Saying “thank you” is one of the first things we learn as a child, yet the words can seem shallow when there is lots to be thankful for. Perhaps that is the plight of most, even poor Americans. The more we have, the more we notice what we don’t have. Yet “thanksgiving” and “praise” mean something different in the Psalms. Here they are not just words, but rituals. They are not just manners, but ways of life.
As Americans we are not accustomed to waiting nor do we wait for the right things. This song, sung on the temple steps by a seeker on his way into worship, describes one whose heart is pure even if the rest of him is not. He was once in the depths and has found God’s forgiveness, but he has not yet found redemption. Here on the steps, between forgiveness and redemption, he waits for himself and for his people.
Darkenss, Loss, Overwhelmed. Grief. Desolation. Abandoned. These are sobering words that describe a season of life we are in, or perhaps someone in our circle of relationships. What do we do when these dark nights arise? More often than not our response is mixed with blaming God, ourselves or others. Our actions range from avoidance, forsaking others or even providing insufficient attempts to resolve the spiritual desert we are in.
Psalm 23 is often referred to as the most widely-known Psalm in the Bible. We learn it early in our journeys with Christ and recite it often. But there is a distinct differences in knowing the Psalm and living it. As a Psalm of assurance, Psalm 23 is intended as a Psalm for living—providing us with an expression of confidence in God, our great Shepherd who will provide for every need.
A City Under Siege. In the last twenty years, we’ve seen the rise of a new intolerance for, not just the “religious” but the “righteous” in particular. Around the world, and especially in America, the people of God have become the subject of criticism and scorn. The righteous have been labeled, “intolerant, irrelevant and extreme,” and not only by their enemies, but by their friends “who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts.”
Terror… threat… intimidation… anxiety… dread and the failure of nerve. It seems like a low-grade fear has gripped the soul of our nation, our neighborhoods and even our leaders. At the bottom of our trouble is a deep and subtle fear… of failure, of rejection, of loss, of each other. Yet the Psalmist, whose circumstances were more dire than our own, found a way to conquer his fears, not by casting them out but by finding God in them.
God is present with us through both through periods of blessing and periods of struggle. In both, He listens attentively to our prayers of joy and our prayers of lament. He responds through graciousness, compassion, and protection. Our response to His action should not be one of ambivalence or inaction. Instead we are called to fulfill our vows we have made to God and respond to Him with thanks before all His people.
The psalms are songs for the people of God. Songs can influence our thoughts as well as our emotions and the psalms are meant to form the way we see and experience the world. Throughout the seasons of life, the psalms speak to the heart of the disciple, leading to a life that flourishes in every circumstance. Psalm 1 sets the agenda for our life of worship and leads us to the root of a fruitful life.