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Living in The Story Psalms Archives - Page 2 of 5 - Living in The Story

Psalm 53

As we’ve been considering the Wisdom Tradition of Israel, we pondered Psalm 111:

Week 31’s Living in The Story blog reminds us that the biblical understanding of one who is “wise” refers to one who is open to teaching and willing to learn; willing to grow.

The blog also reminds us that it is ultimate foolishness to live as if WE are the measure and the standard of truth (the foolishness of auto-nomy!)

It is only God who is the source of wisdom and thus submitting ourselves to God’s Way is the way of wisdom.

But there is another way: the way of fools.

Our psalm for this week, Psalm 53 describes this hopeless spiral:

Fools say in their hearts: “There is no God.”

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Psalm 1

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on God’s law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does he prospers.

The wicked are not so but are like chaff which the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1

When our children were young, my husband created a lively tune for Psalm 1 so we could all memorize it. They are in their 40’s now and still can sing this RSV version of the anchor psalm of the psalter.

The anchor psalm

I call it the ‘anchor psalm’ because the editors of Israel’s hymnal organized the 150 psalms quite meticulously into five books, each with their own internal theology.

The creators of Israel’s hymnbook understood that Psalm 1 sets the tone not only for Book I but also for the entire collection of poems that sing the life of Israel.

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Psalm 111

All the psalms are considered to be part of Israel’s Wisdom Tradition, but Psalm 111 is one that sings specifically and eloquently that:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

  • Fearing the Lord.
  • Marveling at the Mystery.
  • Surrendering to the Inscrutable.

“The fear of the Lord” is submission and alligience and obedience. But this kind of “fear” also suggests an appropriate heart-thumping, knee-knocking, spine-tingling response.

The fear of the Lord comes from faith that trembles at the majesty and marvels at the mystery.

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Psalm 32

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Psalm 32 celebrates grace.

Remember the poetic rhythm that often characterizes the Psalms: a lovely coupling where two lines emphasize one another, both saying the same thing in different ways.

Here “forgiven” complements “covered” and “no iniquity” aligns with “no deceit.” These are the people who find “happiness” or blessedness or contentment in life.

But Psalm 32 also remembers sin.

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Psalm 56

Be gracious to me, O God for all day long foes oppress me.

O Most High, when I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust;

I am not afraid; what can flesh do to me?

Psalm 56 acknowledges both the grittiness of life and the grace of God.

The psalmist has “enemies” who constantly “stir up strife; they lurk, they watch my steps.” The Message paraphrased Bible puts it this way: “they smear my reputation and huddle to plot my collapse. They gang up on me…”

This kind of conflict within our relationships can tear us apart and wear us down until we have no emotional energy left.

I’ve been there – feeling trampled, disrespected, disregarded. Have you?

But in the midst of this grinding turmoil, the psalmist sees this grace:

You have kept count of my tossings; you put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your record?

I love this image!

Each one of my tears gathered in a bottle and remembered/honored/redeemed by the Holy One.

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Psalm 142

I cry aloud with my voice to the Lord;

I make supplication with my voice to the Lord.

I pour out my complaint before Him;

I declare my trouble before Him.

I’ve been overwhelmed with images of children and parents separated from each other at our southern border. Psalm 142 conjures up feelings of dismay and despair as I picture these vulnerable people crying out for rescue and for the restoration of their families.

They have hidden a trap for me;

Look to the right and see for there is no one who regards me;

There is no escape for me; no one cares for my soul.

It must feel like a “trap” for these parents fleeing the violence and chaos of their homelands and making their way to this so-called “land of the free.” Surely it feels lonely and confusing when they don’t understand the language or the legal system. Even if they accept deportation, how do they leave their children behind?

No one cares…” I can only imagine their turmoil.

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Psalm 20

May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!

May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high!

May God send help from the sanctuary and support you from Zion!

Psalm 20 is categorized as a royal psalm, a liturgical blessing offered by the priests and the people for Israel’s king.

As much as this psalm sings of the monarch, however, it clearly places confidence in the LORD of Israel. In the psalmist’s theology, it is God who is ultimately responsible for the king’s successes.

May God grant your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans.

May we sing for joy over your victory!

In the name of our God we will set up our banners.

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Psalm 71

O God, from my youth you have taught me and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.

So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me until I proclaim your might to the generations to come.

Psalm 71 sings like a grandparent’s prayer.

Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.

My praise is continually of you.

Those of us who have earned some gray hairs come from a lifetime of experiences that shape our perspectives. We are able to carry a long vision that allows us insights that were not possible when we were younger.

The Two Halves of Life

Father Richard Rohr follows Carl Jung as they developed understandings about “the two halves of life.” During the first half, we build our sense of identity and security. During the second half, we seek a deeper sense of purpose.

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Psalm 41

How blessed are the ones who consider the helpless;

The Lord will deliver in a day of trouble;

The Lord will protect and keep alive

And they shall be called blessed upon the earth.

Psalm 41 completes “Book 1” of the Psalms. This psalm begins much as Psalm 1 begins: with a beatitude.

Blessed are the ones who take consideration for the helpless, the weak, the poor. It is these considerate ones who are blessed upon the earth.

The psalmist affirms once again a crucial theme of the First Book of the Psalms: the gracious and compassionate God is particularly committed to the weak, the poor, the needy and afflicted, the humble, meek and oppressed.

Liberation Theologies are drawn from this understanding and assert that God holds a “preferential option for the poor.”

Consequently those of us humans who also commit ourselves to these helpless ones are behaving the way God behaves and we too are blessed as we emulate the compassion of Creator-Redeemer-Sustainer.

Then our poet makes clear that he sees himself as one of the “helpless ones.”

He details some of the treacherous acts of his enemies and pleads for God’s intervention and salvation.

Even my close friend whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.

The treachery of a close friend, a person who has shared bread and trust – this kind of “enemy” brings especial grief and sorrow.

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Psalm 30

Weeping may linger for the night but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 30 sings some of our favorite phrases of hope and redemption.

You have turned my mourning into dancing.

In our Living in The Story readings, this psalm is coupled with the story of Job and seems to echo his experience. Job’s prosperity was plunged into lengthy devastation before he was restored to well being.

Job and Psalm 30 demonstrate the paradigm Walter Brueggemann articulates when he describes states of Orientation, Disorientation and New Orientation.

This is our human experience, Brueggemann believes, and The Psalms (and the characters in Job) speak to those back and forth, up and down cycles of confidence and confusion.

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