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Psalm Reflections for Psalms 58-75

We continue our journey of “eating” a psalm a day. That is, reading it, pondering it, and wondering about it. Please note: we haven’t offered a reflection for absolutely every psalm, and some of these are shorter so that we could cover more psalms for the summer.

Previous Psalm reflections are found in the Connecting with You messages going back to May 1st when we started. 

We pray that God's spirit will inspire, comfort and challenge you as you journey with us through the daily reading of the psalms.

And have a good summer - renewing, refreshing, relaxing.

Rev. Susan & Rev. David

 

Psalm Reflections for the next two weeks

Psalm 58

This psalm reflects the fact that in the cultures surrounding the Jewish people there are many gods who are worshipped. The unique feature of the Jewish faith as it was established was that it was centred on One God – “thou shalt have no other gods before me” as the ten commandments declare.   This psalm writer prays for vengeance against the other gods and the wickedness they encourage among peoples.

 

We are so used to believing in One God – but are there actually other “gods” that capture too much priority and attention in our lives and in our society – money, fame, material wealth?

 

Psalm 59

There had to have been a great deal of tribal warfare going on during the times when these psalms are written. Over and over again, we hear this call for God to deliver, God to be the fortress, God to triumph, God to laugh at the other nations. There is a deep sense that the One God is the God of Israel. Yet at the same time, the rabbis reminded people that God cared for the other nations and called upon the Israelites to welcome the stranger and provide food and hospitality for them. It is a reminder that our desire for vengeance is not be God’s desire.   God is for us – but God is also for all of creation.

  

Psalm 60

How do we make sense of suffering and tragedy? How do we make sense of devastating circumstances? For the psalmist and for the Hebrew people, God was the cause of everything, good and evil. The concept of a separate evil entity, named Satan or the Adversary, comes later. At this point, people believe that everything comes from God. So, “you have rejected us, o God…you have made your people suffer hard things; you have given us wine to drink that made us reel."

 

It is human nature to try to make sense of what we are facing, to try to give meaning to suffering. I tend to think that it is not God who causes our suffering but that we often do a good job ourselves causing our own suffering as a species. Yet, on an individual level, suffering can come from what others do to us or from circumstances beyond our control. So there is no easy answer to suffering. But there is the reassurance that God is with us, we are not alone. And we are always welcome, like the psalm writer, to vent our frustration, our fears, our worries, and our anger to God.

 

Psalm 61

By now you’ll have noticed that certain themes and images keep winding their way back through the psalms. “Hear my cry, O Lord, let me find refuge under the shelter of your wings.”

 

I love the line “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I for you are my refuge.” It is an interesting image. When we stand on a rock higher than ourselves we gain a new perspective. We gain a bigger picture and can see a longer distance.   What is your “rock”? Where do you go or who do you talk to in order to get a bigger perspective on a situation you are in?   Prayer also offers a way of getting a bigger perspective, as we release the situation into God’s hands and ask for wisdom.

 

This is a time when we long for a bigger perspective. I’d love a rock high enough to stand on so that I could see how this pandemic will end. But that is not knowledge available to us. So for now we shelter under God’s wings.

 

Psalm 62

For God alone my soul waits in silence. That refrain is repeated several times throughout the psalm – and out of the silent waiting comes the response. The psalm ends with “Once God has spoken; twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God."

 

One of the gifts of the time of quarantine has been silence. I know that silence is not comfortable for everyone. I remember once when I was swimming laps at the High River pool, the lifeguard turned the music up. One of the things that I like when I’m swimming laps is the quiet and the silence, so I asked if he could turn the sound down a bit.   He responded, “If I turn it down, I could hear myself think. I wouldn’t like that.” How odd, I thought, as I swam with loud music that day. How odd, to fear being able to hear oneself think.

 

Yet in silence, we not only hear our own thoughts, but we have the opportunity to still our thoughts and listen for God. Perhaps God needs to speak once, maybe twice, maybe more – but as people seeking to deepen our faith our souls wait in silence.

 

Psalm 63

This psalm was introduced to me by a woman in our Rolling Hills congregation in the early 90s. She was nearing the end of her long life and every time I visited she asked me to read this psalm to her – verses 1 to 8 were the ones that brought her comfort.

 

The psalm has stayed with me, and I return to it often. There are so many beautiful lines: “Your steadfast love is better than life.” “My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast.” And “When I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night,.. in the shadow of your wings I sing for you.”

 

I do find that when I wake in the middle of the night, the best way to calm my mind and return to sleep is to begin to pray. Sometimes I pray the Lord’s Prayer. Sometimes I pray for family and friends. This meditating on God in the watches of the night leads me back into rest beneath God’s wings. What a gift this psalm is!

  

Psalm 64

Another psalm calling upon God for help, this time with a complaint. The psalmist isn’t satisfied that God is doing everything possible to deal with enemies and evil doers.

 

It shows us that we can take everything to God. We don’t have to edit our thoughts and feelings – because God already knows them. We can lay it all before God. God will receive it and not punish us for our thoughts and feelings. God knows already and God is there as refuge and strength.

