The Two Counsellors

Today’s reading is Psalm 36.

While it is perfectly legitimate to pigeonhole the genre of a psalm as you start to study it, if you forget that the labels we attribute to psalms are not God-inspired, you can miss the trees for the forest. This happens for many with Psalm 36. Is it a wisdom psalm? Is it a praise psalm? Is it a lament? There are elements of each of these genres in this psalm. These attempts to pin down a genre cause some to suggest this psalm is a hodgepodge of multiple ancient psalms thrown together without unity.

That, however, misses the big picture of what is going on here. Once again, we are being taken back to the very first psalm. However, this time there is a twist.

In Psalm 1, the two people being counseled are contrasted: the blessed and the wicked. The blessed listen to God, the wicked listen to…well…other wicked people. In Psalm 36, the two counsellors are contrasted: God and sin.

In this psalm, David personifies sin much like Paul does in Romans 7. Sin counsels and leads. But sin’s counsel is deceptive and destructive. On the other hand, God also calls to David. David knows God’s counsel is anchored in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is no fool. He chooses God to be his counsellor. More than that, he chooses God to be his defender against Sin and those who heed its counsel.

In Psalm 1, we had a choice between ways. In Psalm 36, we have a choice between guides. Choose wisely!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 36.

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Whom Did They Hate without Cause?

Today’s reading is Psalm 35.

Without cause, they hid a net to trap the psalmist. Without cause, they dug a pit for the psalmist to fall in. Why? Because without cause, they hated the psalmist. But who is it they really hate without cause?

John 15:25 explains they really hate Jesus without cause. Once again, while this psalm is about David, it is ultimately about Jesus.

Did you notice the connection to Psalm 22, a psalm everyone agrees is about Jesus because He quotes it on the cross? In Psalm 22:21-22, the big shift in the psalm happens. The speaker is saved from the mouth of the lion. Then He will praise God in the midst of the congregation. In Psalm 35:17, He asks to be rescued from the lions. In vs. 18, He promises to thank God in the congregation.

Psalm 35 is not a foretelling of the Messiah, of Jesus. However, when Jesus is falsely accused and the enemies put Him on trial, threatening His life, we say, “Hmmmm…that sounds kind of like a guy who would pray, ‘Contend for those who contend with me.'” When we hear about Jesus facing traps, false accusers, malicious witnesses, folks who rejoice at His death, we say, “I think I’ve read about something like this before.” When we hear about people testifying to the things they saw from Jesus, but they are lies, we think about those who cry, “Aha, Aha! Our eyes have seen it!” And, of course, did you read what I shared with your kids yesterday? When we hear specifically about a Jesus whose bones were unbroken, we can’t help but come back to this psalm and the previous to read of one whose bones are unbroken (Psalm 34:20) and those same bones rejoice (Psalm 35:9-10). When we witness Jesus praying three times in Gethsemane, we are reminded of the triple prayer of request for deliverance in Psalm 35.

As with other psalms, the point is not so much reading a foretelling prophecy and seeing its fulfillment in Jesus as if it is proof that Jesus really is the Messiah. Rather, its about recognizing that Jesus did more than fulfill foretelling prophecies. Rather, He reiterated David. He reiterated Israel. He fulfilled the entire Old Testament story, walking in the footsteps of so many of God’s servants, but doing so perfectly and without mistake.

After all, as we say again and again, David can only claim that there was no cause to hate him in a modified sense. For instance, I think Ahithophel had all kind of cause to hate David (see 2 Samuel 11:3; 23:34). But there was absolutely no reason to hate Jesus. Even Pilate knew he was innocent.

The psalm divides the world into two groups: those who deny the righteousness of Jesus and those who delight in the righteousness of Jesus. Let us be those who delight in it. Let us be those who shout for joy and are glad that the Lord delighted in the welfare of Jesus, His Servant, and delivered His soul from the grave.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 36.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes to listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post!

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Rejoice! Rejoice! And Again, I Say, Rejoice!

Today’s reading is Psalm 35.

Psalm 35 is easily broken into three sections, three prayers if you will. The first section is vss. 1-10. The second vss. 11-18. The third vss. 19-28. Do you notice anything similar between the last verses of these sections?

Each section/prayer ends with rejoicing and praise.

This isn’t quite Psalm 33. Psalm 33 is in a time usually reserved for lament, but it is completely full of praise, rejoicing, and thanksgiving. In this week’s psalm, there is a good deal of lamenting. Yet, even the laments end with rejoicing, thanksgiving, and praise or the promise to do so when the requests are granted.

The first prayer ends with a promise of personal rejoicing and praise. The second ends with a promise to personally rejoice, praise, and give thanks among the congregation. The third invites the rest of the congregation to rejoice, praise, and give thanks along with the psalmist.

Paul tells us to give thanks in all circumstances (see 1 Thessalonians 5:18). David gives us an example of how to do just that. What can you thank God for today? What can you praise God for today? How can you rejoice today?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 35.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes and listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post.

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On Fear and Wisdom

Today’s reading is Psalm 34.

