TEXT: PSALM 117
OBSERVE: Psalm 117 is the shortest of all the songs of the book, indeed, the shortest chapter in the Bible. In this psalm, we observe a call for all nations to praise the Lord as we remember his ever-enduring faithfulness.
INTERPRET: This hymn calls on everyone to worship the Lord who demonstrates perpetual love and faithfulness towards his people – divine characteristics promised by the covenant applied here to all people on earth. During the Old Testament period, we hear of a number of people from the nations (Ruth, Naaman, Uriah the Hittite), who joined Israel in their praise of God.
In the New Testament, the Gentiles join the Jewish people in their praise of God through Jesus Christ. Speaking of Jesus, Paul says:
“God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2: 9-11).
Paul also cites the first verse of this psalm (see Romans 15:11), along with three other passages from the Old Testament to urge Jewish Christians to accept the inclusion of Gentiles.
APPLICATION: Including others who are not like us is still something that the church struggles with. Often, we can resist including others for cultural reasons, sometimes we resist to include others for socio-economic reasons and sometimes we even look to exclude others because of their worship style. At times we seem to do everything we can, to avoid praising God alongside our fellow brothers and sisters.
Psalm 117 may be short and simple, but that is precisely how simple praise of Jesus should be. We are to praise our wonderful and faithful God as one body, while always looking for ways to include outsiders.
PRAYER: Faithful Lord; help me to praise you in unison with all your faithful believers. May you shape my praise, so that I may draw others to praise you. AMEN.
SONG: Praises from Every Nation
“What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.”
Psalm 116: 12-14
This Psalm consists of three interactions of thanksgiving with the Lord over His mercy and deliverance:
This Psalm is one of a group (113-118) often sung in praise during specific Jewish holidays and on the eve of the Passover (Paschal Hallel). It can also be seen as a personal song of faith in God’s deliverance when facing tribulation. Whether personal or corporate the Psalm displays a love for God fostered by a personal relationship with Him in which there have been past experiences of His salvation. This relationship leads to thanksgiving and faith in God for the future.
In the interactions we see in the Psalm (and described above), we find: the Cry of Faith; a Conversation of Trust; and a Commitment to Action. The cry of faith describes a turning to God in the belief that He is able to and will save. The conversation of trust compares God with the affliction faced and evil in humankind. Trust is the outcome because of the graceful goodness of God’s salvation. The commitment to action is faith being lived out. It involves a recognition of the nature of the servant relationship with God and His faithfulness. The commitment includes praise due to God’s nature and a realization of the need to fulfil vows made as a member of His covenant people.
The Psalm describes a beautiful journey from suffering and spiritual bondage to praise and action in a relationship with God based on His redemptive grace.
This Psalm can undoubtedly be applied as a journey of personal salvation, and wonderfully so. The journey from estrangement with God to reconciliation through Jesus Christ. It can also be applied if we are facing suffering or a challenging situation. What I would call you to consider though is its application to our Baptismal vows. Why, because twice the Psalmist commits to fulfilling his vows to God made in front of His people (14&18), and because quite frankly the world needs the Church as perhaps it never has before. God is calling His people to be faithful to their commitment to Him. Have a look at the vows reproduced below. Which are you prompted to make a Cry of Faith over? What Conversation of Trust will you have with God about this vow? How will you re-Commit it to Action?
The Question of Application
Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you persevere in resisting evil and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God's creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth?
I will, with God’s help.
Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon us your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised us to the new life of grace. Sustain us, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give us an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.
(A Baptismal Prayer)
Here I am send me – Darlene Zschech
Holy Water – We the Kingdom
V.1 The 1st line of this verse always strikes me as the correct attitude toward God in prayer; humility or fear of the Lord. The reason given for this humble address is God's love and faithfulness.
V. 2-8 Now begins the speech to listeners which compares their God with the useless idols worshiped by other nations. In this section, by paying attention to "they" and "theirs," we get a real sense of contrast between "our God [who] is in heaven" and their gods who can't do anything. This finishes with the warning that anyone who trusts in these lifeless idols will end up like just them - lifeless.
V. 9-11 "All you Israelites, trust in the Lord..." "House of Aaron, trust in the Lord..." "You who fear him, trust in the Lord..." the reason being, "he is their help and shield." Here we go from specific people to ALL who fear God and trust in HIM, who is OUR help and shield.
V. 12-15 Now we come to both a statement of faith and an expression of confidence that "God remembers us and will bless us." V. 14-15 contain an explicit blessing for the listener and their family.
