Sunday, July 26 – Saturday, August 1
Psalm 99– Psalm 112
An Introduction to Book V
Book V of the Psalter begins with Psalm 107, yet another historical recounting of God’s action on behalf of His people. This follows on the heels of Psalms 105-106, which wrap up Book IV and also are recountings of salvation history. As we look back on where we’ve come from in our journey through the Psalter, we recall that Book III focused on Israel’s lack of trust in God, and the resulting devastation that occurred because of the consequential exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. Because of the sin of God’s people against Him, their temple and their city were destroyed by enemy nations. Book III catalogues the distress of these events. And Book IV reveals Israel’s maturation through it, as their understanding of God’s work deepens. As O. Palmer Robertson writes, “as painful as the exile must have been, this experience serves as a catalyst to bring about the maturation in the nation’s perspective on the promises of the Davidic covenant.”1 In other words, God’s people begin to see that the promises God made to David pertaining to God’s kingdom ultimately are about God Himself, not David. Through the distress of being removed from the seat of David’s throne and the location of temple worship in Jerusalem, God’s people begin to mature in their understanding that God’s promises will be realized through David’s dynasty, but ultimately the promises point toward God. Book V, then, the final collection of poems, prayers and songs in the Psalter, presents the climactic praises of the consummation of this coming Kingdom – God’s Kingdom (not David’s) that will be fulfilled through David’s line.
1 O. Palmer Robertson, The Flow of the Psalms
What to look for in Psalms 99-112
Notice the frequent use of the phrase: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His faithful love (or, covenant faithfulness) endures forever.” This is a refrain that ties many of these psalms together. And more than that, this phrase was actually somewhat like a creedal statement for the ancient Israelites. This was one of their most foundational “statements of faith,” for it declared who their God is, and why He is so significant. Israel’s understanding of who God is, and how and why God acts on their behalf, rests on this notion: that God is good, and He is forever faithful to His promises. Thus, Israel worships God. Do you notice in these psalms how Israel’s worshipping life is built around this?
Psalm 103 (along with Psalms 101, 104, and others) reflects the psalmists’ worship of God. But do you notice the language of invoking, even stirring, the self to worship? “Oh, let my whole being praise the Lord!” Perhaps the psalmists sometimes experienced a sense of distance from God in their worship, as if they didn’t feel His presence. Have you ever experienced a coldness to or from God, or wondered if God is even real? If so, you are not alone. This language in Psalm 103 and other psalms may be helpful in experiences where worship feels dry or far or even fake. The psalmists here aren’t just telling themselves to feel things they don’t feel, or to sing loudly when it doesn’t feel natural. Rather, they are reminding themselves of the reason why they worship: because God’s actions are good, because God forgives, heals, saves, satisfies. The psalmists stir themselves to worship God not out of some need to create an emotive or enthusiastic experience, but simply because of who God is and what He has done.
Lastly, note that Psalms 111-112 are acrostic poems, meaning, each line of these psalms (after the opening line of Praise Yah!) begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. We might say that all of Israel’s life and worship in relationship with God, from start to finish, beginning to end, from A to Z, is summed up in these acrostic poems.
Questions to ask of Psalms 99-112
Did you notice the frequency of psalms that recount Israel’s history of being delivered and saved by a mighty God? Why the repetition? What might the psalmists be trying to do by telling and re-telling this history so many times? How is remembering or active memory tied to worship? Does our worship today reflect this same emphasis on active remembering?
What adjectives to describe God are repeated throughout these psalms? How do these descriptions of God resonate with you? What do they evoke in you?
What verbs do the psalmists use to summon God’s people to action? Which of the verbs stand out most to you, inviting or calling you toward certain action?
Variations of the phrase “Praise the Lord, for He is good, and His faithful love endures forever” are frequently repeated in this collection. This phrase outlines the foundation of Israel’s worship of God. When you think about why you worship God, how would you answer that question? Is your worship more about you, or more about God?
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?
Oh, let me sing about Your faithful love and justice, God! I want to sing my praise to you, Lord – not just with my voice but with my whole being: heart, soul, mind and strength. Even when I don’t feel Your presence, even when I don’t feel enthusiastic or emotionally moved, even when I have doubts, let everything inside of me be stirred by Your Spirit to remember how You are good; how You forgive sin through Jesus; how You heal sickness and save my life and all Your people from the darkness of the pit; how You crown my life with Your love and compassion; how You alone are the One who fully satisfies. Like a parent who has compassion on a daughter or son, Oh God, will You have compassion on me, and on all Your children – especially those who suffer most. Praise the Lord, O my soul! Amen.