Tag Archives: praise

A Verse For Meditation

From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised. Psalm 113:3

  • Think about the relationship of the earth to the sun. When is the right time to praise the Lord? What conditions preclude praising the Lord?

Read the verses which precede today’s verse:

1     Praise the Lord.
Praise, O servants of the Lord,
praise the name of the Lord.
2     Let the name of the Lord be praised,
both now and forevermore. Psalm 113:1-2 

  • Think about the word “praise.” Give praise to the Lord right now. Do you do this often? Daily? Notice the phrase “now and forevermore.” When will we stop praising the Lord?
  • Think about the way this psalm transcends the limits of time and space, giving us a view into the realm of eternity and infinity.

4     The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
5     Who is like the Lord our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
6     who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth? Psalm 113:4-6

  • What name for God encompasses the description of God in this psalm? At what high level does God live? We read that he stoops down to look at even the heavens. What do you suppose motivates God to do that?
  • God may look at time and space, but he is not limited by it. What does this psalm say about our integration into God’s eternal view of things?

7     He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
8     he seats them with princes,
with the princes of their people.
9     He settles the barren woman in her home
as a happy mother of children. Psalm 113:7-9

  • What is God’s view of poor people? If this psalm speaks truth about God, is a poor person a victim? If he is not a victim, then what is he in God’s eyes?
  • What is God’s perception of the value of children? How can someone value children and not value unborn children? If a woman is barren and has no children of her own, what does this psalm suggest as a blessing to her?

 

 

 

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Reflection on Psalm 22

Psalm 22 is a beloved psalm that is best known for its first line, quoted in agony by Christ on the cross: “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” It is so commonly read during the season of Lent that the very mention of Psalm 22 any other time almost feels strange. Yet the appointed psalm for the most recent Sunday past was Psalm 22, but the reading came from the last half of the psalm, verses 19-28. Taken by themselves, especially if the reader completely blanks out all the associations with the early verses of the psalm, the text for this week stands alone artistically and thematically. Christians who feel threatened by secular scorn for the very idea of trying to live faithful lives in a culture that simultaneously turns a blind eye to the malevolent teachings of Islam will find strength, inspiration, and real encouragement in these verses from the second half of Psalm 22.

In order to see the psalm with fresh eyes, it is a good idea to read an unfamiliar translation. One of the finest scholars of Hebrew language and literature is Robert Alter. His translation of Psalm 22:19-28 is below:

19 But You, O Lord, be not far.                 My strength, to my aid O hasten!

20  Save from the sword my life,                 from the cur’s power my person.

21  Rescue me from the lion’s mouth.

                And from the horns of the ram You answered me.

22  Let me tell Your name to my brothers,                 in the assembly let me praise You. 23  Fearers of the Lord, O praise Him!                 All the seed of Jacob revere Him!                                             And be afraid of him, all Israel’s seed! 24  For He has not spurned nor has despised                 the affliction of the lowly, and has not hidden His face from him,                 when he cried out to Him, He heard. 25  For You—my praise in the great assembly.                 My vows I fulfill before those who fear Him. 26  The lowly will eat and be sated.                 Those who seek Him will praise the Lord.                                 May you be of good cheer forever. 27  All the far ends of earth will remember                 And turn to the Lord. All the clans of the nations                 will bow down before you. 28  For the Lord’s is the kingship–                 and He rules over the nations. (Alter, 2007)

This reading falls naturally into two parts, and the two parts are linked by a poignant statement:  “from the horns of the ram You answered me.”  (Verse 21b) In many, many translations, perhaps all of them but this one, the word Robert Alter translated “ram” is translated “wild oxen.” A look under the covers at the Hebrew word reveals that oxen, rams and even unicorns could be indicated by this word. Given the flow of the psalm, it is peculiar that none of the major translations saw here what Alter saw, the horn of the ram, the horn used to make the musical instrument the shofar. It is the shofar which is used in Jewish tradition as a call to prayer, and that is the key to understanding this text.

Verses 19-21a constitute a cry for help from someone under severe duress. The psalmist cries out, “Hurry! Help me! Save me!” He is threatened by the sword, by feral dogs, and by the open mouth of a lion. His prayer is beyond urgent; it is desperate.

Breathless and exhausted, frenzied and utterly hopeless, the psalmist hears the clear, plaintive sound of the shofar. Jewish tradition surrounding the making of a shofar is quite strict, in order to assure that the sound is consistent and natural. The poet who wrote this psalm would not confuse the sound of the shofar with any other sound. It is a beautiful image – the beleaguered man running for his life from fierce and evil enemies, stopped in his tracks by the sound of the shofar. The runner, still panting from both fear and exertion, silently and reverently listens to God’s call to worship

He turns away from his panicked efforts to save himself and to persuade God to help him. He turns to a place best described in the book of Revelation. The psalmist finds himself in the very presence of God enthroned in his glory in heaven. The “horns of the ram” carry the reader, too, out of the chaos of persecution and pursuit to a worshipful sanctuary where fervent worship is under way.

