and soul have died, and he lies buried in death. That’s about as deep as a human being can ever go. 

What does the divine Son do, united as he is with his humanity? He does what he always does. He turns to the Lord, gives voice to his people-ness, and cries out to him, just as he always did in life.

Psalm 130:1 A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
2 O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! (ESV)

The Bible teaches that Christ died for our sins. In the next verses the psalmist/Christ reminds God of the reason for his whole being on earth, that God would forgive.

3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. (ESV)

Now everything that can possibly be done has been done. What does this person the psalmist represents do now? He waits. From the deepest deep of the depths, having been removed from all possibility of doing more, the psalmist waits.

5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. (ESV)

Then he encourages his countrymen, his friends, those in fellowship with him, to do the same: to wait in steadfast hope on the Lord. Because his faith in God tells him that redemption is on its way.

O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities. (ESV)

Waiting can be a most difficult time. Our faith is tested while we wait. Do we wait in hope of deliverance, as the psalmist did? (See his deliverance in Psalm 18.) Do we wait in peace and even joy, as Paul and Silas did while chained in the depths of a foreign dungeon? (Acts 16:16-40)

Christ was rewarded with resurrection. Paul and Silas were rewarded with freedom and vindication. When we hide ourselves in Christ, we also receive multitudes of “small” resurrections. These small resurrections from the heart wrenching trials of life point to one great, enormous resurrection from death and the grave itself. What a day that will be, a day worth waiting for.

 

A Quibble with NET Word Choice in Psalm 33:6

I take issue with NET’s translation of Psalm 33:6. I would use the majority translation “word” rather than the minority translation “LORD’S decree,” because the context does not support NET’s paraphrase over the literal text of the original Hebrew and Greek.

ESV Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. 

NET Psalm 33:6 By the LORD’s decree the heavens were made; by a mere word from his mouth all the stars in the sky were created. (Psa 33:6 NET)

The following translations use “word” in verse 6: ESV, NIV 1984, NIB (British NIV, 1984), NAS, BBE (Bible in Basic English), LXE (Brenton’s Septuagint English Translation), NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint, Pietersma, 2009), KJV, NKJV, NRS (New Revised Standard Version, 1989), and the NIV, 2011. “Word” literally translates both the Greek of the Septuagint and the Hebrew, as the NET points out in its notes. However, the NET model, 2006,  and the NIRV (New International Reader’s Version, 1998) have taken the liberty to interpret the literal “word” of the two original languages and to place the interpretation into the text. NET then puts the literal translation into the notes. Can these two be right and everyone else wrong?

The NET writes for Psalm 33:6, “By the LORD’s decree the heavens were made; by a mere word [breath, or spirit] from his mouth all the stars in the sky were created.” The NIRV writes, “The heavens were made when the LORD commanded it to happen. All of the stars were created by the breath of his mouth.”

The interpretation NET and NIRV have given (although the 2011 NIV returns to “word”) is a narrow slice of the semantic range of possible meanings of the literal “word” of the original. In the case of the NET, I strongly suspect that this is an editorial decision based upon the philosophy (hermeneutics) of Old Testament interpretation the editors have chosen. NET is fond of placing the literal in the margin and their particular interpretation in the text itself.

Why does this matter? 1) These two versions are changing the literal translation of God’s word. 2) They are interpreting for God the meaning of the text, rather than allowing the reader to do so under the guidance of God.

One of the readers of Psalms was John the Apostle. In John 1:1-5, he writes,

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (NIV, 2011)

The author of Hebrews writes,

2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

Why rob the reader the pleasure of seeing the Word, the Son, in Psalm 33:6 by changing the literal translation “word” to “LORD’s decree“? The semantic domain of “word” includes the concept of “decree,” while “decree” erases the possibility of the Personhood of God’s Word.

In support of keeping the original rather than NET’s interpretation, the text of Psalm 148:5-6 is interesting in its contextual similarity to Psalm 33:6.

