In 1995, Jars of Clay released their self-titled debut album. You may remember the track “Flood,” which was a crossover success in both mainstream rock and Christian music. As a junior high schooler and pencil-necked geek, I had only the vaguest sense that something unusual was going on when I heard “Flood” both at youth group meetings and on the radio at the fitness center pool. “Flood” uses the metaphor of a flood to represent overwhelming distress that drives us to rely on God. Despite the line “If I can’t swim after forty days,” the band has stated that the song “is not about Noah”–but I’ll bet you anything it was inspired by Psalm 69.
Just so you’ve got an overview of Psalm 68, for that inevitable moment when I zero in on a single line in this 35-verse behemoth: it’s about God’s strength, his protection of his people, and his triumph over evildoers. And when I say “behemoth,” I mean by comparison to its immediate surroundings. The psalms in proximity have been ten, maybe twenty verses long, but man, we ain’t even near Psalm 119 yet. Psalm 119! Dang, son.
Today’s passage: Psalm 67 Today’s chocolate: Green & Black’s Organic 85% Dark Chocolate Psalm 67 is another psalm for the community of God’s people to sing to God. It mixes worship and petitionary prayer, often in the same breath: “Lord, show the nations your greatness that they may praise you” is a prominent theme in its seven […]
Imagine you’re in the kingdom of ancient Israel, singing Psalm 66 with your countrymen, as it would have been sung historically. You sing the opening lines: “Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious” (1-2). You and those around you are not directly addressing God; you are actually singing to each other. You are calling each other to worship.
Psalm 65 is a song of praise; it praises God first for his blessings toward humankind, especially in the Jewish temple, then for his power in shaping physical geography in mountains and seas, and finally for providing food and prosperity through the harvest season. There’s your overview of the psalm, but today I’m struggling to come up with something to say about it. I’ve been rereading it off and on all morning and into the afternoon as I do my things, and the whole thing is just turning into a bunch of words from overexposure. It’s like, God establishes the mountains by His strength, being girded with might (6). What more is there to say about that?
Psalm 64 isn’t the first psalm we’ve seen that devotes a large passage to characterizing evildoers. I’m reminded of Psalm 12, in which David describes liars that he thought he could trust, and I could easily dig out more examples from the psalms we’ve already surveyed. But here David uses an archery metaphor not only for wicked men, but also for God’s response to their plotting. Let’s take a closer look at the picture he paints.
Yesterday, in Psalm 62, David let us know that when his enemies are out to kill him, he wants his stronghold to be not a tangible, brick-and-stone stronghold, but the invisible, non-physical God of Israel, YHWH. Today, as we read Psalm 63, we discover that when he is on the verge of dehydration, he is thirsty not for actual thirst-quenching water, but the non-potable, undrinkable God of–you see where this is going, right?
Psalm 62 has a chorus, of sorts. David opens the psalm with the following lines: “My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken” (1-2). He repeats them in verses 5-6, with two differences: the first line becomes a command, “My soul, wait in silence…” (5), and the second line becomes “For my hope is from Him” (5). This is a tall order; how exactly are you going to rely on an invisible, intangible entity to be something so solid as a rock and a stronghold and save you from your enemies? Wouldn’t you be better off counting on, say, an actual rock or stronghold?
You know, I could swear David has described God as a tower before. But no: the Hebrew word for “tower,” migdal, only appears twice in the Psalms. We’ve seen it once before in Psalm 48, which says, “Walk about Zion and go around her; count her towers” (48:12). That’s not a metaphor for God! Those are the literal towers of an actual physical location! And Psalm 48 isn’t even by David; it’s a psalm of the sons of Korah! And like me, you might think that the well-known verse “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe” is from the Psalms, but like me, you would be wrong. It’s Proverbs 18:10.
Growing up, my brother and I learned to be polite. I was born in Texas, and until the age of eight, I lived in the Carolinas. While I’m glad that my parents refrained from drilling into me the traditional southern “yes sir, yes ma’am,” they did insist that my “yes” be “yes” and my “no” be “no”–none of that “yeah” or “nah.” Whenever someone did something for you, you thanked them. And when you asked for something? You said “please.” To issue a command without the polite qualifier was rude.