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Psalm 123 July 4, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 123.

Summary: In this passage, the psalmist asserts that they seek God’s mercy – just as slaves seek their master’s mercy.

They then pray that God would be merciful to them – since the wicked continue to scorn them.

Thoughts: Strolling through this brief psalm caused me to ponder questions such as: who composed it? Who were “the arrogant” and “the proud”, and why did they “ridicule” and show “contempt” to the psalmist? Did God eventually answer the prayer of the psalmist? If so, how did He act in that regard? Why was this psalm characterized as “a song of ascents”? Did pilgrims to Jerusalem actually sing its verses as they ascended the hilly road to their destination? In our modern-day worship services, why do we often refrain from singing songs where we pray for vindication? On a slightly more general note, should our worship services include more songs about prayer?

Psalm 122 July 3, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 122.

Summary: In this passage, David asserts that he delights in praising God with others as they ascend to Jerusalem.

He then asserts that those who ascend to Jerusalem to praise Him are obeying Him.

He concludes by praying for the security (and prosperity) of Jerusalem – so that her denizens would be blessed.

Thoughts: In verse 1, David rejoices when others exhort him to join their ascent to Jerusalem. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

He was glad for the sake of others: glad that they wished to go themselves, glad that they had the courage and liberality to invite others…But David was glad for his own sake: he loved the invitation to the holy place, he delighted in being called to go to worship in company, and, moreover, he rejoiced that good people thought enough of him to extend their invitation to him.

I was curious about the Songs of Ascent. A quick Google search indicates that Jewish pilgrims to Jerusalem would actually sing those psalms as they ascended a hilly road to that city. Now I am curious: how should we apply the Songs of Ascent to our modern context? My initial thought is that we could sing praise songs as we travel to church for worship services. That being said, now that we are in the midst of a pandemic and cannot worship Him in our churches, perhaps we should consider the possibility that those psalms have a deeper meaning. How can we prepare to worship God at home?

Psalm 121 June 28, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 121.

Summary: In this passage, the psalmist declares that:

  • God is their deliverer
  • He protects His people – including the nation of Israel – by exercising His sovereignty over His creation
  • He will always protect His people.

Thoughts: Verses 1 and 2 appear in “I Lift My Eyes Up (Psalm 121)”. A quick Google search reveals that this song was written by Brian Doerksen. I hope to meet him at some point and and learn how he composed those memorable lyrics. How did those verses inspire him at that time? Did he consider weaving the other verses of this passage into that song? On a related note, as modern-day believers, how do these verses impact our thoughts, words and deeds? How is God our “help”? If we truly believe that He is “the Maker of heaven and earth”, then do we view Him as our “help”? Do we maintain our confidence in Him in the midst of trials, believing that He will always deliver our souls – even if He does not deliver our bodies?

Psalm 120 June 27, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 120.

Summary: In this passage, the psalmist prays that God would protect them from those who speak sinfully.

They then assert that God will severely punish those who speak sinfully.

They conclude by bewailing their estate, as they are a dove among hawks.

Thoughts: In verses 5-7, the psalmist laments the fact that they are a dove among hawks. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 5:

He had some hope from the fact that he was only a sojourner in Meshech; but as years rolled on the time dragged heavily, and he feared that he might call himself a dweller in Kedar. The wandering tribes to whom he refers were constantly at war with one another; it was their habit to travel armed to the teeth; they were a kind of plundering gypsies, with their hand against every man and every man’s hand against them; and to these he compared the false-hearted ones who had assailed his character.

Even if we accept Spurgeon’s interpretation of “Meshech” and “Kedar,” I believe that this psalm contains some mysteries. In particular, who was the psalmist? Were the deceivers whom they decried in verse 2 identical to the hawkish neighbors whom they decried in verses 5-7? Did they compose this psalm in a single sitting? Why did they elect to conclude this psalm on a somewhat unpleasant note? Did God eventually deliver them from these deceivers and hawkish neighbors?

Taw June 21, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 119:169-176.

Summary: In this passage, the psalmist:

  • prays that God would deliver them from their trials – thereby fulfilling His promises to them
  • prays that He would enable them to praise Him
  • prays that they would be able to obey His commandments
  • declares that they love His commandments.

Thoughts: The psalmist has highlighted the salience of God’s commandments throughout this psalm. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 169:

He desires spiritual light and understanding as it is promised in God’s Word, as it proceeds from God’s Word, and as it produces obedience to God’s Word. He pleads as though he had not understanding whatever of his own, and asks to have it given to him…To understand spiritual things is the gift of God.

Now that I have completed my mini-stroll through this psalm, I have a deeper appreciation of it. Before I began this mini-stroll, I knew that this psalm focused on God’s commandments. Now I know that the psalmist’s passion for His regulations was, in some sense, fueled by their persecutors – especially their failure to obey those precepts. As modern-day believers, does persecution enable us to embrace His precepts? If we are not being persecuted, does the sinfulness of non-believers compel us to embrace holiness? Perhaps we need to pray that God would stoke our zeal for His precepts – even if that means that we need to be tested…

Sin and Shin June 20, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 119:161-168.

Summary: In this passage, the psalmist declares:

  • their passion for God’s commandments
  • that they obey His commandments
  • that those who obey His commandments are blessed.

