Back in June and July, I was reading through the Psalms in addition to the classic Proverb-a-day. However, as the book of Psalms is 150 chapters, it would take me five months to read it through if I was going at a rate of one Psalm a day (yay! I got some math in!). So, I decided to read five chapters a day. I made it all the way through in June and went through round two in July. I fell behind several times, and so I had opportunities to read larger chunks in one sitting. Anyway, this excessively long paragraph was only leading up to what I really wanted to share with you all today. In reading the Psalms in such a concentration, I discovered something I hadn’t realized before – six themes in Psalms.
The first that I noticed is God’s steadfast love. I literally lost count of how many times the various Psalmists made reference to or praised God for His “steadfast love” (this chapter alone uses the phrase 26 times). This struck me because of what a skewed view the world (and even some Christians) has on love. So often, love is portrayed as a uncontrollable, transient feeling of affection. On one hand, the world stridently proclaims that love is prevailing and great, but the next moment it proves that its version of love is cheap and changeable. To the world, love is about me. To the world, love is tolerance and acceptance. To the world, love is Romeo and Juliet. To the world, love is two people having sex before marriage. To the world, love is keeping your mouth shut, not rocking the boat, not stepping on other people’s toes. To the world, love can be thrown away and vows broken in divorce. But our world’s view on love is sadly mistaken. Love is selfless. Love is speaking the truth graciously no matter the cost – no matter who gets offended. Love rises above conflict instead of spreading contempt. Love is hopeful not tragic. Love is purity and virtue. Love is longsuffering and lifelong – more than affection but also a commitment to be made and never forsaken. Love is God, and God is love (that is to say, love is from God and only God). And He loves as we can’t – steadfastly, unwaveringly, unchangeably. Without the help of the Holy Spirit (Who was given to us according to a promise made in love), we cannot hope to love as He loves. He is matchless, and His steadfast love is one of His many gifts to us. All of the psalmists agreed – God should be praised, thanked, and acclaimed for His truly undying, steadfast love.
The second theme goes hand in hand with the steadfast love of God – His faithfulness. The phrase “His/Your faithfulness reaches to _____” appears numerous times (I lost count, but here is one of my favorites)! Again and again, they (the psalmists) would praise God for His faithfulness – many times after repenting from sin. When we are faithless, God remains faithful. That is such a huge comfort because I find myself repenting again and again for sin. I let God down daily (hourly even!), yet He will never throw up His hands in human exasperation and say: “No, you say you’re sorry, but you continue sinning against Me. I’m finished.” This gives me so much joy and hope! Now, there is a balance between taking comfort in God’s love and faithfulness and taking it as license to sin – which leads me to the third theme.
This one isn’t a specific phrase but an attitude – they were genuinely alarmed and broken-hearted over their sin. A few passages implied that they (the psalmists) actually got physically ill because they knew they had sinned. We have such a flippant view of sin! We sin, and the attitude is: “Oops! I sinned! I’ll try better tomorrow!” when it should be Psalm 51. Too often we don’t take sin seriously. They realized that it isn’t something to glibly brush off – they were broken, aching for God, and begging (actually begging!!!) for forgiveness.
Next, I noticed their utter devotion to God’s commandments; they wanted to know His laws and live by them (here’s a fantastic example). Over and over again, they pleaded for God to make His ways and precepts known to them. Not only this, they knew that they couldn’t apply His commandments on their own; they asked God. Today, each of us Christians has the Holy Spirit within us! We are living post-Pentecost; we have direct access to the throne room of the living God!
Furthermore, we need to be praising Him more. Sunday morning singing should not be our only offering of worship, and if it is, what a paltry offering. Twenty measly minutes on a Sunday morning out of the ten thousand and eighty (10,080 minutes) that we have for a week? He saved our souls, under no obligation to, and we have to be giving him more praise and worship. Now, worship itself is another matter entirely (I won’t be getting into that today, but I will say that the very way we live our lives should be an act of worship. Singing worship on Sunday is fantastic, but if that’s all we do for worship, that’s like giving the waiter a quarter when the bill was a couple grand), but praise is relatively simple. We should be praising God at every turn – in deed, word, and song. We can and should be offering praise when we pray. For instance, prayer is not just a time for us to rush into God’s presence and throw down our honey-do list. It’s not hard! Thank God for the day, exalt Him for the beautiful sunrise, praise Him for the flowers or the frost depending on the season. I’m not saying that breath prayers are a no-no; I’m saying that our closet prayers need to be more than just a grocery list of needs or wants. Also, we need to praise God before our fellow man; Christianity is not a closet hobby – it’s a way of life. The psalmists talked about praising God on mountaintops and in the streets of Jerusalem. They wanted everyone to know just how awesome and wonderful God was (and is).
Finally, the sixth and last theme that I want to draw your attention to today is their (the psalmists) hopeless, utter, and total reliance on God. Often we think – whether consciously or unconsciously – we’re in control and our culture praises self-reliance. We’re told it’s best not to need anyone but ourselves, but the psalmists cry the opposite. There’s nothing like leading by example, and the psalmists gave plenty of examples (Psalm 17 to name one). They cried out to God for anything. They were not above begging God for aid (and the one wrote most of Psalms was the king of Israel, if you recall). We need to stop trying to fix it ourselves because when we try that, we usually end up making a bigger mess. I’ll be the first to admit, giving things (nearly anything) over to God is not a walk in the park. Letting go and actually trusting God with our oh-so-precious troubles can be very difficult. Relational issues, national issues, sick or dying loved ones, a lost job, house payments, forgiveness, education, spiritual struggles or any other problem we have. Nothing is too big – or small – for God. David certainly asked God for a wide variety of things: anything from God delivering him from his enemies to God being glorified to God helping him be righteous to God bringing the unrighteous to justice to God’s forgiveness. Whatever it is, don’t try and patch it up on your own. Give it to God, trust Him to make it beautiful in His timing, and let it go.
So, do we appreciate God’s steadfast love and enduring faithfulness?
Do we actively seek to know God’s laws and ways so that we may follow them?
Are we taking full advantage of the Holy Spirit within us?
Are we truly broken over our sin?
Do we praise God at every opportunity?
Are we hopelessly reliant on God?