With stringed instruments

Being a musician, the introductory comments prefacing Psalm 67 immediately catch my attention.

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.

What I am looking here are song lyrics, with a long lost melody and instrumentation.

Music is referenced many times throughout the Scriptures. Over 1150 verses in the Bible reference music. The bible is replete with songs which were always accompanied by musical instruments. To see and hear what some of these instruments look and sound like click here.

Having been blessed with enough musical ability to be able play a number of stringed instruments – I wonder how this song would have sounded?

How would Psalm 67 musically have stacked up against some of the classic guitar (stringed instrument) songs that I have grown up listening to – the likes of the Beattles, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana or Led Zepplin to name a few that influenced a generation?

There can be no doubt that even without their original music the Psalms stand unique in their ability to touch generation after generation.

Maybe the structure and repetition of the lyrical themes give us some clue to the musical arrangement!

These are my humble thoughts based on the way our modern worship songs are arranged.

The song begins quietly on a harp or lyre with a request for God to be “gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us” (show us favour or benevolence). But it is not about us – the focus is elsewhere – these requests a meanly signposts to someone, somewhere else as punctuated by the words “Selah” and “So that” (NIV) – verse 2 and again in verse 7.

At which point the song builds as other instruments join in, leading into the chorus (v3) – May all peoples and nations praise you.

It is hard to imagine that the feel of the song is anything but uplifting and joyous in verses 3 and 4 as it speaks of gladness and joy.

The chorus is repeated in verse 5. Before returning again to the theme of God’s blessing that opened the song – perhaps musically more reflective at this point – again the reason for God’s benevolence is clearly spelt out – so that the peoples of the ends of the earth “will fear him!”

Here is a link to the Sons of Korah’s interpretation of Psalm 67 to further reflect upon.

 

I Will Keep My Eyes Always on The Lord

Good morning FDReaders. This post is for Monday 8 May. I’m posting from London so apologies if it arrives on the wrong day.

As we travel around the United Kingdom, we are feeling very blessed, in so many ways. To have the health, and the means, to be able to explore this beautiful part of God’s creation are just two enormous blessings.

As we visit many beautiful Christian monuments – towering ceilings engraved so intricately on enormous stone blocks, brightly coloured windows soaring above the walkway, painted or covered in mosaic and depicting biblical scenes – our gaze continually is drawn upwards, as was the intention of the builder. Upwards towards God, the centre of their belief and all their community, creating awe, humbling the on-looker, reminding of God’s might and supremacy.

David uses words to create this same focus on God, the centre of his devotion. His confidence in his relationship with his Lord is a great blessing to him. His expressions of devotion to this same God of ours are lovely to read.
Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”

He is confident God will provide his every need. He doesn’t need a beautiful building to be reminded of this.
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.

I like verse 7 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
That sounds like a great promise. How confident are we that we have a delightful inheritance to look forward to while living inside these boundary lines, in pleasant places!

Verses 8-11 are quoted by Peter in Acts 2:25-31. We’ll leave you to read Peter’s interpretation of these last verses from today’s psalm.

Acts 2:29-36 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

May we all continue to look forward to Jesus’ face, keeping our eyes fixed on Him and our minds and words thankful and rejoicing in all that He has done for us.

Psalm 15

Psalm 15


Psalm 15:1 (New International Version)

Who shall dwell on your holy hill?


Psalm 15 asks – and answers – the question: “Who can reside with the LORD?”  The answer converges on actions in four areas: rectitude, relationships, reputation and revenue.

• Rectitude – conduct oneself blamelessly, do what is right, speak the truth;
• Relationships – do not speak evil, do not do evil, do not hold grudges;
• Reputation – shame the shameful, honour the honorable;
• Revenue – earn every cent earned honestly, spend every cent generously.

Who can tick off all the items on this list? No one.

Except Jesus, and those in him.

