Welcome back, everyone. I considered doing a Memorial Day post yesterday covering David’s lament over the deaths of King Saul and Jonathan in 2 Samuel 1:19-27, but I opted to take the day off and chill. In any event, I hope you had a good Memorial Day and reflected on those who gave their lives to ensure your security and freedom. And now that it’s Tuesday, let’s check out Psalm 27, another psalm where David is threatened by enemies but confident in God.
I’m noticing something: a recurring theme in David’s psalms is that he’s one of the good guys. You read a psalm like this, it’s like listening to one of those rap songs where the rapper brags about how great he is for four minutes. There’s a key difference, though: those rappers brag about how tight their flows are, how much wealth they own, how many women they have casual sex with, and how frequently they abuse controlled substances. What does David brag about? His integrity, his love for God, and his eschewal of alliance with evildoers.
Ever been ashamed? I remember in seventh grade, on the bus back from an end-of-semester reward trip, I had terrible adolescent B.O. and some kid very publicly dumped half a bottle of cologne on my shirt to cover the stench. It was hugely embarrassing, and after that, I started using deodorant regularly. But you know what’s really embarrassing? When the troubles of your heart are enlarged, and your enemies, who are many, hate you with violent hatred. Just super-embarrassing.
We’ve got another psalm of orientation on our hands today. There are no marauding liars, no sleepless nights: just another song extolling the virtues of the king. But hold on–this isn’t another nationalistic ode to the king of Israel. David’s not talking about himself here, but about the King of the World: the Creator of heaven and earth.
Psalm 23: a mainstay of everyone’s “favorite psalm” lists. Sometimes I have trouble going to sleep. My mind keeps thinking about everything under the sun, and it refuses to shut off. But when this happens, I often recite portions of Psalm 23 to calm myself down, notably the first three verses–which explains why I get rusty toward the end. But it works! The repetition helps keep my mind from running with no direction from problem to problem, anxiety to anxiety. It focuses my mind and calms it down so I can sleep.
You likely know today’s passage, Psalm 22, as the psalm whose first line Jesus quoted on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It’s also known for containing several Messianic prophecies. It describes David under pressure, surrounded by enemies, suffering and troubled, a common subject for his psalms. But it’s also a psalm of reorientation, and it comes to a place of hope at the end.
So here’s Psalm 21. Oh, great, more stuff about kings! I already spent all I got on kings in yesterday’s post. How am I supposed to come up with more 21st-century life application wisdom from this anthem for the king, by the king? This thing’s a modern-day minefield.
Some poetry is very much a product of its time and place. Consider, for example, this psalm, written in the turn-of-the-10th-century BC kingdom of Israel. It’s a communal psalm, meant for the community of God’s people to sing together: “We will sing for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners” (5). The people recognize themselves as “we” and speak to a singular “you,” expressing their desire for the “you’s” blessing from God. And the name of the God in which they’ll set up their banners? It’s YHWH, the Creator worshiped by the Hebrew people.
We can easily divide Psalm 19 into two separate passages, each with its own theme. Verses 1-6 consider the universe and personify it as “telling of the glory of God” (1). Verses 7-14 consider the goodness of God’s law and teaching as given in scripture, as well as David’s personal response to God’s word. The two sections correspond roughly to the categories of general and special revelation–but this is a psalm here, not a theology textbook. Let’s dig in.
Welcome back to Psalm 18, gang. It should come as no surprise that a psalm of this length contains more material than I can adequately cover in one post. I’d wanted to tackle the issues raised by David’s triumphant destruction of his foes, but I didn’t get to yesterday, so we’re revisiting the passage to deal with its difficult questions, because the Bible is a Chocolate Book. David writes that God has “rescued him from the violent man” (48), but is he himself just like the violent men he counts as his enemies? And is God complicit in his brutality?