Friday Night Genesis – Friday Oct 4, 2013 – Psalms
Tonight we get to look at the picture of God in the Psalms. This poses ...
flows away; when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short. May they be like a slug
that melts away as it moves along...
Just because God encourages us to express our feelings with all honesty does not mean
that all those feelings are healthy ...
become full of meaning to the point that they may be the only thing keeping us sane in
an insane situation.
The bottom lin...
The Lord is like my Probation Officer,
He will help me,
He tries to help me make it every day.
He makes me play it cool
An...
The Lord is like my Probation Officer,
He will help me,
He tries to help me make it every day.
He makes me play it cool
An...
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Psalms

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Transcript of "Psalms"

  1. 1. Friday Night Genesis – Friday Oct 4, 2013 – Psalms Tonight we get to look at the picture of God in the Psalms. This poses a bit of a challenge, since we are trying to learn something about God from what is essentially a hymnal. The Psalms have been written by a number of different authors – spanning the period from Moses in the 1400’s BC to the time of the exile in the 500’s BC when they sat by the rivers of Babylon. So not only are there different authors, but they span a long period of time and a great variety of circumstances. Unlike the book of Esther, God is mentioned plenty of times, and there are plenty of statements about God dotted throughout the Psalms. The problem is – there does not appear to be a coherent thread to them. Here are just a couple of rather glaring examples of this: “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15 NIV). “Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled.” (Psalm 2:11,12 RSV) Well, which is it? Is God slow to anger or is His wrath quickly kindled? Or how about this one: “God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change— he will hear them and humble them, because they have no fear of God.” (Psalm 55:19 NIV) “And I say, “It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.”” (Psalm 77:10 RSV) So it seems that there is an inherent hazard in just plucking a verse out of the Psalms and building a theological construct around it. While we do like to have a nice sound bite statement about God, we have to be prepared for the fact that we may also run into one that says exactly the opposite. So it is probably a safe bet that Psalms were not primarily intended for the development of theological ideas. In dealing with some of these problematic statements reading a Psalm in its entirety will most often clear up these apparent contradictions. Sometimes it may be helpful to compare a number of different translations, since Psalms especially seem to have marked differences in various translations. So what can we learn about God in a book of hymns and poetry that contains so many disjointed and sometimes opposing statements about God? Recently I heard a song on the radio entitled “Pray for you”. But instead of the warm- fuzzies you’d expect from a song with such a title, the words went like this: “I pray your brakes go out runnin’ down a hill I pray a flowerpot falls from a window sill and knocks you on the head like I’d like to I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls I pray you’re flyin’ high when your engine stalls I pray all your dreams never come true Just know wherever you are honey, I pray for you “ After the initial thoughts of “blasphemy!” I got to thinking: This song would be right at home in the Psalms. Consider this tidbit from Psalms 58: “Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; LORD, tear out the fangs of those lions! Let them vanish like water that
  2. 2. flows away; when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short. May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along, like a stillborn child that never sees the sun. Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns— whether they be green or dry—the wicked will be swept away. The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked.” (Psalm 58:6-10). I mean, do y’all pray like that?! Is this what it means to pray for your enemies? That’s not how we usually interpret it! But this is a Psalm of David, someone about whom God went on record as being a man after His own heart, so what gives? I have a feeling many people become British when they pray to God. You may have seen a little table that made the rounds recently about how Brits are able to couch things ever so politely when they are dissing you. For example: when a Brit says “With the greatest respect…” what they really mean is “I think you’re an idiot”, but most people would interpret it as just a mild disagreement. Or when they say “very interesting” what they really mean is “That is clearly nonsense” while the rest of the world thinks they are finding it all rather fascinating. My guess is, that is how we generally talk to God. “God, Smith and I don’t seem to see eye to eye at times. Help us to work things out” when what you really mean is “I can’t stand the sight of that Smith guy!” The silly thing is – God already knows how you feel. What happens between you and God is private. And since He already knows your true feelings, there is no need to keep up pretences and appearances to protect your Christian reputation. Why fib? God wants to talk to you about reality, and how you feel about a situation or people that you come across is very much a part of your reality. This is not about trying to fool God into thinking that you are someone you are not. God knows you, better than you know yourself, and He wants to talk to you about your experiences. I believe that is why the Psalms have been recorded and left in the Bible. As you were reading through, you may have noticed that the Psalms really run the gamut: from joy and jubilation, praise and thankfulness to the deep questions of “why God?”, “where are you God?”, to the simple statements “you’re the only thing I have left to look to”, “I’m angry with these people Lord, knock their teeth out and make them pay, I want to bathe my feet in their blood” “I think you’re awesome the way you have arranged things” and even down to “I’m sorry Lord, I messed up, forgive me and transform me into a better person”. All of that and a whole lot more is in there, and some of it in graphic detail. What we learn from the Psalms is that God wants to hear it all. He wants to talk to us about it. He wants us to tell it how it is. That doesn’t mean He’ll necessarily leave us there – you may have noticed that as the authors of various Psalms were venting, the anger and the gloom of the beginning of the Psalm would turn into letting go – giving it up to God, ending the Psalm on a note of hope.