Knifed in the Back

Psalm 55 is another raw and brutally honest insight into an event in David’s life that once again brought him to his knees in prayer.

We know David had many enemies who wanted to do him harm during his life, however on this occasion (though we are not told the specific circumstances and the name of the perpetrator) we are informed that his fear and grief have been caused by an act of betrayed by “a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng“(v13-14).

As we would expect, having someone with whom you put your trust break that trust and turn against you is an extremely emotionally painful experience and David begins this psalm with an earnest plea to God to hear his words and answer his petition. We can identify with the abandonment he feels. I like how the Message version paraphrases the opening verses:

Open your ears, God, to my prayer; don’t pretend you don’t hear me knocking.
Come close and whisper your answer. I really need you.

When dramatic tragedies and painful situations arise and we feel that God has left us and that God is no longer on our side, we must be reminded as David does repeatedly throughout the psalms – turn to God first.

David paints a vivid picture of the pain and distress that he feels from being “knifed in the back” by this close friend in verses 4-8. Oh that he is anywhere but here – I am a betrayed King – Get me out of here!

He has been treated so unjustly, so David appeals to God to take action and hand down his judgement on the wickedness of his enemies so that they cannot accomplish their goals (v. 9-11).

Verse 12-15 get to the heart of the issue – the betrayal of a trusted friend. David’s condemnation of them shows no holding back – captured in the Message as “Haul my betrayers off alive to hell—let them experience the horror, let them feel every desolate detail of a damned life.” Put more bluntly – they can go to Hell!

But David left these things in God’s hands – it was not for him to take revenge for the evil done to him – instead he prayed to God to bring justice upon the evildoer. He could do this because of his total reliance on God (v.17-18). It highlights why we should be perseverant in prayer. Prayer is not only a petition to God but also a way to mold our faith. Continued prayer helps us change our exasperation to dependence on God. Talking to God helps our souls become relieved and have rest as we know that God is listening and will respond for us.

The Psalm concludes by David reminding himself and teaching others to place their burdens on God during these troublesome times. God can sustain us through a turbulent time as this and will never allow the righteous to be moved.

But as for me, I trust in you.

 

Psalms 53 and 14 – God in third person.

Today’s (Su 05/02/2017) FDR is Psalm 53 and can be read by clicking on this link.

This short Psalm and the earlier appearing Psalm 14 mimic each other in that they largely have the same content.  Unlike many other psalms in this book God is not addressed here in first person but in the third person.

Some commentaries only make reference to Psalm 14 and treat 53 as the same.

So what are we to make of these almost twin images?

The claim in v1 that “ God does not care” is not only expressed here but in Ps 10:4.   Yet that is what we hear from those who appear unable to stand in the weight of evil around us who are ‘benighted’, or put in the deepest dark of night.

In these two psalms, this phrase challenges two basic tenets of the books of psalms; (a) the ability of God to hear prayers, and (b) the ability of God to punish the human wrongs that are lamented in the Psalms.  Also for us, since Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, this phrase challenges Jesus’ promise to forgive our sins and restore us into a relationship with His Father, our Lord Almighty God.

We often hear these views expressed  today.  Through their own personal experience of trouble and hardship some see God as not caring about them or other people’s situations.  So too, we can become trapped by our unfounded guilt, and express or act as if our God does not care.

God’s gift of His Son to us does in fact show God Cares for us.

Verse 53:5 speaks in the leader’s voice of their people and asks an important question for us all as God’s ambassadors:  “Are these who devour and destroy God’s people so witless as to not call on, or pray to God?”  (Here the words are used to convey a regard for the Almighty God, even to just realise there is a God who cares and will bring judgement.)

So at v6, we see the inevitable sentence imposed on those who don’t acknowledge God.  “for God has rejected them.”

Both psalms close with v7, that deliverance will come and God’s people will be restored.

1 Peter 4:10 & 11 puts it like this:

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

May God’s name be praised in all the earth.

Glenn M.