V. 16-18 These verses contain argument for God's praise-worthiness. God is God, and we are not. They end with a bidding to praise the Lord, as he alone is worthy.
Beginning with a prayer of humble access, concluding with a reminder of our proper place in creation and a word of praise, this Psalm also contains a lovely blessing for readers/listeners. One can easily imagine this being used in a liturgy in synagogues, or even in the temple in Jerusalem. One commentator suggests it was, in fact, a hymn.
There is always a temptation for us to become self satisfied, perhaps even arrogant, to forget that God has provided everything for us. It seems that most of the book of Deuteronomy is full of warnings about the consequences of forgetting that it was actually God himself who brought Israel to the promised land and drove nations out before them. An attitude of humble adoration is only right when we consider all God has done for us through his creation, and especially through Jesus. Lord, when we forget, send us a gentle reminder that we owe you everything - even our very lives. Thank you. Amen.
"The Blessing Aotearoa" Enjoy.
Observe In this Hallel psalm, Verse 1 recalls the Exodus as God reveals His consequential plans – Judah became His sanctuary/Israel His dominion (2). God shakes up the earth – seas, rivers, mountains – and the poet questions why (5,6). The answer is pictorial: the earth trembles at the manifestations of His power over creation (8).
Interpret This hymn of praise, with the others in this series of Passover songs, celebrates God’s work in His people. The ESV study notes explain that Judah here represents Israel when it came out of exile (… from a people of strange language (2b)).
The poetic imagery in this Psalm is striking: the bodies of water seem to flee - the Red Sea splits in half (Ex. 14:21-22), the Jordan River divides (Josh. 3:15-17); the mountains leap, shaking (think God’s presence to Moses at Sinai, Ex. 19:18-20). Nature seems terrified of the Lord, for He is the powerful maker and shaker of creation.
The events of verse 8 are recorded in Ex. 17:6 and Num. 20:8-13 (where Moses struck the rock twice rather than speaking to it as the Lord commanded, and was barred from entering the Promised Land). God is not to be trifled with.
Apply We had best not trifle with Him, either. In our context, God commands our worship in community (Heb.10:25). But are we comfortably and passively watching services at our convenience and calling this ‘worship’? Does God perform for our convenience? Dangerous thoughts, those. Reading blogs (and not reading the Word on which they’re based), or substituting small group/house ‘church’ meetings for communal prayer and praise, sacrament and the preached Word isn’t worshipping in the Body of Christ, however good these are as additions. We express our active, determined commitment to God by attending our local church in the company of His people. We are each a building block set in place, and any gaps (our absences) weaken the structure of our community.
We’re moving into a kind of exile as the world gets less tolerant of the One Whose people we are. We need to stand our ground, and that ground is – Jesus. We grab onto His grace to exercise faith in Him, strengthen this faith through regular prayer (personal, in small groups, via prayer teams or asking faith-filled friends to pray for and with us, attending prayer-worship Sundays as we conclude each chapter of Love Your Church); worship together (Sundays or other special times); serve one another and God, wherever needs are. There are plenty (just ask the music ministry folk)!
We are His Church, not meant to be alone, or loners. Illness or age necessarily prevents some from attending, but we can visit or call, offering fellowship so vital to community.
God takes us seriously, loves us seriously. Surely, despite the siren calls of comfort and convenience or fear of involvement, we can become a lively, alive part of God’s church. And we take Him seriously. We must.
Ask What ails us, that we flee? That we turn back from fellowship or skip Sunday worship? Lord, will You shake us by Your powerful love, prod us to be Your community? Will you help us to take You seriously, to regularly gather with our faith family in thanks for Your love?
Pray Lord, thank You for the technology You give us to use, especially during Covid. But we need to meet as Your chosen Body. Please reveal to us our deep need to worship You, together.
Why Did You Flee - Sons of Korah
When Israel Came out of Egypt - Guildford Cathedral Choir
Psalm 114 (Tonus Peregrinus) - St. Thomas Men’s and Boys’ Choir
Observe This short Psalm is full of praise for God and His care for those with few advantages in this world. The third consecutive Psalm beginning “Hallelujah!”, the first verse encourages praise by His servants forevermore (2). Here, from the rising of the sun to the setting emphasizes God is so worthy, splendid, powerful, that we never stop our praise.
Verses 4-6 give reasons for continual praise of our incomparable God, far above anything on earth or above. His interest and care for creation (especially humans) is remarkable. Recall Psalm 8: What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?(4); Psalm 144:3 carries a similar amazement that our majestic Lord so cares for His frail creatures.
