Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Penitential Psalms

IE:  The Confessing Psalms

Penitence = sorrow for sins, confessing sins.
Some entire psalms, some just portions of a psalm.

Written/read wherein the author (or reader)
       Confesses Sin - (and/or sinfulness)
and  Seeks forgiveness.

Typical elements of Penitential psalm include:
   (1)  recognition of sins (trespasses) and sin's seriousness  - commission and omission
  (2)  Confession and contrition  (sorrow, remorse, truly sorry for) - big difference between confession sin and being sorry for sin.
  (3)  request for God's mercy, forgiveness, and restoration of relationship.

Examples:  Psm. 32:1-7 - what has happened because of sin
                 Psm. 38:1-8, 18, 21-22
                 Psm. 130:1-8 - there is redemption
                 Psm. 143:1-2, 7-8

The Classic penitential psalm = Psm. 51 - central concept of being sorry for sins.
Psm.  51:1 - the introduction   2 Sam. 11-12 - the story
The Psalm - Psm. 51:1-19

So...... What can we learn about sin from Psalms?

#1)  Sin is very, very serious - affront to God, a detriment to the sinner, a detriment to society

#2)  God is Just  (in dealing with sin)
Example:  Old Testament Law taught - HE = Right   I = Wrong!!  Therefore, I deserve punishment!!  - Contrast today = I deserve blessing!!

#3)  I should therefore admit, confess, repent.....
*WITH Contrition   Job 42:5-6
Isa. 66:2 - (God speaking)  Matt. 5:3
(*if  not sorry??  Say so!!! He knows!!)

#4)  I am unable to rectify the situation  (caused by my sin)  ie:  I can't fix it, set it right!

Therefore, is reasonable to request...
(1)  Grace and Mercy - Psm. 51:1
Old Testament saints were aware of God's Justice AND Mercy!!  - Psm. 103:8-14

(2)  Forgiveness and cleansing
Because  sin is more than violation = spot, stain, blemish!!  (it colors me)    Psm. 51:7

(3)  Restoration  - because sin disrupts fellowship!  Psm. 51:12

(4)  Transformation  - Psm. 51:10  ("help me become who and what I should be....")

What we learn from Psalms is confirmed elsewhere in the scriptures!

What we don't learn from Psalms are the specifics of God's plan to deal with our sin(s)... ie:  THE GOSPEL (the plan)

Bridge Illustration = this is how God's going to get it done.
(1)  God's Love - John 3:16
(2)  God's Justice (judgment) - 1 Pet. 2:24
(3)  God's desire for reconciliation
He initiated, He built the bridge/made the way!
1 Pet. 3:18

In Psalms we learn (1) not to hide, deny, ignore our sins  and (2) come to God for forgiveness, cleansing, restoration.

from the Gospel we learn .. all this made possible through (the Person of) Jesus Christ.

So... if have never crossed -  (1) give it serious consideration and 2 cross over!

If have crossed - the Psalms should speak clearly to you!!!

Final words:  1 John 1:8-9, 2:1-2


Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Wisdom Psalms

Previous weeks = Praise Psalms, Thanksgiving Psalms, Lament Psalms, Cursing Psalms.

Today:  Wisdom Psalms  (those psalms (or parts of them) which teach wisdom.)

Generally we think of "psalms" as praise, thanksgiving, etc.  but some psalms INSTRUCT the reader in proper living!! 

Example:  Psm. 1:1-6 - no direct praise.  Rather = instructs and encourages in "Righteous living",  Which (in Jewish mind) = WISDOM. - no division between the two.

Definition of Wisdom:  (3 views/elevations)
I.)  Contemporary View = Knowledge, understanding (maybe with good sense, good judgment, ability to discern?)
Example:  aged professor who's been teaching college for 40 years and has a room full of books that he's read.

II.)  Eastern tradition/view (even outside Jewish notion) = a person who can apply that knowledge/understanding to PRACTICAL, EVERYDAY AFFAIRS.  ie:  more than head = HANDS!!!  (Right thinking AND right acting)
Contrast:  Man with 3 PhDs. and a professorship BUT can't get along with spouse, kids, neighbors, etc.

III.)  Biblical View (understanding) = recognizes all wisdom originates with GOD  therefore attempts to order his/her life WISELY .... according  to God's Revelations!!  Bible talks of two types of ppl:  wise and fool.  No in between area.

