Sunday, July 19 – Saturday, July 25
Psalm 85– Psalm 98
What to look for in Psalms 85-98
Book III of the Psalter concludes with Psalm 89. If, after reading through Book III, you feel depressed or hopeless, you have appropriately identified with the tone of these psalms. Book III concludes with continued distress for God’s people. They are being ground into the dust, seemingly by God Himself. Maybe this feels similar to our global predicament today. When will the suffering and sorrow cease? When will the oil of joy pour down on our heads, instead of the crumbling ashes of grief? When will You take pity on Your people, O God?
We, like the people of Israel as described in these psalms, are facing immense challenges. And as the people of Israel were summoned to trust in the Lord in the midst of their distress, so we are summoned to trust in God in the midst of our own trouble and hardship. Israel did not respond well to this summons. Will we?
The last verse of Psalm 89 reminds us that we worship God regardless of our circumstances. We worship God even in spite of all the sorrow and distress identified in the previous collection of songs and poems. In the next collection of psalms beginning with Psalm 90, we see that the stretching experiences of suffering leads to the maturation of Israel’s faith. In Book IV we begin to see that Israel’s hope must be placed not in David or any earthly king, but in the Promised One who is to come and through whom all of God’s covenants will be fulfilled.
In Psalms 90 – 98, consider how God Himself (in contrast to any earthly leader, ruler or other means by which God has previously worked) is established as the eternal dwelling place of His people. God invites His people to take shelter, to find refuge intimately in His presence. Look for this language of refuge and shelter, of God Himself being home for His people. Consider also the invitation to sing aloud to God, shouting for joy because of God’s saving action and righteous character. The suffering of Book III is not far from the minds and hearts of God’s people. And yet here they lift their voice in joyful song. What songs do you love to sing? Allow music to be the language of your heart toward God this week regardless of your circumstances.
Questions to ask of Psalms 85-98
Which of this week’s psalms did you most need to read or hear? Why?
Which of this week’s readings speaks most distinctly about your own current experience or situation? Which speaks most distinctly about how you have experienced God recently?
Psalm 88 recalls the psalmist’s experience of plummeting into a pit and drifting among the dead. What, if any, experiences in your life recently resonate with this imagery?
Psalms 89, 95, 96 and 98 speak of singing of the Lord’s loyal, steadfast love, and proclaiming God’s faithfulness from one generation to the next. Why is this reminder to sing of God’s saving action important? How have you been sharing of God’s faithfulness from one generation to the next?
Why might the psalmist mention singing a “new song” to the Lord? Why the instruction toward something fresh and new?
In this enduring season of isolation, restlessness, and dislocation caused by COVID-19, how does God’s invitation to find your home in Him resonate with you?
With the psalmists and with Your people throughout all generations, I cry out to You, O God. In distress and in celebration, I will sing of Your unfailing love. I will lift my voice proclaiming that You are the God of salvation, the great King over all the earth, the Shepherd who tenderly cares for His flocks. As You have established Your faithfulness forever, so establish me in the shelter of the Most High, in the shadow of the Almighty. Establish the work of my hands, that all my work may be for Your praise. Establish the love of my heart, that my desires and longings may be aimed toward You as the center of the target. Establish Your justice and Your peace as the twin pillars of Your kingdom, and allow me by Your Spirit to practice Your justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with You, O God, my fortress, my rock, my refuge. Amen.