Verse 5 asks Who is like the Lord our God? -- pivoting in this two-part song to God’s rescue of the poor.
He stoops and raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap (7), but doesn’t just set them down in a convenient place. He raises them to be with princes. God honours the barren woman, a nonentity in that culture, with motherhood (recall Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:8, and God’s kindness to other “barren” women in the Hebrew Bible).
As this Psalm begins, so it ends: Praise the Lord!
Interpret Book 5 of Psalms contains six praise songs called Hallel: Psalms 113-118, subtitled the ‘Egyptian Hallel’, connect with Israel’s deliverance from Egypt at Passover. They are sung at Passover, Psalms 113-114 before the meal and Psalms 115-118 after. It’s likely Jesus and His disciples sang them at the Last Supper, (after they had sung a hymn… (Mark 14:26)), before that walk to Gethsemane.
The Psalm connects with the new covenant, God’s work in believers: ‘ …even when we were dead in trespasses, [He] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 2:5,6). Our praise continues as He draws our hearts and lives to Him.
Apply This hymn calls all believers to praise our transcendent God who so loves humankind that He bends down to raise the poor and needy (that’s us!). The answer to the question, “Who is like the Lord our God?” can only be, “No one.” And we must take this at face value because our most earnest attempts to change ourselves just don’t work. As God has raised us truly unworthy recipients of His grace and salvation, so we raise our praises to Him, often and always. As we learn to let go of our poor dusty selves, our collective praises honour and glorify Him and we grow together as His Body, in Him.
Ask Who is like the Lord our God?
Pray Lord God, mighty God, truly there is no one like You. Thank You that you raised me from the dust of death to give me Your life, in Your Body, You before all else. Knowing this, I can only give you my heart, full of praise. Hallelujah!
Sing Ps 113 Royalty - Mike Janzen
From the Rising of the Sun - Sandra McCracken
Like Psalm 111 before it, Psalm 112 is an acrostic psalm. James Montgomery Boice commented on the similarities between Psalms 111-112: “They are the same length, fall into identical stanzas, and even have identical or similar phrases occurring at the same places in each. Both are precise acrostics; that is, they have twenty-two lines each of which begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.”
Charles Spurgeon wrote this regarding the connection between Psalms 111 and 112: “It bears the same relation to the preceding which the moon does to the sun; for, while the first declares the glory of God, the second speaks of the reflection of the divine brightness in men born from above.”
This is probably one of the shortest blogs that you will see at St. Aidan’s, but hopefully it will give you food for thought.
Psalm 112 talks of the blessed man, his household and family (1-3), the contrast between the righteous and wicked (4-8) and the grief of the wicked (9-10).
Interpret and Application:
One of my main concerns in my life is for my grandchildren. Will they continue to follow the Lord and be “upright”? I believe if I continue to talk with them about my faith (and theirs), that they will “not be shaken” (verse 6). We need to keep speaking the truth to the younger generation and encourage them, despite the changing world circumstances (gender identity, obvious hate of Christianity, etc.) that whatever they face, the righteous will endure and see the wicked “waste away” (verse 10). Do not be afraid to declare your faith to others!
Lord, help us to encourage those who come after us in their faith. Help us to be an example of being steadfast, just and generous. Amen.
Psalm 112 - Jason Silver
Observe This Psalm publicly extols the Lord for His great name (…in the council of the upright and the assembly.(1)) and for His works and wondrous deeds, everlasting righteousness, truth, graciousness in providing redemption for his people; … holy and awesome is his name (9) and his true integrity (faithful and just (7a). It’s our eulogy (in the sense of “good word”) to Him for what He does, what and who He is – past, present, future tenses all gathered into His greatness and majesty.
Verse 10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. This quotation is from Proverbs 1:7, repeated in 9:10. The psalm ends with yet another burst of praise – eternal!
Interpret The Psalm describes God in all His goodness, the great King with whom we are privileged to relate. He is a worker, there’s no doubt – just read Genesis’ account of the beginning of everything! He makes things that please Him, and we are one of those, rather amazing to consider that He was very pleased at this particular piece of handiwork! As we grow closer to Him we come to recognize His righteousness (which He has made us to be), compassion and graciousness (which we do well to emulate), and He is the God of truth – true truth, His truth! He keeps His promises – how many are there in Scripture? Integrity is embedded in His character. What is so sadly lacking in the world is completely manifest in Him.