Which is who the Bible declares that WISDOM (1) begins with the "fear" (reverential awe) of the LORD - (true God) - Prov. 1:7
(2)  Builds  (accumulates, grows) on personal "trust" in God.  Prov. 3:5-6  with Prov. 3:7-8

Wisdom Psalms are not about "generic" wisdom but wisdom FROM GOD!!

On one hand, if searching for Wisdom - generally go to Proverbs. (which devotes itself to that subject)
However, mixed with Praise and Worship of the Psalms = healthy doses of instruction in Righteous Living (which = WISE Living)

Examples:  Psm. 36:1-4 - Scripture often presents people in 2 categories.  Proverbs - wise/fool.  Psalms = righteous/ unrighteous.
So.... looking again at Psm. 36:1-4 -  we see:  1) no fear of God
                                                                      2)  wise in own eyes
                                                                      3)  words of mouth are wicked
                                                                      4)  ceased to be wise
                                                                      5)  does not reject what is wrong.
Looks very much like current situation in 21st century America.

Psm. 37:1-9 - Compare with brief Proverbs: 
Prov. 37:16, 21, 27, 35-36

A common theme in Psalms = ultimate fate of the unrighteous.Psm. 52:1-7 contrast with Psm. 52:8-9

Another common theme:  deceit of worldly wealth
Psm. 73:1-28   (do you see the wisdom in this Psalm??)
                        (do you see the value of Meditating on this Psalm???)

Tidbits of wisdom are sprinkled throughout the Psalms:
Psm. 112:1, 112:4, 112:9-10
Psm. 127:  1-2

Encouragement in righteous living is promoted throughout the Psalms (AND Righteous living is equated with WISE LIVING!!)  Psm. 128:1-4, 133:1-3

The takeaway on this:
(1)  The Worship of God + the pursuit of wisdom are Biblically compatible!

(2)  One should lead to the other.  Wisdom will lead to worship of God which will lead to more wisdom which will lead to worship of God which will lead to wisdom - in an upward spiral.

Example:  Solomon's conclusion:  Eccles. 12:13-14

Note:  Psalms so far is mostly an Old Testament study.  BUT, the ultimate Revelation of God is not in Psalms, but in Christ!!!  (example:  the Incarnation)

Therefore:  Christ = the Source of our wisdom and the Focus of our Worship.  We come to the Father through Christ.

So..... ultimately - whether seeking wisdom .. or offering Worship ..

Our goal is knowing God THROUGH JESUS CHRIST!!

There ARE only two ways:  The way of the WISE and the way of the FOOL!  The wise person seeks wisdom and tries to put it into practice!!! 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Cursing Psalms

Previous weeks = Praise Psalms
                            Thanksgiving Psalms
                            Lament Psalms

Today:  The Cursing Psalms
Psm. 83:1-18 - Imprecatory, Maledictory - to invoke, call out, ask for calamity &/or misfortune
Psm. 109:1-15, 58:6-8

(1)  Imprecations (prayers) are found throughout Psalms - usually mingled w/lament and prayer for deliverance.
Psm. 79:1-5 = lament
Psm. 79:6 = imprecation
Psm. 79:9-11 - prayer for deliverance
Psm. 79:12 = imprecation

(2)  Imprecations are not unique to Psalms 
      Neh. 4:4-5 
      Hosea 9:14
      Jer. 18:19-23

(2)  Imprecations are not unique to Old Testament 
       Acts 13:8-11 - Peter & Barnabas on Cyprus)
       Gal. 1:8-9 - (with 1 Cor. 16:22, 1 Tim. 1:20)
       Matt. 23:13 - (w/Matt. 23:26, 26, 23, 25, 27, 29 - declaration or invocation?
       Rev. 6:9-10 - from heaven

How to answer this in light of New Testament teachings?
     Matt. 5:43-44
     Luke 6:27-29
     Luke 23:34
     Rom. 12:14, 17, 21

One one hand, we don't claim to have all the answers!!
However, do have some observations/considerations that may help!

(1)  The pray-er is observing (what appears to him to be) a grave injustice!!
In laments, often is against an impersonal force.  However, here = Personal Antagonist!! - person/people with free will and ill intent!!  determined to act.
(2)  The pray-er cries for justice from a just God
God has Revealed Himself as a Just God who is our Avenger  - Deut. 32.:1-4, 35
Pray-ers are praying for God to do what He said He would do.

