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July Note

We are in a time of anxiety as a nation. The last few election cycles have seemed particularly gut wrenching. In times of personal distress I often turn to the Psalms. In a hospital room, Psalm 23 seems particularly relevant. In counseling situations Psalm 130 might come up. Recently,I have been thinking about how much the Psalter also speaks to national distress.

It makes sense. Some of the Psalms may reflect the life of a shepherd boy or a repentant sinner, but many of the Psalms were written, whether by David or others, to reflect the distress of a national leader in response to wicked men. After all, David was chased by Saul, hid in the court of his enemies, fought to bring together a divided nation, was betrayed by advisors, survived  coup attempts, was displaced from and regained his throne, and spent his entire reign trying to unite Israel.

It is through this narrative of national distress that we learn so much of the nature and character of Israel's God. The phrase "The Lord is..." can be found many times in the Psalter. There is much solid theology embedded in the Psalms. 

There are also some great zingers! The writers of these songs don't wait for the imprecatory Psalms to call out their enemies. Psalm 1 tells us that mockers who listen to unwise counsel will be driven away like chaff. Psalm 2 tells us that those who set up evil schemes will be humbled.Psalm 3 is a prayer that God protect the innocent and break the teeth of the wicked. 

One of my favorite Psalms, and one I find meaningful in times of contention, is Psalm 16. I love this version taken from the Scottish Psalter.

Protect me, O my God;

you are my refuge true.

2 I said, “You are my Lord:

I have no good apart from you.”

3 The godly in the land,

for holiness renowned—

They are the glorious ones, in whom

all my delight is found.

4 Their sorrows will increase who on

false gods rely.

I will not sacrifice to them;

their worship I defy.

5 O LORD, you are to me

my cup and portion sure;

The share that is assigned to me

you guard and keep secure.

6 The land allotted me

is in a pleasant site;

And surely my inheritance

to me is a delight.

7 I’ll praise the LORD my God,

whose counsel guides my choice;

And even in the night, my heart

recalls instruction’s voice.

8 Before me constantly

I set the LORD alone.

Because he is at my right hand

I’ll not be overthrown.

9 Therefore my heart is glad;

my tongue with joy will sing.

My body too will rest secure

in hope unwavering.

10 For you will not allow

my soul in death to stay,

Nor will you leave your Holy One

to see the tomb’s decay.

11 You have made known to me

the path of life divine.

Bliss shall I know at your right hand

joy from your face will shine.

Here you can find a portion of this Psalm sung to the tune "Golden Hill.


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