Apply We can’t enter into this good, splendid King’s presence casually. The last verse is a warning, perhaps even a rebuke. Hard as it is to be in awe of anything in this culture that admires the banal and tawdry, if we learn to regard awe of God as one of His good gifts, we are then truly fitted to worship Him – in awe. This might be a good word to us when we drift into church services late (although sometimes it can't be helped!), oblivious to the prelude, drift off during the sermon (despite morning coffee), race out at the end of the service without acknowledging our brothers and sisters and pastor -- His provision of fellowship, love and continuing worship.
We learn awe as we move closer to Him. We can always ask Him to remind us that He is to be held in awe, so we give Him thanks through the week, anytime and often.
Responding to His loving presence with praiseful awe, we just might find that we are becoming like Him. To quote Tim Keller, “We become like the things we love most.” (The Songs of Jesus, p.292). We can hardly do better than that!
Ask Lord, what does it mean to be in awe of You? Would you reveal this to me as I determine to praise and worship you because You are so, so good?
Pray Holy God, we have glimpses from time to time of Your awesomeness. May these glimpses become clearer sight of Who you are in all Your glory and yet humility in coming to us. Thank you, Father, for the wonder of You that You have shown us in Jesus. Increase by Your grace our desire to be in union with You and one another, “lost in wonder, love and praise.”
Benjamin Tucker - Psalm 111
Michael Card - O Give the Lord
Scottish Psalter - Praise Him
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 2: 4-7
This Psalm causes a deal of debate amongst theologians with regards date, origin and purpose; is it all about King David and his authority over all twelve tribes, is it purely prophetic in relation to the Messiah or is it both? It is also one of the most quoted Psalms in the New Testament. I do not believe that it is an ‘either or’ Psalm, rather a ‘both and.’ It does relate to King David but clearly speaks prophetically of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In relation to David it clearly shows him in the threefold role of King, Prophet and Priest. He was King over the people and at times filled priestly roles (2 Sam. 6: 14, 17-18); he clearly writes prophetically. This, in line with the order of Melchizedek, the King and Priest who blessed Abraham (Genesis 14: 18-20). The promises God made to David and the people were answered in victory.
For me the Psalm speaks directly and tremendously of Jesus Christ. The Psalm shows Christ as King, Prophet and Priest. God gave Christ victory over the ultimate enemies of sin and death and raised Him in power to His right hand, putting all under His dominion (Ephesians 1: 19b -23). The Psalm looks even further forward to a time of accountability for all, where Christ will return in full authority as Judge.
Promises fulfilled in Victory!
This Psalm helps us to know Jesus more as we look at His characteristics and roles: King; Prophet; Priest; and Judge. Each are worthy of contemplation and praise. The Psalm assures us of God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness; we can hold onto, believe in and live out His promises. These promises provide us with all we need to live the lives He asks of us (2 Peter 1: 4). The Psalm also shows us God’s plan of salvation with ultimate victory on Christ’s return. This final phase of God’s will, brings to all of us a time where we account for our lives. This is the ‘big picture’ that we need to view our lives through and in His power amend them accordingly.
If this latter point fills us with a sense of inadequacy and awe filled fear then hear this final promise, God has raised us up with Christ! Read the verses at the top of this blog (Ephesians 2: 4-7). We have life and power in Christ; God pours out His mercy, grace, kindness and incomparable richness into our hearts through Jesus. This promise WILL be fulfilled in victory over sin and death!
The Question of Application
What aspect of this Psalm has the Holy Spirit highlighted to you: Christ’s characteristics; God’s salvation plan; the assuredness of promises fulfilled in victory; or our position in Christ? Whichever it is give yourself time to meditate on His Word and hear what riches God has for you.
Lord Jesus Christ you are King of kings and Lord of lords, born as a man, exalted now on high, priest of the new covenant, prophet and judge who will come at the end of time. May God raise us to the heavenlies in you so that we may live our lives to honour you and welcome you on your return in ultimate Victory; Glory to you for ever and ever. Amen
All Hail King Jesus by Bethany Wohrle
Observe: Psalm 109 begins with the psalmist’s cry for God not to be silent, as an enemy (or enemies) verbally attacks and slanders him. Vv.1-5 at this point sound much like other psalms. The last part of the psalm, vv. 21-31, also sounds much like other psalms, a prayer for deliverance, and a plea that God will indeed punish the enemy.
The middle of the psalm, from vv. 6-20, is, however, a long and detailed curse on the enemy. God is being asked to find the enemy guilty, shorten his life, lose his leadership, have no grandchildren, his children be poor, be shunned by others, and the sins of his ancestors “remain before the Lord.” Verse 17 says, “He loved to curse, may it come back on him,” and may his own curses wrap themselves around him.
