Posts tagged ‘Psalms’

Hope in the Psalms

Credit: Engin Akyurt / Pexels.com

Recently, life seems to have been a series of calamities.

COVID continues to ravage the world.

Those still struggling to leave Afghanistan are terrified for their very lives.

Countless communities are struggling to clean up after Ida.

Burnout, hopelessness, and despair feel like they’re everywhere.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about a way forward from all of this. But such a way seems elusive – at least right now.

Of course, calamity in life is nothing new, nor is it anything avoidable.

Theologians have noted that within the book of Psalms, there are different genres of Psalms:

There are Psalms of Praise that honor God for who He is.

There are Wisdom Psalms that offer guidance for and through life.

There are Royal Psalms that give thanks for the ancient kings of Israel and yearn for a coming king, sent by God, who can rule the world.

There are Psalms of Thanksgiving that reflect on the good things God has done.

And there are Psalms of Lament that shed tears when life does its worst to us.

It is, of course, not surprising to read of tears and fears when the Psalmist is lamenting some tragedy. What is surprising, however, is that in even many of the sunny Psalms, there are still notes of melancholy.

For example, Psalm 40 is a Psalm of Praise, but the Psalmist praises God because He has rescued him from a terrifyingly terrible time:

I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. (Psalm 40:1-2)

Psalm 104 also praises God, but nevertheless says of God:

When You hide Your face, Your creatures are terrified; when You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. (Psalm 104:29)

Though the Psalter has a few purely positive Psalms scattered throughout, for the most part, even the happiest of Psalms are salted with notes of need, sadness, judgment, and helplessness.

That is, until you get to the end of the book. The final Psalm sings:

Praise the LORD. Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens. Praise Him for His acts of power; praise Him for His surpassing greatness. Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise Him with the harp and lyre, praise Him with timbrel and dancing, praise Him with the strings and pipe, praise Him with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD. (Psalm 150:1-6)

Here is sheer praise – sheer joy. But it comes at the end of the book.

Though we may have moments in this life of pure joy, like the Psalms, for the most part, our lives are salted with notes of need, sadness, judgment, and helplessness. But the End is on its way when we – yes, even we who have lost our breath in death – will have our breath restored and we will praise the Lord.

As we continue to encounter calamity, may we look forward to that day when we praise God everlastingly.

September 13, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Forever and Ever and Ever

"The Road Goes on Forever" by Bob Jagendorf on flickr.com

There are some things we do not want to last forever.  I was reminded of this as I was reading Psalm 74 in my devotions this past week: “O God, why do You cast us off forever” (Psalm 74:1)?  The Psalmist is here lamenting God’s anger which has resulted in the dislocation of God’s people from their homeland by the Babylonians.  The Israelites, the Psalmist says, have been “cast off” by God.  And he’s worried that there may be no redemption.  He’s worried that they may be cast off forever.

There are some things that we do not want to last forever.  We do not want our workdays to last forever.  That’s why there are so many songs about the glories of five o’ clock.  We do not even want our vacations to last forever.  That’s why there are so many songs about the yearning to be home.  The Psalmist does not want his people’s exile to last forever.  That’s why he writes a song pleading with God to restore them by His good grace.  There are some things – and maybe even most things – that we do not want to last forever.  But there are some things that we do.

In 1 Peter 1, the apostle writes about the kind of eternity that every Christian should desire – the kind of thing that every Christian should want to last forever:  

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:3-6)

Peter says that in this world, like the Psalmist, we may have to suffer “all kinds of trials.”  We may feel like we have been cast off by God “forever.” But not to worry, Peter says, for these trials will only last “a little while.”   In fact, the Hebrew word for “forever” in Psalm 74:1 is nesach, which has a sense of “continually,” or “perpetually.”  God may have cast His people off again and again in judgment for the sin they have committed again and again, but that doesn’t mean that they must be cast off forever.  They can repent and God will restore them.  This is why the Psalmist continues, “Remember Your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which You have redeemed to the be tribe of Your heritage” (Psalm 74:2).  God will take His people back.  Their exile will not last forever.

There are some things that we do not want to last forever.  But there are some things that we do.  Peter says we have an inheritance that does indeed last forever.  It ‘s an inheritance that can “never perish, spoil, or fade.”  Why?  Because the One who holds our inheritance never perishes, spoils, or fades.  And He promises us that, by faith in Him, we too will never perish, spoil, or fade.  We will live with Him forever.  This is our inheritance.  And this is a forever inheritance that we should want.

There are some things that we do not want to last forever.  Life with Christ, however, is not one of these things.  For we were created by God to live forever.  But sin interrupted God’s forever plan.  Yet Christ, by His death and resurrection, put God’s forever plan back together.  And His forever plan is a forever that never gets old.

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October 31, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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