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.
How many gods are there? Just one. But also several.
This psalm is a call to worship. In the span of the first two verses, the psalmist uses the phrase “Let us shout joyfully,” with God on the receiving end of the people’s shouts of praise. I was tempted to look up the Hebrew word for “shout,” and perhaps there’s some hidden nuance in the original Hebrew language here. But today I’m gonna take the translator of the NASB at his word. It’s reasonable to expect that “shout” means “shout.” The psalmist is inviting the people to go loud.
Last chapter of Isaiah, fam. Time to tie a bow on this book.
You know the grapes of wrath, right? No, not the novel by John Steinbeck; he based the title of his novel on the phrase “grapes of wrath” from the first verse of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, also known as “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.” You know the line, right? “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord: / He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” Well, that refers back to Revelation 14:17–21, in which an angel executes God’s judgment on the earth by harvesting “grapes” for the winepress of the wrath of God. Before the basket press and horizontal screw press became widely used in the late Roman Empire and early Middle Ages, workers would juice grapes by stomping on them–and in the winepress from John’s vision in Revelation, the workers in the winepress squeeze out blood that runs for two hundred miles. And I used to think the chain of references ended there, but no.