Psalms

Psalms 33-38

Last year, I did the Psalms during National Poetry Month and saved the rest for this year and maybe next year too. We’ll see how many I get through. I am changing it up a bit though. I won’t post the whole psalm but instead share my impression of it and lookout for any questionable or misogynistic comments.


The Steadfast Love of the Lord

Psalm 33 is a fairly straightforward psalm of worship. I’ve seen it referred to as a hymn as well in The Book of Psalms by Robert Alter, which is a great verse by verse commentary on the Psalms alone. It spends the first while reminding the singer everything that God could do for or against them and then moves into what people would generally appreciate that God do for them.

20Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
21For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

As we have seen in so much of the Old Testament, God doesn’t always do this. The people would have to really mean the words of the beginning of this psalm and repent of their bad ways and genuinely try to stop doing sinful things in order for Him to back them up. For me the question then becomesabout whether these were faithful people who wrote it when Israel or Judah was genuinely following God or an attempt for favor during their fall from grace?

Either way, the wording and sentiment is pretty and I could see it used for worship in Christian churches today.


Taste and See That the Lord is Good

The sentiment of Psalm 34 is nice enough but it’s among the examples of places where people find the belief in prosperity as a signal of God’s approval of your life and that those who are faithful will not suffer hardships. This is not at all what that means. There is a note in the beginning about this particular psalm being a part of a song that David sang to pretend that he was crazy, “when he changed his behavior”, and saves himself from his captors in 1 Samuel 21:

13So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard. 14Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me? 15Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”

Additionally, the idea of this psalm and it’s insistence that those who are faithful are forgiven all manner of sin belies that one can be faithful to God and willing to perform all manner of sin. It’s consistently noted throughout the Old Testament that faith is an action as much as it is a belief and so these two things can’t happen simultaneously, at least not on a regular basis.


Great is the Lord

Psalm 35  is more of a plea than a song. I know a lot of songs have that pleading voice, as do poems, but this just didn’t have that kind of quality for me. It’s also rather vengeful, as the plea is for God to take up the case of the psalmist against those who he feels have wronged him. It is human though and written in almost that same voice so many of us first use to talk to God. The sentiment is for God to please do for the person what they know they cannot do for themselves, but then it goes on to sound like this request is the thing that will make them praise God to others while the deed their asking God to do is not at all in His character. Unfortunately, there’s nothing childlike about it, so it just lost something for me.


How Precious Is Your Steadfast Love

In contrast to the prior psalm, Psalm 36 is a plea to not be allowed to fall into wickedness. There is a recounting of what is wicked or evil and the psalmist requests that they not do those things in order to keep the steadfast love of God. Of course, I’m not a fan of the use of steadfast in a plea like this. The whole of the psalm implies that God’s love is conditional based on the righteousness of the individual and would not then be steadfast, since it can waver. Or is that my imagination?

Perhaps I’m reading more into it than what is there. That happens sometimes.


He Will Not Forsake His Saints

Psalm 37 is dedicated to the idea that bad people do bad things against good people but that they will get theirs in the end, God will make sure of that. So, it’s better to be good and let God avenge you when you have been wronged. It’s a nice sentiment but I know that many people feel like bad people rarely actually get theirs.


Do Not Forsakee Me, O Lord

The author of Psalm 38 is begging God to forgive him and to not forget him. It is a repentance and a plea. He recognizes his faults and asks that God overlook his faults.


Chapter links go to the ESV translations at Biblehub.com but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.

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