Thursday, May 29, 2014

Bible Challenge: Still more psalms

This week we read Psalm 91 through 125

This means that we read the first of the Psalms of Ascent - Psalms 120 - 134.  These were the psalms that the people of Israel sang as they ascended into Jerusalem - they came to be connected with the Passover, when as many people as possible came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.

The best known is probably Psalm 121.  "I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where is my help to come?  My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth"

This is the psalm that promises the presence and the help of God with us as we go.

Try reading the Psalms of Ascent as a unit - imagine yourself chanting them while you walked through the desert to the Holy place of God.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bible Challenge: More Psalms

This week we read psalms 61 - 90

I want to look at the last psalm in book 2 - Psalm 72.

Psalm 72 is one of the royal psalms - the heading - of Solomon is found in only two psalms; this one and psalm 127.

Verses 1 through 4 honor the king as a provider of justice
Verses 5-8 are a prayer for the long reign of the king
Verses 9 -11 lists the tributes brought to the king by foreign nations
Verses 12 -15 restate the first 11 verses
Verses 16 & 17 are a prayer for the king's heirs

Verses 18  - 20 are the doxology at the end of the second section of psalms

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bible Challenge: Psalms

This week we read Psalms 35 - 60

This finished the first book and moved into the second.

There are several Psalms in this that are worthy of comment - but there are two that I want to focus on - 42 and 51

Psalm 42 is an individual lament.  The refrain - that you find in verses 6 and 12 - is also repeated in verse 5 of Psalm 43 - that leads some scholars to think that these two were once one psalm.

The prominent image in the psalm is that of water - it moves from the stream to the psalmist's tears to the sea.  This is a psalm of lament of exile.  It has resonated with many people through many centuries.

Psalm 51 is used in the Episcopal liturgy on Ash Wednesday.  It is also an individual lament.  The historical heading connects the psalm to David's adultery with Bathsheba.  Verses 3-9 are prayers of pardon and confession.  Verses 10 - 14 are prayers of restoration. Verses 15 -19 are praise of God before the community.  Verses 20-21 are prayers for the restoration of Jerusalem.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Beginning of Wisdom

We begin part of the Bible known as "Wisdom literature".  This is Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon.  They are known as wisdom but a better word might be poetry.  The Psalms are the songs of the nation of Israel, Proverbs is poetic writing, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon are long poems of praise and theological reflection.

Today we begin the book of Psalms.  This is the hymnal of the people of Israel.  The psalms came into being over a long period of time and were finally edited into the form we have them now around the time of Jesus.

The titles of the psalms contain directions to the musicians and some technical terms - that we don't any long know what they mean - "Selah" being the most common.

The book of Psalms is actually divided into 5 books. Psalms 1-41; 42-72; 73-89; 96-106 and 107-150.  There are five books to imitate the 5 books of the Torah.  Each of the first four books ends with a doxology - a praise of God not a part of the psalm that it seems to be attached to.

The Psalms fall into 6 categories:

Hymns of Praise - these are Psalms 8,19,29,33,65,66, 100,104, 105, 111,113,114, 117, 135, 136, 145, 146 and 148-150

Laments - these are psalms of complaint to God - they usually resolve into praise - see Psalm 4 as an example

Royal Psalms - there are royal laments, royal thanksgivings and royal psalms of praise - but in all of them the king is the speaker or the focus of attention - see Psalm 2 for an example

Wisdom Psalms - those with connections to other wisdom books - see Psalm 1 as an example

Liturgical Psalms - for use in the temple - see Psalm 15

and Historical Psalms - that recount God's works in history - for example Psalm 48