5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.
6 He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away. (NIB, NIV 1984)

5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he gave the command and they came into existence.
6 He established them so they would endure; he issued a decree that will not be revoked. (NET)

In these verses, “them” means everything named in verses 2-4: angels, heavenly hosts, sun, moon, shining stars, highest heavens, and waters above the skies, i.e., creation, apart from the earth. These verses contain the translations “commanded…created,” “set them in place,” and “gave a decree.” Interestingly, NET notes does not mention any of the three verbal phrases.

In comparison with Psalm 33:6, the immediate creation context is identical. “6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” Yet even though the context is identical, the original Greek and Hebrew words referring to the act of creation are different. Psalm 33, as noted above, uses the Hebrew and Greek original for “word,” “logos” (see Strong’s H1697 and G3056), whereas Psalm 148:5-6 uses different words more directly related to “command” (see Strong’s H6680, H8765, G1781, G2476, and G4367).

“Logos,” which is “word” in the New Testament, carries great weight, and one cannot help but wonder why the NET chose to minimize its potential importance in Psalm 33:6, given that NET’s claimed translation “the LORD’s decree” has other specific Hebrew and Greek words that God could have chosen, as for example, those he did choose in Psalm 148:5-6 in an identical context. Are we to think that God pays less attention to details than NET? In Psalm 33:6, if God intentionally chose Hebrew “dabar” and Greek “logos,” both meaning “word,” then “word” it is.

For Lovers of God: Psalm 33

Psalm 33 1) beautifully describes God’s nature as reflected in his many activities and 2) encourages people everywhere to worship him loudly and clearly with joyful praise and celebration.

myjoyonline.com

Psalm 33 opens with a clarion call to praise that pictures a scene of genuine celebration:

1 Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
2 Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. (Psalm 33:1-3 NIV, 1984)

Verses 4 and 5 give four reasons to celebrate God:

  1. For the word of the LORD is right and true; (vs 4)
  2. He is faithful in all he does (vs 4)
  3. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; (vs 5)
  4. the earth is full of his unfailing love. (vs 5)

The body of the psalm develops these four points:

1. For the word of the LORD is right and true (vs 4)

God created by his Word (see footnote 1, technical).

6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; {Or sea as into a heap} he puts the deep into storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

2. He is faithful in all he does (vs 4)

10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm for ever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. 

As we consider today’s shifting political market and humankind’s long world history, we see that various nations and people groups rise and fall. “But the plans of the LORD stand firm for ever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” God is faithful, unchanging, ever true, and powerful.

3. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; (vs 5)

12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.
13 From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind;
14 from his dwelling-place he watches all who live on earth–
15 he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.
16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.

The LORD blesses those who follow his ways (vs 12). His ways are righteousness and justice. God did not simply create and then disappear into the vastness of an infinite space (deus ex machina). Verses 13-15 state that God looks and sees everyone everywhere. He judges by his own standards of uprightness, of righteousness and justice. Verses 16-17 state that history is full of examples in which leaders with great armies, great strength, and the best of equipment find all those insufficient to save. It is God who saves.

4. the earth is full of his unfailing love. (vs 5)

18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

The LORD knows his own. He watches over them carefully, minutely, and always. The text describes God’s people as those who love him, respect, trust in, and obey him (text: fear him) as well as place their hope in God’s loyal and faithful actions and attitude of love towards them. We might call these actions faith. God delivers from death those who place their faith in him, who give their loyalty to him. He also keeps them alive in famine.

What should our response be?

Verses 20 and 21 recap the introductory verses 1-3.

20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.

Verse 22 concludes with a prayer that 1) asks the faithful God to continue blessing his people just as he has done in the past, and 2) expresses the continued loyalty of the people.

22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

Application:

Explanations of a psalm are never as good as the psalm itself, just as reading a synopsis of a book or movie is never as good as experiencing. When someone tells about a great time they had, the description comes nowhere near the great time itself. Explanations like the above serve at best as a roadmap to lead the way or guideposts to point out interesting sights. Whereas experiencing a psalm and being swept up into its mood or passion can happen in just a few short minutes, digesting an explanation can dampen the joy of movement. So read the psalm when you are fresh and celebrate God’s ever present goodness.