Thoughts: In verse 164, the psalmist asserts, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.” Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Frequently he lifted up his heart in thanksgiving to God for his divine teaching in the Word, and for his divine actions in providence. With his voice he extolled the righteousness of the Judge of all the earth. As often as ever he thought of God’s ways, a song leaped to his lips…Do we praise God seven times a day? Do we praise him once in seven days?

Lately I have been pondering the somewhat-related topic of praising God while I am at work. Now I know that during work hours, I need to focus on my assigned tasks; thus, my mind is usually occupied by technical matters. Yet there are moments during work hours where I can think about God. Lately I have used those moments to thank Him for my current position (as many have lost their jobs during these difficult times). In light of this passage, I wonder: will He also enable me to ponder His commandments during those moments? Would Spurgeon have exhorted us to praise Him “seven times a day” if he were alive today? Can we simply praise His goodness during work hours – or do we also need to praise His commandments at those times?

Resh June 20, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 119:153-160.

Summary: In this passage, the psalmist:

  • prays that God would deliver them from their trials – thereby fulfilling His promises to those who obey His commandments
  • declares their contempt for those who do not obey His commandments, since He will not bless those transgressors
  • declares the permanence of His commandments.

Thoughts: In verses 154, 156, and 159, the psalmist prays that God would “preserve my life.” Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 159:

He prays again the third time using the same words…What he wanted was revival, restoration, renewal; therefore he pleaded for more life. O thou who didst quicken me when I was dead, quicken me again that I may not return to the dead! Quicken me that I may outlive the blows of my enemies, the faintness of my faith, and the swooning of my sorrow.

I believe that we should ponder the significance of the phrase “preserve my life.” When we are in the midst of a trial, we may pray that God would fulfill His promises to us by delivering us from that trial. Indeed, we hold fast to His promises – and assume that their fulfillment implies the preservation of our physical existence. Yet what if that assumption is flawed? As finite human beings, can we actually grasp the application of His promises to our spiritual existence? Our human nature naturally hinders our understanding of that deeper application; thus, I wonder if the psalmist was actually pondering their physical existence in this passage.

Qoph June 14, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 119:145-152.

Summary: In this passage, the psalmist:

  • prays that God would succor them – thereby enabling them to obey His commandments
  • prays that He would fulfill His promises to them
  • asserts that their passion for His commandments exceeds their need for rest
  • asserts their confidence in the veracity and permanence of His commandments.

Thoughts: In verse 146, the psalmist declares that if God succors them, then they will obey His commandments. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

This was his great object in desiring salvation, that he might be able to continue in a blameless life of obedience to God, that he might be able to believe the witness of God, and also to become himself a witness for God. It is a great thing when people seek salvation for so high an end. He did not ask to be delivered that he might sin with impunity; his cry was to be delivered from sin itself.

I would add a caveat to Spurgeon’s praise of the psalmist’s declaration in this verse: based on my experience, at least some believers will make similar vows to God in the midst of trials – and then fail to fulfill those vows after He delivers them from those trials (I should note that I am guilty of failures in this regard). Perhaps we should display humility in the midst of our trials by acknowledging our inherent inability to “keep your statutes.” Moreover, we should pray that He would grant us the strength and wisdom to obey Him even when we are not suffering…

Tsadhe June 13, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 119:137-144.

Summary: In this passage, the psalmist:

  • declares that God – and His commandments – are righteous
  • declares their passion for His commandments – even in the midst of persecution
  • rejoices in the blessings that they have received via His commandments and promises
  • prays that He would enable them to live wisely.

Thoughts: In verse 139, the psalmist decries the strength-sapping wickedness of their persecutors. Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

His zeal was like a fire burning within his soul. The sight of man’s forgetfulness of God acted as a fierce blast to excite the fire to a more vehement flame, and it blazed until it was ready to consume him…These people had gone so far in iniquity that they not only violated and neglected the commands of God, but they appeared actually to have forgotten them.

The psalmist has asserted their zeal for God’s commandments throughout this psalm; moreover, their zeal has been whetted by those who flout those precepts. In light of this passage, perhaps we should ponder our zeal for His precepts. Are we genuinely zealous for His commandments? If not, what is the state of our relationship with Him? Perhaps we have been inured to sin – even the sins of those who openly oppose Him. Also, if we become more zealous for His precepts, can we still love those who flout them? We know the phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner,” yet it is difficult to strike that balance…

Pe June 7, 2020

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Here are my thoughts on Psalm 119:129-136.

Summary: In this passage, the psalmist:

  • declares the sublimity of God’s commandments
  • declares their zeal for His commandments – while others flout them
  • prays that He would deliver them from their persecutors – thereby 1) fulfilling His promises to them and 2) enabling them to obey His commandments.

Thoughts: In verse 131, the psalmist states that they “…pant, longing for your commands.” Spurgeon offers some thoughts on this point:

Like a stag that has been hunted in the chase, and is hard pressed, and therefore pants for breath, so did the psalmist pant for the entrance of God’s Word into his soul. Nothing else could content him. All that the world could yield him left him still panting.

I must admit that while I know God’s commandments (i.e. the core Old Testament principles that are reinforced in the New Testament), I do not literally – or even figuratively – “pant” for them. Thus, I am curious: how would the psalmist apply their zeal to life in the 21st century? If a believer does not constantly ponder His precepts, are they displaying the proper level of zeal? How can we be zealous for His regulations in the workplace? Can we fulfill our obligations at work while maintaining our zeal for His commandments? One thought is that we can carve out some time for brief prayers during our time at work…