Psalms Readings – Week 18

Rev. Ben Lovell   -  

May 2 – Psalm 131

A song of ascents. Of David.

My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

Today, we experience one of the shortest readings of all the Psalms. As I planned out the reading schedule, it didn’t work to couple it with another psalm. So, enjoy the brevity and spend some additional time meditating on the powerful message that it offers. This message expands on what it means to put your hope in the Lord by inspecting the condition of our hearts to discover what belongs and does not belong.

First, what does not belong: David’s heart was not proud. His eyes were not haughty. What about you? Before answering too quickly, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal and bring conviction if there are places in your life where this might be true. 

He does not concern himself with matters that were too wonderful for him to understand. He has come to the point in his discipleship that he knows he cannot comprehend all of life’s complications and challenges. He knows God’s ways are higher and God’s thoughts are greater than his. He is okay with not knowing all the answers.

What does belong: Through his trust in the Lord, he has been able to get to a place of contentment where he is calm and collected just as a weaned child learns to become content. Weaning is a process. It takes time for contentment to come, yet he has found it as he has put his hope in God’s rich supply of His peace and promises. 

Are you there with David? Are there things you are still chasing like power, pleasures, and possessions? Are there answers you still need in order to be happy? What do you need to let go of in order to put your full hope in the Lord and find that ultimate contentment that only comes in Jesus and not in the things of this world?  

Memory Verse: Psalm 133:1, How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

Question(s) to Consider: What questions, doubts, or pursuits do you need to let go in order to have a fully contented heart? Will you surrender them to the Lord today? 

May 3 – Psalm 132

A song of ascents.

Lord, remember David and all his self-denial.

He swore an oath to the Lord,  he made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
“I will not enter my house  or go to my bed,
I will allow no sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids,
till I find a place for the Lord,  a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

We heard it in Ephrathah, we came upon it in the fields of Jaar:
“Let us go to his dwelling place, let us worship at his footstool, saying,
‘Arise, Lord, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.
May your priests be clothed with your righteousness; may your faithful people sing for joy.’”

10 For the sake of your servant David, do not reject your anointed one.

11 The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants I will place on your throne.

12 If your sons keep my covenant  and the statutes I teach them,
then their sons will sit  on your throne for ever and ever.”

13 For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,
14 “This is my resting place for ever and ever;  here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.
15 I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor I will satisfy with food.
16 I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.

17 “Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one.
18 I will clothe his enemies with shame, but his head will be adorned with a radiant crown.”

Psalm 132 combines two themes: the promises made to David and Zion as the center of God’s kingdom. It has two sections: David made an oath that he would secure a home for the Lord, and the Lord made an oath that He would secure David’s dynasty. They were intended to both reign from Zion as one voice proclaiming the righteousness of God. 

David had great passion for worshiping the Lord. He recognized he was living in a house, but God was still living in a tent. He wanted to rectify that. However, God said David’s son, Solomon, would be the one to build the temple. 

When God spoke his promise to make David’s family the one from which all kings would come, eventually leading to Jesus, King of kings, David was overwhelmed with awe and praise as we find in,

2 Samuel 7:18-19, Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said: “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human!

We find whatever we would dare promise God, His promises for us are much greater and everlasting. We see that God desired His kingdom would be filled with salvation and joy. The king would reign in God’s light, and the poor would be blessed with abundant provision. At the center of God’s home, justice reigns. How people treat the poor is an indicator whether justice is being done.  

Memory Verse: Psalm 133:1, How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

Question(s) to Consider: When have you been overcome with praise for the greater work that God has done? How are you participating in the work of God’s justice for the poor?   

May 4 – Psalm 133

A song of ascents. Of David.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

Psalm 134

A song of ascents.

Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.

May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who is the Maker of heaven and earth.

In Psalm 133, we shout a resounding Amen to David’s word of how beautiful it is when the people of God are getting along and living in harmony. Their pilgrimage was not an individualistic act of piety but expresses solidarity with the larger body of God’s people. The same is true for our journey in Christian discipleship where we are expected to do so in relationship with the Body of Christ. 

David uses imagery that we might not resonate with, but his initial audience would have appreciated and understood. The precious oil poured was to set apart Aaron and all priests to be consecrated for their holy service. So, unity sets apart God’s people to lovingly serve Him and is a powerful witness to those outside the community.