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I. Technical Note: The following translations use “word” in verse 6: ESV, NIV 1984, NIB (British NIV, 1984), NAS, BBE (Bible in Basic English), LXE (Brenton’s Septuagint English Translation), NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint, Pietersma, 2009), KJV, NKJV, NRS (New Revised Standard Version, 1989), and the NIV, 2011. “Word” literally translates both the Greek of the Septuagint and the Hebrew, as the NET points out in its notes. However, the NET model, 2006,  and the NIRV (New International Reader’s Version, 1998) have taken the liberty to interpret the literal “word” of the two original languages and to place the interpretation into the text. NET then puts the literal translation into the notes. Can these two be right and everyone else wrong?

The NET writes for Psalm 33:6, “By the LORD’s decree the heavens were made; by a mere word [breath, or spirit] from his mouth all the stars in the sky were created.” The NIRV writes, “The heavens were made when the LORD commanded it to happen. All of the stars were created by the breath of his mouth.”

The interpretation these two more modern versions have given (although the later NIV went back to using “word”) is a narrow slice of the semantic range of possible meanings of the literal “word” of the original. In the case of the NET, I strongly suspect that this is an editorial decision based upon the philosophy (hermeneutics) of Old Testament interpretation the editors have chosen. NET is fond of placing the literal in the margin and their particular interpretation in the text itself.

Why does this matter? 1) these two versions are changing the literal translation of God’s word. 2) They are interpreting for God the meaning of the text, rather than allowing the readers to do so under the guidance of God.

One of the readers of Psalms was John the Apostle. In John 1:1-5, he writes,

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (NIV, 2011)

The author of Hebrews writes,

2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

Why rob the reader the pleasure of seeing the Word, the Son, in Psalm 33:6 by changing the literal translation “word” to “LORD’s decree“? The semantic domain of “word” includes the concept of “decree,” while “decree” erases the possibility of the Personhood of God’s Word.

The text of Psalm 148:5-6 is interesting in its contextual similarity to Psalm 33:6.

5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.
6 He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away. (NIB, NIV 1984)

5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he gave the command and they came into existence.
6 He established them so they would endure; he issued a decree that will not be revoked. (NET)

In these verses, “them” means everything named in verses 2-4: angels, heavenly hosts, sun, moon, shining stars, highest heavens, and waters above the skies, i.e., creation, apart from the earth. These verses contain the translations “commanded…created,” “set them in place,” and “gave a decree.” Interestingly, NET notes does not mention any of the three verbal phrases.

In comparison with Psalm 33:6, the immediate creation context is identical. “6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” Yet even though the context is identical, the original Greek and Hebrew words referring to the act of creation are different. Psalm 33, as noted above, uses the Hebrew and Greek original for “word,” “logos” (see Strong’s H1697 and G3056), whereas Psalm 148:5-6 uses different words more directly related to “command” (see Strong’s H6680, H8765, G1781, G2476, and G4367).

“Logos,” which is “word” in the New Testament, carries great weight, and one cannot help but wonder why the NET chose to minimize its potential importance in Psalm 33:6, given that NET’s claimed translation “the LORD’s decree” has other specific Hebrew and Greek words that God could have chosen, as for example, those he did choose in Psalm 148:5-6 in an identical context. Are we to think that God pays less attention to details than NET? In Psalm 33:6, if God intentionally chose Hebrew “dabar” and Greek “logos,” both meaning “word,” then “word” it is.

 

 

My New Book

I’ve published my first book, Beauty: Find One Beautiful Thing Every Day and Take a Photo of It. I apologize that it’s not about Psalms! The book contains 31 photos of beauty which I found in the commonplace things around me and 31 simple poems to accompany the photos. The book is available on Amazon at Beauty: Find One Beautiful Thing Every Day and Take a Photo of It.

I invite you to check it out!

