Gleanings from the Bible: Psalms 41, 42, 47, 49, 50 and 51.

Psalm 41: The Weak

“Blessed are those who have regard for the weak”

It’s one of those recurring themes; that God cares for the poor, the oppressed and the outcast and that he expects his people to do the same. Jesus mixed with and came to the aid of such, Micah wrote, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (6:8.) and the ever-practical James states in his letter, Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (1:27)

It’s easy to de-emphasise the outworking of our faith if we only think about seeing people “saved” (important though that is!).

Psalm 42: The Suffering

      My tears have been my food
      day and night,
      while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

This is reminiscent of Job’s situation. In the face of disappointment, bereavement, disaster and human failure, victims and observers alike often ask the same question. The situation can either bring out the best in people or it can destroy their faith. The Psalmist finds solace in the refrain of verses 5 and 11 and 43:5…

      Why are you cast down, O my soul,
      and why are you disquieted within me?
      Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
      my help  and my God

Psalm 47: Awesomeness

For the LORD Most High is awesome.

It occurs to me that the word “awesome” has become so devalued in modern speech along with other superlatives such as “absolutely”. We can become desensitised to the intensity of meaning incorporated in the words.

During religious revivals it is reported that the presence of God was so evident that people hid under the church pews. The revelation of God as “the great king over all the earth… seated on his holy throne” commands utmost awe and respect. In the laidback worship which may only treat God as our best friend (not necessarily a bad thing), let’s not become so familiar that we forget how great he is and how small we are. Such knowledge should not of course continue to make us cower in fear but lift us up to praise with the Psalmist…

Sing praises to God, sing praises;
      sing praises to our King, sing praises.
      For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.

Psalm 49: Resurrection

Some people doubt whether the idea of the resurrection of the dead is evident in the Old Testament. Certainly the Sadducees even in Jesus’ day didn’t believe in it. This psalm does seem to hint at it though. Consider this…

the ransom for a life is costly,
      no payment is ever enough—
      so that they should live on forever
      and not see decay.

Although that could refer just to this life, the following seems to go beyond. The context is speaking of the wealthy who reject God…

Their tombs will remain their houses for ever…
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves…

Their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.
But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
he will surely take me to himself.

The message here is; Don’t be jealous of the wealthy. They can’t take it with them. Nothing matters in the end but your relationship to the God who can raise you up.

Psalm 50: No Bull

      I have no need for a bull from your stall

At the heart of our relationship with God is our faithfulness to his Covenant with us. In New Testament (New Covenant) terms this is established through the life, death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ for our sins. It is entered into through placing our faith in Christ. In the words of the Baptismal/Confirmation rites of many Christian denominations, “I turn to Christ. I repent of my sins.”

In the Psalmist’s day and before, the Covenant was sealed with a sacrifice, but a sacrifice without a heart of faith and a willingness to obey God was, and is, empty ritual. Both Testaments of the Bible confirm as the writer does here…

      Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
      “Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
      fulfill your vows to the Most High,
and call on me in the day of trouble;
      I will deliver you,
and you will honour me.”

Psalm 51: Broken

David’s psalm of repentance echoes Psalm 50.

      You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it…
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
A broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise

From brokenness, comes forgiveness and from forgiveness comes praise and joy and the ability to teach others God’s ways (verses 12, 13, 15).

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