Such unity is like the dew that brings life as it provided moisture for crops in a region where it did not rain for much of the year. Hermon is a snow-capped mountain peak in the far northeast of Israel. Its dew is particularly dense because of the air’s moisture in contrast to the air around Jerusalem that is often dry. The dew of Hermon falling on Mount Zion is a sign of God’s richest blessings coming upon God’s people who are united together in worship.  

Psalm 134 is the final psalm in the songs of ascents. It concludes the section by encouraging those who serve in the temple to keep on praising the Lord through the night after the worshipers have gone home. I love the thought that although the gathered people of God must eventually leave the temple, the Lord’s praise continues throughout the night. 

The psalm concludes with the central theme in these songs of ascents. God’s blessing comes from Zion because that is where He was to be found. The One who created the universe could be found in Jerusalem, and from there He would freely shower His blessings upon all who would exuberantly worship Him. 

As believers in Jesus who inhabit the Holy Spirit, we are Zion! God brings His blessings into our lives whereever we are. 

Memory Verse: Psalm 133:1, How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

Question(s) to Consider: What contemporary imagery would you use to picture the unity of believers in the Body of Christ? Can you picture yourself as Zion, where you continually offer praise to God, and receive His many benefits? 

May 5 – Psalm 135

Praise the Lord. Praise the name of the Lord; praise him, you servants of the Lord,
you who minister in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;  sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant.
For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession.

I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods.
The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth,
in the seas and all their depths.
He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain
and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

He struck down the firstborn of Egypt, the firstborn of people and animals.
He sent his signs and wonders into your midst, Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants.
10 He struck down many nations  and killed mighty kings—
11 Sihon king of the Amorites,  Og king of Bashan, and all the kings of Canaan—
12 and he gave their land as an inheritance, an inheritance to his people Israel.

13 Your name, Lord, endures forever, your renown, Lord, through all generations.
14 For the Lord will vindicate his people  and have compassion on his servants.

15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands.
16 They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see.
17 They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths.
18 Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.

19 All you Israelites, praise the Lord;  house of Aaron, praise the Lord;
20 house of Levi, praise the Lord; you who fear him, praise the Lord.
21 Praise be to the Lord from Zion,  to him who dwells in Jerusalem. Praise the Lord.

Psalm 135 begins and ends with the command to “praise the Lord.” It has six sections: the outer two sections frame the psalm in praise while the four sections in the middle magnify the Lord’s greatness.

The psalmist calls on the leaders at the temple to give praise to the Lord for the He is good and to do so is a pleasant thing. We saw the words good and pleasant used Psalm 133 to describe the beauty of unity. This indicates there is an important link between unity and praise. It is impossible for the people of God to offer praise to God when they are not united together. 

The Lord is greater than the other so-called gods because He alone has the ability to work His magnificent power through creation. He demonstrated His superiority when He led Israel and brought judgment upon Egypt. God used the Israelites as His instruments to defeat and bring judgment upon the nations and kings who were vastly evil. 

It is the name of this one true Lord alone that will endure through all generations. He alone brings about justice and compassion for those who belong to Him. 

In contrast to the Lord are the many man-made idols of the nations who are formed with eyes, ears, hands, and mouths but absolutely have no life within them. There will come a time when their makers and their worshipers will no longer have life but will experience God’s judgment. 

However, the people of God who trust in Him are to live and breathe continual praise to the Lord because they know their God is alive and accomplishing great works in the world. 

Memory Verse: Psalm 133:1, How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

Question(s) to Consider: What is your reason for offering praise to the Lord today? 

May 6 – Psalm 136

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters, His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day, His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever.

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them, His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever.

13 to him who divided the Red Sea asunder, His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it, His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea; His love endures forever.

16 to him who led his people through the wilderness; His love endures forever.

17 to him who struck down great kings, His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings—His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites, His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan—His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance, His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel. His love endures forever.

23 He remembered us in our low estate, His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies. His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature. His love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.

Psalm 136 celebrates the enduring nature of the Lord’s love. Each verse ends with a refrain; it’s the only psalm that does so. As we have done with it, it may have been used in public worship where one person leads with for that which is to be given thanks, and the congregation responds with, “His love endures forever.” 

If repetition is used to drive a point home, then we must pay attention to this refrain. The love of the Lord is everlasting. It does not give up or out on us. 