Pursued relentlessly by evil, the intended victim pushes back against evil by engaging in the great subversive act of worship. Praise, testimony and feasting with the Lord drown out evils shrieks and the heavy footfalls of approaching enemies. Instead, the evil ones shrink away from the glory of the Lord and the power of the prayers and testimony of the faithful.

What is the content of the testimony?

  • ·         God’s name, reverently and gratefully spoken
  • ·         Praise shouts – Praise him! Revere him! Fear him!
  • ·         Remembrance and performance of vows to the Lord
  • ·         Call to the whole world to honor God

And in the midst of it all, a meal that is a testimony to God’s goodness, just as the Lord’s Supper is a testimony to Christ and his goodness.

The reading then flows smoothly into concluding verses that continue the theme of worship that keeps evil at bay.

The psalm is a grand exposition of the same concept that permeates the book of Revelation – evil cannot defeat someone fully engaged in worship of God Almighty. Even petitions and intercessions asking for help are only part of the worship expression of our complete dependence on God. Apart from our praise and thanksgiving our petitions for help sound whiny. Embedded in our whole-body worship, which one pastor called “bragging on God” they become part of our testimony that God keeps his promises and never abandons his own. Our testimony to what God has done provides the structure behind our petitions to the one who can help us, the one who wants to help us. Our petitions actually express our faith which leads to worship that emboldens us to cry out our petitions and intercessions. We don’t test God with requests so he can earn our faith by answering them; we come to him in faith and worship, and in that attitude of trust, we make our pleas.

When you hear a political speech in which the argument intended to persuade you to believe the speaker is completely without any logical coherence,  when you file a claim for insurance because someone struck your car, only to discover when the dust settles that you have somehow been ruled to be liable for the damage to the other person, when discover that you are accountable for compliance with a law so convoluted that nobody can tell you how to comply, you can feel completely vulnerable and threatened. When the culture around you changes so dramatically that you no longer feel at home in your home town, it can feel like stray dogs snapping at your ankles. When you feel the world closing in on you, it is easy to despair. The psalmist knew how that felt, and he knew that this is the time you need to hear the shofar. You need to hear God’s voice above the chaos. You need to see God on his throne in the heavens, and rather than whine and cry, you need to join in worship. No matter how bad things are, it is always the right time to worship God on his throne. Praise him. Thank him. Remember his marvelous works. Worship is the great subversive act that pushes back against evil. Then, with evil at bay, standing strong in your faith, make your petitions. The psalmist says that you can count on the Almighty to win this war. He will defeat evil. “The Lord’s is the kingship–and He rules over the nations.” (Psalm 22:28)

You Servants of God

You servants of God
your Master proclaim
And publish abroad
his wonderful name.
The name, all-victorious,
of Jesus extol;
His kingdom is glorious
and rules over all!

Salvation to God
who sits on the throne!
Let all cry aloud
and honor the Son, T
he praises of Jesus
the angels proclaim,
Fall down on their faces
and worship the Lamb

Then let us adore
and give him his right,
all glory and power
and wisdom and might,
all honor and blessing
with angels above,
and thanks never ceasing
and infinite love!
Charles Wesley

  • What biblical image is recalled by this hymn?  See Revelation 4:1-11
  • Instead of singing this hymn, pray the words of this hymn. How does this prayer compare to your usual prayers?
  • Sit quietly and simply think about the words, “adore Christ.” What thoughts come to mind when you think about adoring Christ?
  • When a friend does something fabulous, you don’t have any trouble saying, “Wow! That was great! That’s the best I ever saw or heard about!” When was the last time you burst into spontaneous praise for Christ?

A Verse for Meditation

I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.                                              Psalm 146:2

  •  Every day the news brings us more reminders of disaster and tragedy in the world. How are we supposed to praise God in the midst of such misery?
  • We know that David’s life was no picnic, and it is unlikely that any other psalm writer had a life of never-ending ease. How did this writer motivate all that praise?
  • When I am in the midst of deep pain myself, does God even expect me to praise him?
  • The book of Revelation describes myriads and myriads of angels and people praising God for eternity. Is that what this writer means? Is that something I should actually look forward to? Is that all heaven is?

A Hymn for Meditation

 For the Beauty of the Earth

For the beauty of the earth
For the beauty of the earth (Photo credit: Ben Bawden)

For the beauty of the earth,
for the beauty of the skies,

for the love which
from our birth
over and around us lies;
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

 For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,

friends on earth
and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts
and mild.
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

 For each perfect gift of thine,
peace on earth and joy in heaven.
For thyself, best gift divine,
to our world so freely given.

Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

                      Folliott S. Pierpoint

 Questions for thought and prayer:

  •  At the end of each verse, you sing the words “sacrifice of praise.” Do you think it is a sacrifice to give praise to God? If ”sacrifice” means to surrender something that you might really want to keep, what are you sacrificing when you praise God?
  • The hymnwriter speaks of humans being immersed in love from the moment of birth. What does he mean? Do you agree with him? Why, or why not?
  • The third verse offers praise for “peace on earth,” recalling the promise of the angels when Jesus was born. Is there peace on earth? Where? Who has peace? Can there be peace on earth when nations are at war?
  • Even if you don’t write poetry, what would you include in a fourth verse to this hymn?

© 2012 Katherine Harms