 

Psalm 65

This psalm celebrates God as the mighty and awesome Creator. As you read this psalm (and Genesis 1), remember that at this point, people believed that the earth was a flat island. A dome above the earth (the sky) held back the waters above the earth. Waters were at the edge and under the earth. The sun and moon moved across the dome of the sky (not the earth around the sun). A door exists in the dome through which God allows rain to come. Imagine this as you read the psalm.

 

Some beautiful lines celebrate God’s creation: You crown the year with your bounty, the pastures of the wilderness overflow and the hills gird themselves with joy!

 

Psalm 66

This is the first of several psalms that invite us to “Make a joyful noise to God all the earth.” The one we know best is Psalm 100.

 

This too celebrates all that God has done, with a reference in verse 6 to the Exodus from Egypt – turned the sea into dry land. The psalmist gives thanks that God is with us through fire and flood – bringing us to a spacious place.  

 

I look forward to the day when we reach a spacious place (not because of physical distancing) on the other side of this pandemic.

 

Psalm 67

This beginning of this psalm provide a blessing that has often been used at the end of worship: May God be gracious to us and bless us; may God make his face to shine upon us and grant us peace.  

 May that blessing settle upon you today!

 

Psalm 68

This is another psalm calling upon God’s help. In verse 5, it becomes a prayer for others, calling upon God as the “father of orphans and protector of widows” to provide a home for the desolate, to lead prisoners to freedom and prosperity.   But then the psalmist soon returns to a prayer that the rebellious would end up living in a parched land, along with other prayers for the wicked to be defeated.

 

Who would you pray for today? Who needs protection and a home that is safe and secure? Who needs to be freed from a situation in which they are bound?

  

Psalm 69

This is a psalm for a time of grief. “Save me, o God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire where there is no foothold… the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying…my eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.”

 

How often in deep grief might these words express what we are feeling! While the psalm writer goes on to name why they are feeling this way, we can use these words to express our own situation of overwhelming grief. Tears may come and we may fear, like the psalmist, that we will drown in our own tears. Yet, tears are the way through. We need to cry. Tears provide the healing and release that will eventually lead us to the other side.

 

For as the psalmist reassures: “The Lord hears the needy and does not despire his own that are in bonds.”

 

Psalm 70

Another short psalm calling upon God for help in a time of need.

 

Psalm 71

This psalm reflects God as a midwife, one who supports us through the labours of life. We hear this in verse 6: “Upon you I have learned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.”

 

We find many images for God in this psalm: “Rock of Refuge”, “Strong Fortress”, “My Hope and My Trust”, “Holy Midwife.”

 

What image do you love best for God? What image might you consider that you had not previously considered? Remember that no one image can describe everything about the Creator of the Universe.

 

Psalm 72

This psalm is a prayer for the king, asking for blessing upon the king but also that the king will remember to defend the cause of the poor, deliver those in need, and crush the oppressor.

 

I invite you to pray for our government leaders and officials today, in our country and around the world, even for those you don’t agree with. Pray that they might have the wisdom, the courage and the compassion they need to care for their people and guide their nations through this pandemic time.

 

Psalm 73

This psalm begins Book 3 within the book of Psalms. This now moves us out of the psalms considered to have been written by King David or for King David by the court musicians. We now move into a more general collection of psalms, written possibly by the temple musicians. The psalms were originally sung, though we have no record of the tunes.

 

So many of the psalms are very personal, speaking from an “I” point of view, such as this psalm. This psalm expresses a feeling of bitterness. The psalm writers declares “I was stupid and ignorant, a brute beast.”   Yes, there are times when we get down on ourselves, frustrated.

 

Yet, the reassurance is there “Nevertheless, I am continually with you, o God, you hold my hand…. for me it is good to be near you, o God. I have made you my refuge.”

 

Psalm 74

This psalm expresses a sense of abandonment. “There no longer is any prophet, anyone to lead us, anyone among us who knows how long and can show us the way.” Leaders have abandoned the people and they may even feel that God has abandoned them too.

 

You can probably name times in your life where you have felt abandoned – by friends, by family, and/or by your faith. It is a lonely time, a devastating time.

 

Yet this psalm calls us to remember that God does not abandon us. It may appear that way; it may seem as if God has held back God’s hand.

 

But then the psalm writer remembers the mighty ways that God has worked in creating the earth, and calls once again upon God for help.

 

Psalm 75

This psalm is connected with the psalm before. It also captures the understanding of the time that the earth is flat – balanced on pillars (verse 3) which God keeps steady.

 

This psalm, in response to psalm 74, declares that God is at work, that the ways of the wicked will be addressed. (Does it really suggest in verse 8 that God is going to poison the wicked – or is it that the wicked will with delight grab the cup of poison? Hmmm)

 

As always, the response is one of rejoicing and praise.  

 

And NOW we are ½ way through the psalms. What an amazing journey!

 

With love and blessings,

Rev. Susan & Rev. David

High River United Church – a community of help, home & hope

“Just to be is a blessing; just to live is holy.” A. Heschel

www.highriverunitedchurch.org

 

 

 

 


 

 


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