  3. 3. Just because God encourages us to express our feelings with all honesty does not mean that all those feelings are healthy ones. But as anyone who works as a counselor or a therapist knows, there is very little that can be done about a problem until we are willing to talk about it openly and honestly. Praying to God and being real is the first step that allows God to begin the healing process within us. God knows us, but until we acknowledge and give voice to the thoughts and feelings in our heads, God cannot do the work necessary to heal us and bring us peace. That is the treasure that the Psalms bring to the Bible. Real life experiences of others and their conversations with God about them. Just as in church not every hymn that is announced will fit your current frame of mind, so not every Psalm will reflect your mood at a given time. But among the 150 Psalms it is a pretty safe bet that you will find one that speaks to your situation. A number of people have told me that as they endured the wars in former Yugoslavia they gained a whole new appreciation for Psalms like Psalm 91: (video) “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty, I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” (Psalm 91:1-7) and so on. The video that you saw was a recording of Sabbath School in the basement of the Adventist church in Sarajevo some time in the late 1992. The sounds you heard were exploding artillery shells and machine gun fire in close proximity to the church. Those present had to travel on foot through the war zone to get to the church, running across any open areas to evade sniper fire. In sharing this with you, it is my hope that we can see how Psalms which today we skim through and think of as ‘nice’ can one day
  4. 4. become full of meaning to the point that they may be the only thing keeping us sane in an insane situation. The bottom line is this: Psalms tell us that God wants to talk to us. He wants an open conversation with us about what is going on in our lives. The good, bad and the ugly – He wants it all. He wants us to talk to Him about it. The hard questions in life, the hurt and disappointments – He wants that too. We have a God who listens, we have a God who is real. He doesn’t want the sanitized, “holy” version, He invites us to be completely open with Him. And when life is just spinning out of control, when we are torn by pain and tragedy and we just want to know why – we have a God whose chest is big enough to pound on in our despair and a shoulder soft enough to cry on in our grief. He invites us to come to Him with all of that. Carl Burke was a chaplain working as an inner city youth counselor in New York State. In 1966 he published a book called “God is For Real, Man.” The book was born in the reality of the troubled teens Burke was working with. Chaplain Burke explains: "Mister, what's God like?" That's the question that started this book. It was asked several years ago on a trail leading to the campfire circle at Camp Vick, the Western New York Baptist Camp. The answer to the seemingly simple question came without the slightest hesitation, and with the authority of a theological education, plus several years' experience as a pastor, and above all with the confidence that was expected of an "adult leader." "God," was the answer, "is like a father." The reply from the boy came slowly and devastated the adult leader, his experience, his theological education, and the confidence that is expected of an "adult leader." "Hah," the boy said with much venom, "if he's like my father I sure would hate him." The rest of the trip to the fire circle was made in silence. The "adult leader" was never the same again." The version of the Twenty-third Psalm, "The Lord is Like My Probation Officer...," was done by one boy and myself. The young lad was the victim of what psychologists call a "rejection syndrome." He was quite convinced that no one in the world had the slightest interest in him, and he expressed a longing for someone to whom he could turn. We were seeking for something that would have meaning to him. About the only one he could think of who had shown interest in him was the Probation Officer, for whom he had great admiration. Thus by our working together, this boy was able to express his feeling and establish a relationship with a person, which he could then translate into a relationship with our Lord.
  5. 5. The Lord is like my Probation Officer, He will help me, He tries to help me make it every day. He makes me play it cool And feel good inside of me. He shows me the right path So I'll have a good record, And he'll have one too. Because I trust him, And that ain't easy, I don't worry too much about What's going to happen. Just knowing he cares about Me helps me. He makes sure I have my food And that Mom fixes it. He helps her stay sober And that makes me feel good All over. He's a good man, I think, And he is kind; And these things will stay With me. And when I'm kind and good Then I know the Lord Is with me like the Probation Officer. We may not have any more experience with Probation Officers than we do with sheep and shepherds. But prayer is not a recitation of well known and well worn words and phrases. Prayer is a conversation with God as with a friend. A friend who deeply cares about us. A friend who knows us very well and will not be offended if we question His actions or lack thereof. So when life happens and you are sitting awake at night not knowing how you can face the day, don’t count sheep – talk to the Shepherd.
  6. 6. The Lord is like my Probation Officer, He will help me, He tries to help me make it every day. He makes me play it cool And feel good inside of me. He shows me the right path So I'll have a good record, And he'll have one too. Because I trust him, And that ain't easy, I don't worry too much about What's going to happen. Just knowing he cares about Me helps me. He makes sure I have my food And that Mom fixes it. He helps her stay sober And that makes me feel good All over. He's a good man, I think, And he is kind; And these things will stay With me. And when I'm kind and good Then I know the Lord Is with me like the Probation Officer. We may not have any more experience with Probation Officers than we do with sheep and shepherds. But prayer is not a recitation of well known and well worn words and phrases. Prayer is a conversation with God as with a friend. A friend who deeply cares about us. A friend who knows us very well and will not be offended if we question His actions or lack thereof. So when life happens and you are sitting awake at night not knowing how you can face the day, don’t count sheep – talk to the Shepherd.

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