Saturday, August 28, 2010

Psalm 42

"Why are you cast down, O my soul?" (vs. 1-11)--It's interesting that this psalm and the next appear to go together. Verses 5, 11, and 43:5 are the same: "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance." This is perhaps a chorus in the song. Because of this "chorus," both psalms have a mood of despair, but of hope. The writer desires God "as the deer pants for the water brooks" (v. 1). Yet God doesn't seem to be responding to him (v. 2), which brings tears "day and night" and continual mocking from his opponents (only identified as "they" in verse 3). Remembrance of his desire and need for God causes the songster to "pour out" his soul and reminds him of times he went "to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast" (v. 4). This tends to imply that he is not doing so now, for reasons that are not stated. Then the first rendition of the chorus, if such is what it is (v. 5). A despondent soul, which can only "hope in God" and praise Him "for the help of His countenance." There are indeed times for us all when we believe that only the Lord can help us. And sometimes it seems like He isn't, or at least He is delaying His answer longer than we desire Him to. But never give up (Luke 18:1-5). When our souls do get "cast down," then remember what He has done for us before (v. 6). Since He has the power to control nature, He can control our puny lives (v. 7). In His time, "Jehovah will command his lovingkindness"--notice the future tense, "will command." He wasn't doing it in the present, but the psalmist had faith that at some point, the Lord would act in his behalf. At the moment, and apparently for the immediate future (the future tense is used again in verse 9), the author thinks God has forgotten him, and he doesn't understand why (v. 9). His enemies are giving Him fits, and mocking him, chiding him for trusting in a God who is not there. So, the song ends on the despairing, but hopeful, chorus, "Why are you cast down, O my soul?...Hope in God" (v. 11).

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Psalm 41

“Blessed is he who considers the poor” (vs. 1-3)—The Lord has always pronounced favor on those who aid the less fortunate; indeed, it is a sign of “pure religion” (James 1:27). Without a governmental welfare system in the Old Testament, Jehovah required voluntary service to the poor; indeed, there is no virtue in America’s system of forced benevolence. Even the king, who had the authority to compel people to do whatever he wanted, recognizes the blessings that accrue to those who “consider the poor.” Jehovah will “preserve him” and “he will be blessed on the earth” (v. 2). Protection from enemies (v. 2), and strength and sustaining in illness will also be his (v. 3). Again, this is poetic language and not intended as absolutes. But they do teach a general lesson that helping the feeble is noticed and blessed by God.

David and his enemies (vs. 4-9)—There seems to be a decided shift in the theme of this psalm from henceforth. David acknowledges his sin and asks for mercy (v. 4). Perhaps because of that sin, his enemies oppress him in various ways, in word (vs. 5-8) and in deed (v. 9). Specifically, these enemies “speak evil” and “lies” (v. 5). “His heart gathers iniquity to itself” (v. 6), then goes out and commits it. Notice that the heart is where sin begins, and if the heart is “gathering” sin, it will execute it. His enemies hope for David’s death (vs. 7-8), and even “my own familiar friend in whom I trusted…has lifted up his heel against me” (v. 9). David is once again contrasting the actions of man with the help only God can provide.

The appeal for mercy (vs. 10-13)—There is some indication that David might literally be ill. He speaks of such in verses 3, 5, 8, and 10. Whether that is so, he comprehends his need for mercy (v. 10), and in this case, he wants that mercy “that I may repay them,” i.e., the enemies he had been earlier discussing. Part of the evidence that Jehovah is “well pleased” with him was the defeat of the devises and plans of his foes (v. 11). How David knew that such a victory meant that the Lord was pleased with him, we do not know. Once again, we witness the belief that David had that God was active in his life and all that happened could be attributed to His moving and working on David’s behalf, or against him. The Lord would “uphold me in my integrity and set me before Your face forever” (v. 12). This is a cause for rejoicing and praising the Lord (v. 13).

Such ends Book One of the Psalms. We do not know, for sure, how or why the book has five divisions. Some have supposed that the songs were collected at different times by different persons. Regardless, the Hebrews recognized these divisions in the book and they have come down to us as well.