Sunday, August 9 – Saturday, August 15
Psalm 127- Psalm 140
What to look for in Psalms 127-140
Psalms 127-134 are a continuation of the Songs of Acent: songs that the Israelites sang and prayed as they journeyed to Jerusalem to worship during feasts the Lord asked them to observe. As you read these Psalms, continue to read them both in light of this original context (as best we can!), and also think about yourself as a pilgrim, journeying towards our promised future with the Lord, assured through Jesus (see the week 9 Psalm Guide).
Here are a couple more things to look for as you read specific Psalms:
Psalm 135 – Like many of the Psalms (especially in Book 5), Psalm 135 recites some of Israel’s history with the Lord. Looking back at God’s faithfulness in the past, encourages people in the present moment to place their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 136 – If I close my eyes, I can easily imagine a congregation using this as a call and response in worship: one side of the congregation calling out the Lord’s actions, and the other half responding “His love endures forever.” There is something to the repetition that we can learn from. If you are like me, you might be tempted not to read the repeated refrain, because you have “already learned it.” But have we really learned it? I don’t think I have. Check out John Goldingay’s helpful thoughts on this Psalm:
For much of its life in Old Testament times, Israel did not see God acting in this way. ….[The Israelites] lived in perpetual need of internalizing the truth that God’s steadfast love [and] commitment lasts forever, because it sure didn’t look like it. Like Christian worship, Israel’s worship involved the people coming into the sanctuary and declaring things to be true that didn’t look as if they were true when the people were outside the sanctuary. The worshipers reminded themselves of the facts from their people’s story that provided the evidence for the truth of their faith so that they could carry on living in a situation where the truths seemed to be suspended.1
Psalm 137 – this Psalm rails against our sensibilities. In this “imprecatory” psalm, the Psalmist recalls Israel’s exile in Babylon, and hopes that terrible things happen to the Babylonian’s children. We wonder if this Psalms inclusion in the Psalter means that God condones violence. While there is more to be said, a handful of thoughts may help: 1) remember that the Psalms are a record of raw honest emotions before the Lord. This psalm surely tells us that we don’t have to hold anything back with the Lord. He knows it anyway. (See this short Fuller video, starting at 2:00 minutes: Fuller Studio’s Intro to the Psalms) 2) In some ways, the Psalmist is asking God to deliver on God’s promises to judge Israel’s oppressors (see Isaiah 13). 3) Recall God’s wide mercy and gracious promises to the nation (see Isaiah 60; Jonah), fulfilled in Jesus who is for all people.
Psalm 139 – God knows us better than we know ourselves. If that thought brings fears to the surface of your heart, read Psalm 139 or Romans 8. You are completely and utterly known, and you are loved.
1 John Goldingay. Psalms Part 2 for Everyone, 196.
Questions to ask of Psalms 127-140
If you were to write a Psalm that recounted the Lord’s faithfulness in your life in the past, what would it include? How does this encourage you to place your trust in the Lord in the present?
What would your day be like if you repeated “God, Your Love endures forever” silently or out loud as you went about your day?
The Lord knows us better than we know ourselves. Are there areas of your life in which you don’t really know what you feel and think? Perhaps raw emotions that you don’t want to explore or have been stuffing down? The Lord knows! Ask Him to reveal yourself to you, so that He may grow you more into the image of Jesus.
What in these Psalms increases your trust in God?
Lord, you are the author behind the vastness of the Cosmos, a awe-inspiring reality that we barely comprehend. Lord, you are also the author of my life, which is smaller than a speck when compared to the universe. And yet you planned for me, know me, and love me. You planned for us, know us, and love us. Even in the times when what I see begs otherwise, help me to place my trust in your greatness and love, shown in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.