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“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 20: AUGUST 11
Unlike the history of people, places and events that makes up the first half of the Bible (yes, we’re now halfway through! Woohoo!), most of the psalms are you talking to or about God. Rather than being spoken to or lectured to, you’re the one doing the speaking. You’re center-stage. The words are coming from you. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why the psalms are so accessible, even to unbelievers. They speak your heart without you having to say a word.
- All of the psalms (except one) that we read yesterday were written by David. Today’s reading is a mixed bag of psalmists that includes David, Asaph, Moses, and a few others whose names are unfamiliar to me. There are also psalms that are uncredited. Determining who wrote which psalm is a whole theological field in itself, which we’re obviously not going to go into here. The only reason I mention all the different psalmists in today’s reading is that the tone and content of a work reflect the author, so having different authors means that we have a broader range of tone and content. It’s all still talking to and about God, but in slightly different voices.
- Lots of retelling about the exodus from Egypt in these psalms. Spiritual rebirth is an exodus out of spiritual bondage to Satan and into the spiritual freedom of God’s Kingdom on Earth. If you’re genuinely born-again, you’re in the Kingdom in the same way as the children of Israel were in the wilderness. You’re supernaturally protected by God and you’re being taught by God, but you’re also being tested to see whether or not you genuinely want what God is offering you – the Promised Land of Heaven. Pay close attention to what happened to the children of Israel in the wilderness and learn from their mistakes so that you don’t end up as most of them ended up. That’s the reason why the story of the 40 years in the wilderness is told and retold throughout scripture – it’s a cautionary tale.
- Jesus is all over these psalms! We either see him in lines that he spoke in the Gospels, or we see him in lines that are written about him. As I mentioned yesterday, the whole Bible is all about Jesus, not just the New Testament. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of redemption to his people, and the Bible – from start to finish – is the story of our redemption.
- Psalm 91 has been getting a lot of press lately in Christian communities because of the promise that God will not let any pestilence come near his people. But as we’ve seen in earlier readings, God did let pestilence come near those who said they were God’s people but acted as if they were the devil’s. Yes, God will protect his people from everything until it’s their time, as long as they keep his Commandments and treat others (including their enemies) right. If you don’t keep God’s Commandments and don’t treat others right, the protections promised in Psalm 91 will not apply to you.
- Jesus quotes the opening lines of Psalm 110 as evidence of why the Messiah can’t be David’s son. I would reference the same lines as evidence that Jesus can’t be God.
- When I was in high school, I played the role of Mary Magdalen in our school’s production of the musical Godspell. I couldn’t sing very well, and the Mary Magdalen character didn’t have a solo, so that role had my name written all over it in more ways than one. When the call went out for performers, so many kids auditioned that the director decided to have two casts: an “A” and a “B”. The “A” cast was made up mostly of Grade 12 students who already had theatrical experience and were really good singers (some were professionally trained), while the “B” cast was made up mostly of younger students (I was in my first year of high school), and none of us had much by way of training. We were, however, very enthusiastic and loved being in the spotlight. That made up for whatever we lacked in talent and experience.
- I mention this because most of David’s Psalm 103 (which, by the way, I just realized today was written by David) is a song in Godspell called “Bless the Lord”. So when I read Psalm 103 today, I got to thinking about our “B” cast in high school. Everyone in it eventually came to God. The guy who played Jesus gave up his rock band and the lifestyle that went with it and became a pastor. He was older than the rest of us in the cast (I think he was in his second or third year of Grade 12), but if ever anyone “looked like Jesus”, that guy was a dead ringer – tall, lanky, bony-faced, long hair, and a way about him that just naturally drew people. Whenever I saw him in the school hallways, he had an entourage trailing behind him. Like me, he wasn’t much of a singer, but his natural charisma and enthusiasm for the role made up for it. He ended up marrying his then-girlfriend, who was also in the “B” cast (a beautiful girl and beautiful singer).
- As I said, everyone in that cast eventually came to God on some level. I’ve posted the Psalm 103 Godspell song below, for anyone who’s interested in hearing it.
- I don’t know about you, but whenever I read the “long psalm” (the one that’s divided under the letters of the Hebrew alphabet), I want to do and be everything it says. I want to completely and entirely live in God’s blessings and within his boundaries. I don’t want to stray even one inch outside them. That’s the beauty and the power of these psalms that are written in first person: The psalmists’ words become yours.
So what jumped out at you today? Are you as enamored with the psalms as I am? Do they speak your heart, too? Which psalms in particular had something to teach you this time around? And have you ever written a psalm?
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is on PDF directly below:
Last week, I woke up singing the first line of Psalm 91 over and over again. I’d never learned it as a song, but it came to me as a song, anyway.
“He who dwells in the secret place of the most High
will abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
Here’s the whole psalm. It’s one of David’s.
As born-agains, we live in that secret place of the most High, under God’s shadow.
Psalm 91 is about us.
David wrote the psalm so that we’ll know how greatly God is protecting us, both spiritually and physically.
God’s not protecting us because he loves us, he’s protecting us because we love him.
Let me say that again: God is not protecting us because he loves us, he’s protecting us because we love him.
Our love enables God to protect us. Our love gives him permission to protect us.
God works through our love to protect us.
God loves everyone and to a certain extent also protects everyone. I know that’s true because even as an atheist, I was miraculously rescued too many times to count (although I didn’t know until after I was born again that it was God who’d done the rescuing).
This psalm isn’t about God’s everyday protection of everyone, both believers and unbelievers. This psalm is about God’s special protection that he can give to those who love him.
God doesn’t give us born-agains special protection because we’re special in any way; he gives us special protection because we allow him to, through our love for him.
Everyone can have access to God’s special protection. All they have to do is love God and follow Jesus.
But so few do.
In Matthew, Jesus talked about how God had wanted for so long for his people to hide under his “wings”, but they refused to.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…. How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
Psalm 91 also gives us the same image:
“He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust.”
Have you ever seen chicks running to hide under the mother hen’s wings? The chicks ‘disappear’; you can’t see them anymore. There’s no safer place for them than under their mother’s wings.
But we shouldn’t use God’s special protection as a reason to be foolhardy. Satan tempted Jesus in the desert by quoting from Psalm 91 and (as usual) misapplying it.
Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
The devil wanted to trick Jesus into being a ‘daredevil’ by jumping off the top of the temple and assuming that God would protect him. Jesus didn’t fall for it. He knew scripture.
Even better, he knew and loved God as his Dad.
God gives us special protection, but we’re not to abuse it. If we knowingly put ourselves into danger assuming that we can do anything we want because God will protect us, chances are pretty good he won’t protect us. If we assume that God will protect us no matter what we do, we’re taking a position of pride. You can’t be proud (rebellious) and humble (obedient) at the same time.
Loving God means giving yourself over to him wholly, constantly, and unquestioningly, like Jesus did. Then God can help you.
“Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him.”