I understand why we do it, but I sometimes wonder if the modern attempt to classify psalms doesn’t miss the boat. “This psalm is a communal lament.” “That psalm is an individual praise.” “This other psalm is a Messianic psalm.” “That one is a wisdom psalm.” It is amazing to me the number of times the commentators have to say, “This psalm is hard to classify. It has some qualities of this kind of psalm, but also some qualities of that kind of psalm.” Honestly, it’s almost like they have forgotten that the Psalms didn’t come with a guide book explaining the various kinds of psalms and all their characteristics. From beginning to end all those systems of classifications are man made. They don’t tell us so much about the psalm we are studying as they tell us about our modern penchant to need to organize, classify, systematize, and order. If we are not careful, we may end up reading the psalms through our modern eyes and missing what the original authors intended.

This is another one of those psalms we classifiers struggle with. Is it a praise psalm or is it a wisdom psalm? David praises God, he calls all of his readers to praise God with him. It’s a praise psalm, right? But wait, based on the praise he teaches his audience how to live. It’s a wisdom psalm, right? Maybe it’s both. Or maybe, we just have to realize God didn’t label these psalms, and we don’t have to either.

I’ll tell you what we can see in this psalm no matter what we label it. David says, “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (vs. 11, ESV). In our modern day, we struggle with being taught to fear the Lord. However, ancient wisdom said we should fear the Lord, and we need to be taught how. Apparently, despite our modern conceptions of fear, it isn’t a natural reaction to the power of God, it is a learned response to the truth of God. Proverbs 15:33 says the fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom. Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, and Proverbs 9:10 all claim the fear of the Lord is the beginning of the wisdom.

What does fearing the Lord look like? I can tell you this: it doesn’t look like cowering in your closet, hoping the Lord will ignore you or forget you are hiding there. It looks like keeping your tongue from evil and deceit, turning away from evil, doing good, seeking peace and pursuing it. For more on this, you might want to read the New Testament letter from James.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 34.

PODCAST!!!

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Answered!

Today’s reading is Psalm 22.

The entire tenor of the psalm changes at Psalm 22:22. It started as an extreme lament; so dismal we can hardly find a time to actually place it in David’s life. It becomes an extreme praise and thanksgiving; so exuberant it asserts praise not only from the psalmist, not only from the congregation of God’s people, but from the entire world. It is so intense and amazing, we can hardly imagine anyone whose deliverance and salvation would warrant such reaction from the whole world. What produced such an extreme swing? Read vs. 21b: “Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!” (ESV). Though that conveys the excitement and reality that would produce such a shift, it actually clouds the really important point David was making. Consider the NKJV: “Save me from the lion’s mouth and from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered me” (NKJV). I know “rescued” sounds so much more exciting than “answered,” but “answered” is intended to connect us back to vs 2 in which David was receiving no answer. What is the shift? Psalm 22:1-21a is the dismal lament of the one whose request has not been granted though it has been made over and over again, day and night. Psalm 22:22-31 is the exuberant praise and thanksgiving of the one whose requests have been granted. In a very real sense, Psalm 22 mirrors Psalms 20 and 21. Psalm 20 is the prayer for requested blessing on the king as he goes out to battle. Psalm 22:1-21a is the prayer of the king himself in the midst of the battle, but it isn’t going his way. Psalm 22:22-31 is the king’s prayer of thanksgiving and praise when the battle finally turns his way by the grace of God. Psalm 21 is the prayer of thanksgiving offered by the people when the king comes back victorious. Honestly, we likely go back and forth between the two halves of the psalm. Remember, the same God rules in both halves. If you want to be able to offer the praises of the second half of Psalm 22, you have to hang on to God and await His answers while living through the first half of Psalm 22. Yes, He may wait to grant your request until the dogs circle, the mouth of the lion closes, the horns of the oxen vault you in the air. But He will answer. He will deliver. You are not forsaken. You are answered! Hang on!!!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 22.

PODCAST!!!

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Salvation from Zion

Today’s reading is Psalm 14.

Many people struggle with this psalm. They aren’t sure what to make of it. One of the very first things students usually want to do with a psalm is label it. Is it communal or individual, is it lament or praise, is it wisdom or messianic. They struggle with pigeonholing this one. It starts by talking about fools; so some claim it is a wisdom psalm. However, it clearly demonstrates the wickedness of the wicked as they oppress the poor; so others claim it is a lament. But notice how it ends. It ends looking for salvation from Zion. It is not if, but when. The psalmist may have had all kinds of ideas about what that might look like, but we actually know, don’t we? Jesus went to the cross on Mt. Zion. He was buried on Mt. Zion. And He arose on Mt. Zion. Salvation came from Mt. Zion. We can rejoice. We can be glad. Not because we are confident something will happen in the future, but because we know it has already happened. There was actually a great big exception to all that this psalm had said. There was One who was no fool. There was One who never turned to corruption. There was One who never did abominable deeds. There was One who sought after God. He was the righteous. He was the only One righteous in His generation. And the wealthy and powerful tried to shame His plans, but the Lord was His refuge. He committed His Spirit into God’s hands. And He burst forth from the grave on Zion bringing salvation in His wake. Perhaps this psalm is Messianic after all. Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Psalm 15.

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