This psalm shares various highlights from their history as they happened in the first five books of the Bible. Other psalms recalled past historical events but only this psalm exactly follows the order of events as described in those early books of the Bible: Creation-Exodus-Red Sea-Wilderness-Sihon/Og-Land Grant. 

One specific example in verses 4-9 is that the order follows the specific acts of creation found in Genesis 1. 

The most important message of the psalm is it reminds us that both Scripture and history teach us that God’s love continues to reach out to creation and His people over and over again. 

Memory Verse: Psalm 133:1, How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

Question(s) to Consider: What specific examples that you could add to the list where you have experienced Christ’s enduring love in your life?  

May 7 – Psalm 137

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.

Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!”
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

Psalm 137 is set in Babylonian exile. It has strong and striking imagery that expresses the raw emotions of their painful state of separation from their homeland. It has three sections. Verses 1-4 is characterized “we” language, verses 5-6 use “I” language, verses 7-9 use “they” pronouns. 

The consistent theme that runs throughout is that the psalmist longs for Jerusalem’s return and exaltation, as well as, the destruction of the hostile nations. This is an imprecatory psalm where the psalmist prays that the enemies of God’s people would receive due justice for the evil they have done. 

The Euphrates River ran through the ancient city of Babylon, and the region was filled with river branches and canals that flowed from it. They wept as they remembered their beautiful city that has been ravished. They are in exile, but their hearts are still in Zion. The Ukrainians can especially identify well with this psalm today. So many people have had to flee as refugees and so much beauty within their country has been destroyed. 

To hang their harps expressed their grief because such instruments are associated with joyful praise. They could not bring themselves to do so in the midst of their raw emotions. 

Verses 5-6 offer a bitter prayer asking that the psalmist should lose the very ability to offer praise if he ever were to forget Jerusalem, their place of worship and meeting with God. The concern in forgetting is not that he would not remember that Jerusalem existed but that he would not consider Jerusalem his highest joy. A good exercise for us in these psalms that speak about Zion or Jerusalem is to substitute these names with the name of Jesus for He is to be our highest joy among all other joys of life. What a wonderful way to think about our Lord. He is our highest joy!    

The psalm ends by speaking of retributive justice which is punishment that fits the crime. He asks God for justice to be done to these evil nations. It is not unreasonable to think that the psalmist may have had seen their children dashed upon the rocks, because it commonly occurred when one nation conquered another. We may not pray such a specific prayer, but the intent of the psalmist is for equal justice for the crime committed. God’s desire for what is right and good lives on in us as His people.  

Memory Verse: Psalm 133:1, How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

Question(s) to Consider: Would we ask for the same judgment upon ourselves if we ever forgot Jesus? Can we honestly say that Jesus is our highest joy? Are you praying for God’s justice to come upon any specific sin or situation? 

May 8 – Psalm 138

Of David.

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name

for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
that it surpasses your fame.
When I called, you answered me;
you greatly emboldened me.

May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord,
when they hear what you have decreed.
May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
for the glory of the Lord is great.

Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me;  your love, Lord, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.

Psalm 138 pictures the people of God and their king as being in a position of power, in contrast to what we saw yesterday when they were in exile. In verses 1-3, David praises the Lord, in verses 4-5, David invites all the kings of the earth to do the same, and in verses 6-8, the Lord walks with David. 

David declares he will praise the Lord and wants to do so in the presence of the so-called gods of the nations to state there is only one true God. David says the reason for his praise is the often-named attributes of God- His faithfulness and unfailing love. When we seemingly have nothing else for which to offer praise, we can always give thanks that God has these two enduring qualities. 

He also offers praise to God for His solemn decree which speaks of God’s promise that a Davidic heir would reign forever on Israel’s throne. David remained humbled and in awe that God had made such a pledge about him and his family.  

David offers another reason for his praise- God answered his prayers and gave him the courage he needed. David does not seem to have enmity with other world leaders but calls on them to offer praise to the Lord for His glory that reaches around the world to every nation.  

David shares a beautiful picture of God being exalted and enthroned over the whole universe (God’s transcendence) yet is able to meet us where we are and walk with us in our time of need (God’s immanence.) This is the uniqueness and greatness of our God. He is all-powerful but ever so close and helping us in our every need.

Memory Verse: Psalm 133:1, How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

Question(s) to Consider: What has God done for you that has humbled you and kept you in awe of Him? Who would you like to offer your praise before in order for them to know God’s greatness?