(3)  The Pray-er is expressing deep human passion in light of grave human injustice
Psm. 137:1-9  (example:  you walk in these shoes)

(4)  Though the prayers are severe, the pray-er leaves the outcome in God's hands!  Prov. 26:2
Note:  David's prayers often more sever than his actions - example:  actions toward Saul - refused to raise his hand against God's anointed.
David wrote a large part of the imprecatory prayers.

(5)  These are more than personal enemies - - These are enemies of God's righteousness - (His law, rule, people, Kingdom, His Person!!)
Example:  Nuremberg trials - not against all German people, soldiers! 

(6)  The pray-er appeals to a just God ... as one of His personal subjects 
I'm your kid, these are your people - therefore:  Rise up!  in Anger!  Protect!  Avenge!

(7)  Though we may never be able to answer all questions and objections about imprecatory prayers, let us remember - we do not possess the wisdom of God.  Deut. 29:29 - Some things we don't know.  We are never going to know it all. 

So... what to do with these prayers?

#1.  Accept them as legitimate! - they are Scripture.  - 2 Tim. 3:16-17

#2.  Use them with great caution - James 1:19-20
When we are angry, usually do not act righteously.

#3.  Be careful of literal intent - Psm. 59:5, 13, 11 - example:  "drop dead!"  mean it literally???
Psm. 137:8-9 - Would you truly literally, physically want that???
Sometimes we go too far!

#4.  Use these as a plea for God's Righteousness .... NOT for petty, selfish issues.  (example:  neighbor's dog, cattle, music, etc.)

#5.  Read these in the light of the Cross - clearly God wants all men to be saved.
     (a)  Jesus died for my wickedness.
    (b)  God wants all men saved.   1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Pet. 3:9

Sample prayer: 
Lord, if these people really deserve this .....
         if this is within your will, desire, plan ....
         if this would really help your cause
        if I'm not blinded by my own selfish desires....
THEN Lord, do this and this ...
On the other hand, if I'm being narrow, selfish, and petty ...
Then Lord, ignore this plea, grant me illumination (help me see how selfish, petty, vindictive I am),
and give me grace to accept, repent - because You are LORD and I am not!!!

Closing Scripture:  Psm. 8:31-36,46-47

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Lament Psalms

We've looked at Praise and Thanksgiving Psalms.
Today - Psalms of Lament and Complaint - Psm. 88:1-18  - no word of praise in entire psalm.

Complaints = physical illness, weakness (wiped out,worn out physically)
(more often) = mental anguish, emotional distress
No sense of God's Presence, of God's concern.
Oppression by enemies, abandonment by friends, gross injustices ... prosperity of the wicked, constant troubles of the righteous.  Therefore ... confusion!  perplexity!

The writers express (mostly mental) pain, sorrow, loss, fear, confusion, discouragement, despair, depression.
A weariness with life!!

Laments = (1)  approximately 1/3 of the Psalms, (contain laments)
                 (2) they are part of the Hebrew Hymnal
                 (3)  are used for individual devotions AND public worship
                 (4)  part of inspired Scripture!  - came from God
                 (5)  not unique to Psalms.
Other lament scriptures:
Jer. 20:7-8
Job 6:1-4
Habakkuk 1:2-4
Ezek. 19:1, 14 - to be used as lament and sung as lament
Lamentations 1:1, 5

Laments were very common in Scripture.

AND (6) God does not respond with condemnation
Example:  Jesus - at Lazarus' tomb, weeping over Jerusalem  Psm. 22:1

Why a Lament?
(1)  Life is full of troubles - fallen world, fallen people - Job 5:7  (Eliphaz)
The Resurrection hasn't changed that!!

(2)  When we hurt we want to cry out - we are creatures of passion and expression.

(3)  (Apparently) that's OK   (sometimes)
Example:  Jesus - "Our Father ...."  Zeph. 3:16-17
(Contrast whining, murmuring - example:  the Exodus)  Laments are complaints TO God, not ABOUT God!!
You don't need a Psalm, a song, a poem to lament!

Simple Pattern:   

1)  A lament is a statement of faith and a cry for help - Psm. 70:1-5, 71:1-5

2)  A lament blends what you feel with what you know - (because we are creatures of fact and feeling)  Psm. 13:1-6

3)  A lament expresses your ultimate hope in a Sovereign AND Loving God.  Psm. 30:1-5, 11, 12

Closing Scripture:
Psm. 86:3-7, 12-13