September 26, 2022: Day 208 – Psalm 119

And just like that we come to the end.  We began on January 3 with Psalm 119 and so it is fitting that we finish with the same Psalm.  It is the longest in the Bible and it is an acrostic poem, which means that each line in the psalm, and there are 22 of them, begins with the next letter of the alphabet, and there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet.  

It is an absolutely comprehensive look at how we ought to live our lives in relationship to God.  It also gives us all the assurances that we could ever want about the presence of God in our lives.  We also find in vs.105 the foundation of why we are reading the Scripture together as we read: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."  Praise be to God for God's word.

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September 24, 2022: Day 207 – Romans 5-8 and Isaiah 55, 61

We have read these Scriptures alread, but each of them is worth reading again, and again, and again.  In the Romans reading we find the basis for our theology, a recognition that sin has made itself felt within our lives and so we are in need of a Savior that we will embrace and so make a U-turn in our lives to follow him instead of our sinful desires.

Chapter 8 I call "pieces of 8" because it is probably the most valuable chapter in all of Scripture in so far that it defines our relationship with God through Jesus.  We are in need of a Savior and Jesus is that Savior.  Let's just drop some of the more significant verses in these chapters: 5:1 "We have been justified through faith." 5:8 "But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, he died for us." 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord." 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him."  8:31 "If God is for us who can be against us?"

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September 23, 2022: Day 206 – Psalms 135-137

Even though it is a fairly short reading each of these Psalms is unique and we have to cover each one of them.  We won't cover them extensively, but they are really important to cover.  Psalm 135, when you look at the beginning and the end, and some places in the middle, you will find the phrase: Praise the Lord.  I know, no big deal right?  But in the Hebrew it is actually pronounced: Hallelujah.  So that kind of changes things when we see it interspersed throughout the Psalm.  I reminds me a lot of this song originally written by Francis of Assisi.

Psalm 136 is a call and response where we hear the Psalmist say a truth about the nature of God and the people who are gathered respond with the statement: His love endures forever.  Line after line there is a call and a response to the point where you can almost feel like it arrives at a crescendo that asserts and emphasizes that God love endures forever, it does not fade, or disappeap.  It lasts forever.

Finally, Psalm 137 is one of the Psalms that I refer to the most because I am convinced that it is written by a mother who has experienced the ravages of marauding soldiers who have taken over Jerusalem and killed her child by dashing it against the rocks.  This lament is pierced with grief and then takes a vicious turn at vs.8-9 with an imprecation hurled at Babylon for all eternity.  It does remind me of this song by Don McLean.

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September 22, 2022: Day 205 – Psalms 128-129, 131-134

As we come to an end of our reading together, at least in the next few days, we continue to cover the Psalms.  It is a good relaxing way to finish our time together.  It brings us to Psalm 133 which is highlighted consistently as a vision of unity among all people.  God bestows His blessings upon those who are able to live in unity with others.  That is crucial.

What actually caught my attention is Psalm 134 which is addressed specifically to pastors and those who do the work of God in the church.  The writer asks for a blessing upon those who minister in the house of the Lord.  That's a nice way to go about doing things, asking a blessing for those who are working for God in a consistent, direct way.

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September 21, 2022: Day 204 – Psalms 124-126 and 147

There is a verse in Psalm 147 that might be interesting to some of you.  Look at vs.19-20 and it reads: "He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel.  He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws."  This gives us what we have always knows, the choseness of Israel as being  the people of God to the extent that the laws of God were only revealed to the people of Israel.  We knew this with the whole 10 commandments thing, but this really puts it into words.  It should also make us think about who are we today in the eyes of God.  Thanks be to God that in the new covenant through Jesus Christ we have been chosen, as well as all of humanity, to be God's children.  That's a relief.

I also like vs.8 from Psalm 124 which states: "Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth."  So we have that going for us.