 

 

Broken and whole

Our reading today is a famous psalm of contrition, Psalm 51. The great King David, the high water mark of Israel’s history, the man after God’s own heart, has sinned greatly. In this psalm, David is deeply aware of his guilt and sin. You can read in 2 Sam 12 how God (via Nathan the profit) used David’s own anger at the injustice of a hypothetical parallel sin to pierce his heart so that the reality of his iniquity came crashing down around him.

In some ways this psalm is uncomfortable reading. It seems deeply personal, and also tragic that Israel’s greatest king could sin so greatly. And yet there are several things in this psalm that I love – that give me great hope.

Even David Sinned

I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me

The fact that the great King David, the man after God’s own heart, sinned so greatly, reminds me that all fall short of God’s standard. None of us are righteous in our own nature. We all need to throw ourselves on The LORD’s mercy as David does.

David Owns His Sin

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me

Yes, God had to shock him and wake him up to see what he had done, since David appeared to be hiding from his sin because he thought his sin was hidden from sight. Yet when David comprehends what he has done, he knows immediately its impact. He doesn’t glory in it. He doesn’t wallow in it. He doesn’t beat himself up with it. He just owns it, and confesses it.

David Knows His Sin is Against God

Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgement

This verse used to bother me. Surely David sinned, as Matthew Henry puts it, against Bathsheba and Uriah, against his own soul, and body, and family, against his kingdom, and against the church of God!

I think David’s insight is that at the root of all this, is the very nature of sin; that it drives a wedge between us and God; that to sin against another made in the image and likeness of God is to sin against God himself, because God loves them so much that an affront to them is an affront to God.

David Knows He Can’t Fix It on His Own

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!

David knows he needs God’s mercy. He cannot justify himself. He calls on God’s mercy.

David Knows He is Saved by Grace Alone

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

There is no act of penance here, no “Hail Mary’s” or “Our Fathers” to be said. David does not try to earn his forgiveness. Nor does he try to appease a capricious or fickle God. Rather he relies on the steadfast nature of the God he knows is unchanging. He pleads with the only one who can deal with his sin to cleanse him. He asks to be washed, and cleansed with Hyssop.

It was the Hyssop plant that his forefathers used to spread the sign God provided, the blood of a lamb, on the door frames so that God’s judgement would pass over. It was the Hyssop stalk that was raised to Jesus mouth when he hung on the cross. God provides the sacrifice for us to be counted clean. There is nothing we can do to cleanse ourselves or earn his Forgiveness.

David Knows What Follows Forgiveness

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.

The joy that comes from forgiveness of our sin should lead us to proclaim God’s goodness to the world so that sinners will return to God.

It’s often said that it’s good to learn from the best. Matthew Henry observes of David in this psalm “The best men, if they sin, should give the best example of repentance”.

As we all sin, it is good that we have such a clear example of what repentance looks like

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Plain speaking.

Today’s (Su 08/01/2017) FDR is Psalm 49 and can be read here by clicking on this link.

Often what we read or is spoken is couched in terms, phrases and messages that may not get the message across to those who are meant to hear or read.   Sometimes this happens with what we read or hear in a sermon or from a sister or brother.

Sometimes we want to be deaf to what we are meant to understand.  Sometimes we don’t have the capacity to understand. Jesus teaches us that this is the case with non-believers.  It also happens with we Christians when we need to learn something about our Lord and what He’s trying to teach us about Himself.

As I tried to prepare to write today’s blog in the last week the thrust and sense of Psalm 49 remained foggy to me until Saturday when I read a commentary that summarised the purpose of the parts and highlighted the central pieces.

Here in the middle of this doom and gloom, death and peril, dying and going to hell, v7 and v15, and v12 and v20, disclose the theme of this Psalm and tie it together.

So we see the limits of wealth and the salvation of God described.

You might like to try reading Psalm 49 again just to feel its simple and clear message.

Glenn M