Interpret: Psalm 109 contains the most detailed curse by one person upon another in the Bible. Another shorter and similar curse is found in Ps 35:4-8. Some Bible translations of Psalm 109:6 add the words “They say…” at the start of the verse, thereby putting the curse in the mouth of the enemy rather than the psalmist. Most translations leave it as is; the curse is pronounced by the author.
The ancient world, and many cultures now, believe that a curse on one’s enemy is effective once pronounced. In the Bible, a call on God to curse an enemy can only be made effective by God. The psalmist, therefore, is calling on God to bring these curses on his enemy. We may ask God, but God decides.
In the matter of Balaam being asked to curse Israel, God decided to bless instead. Deut. 23:6 reads, “the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you.” Balaam himself said, “How can I curse those whom God has not cursed?” (Num.23:8)
Proverbs 26:2 reads, “Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.” Or “arrive.” Curses don’t always “land” on the one being cursed.
In Ps. 109, in the last part, the psalmist is reduced to pleading with God to effect the curse he has pronounced. He knows full well that God is the LORD. To call on any other power (like Baal) to effect his curse would make him an idolator, cutting himself off from God. So, the psalmist, despite thirsting for revenge, places himself under God’s sovereignty.
Paul’s admonition at Romans 12:19 says much the same. “Do not take revenge…but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge’ I will repay’ says the Lord.” Paul is quoting from Deut. 32:35.
Application: Kathleen Norris, in The Cloister Walk, p. 92, calls this a “breathtaking catalog of curses…a devastatingly accurate portrait of the psychology of hatred…Calling for God’s judgement can feel dangerously good.” Norris says much the same about the cry for revenge against Babylon at the end of Psalm 137.
The Psalms are remorselessly honest about the full gamut of human emotions. But the Psalms lead us to bring our anger, no matter how great, to God, not to other powers. Nor are we to try dealing with evil relying on our own selves, including cursing our enemies. Leave your desire for vengeance with God.
Christians who are under attack need to call on God. This does not mean that we are not to defend ourselves or to flee from attack. Evil must be faced, but by those equipped to do it. Again, leave it to God. Don’t take what God reserves for himself into your own hands. It could backfire on you.
The last word goes to Jesus, from Luke 6:27-28. “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
Prayer: Thou, O Lord, art just and powerful: O defend our cause against the face of the enemy. O God, thou art a strong tower of defence to all that flee to thee: O save us from the violence of the enemy. O Lord of hosts, fight for us, that we may glorify thee. O suffer us not to sink under the weight of our sins, or the violence of the enemy. O Lord, arise, help us, and deliver us for thy Name’s sake. (BCP, 636)
Hymn: Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side (tune: Finlandia), Book of Common Praise #562
TEXT: Psalm 108
OBSERVE: This psalm is entitled “A Song - A Psalm of David”. It is a compilation of two other psalms (57 and 60). Verses 1 to 5 of this psalm is very similar to Psalm 57: 7-11, and verses 6 to 13 is almost identical to Psalm 60: 5-12. While Psalm 57 is an individual lament and Psalm 60 is a corporate lament, Psalm 108 is a psalm of assurance that reapplies the previous psalms to produce a prayer for God’s final, eschatological day of vengeance when He establishes His Lordship among the nations.
INTERPRET: These are David’s words, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, taken and applied to a present challenge he is facing. The enemies specified are Moab, Edom, and Philistia (with an emphasis on Edom). It may be that this old foe, defeated earlier in David’s day, rose again and Israel must defeat it again.
When it comes to prayer, a primary stumbling block for many Christians today is the idea that when speaking to God we should always be original and creative. However, Psalm 108 shows that we can and often should use words of scripture as present prayers and praises, suitable to our present situation. The psalms (the prayer book of the Bible), provides a lot of material for us today.
APPLICATION: When we look at the Bible, we find Christians praying the psalms. A good example is in Acts 4: 24-26, where the believers pray Psalm 2. Even Jesus himself prayed using the psalms: His dying prayer on the cross was a quotation of Psalm 22:1.
One common approach to praying the psalms, is the “Three R’s” method: Rejoice, Repent, Request. This method would include asking the following three questions:
Praying through scripture can be a very helpful way to ensure our prayers are shaped by God’s Word. Let's try this together now - with a prayer of praise taken from today’s psalm.
PRAYER: My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul. For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. AMEN.
SONG: Thy Word (Amy Grant)
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.