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September 20, 2022: Day 203 – Psalms 46, 118, 120

These three Psalms contain some of the more familiar verses that we find in the Psalms.  Let's look at each of them individually.  46 gives us the assurance that God is our ever present help in the times of trouble.  No matter what is happening around us, even if the earth gives way or the mountains tremble God is in control.  It also gives us the command to: "Be still and know that I am God".  That is a verse that we often attribute to Elijah when he flees from Jezebel after he wins the battle against the prophets of Baal.

Psalm 118 tells us with conviction that "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."  That is good to remember.  I try to use this at all funerals and weddings to remind us of no matter what season in life we may find ourselves, God has made this day with all of its complexities.

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September 19, 2022: Day 202 – Psalms 112-117

It is not often that we can write an entire chapter within this blog, but I'm going to do it.  Look at Psalm 117: "Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.  For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.  Praise the Lord."

In Psalm 113 we find in vs.3 a verse which has produced this song.  

Each of these Psalms that we read today tend to be Psalms of praise and a recognition of who God is.  It is a much different pace than what we have been reading in the Old Testament lately, so this is a bit of a relief.

 

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September 17, 2022: Day 201 – Psalm 106-111

There tends to be a lot of imagery in the Psalms about battle and the people of the Lord crushing those who would serve other gods.  It is sometimes quite graphic, and also can be disturbing.  Why would the Lord use violence and war as a means to accomplish His goals?  That is a great question and there is an answer, albeit a somewhat tepid one.  It was a different time when war and battles were all that was known.  It was how nations grew from nothing to something.  It was how people were able to identify who ruled over them.  It was a time that was very, very different from ours today.  Although, with what is happening in the Ukraine maybe it is not so different after all.

Psalm 107 begins what is known as Book 5 of the Psalms.  Like our hymnals is divided into liturgical seasons and themes, this book of the Psalms is divided into sections, but they don't tend to be thematic in any way.  Psalm 110 is used many different times in the New Testament.  You can find it referenced in Mark 12:36, 14:62, Luke 20:41-44, I Corinthians 15:25, Hebrews 5:1-6, 6:20, 7:4-7 and 7:17-24.

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September 16, 2022: Day 200 – Psalms 99-104

Every year when we were in Italy in the fall, sometime in October normally, we would take our church communities and go up to the mountains to gather chestnuts.  We would call it the hunt for the chestnuts.  And every year it was a great event, a real time of fellowship.  We would eat at a restaurant up there with our prize chestnuts that we knew we would cook eventually.  You see, in Italy they still have chestnut trees that produce edible chestnuts.  

Every year as soon as we arrived and before we started our hunt I would gather the community and I would read Psalm 104 on the summit of the mountain so that we could have a 360 view of the glory of God's creation.  There is something about being able to see the glory of God's creation that elicits awe and wonder in our great creator.  

We can't skip over Psalm 103 which reminds us that the Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  Now, we didn't begin with such praise, we found ourselves in lament for a period of time in Psalm 102.  The beginning of the prayer we read: "A prayer of an afflicted man.  When he is faint and pours out his lament before the Lord."  It is pretty heavy.  But all of these Psalms remind of this song.

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September 15, 2022: Day 199 – Psalm 93-98

A couple of times we read in these six psalms the phrase: Sing to the Lord a new song.  Keep in mind that the psalms are a lot like our hymnal.  They were written to be sung.  Often before the psalm they even tell us to what tune they are to be sung.  So when the psalmist commands us to sing a new song, it means something similar to what it does today.  How do you feel on the Sunday that the organist or the pastor introduces a new song to you?  I'm guessing most of us would rather have the oldie but goodie.  There is always some sort of push back, some sort of reticence.

But God says in these psalms that we tried the oldie but the goodie, but you did not obey.  The people of God disobeyed when we tried to do it the old way.  Now we need a new song that the people do not know so that they will be forced to pay attention and try to figure out exactly what it is that God wants us to do.  I like the oldies but the goodies, but the newbies provide some great spiritual edification as well.

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