 

Psalm 68:1-6–A Harry Potter Kind of Celebration

From Pottermore.com

 

When the fictional Harry Potter caused the death of the wicked Lord Voldemort, J. K. Rowling describes the scene with these words:

Voldemort fell backward, arms splayed, the slit pupils of his scarlet eyes rolling upward … Voldemort was dead … then the tumult broke around Harry as the screams and the roars of the watchers rent the air. The fierce new sun dazzled the windows as they thundered toward him … and Harry could not hear a word that anyone was shouting, nor tell whose hands were seizing him, pulling him, trying to hug some part of him, hundreds of them pressing in, all of them determined to touch the Boy Who Lived, the reason it was over at last … The sun rose steadily over Hogwarts, and the Great Hall blazed with life and light … the innocent [prisoners] of Azkaban were being released at that very moment … 

(J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (USA: Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc., 2007), 744-745.)

Why was there such rejoicing? The wicked wizard Voldemort had oppressed the people by fear, intimidation, torture, maiming, imprisonment, death, and separation of families. Harry’s victory over him ended all this, and freed from captivity, the people’s outcry of joy was magnificent.

Notice that Rowling divides the action quoted above into three parts: 1) the death of the enemy, 2) the victory celebration, and 3) the reason for the joy.

While the Harry Potter series is fiction, the Bible is not. Psalm 68:1-6 describes God’s victory over the forces of darkness in a way that could serve as a model for Rowling. Verses 1-2 describe the victorious battle:

God springs into action! His enemies scatter; his adversaries run from him.
2 As smoke is driven away by the wind, so you drive them away. As wax melts before fire, so the wicked are destroyed before God. (Psalm 68:1-2 NET)

Next comes the victory celebration:

3 But the godly are happy; they rejoice before God and are overcome with joy.
4 Sing to God! Sing praises to his name! Exalt the one who rides on the clouds! For the LORD is his name! Rejoice before him! (Psalm 68:3-4 NET)

And finally, the biblical author gives the reason for the joyful celebration:

5 He is a father to the fatherless and an advocate for widows. God rules from his holy palace.
6 God settles those who have been deserted in their own homes; he frees prisoners and grants them prosperity. But sinful rebels live in the desert. (Psalm 68:5-6 NET)

In other words, God is good! The people are so glad he freed them from the tyranny of those seeking their own power, of those who delight in causing others to suffer.

Harry Potter is a fictional character, yet he has a large fan following.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I pray that all who read this will know that you exist, that you are love, that you hear the heart cries of us all (Pslam 65:2), and that you answer and give relief to all who turn to you. Thank-you, amen.

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Technical note of further interest regarding Psalm 68:6c and the Malfoy family in the Harry Potter series.

6a God settles those who have been deserted in their own homes; 6b he frees prisoners and grants them prosperity. 6c But sinful rebels live in the desert. (Psalm 68:5-6 NET)

Those who have read this blog for awhile know how highly I regard the Septuagint edition of Scripture. There are two interesting English translations of this Greek version of Psalm 68:6 that I find interesting.

6a God settles the solitary in a house; 6b leading forth prisoners mightily, 6c also them that act provokingly, even them that dwell in tombs. (Brenton, Sir Lancelot C. L. The Septuagint Version: Greek and English. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970.)

6a God settles the solitary in a house; 6b With courage He leads out those in bondage, 6c Likewise those who rebel, who dwell in tombs. (Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.)

I. Context

It appears to me that the Septuagint version of verse 6c matches the near and surrounding contexts of Psalm 68 far better than the English versions based upon the Masoretic Hebrew texts, such as the NET quoted above.

First, verse 6 is naming God’s benefits to those who are rejoicing in his victory, not the bad consequences to those who still his enemies.

Second, the large bulk of the entire psalm is focused on God’s victory, the response of his supporters, and the benefits awarded to them. Nowhere else remotely near this portion of verse 6 are the results for the enemies of God described. Further, statements concerning his enemies form a small portion of the entire psalm.

It seems unlikely, therefore, that a single phrase inserted in a context bearing no resemblance to that phrase would be the correct meaning of Psalm 68:6c.

II. New Testament Relevance

Psalm 68:18 sheds light on the identity of God in this psalm.

