Who should praise God? The beings in the heavens and the beings on the earth. And why should they praise him? Because he is the greatest being. There, that’s Psalm 148. Good work, everyone; see you tomorrow.
Seriously? In today’s entry, I’m going to end up talking about Axiom Verge? I’m trying to think of anything else the passage brings to mind, any other thoughts whatsoever, and nope: it’s gonna be Axiom Verge. For the uninitiated, Axiom Verge is a retro-style side-scrolling action-adventure game in the vein of Metroid, in which a scientist apparently dies in a lab accident and finds himself in a hostile alien otherworld.
I’ve never been in a fistfight. One time I got into a tussle with my brother and shoved him into a pine bush (which I almost immediately regretted), but I’ve never thrown a real, honest-to-goodness, let’s-hurt-someone punch. David, on the other hand, has been in battles. He’s used a sling to kill lions and bears and a huge Philistine warrior; he’s picked up a sword and fought people who want to kill him. Dude wasn’t just a king and a musician, he was also a soldier. So, you know, psalms like Psalm 140 are a little foreign to me.
Got enemies? Foes? Nemeses? If you’re doing something right, you’re probably going to draw some heat for it. (Let the record show that I don’t have any enemies.) Psalm 129 is a song for coping with having enemies, if you’re ancient Israel. It’s also a Song of Ascents.
I expect that lyrical repetition has been around for as long as singing itself. It’s a potent device. If you want to write a hit pop song, get yourself a simple, singable chorus and a catchy hook, and lean into it hard: just drill it into your listeners’ heads. And whatever lyrical gymnastics you’re pulling off in your rap track, whatever rapid-fire vocals and complex internal rhymes, make sure you’ve got a good call-and-response chorus to get the audience bouncing. And to go back further, if you’re an ancient Hebrew lyricist, you too can put these techniques to work. Enter Psalm 118.
Sometimes the psalm summarizes itself for you. Consider the opening lines of today’s psalm: “How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments!” (112:1). The rest of the psalm is basically a litany of blessings for the man who fears the Lord. He receives a well-established family tree, material wealth, a good legacy, victory over his adversaries, and more. But let’s zero in on a verse in the middle of the psalm, characterizing this man of many blessings. The man is merciful–and a creditor.
I’m having trouble finding it, but I swear we’ve seen a psalm like this before: written by the king, extolling the king. Psalm 110 is another psalm of David, and the NASB has provided a perfectly serviceable summary: “The Lord Gives Dominion to the King.” It’s also a Messianic Psalm. If you’ve read one of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) or checked out the book of Hebrews, you may recognize a few verses from this psalm that were also quoted by those New Testament writers. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews takes this psalm as referring to the Messiah–and so does Jesus.