You ascend on high, you have taken many captives. You receive tribute from men, including even sinful rebels. Indeed the LORD God lives there! (Psalm 68:18 NET)

Thou art gone up on high, thou hast led captivity captive, thou hast received gifts for man, yea, for they were rebellious, that thou mightiest dwell among them. (Brenton, The Septuagint Version)

You ascended on high, You led captivity captive; You received gifts for mankind, Truly for the disobedient, so they may dwell there. The Lord God is blessed; (Psalm 68:19 The Orthodox Study Bible)

Paul quotes a variant of the Greek Psalm 68:18 in Ephesians 4:8, where in its context, he solidly makes reference to Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 4:8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he captured captives; he gave gifts to men.” (Ephesians 4:8 NET)

According to The Orthodox Study Bible (Psalm 68, pages 724-725), Psalm 68 in its entirety is about the resurrection and ascension of Christ. This conclusion follows the principles of ordinary literary interpretation. If one verse of a text block clearly points to a particular referent, then, if the contextual flow of language is contiguous and no other referents are introduced, then the entire textual block must be about the same referent. This is the case for Psalm 68:18 and its context. Reading prophetic scripture in context makes far more sense than yanking verses out of context in order to interpret them as isolated islands of meaning.

Therefore, if we consider that Psalm 68 makes reference to Christ and his victories, we should look to the New Testament, and especially to the gospels, to make sense of verse 6c, Likewise those who rebel, who dwell in tombs. Verse 6 tells the reader that Christ is helping three groups of people: 1) the solitary, those who have been deserted by humanity and live alone, 2) the prisoners, and 3) the rebellious, who live as though dead, or among tombs. Where can we find a New Testament reference to the rebellious living among tombs?

First, the New Testament, and Paul specifically in Romans 3:23 and Romans 5:8, teaches that God died for sinners, enemies, and we were all such at one time. Since humankind was not created as enemies of God, they became enemies through rebellion. The New Testament also teaches that humankind was dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Metaphorically, dead people live in tombs.

Second and literally, the gospel of Mark 5:1-20 relates how Jesus met a demon-possessed man of the Gerasenes, who actually lived among the tombs. Further, when Jesus approached him, the man called out provokingly to Jesus in a loud voice, saying, “Leave me alone, Jesus, Son of the Most High God! I implore you by God– do not torment me!” (Mark 5:7 NET) Likewise, Psalm 68:6c in Brenton’s translation talks about those who act provokingly, even those who live in tombs.

Third, as if by chance, verse 18 in Psalm 68, the verse that identifies Jesus as the victorious actor, also mentions that his gifts were either received from or given to rebels:

You ascended on high, You led captivity captive; You received gifts for mankind, Truly for the disobedient, so they may dwell there. The Lord God is blessed; (Psalm 68:19 The Orthodox Study Bible)

God is indeed merciful, as this verse and this psalm show.

III. Harry Potter

Compared to knowing that the most high God is extremely merciful through his Son Jesus Christ, knowledge of the fictional mercy of Harry Potter seems trivial, except as a means of illustration. The Malfoy family, especially Draco the son and Lucius his father, were rebellious, having chosen the dark lord to serve. And metaphorically, as time progressed, it became more and more apparent that they felt miserable and that living under the dark lord’s power was like living among the dead. Further, both Lucius and Draco provoked Harry with their actions and speech throughout the series, just as Psalm 68:6c describes the provoking action of the rebellious ones living in tombs. Nevertheless, Harry and his companions, including Dumbledore and Ron, showed Draco and his parents extreme mercy, until finally, the Malfoy family left the wicked Valdemort’s side before he died.

IV. What Is the Point?

Once again, what is the point of comparing the Harry Potter series with Psalm 68? Harry Potter is a gripping story to read and Rowling does a great job both of contrasting good and evil and of presenting the joy of regular folk in the ultimate victory of goodness, as represented by Harry Potter and his friends. If readers love Harry Potter, then I implore that the same readers would give the Lord Jesus Christ a chance, since in many ways Rowling appears to have modeled her heroic character and plot after the good news of the one and only Savior under heaven, Jesus Christ, who does exist in the real world.

 

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