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Psalm 16 begins with a cry for divine help: “Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge” (16:1). Yet the bulk of the psalm does not focus on that from which the psalmist needs refuge. Rather, Psalm 16 celebrates God’s help in difficult times, his presence that keeps us safe and gladdens our hearts.
Psalm 15 begins with the question of who may “abide” in God’s tent. To put it more prosaically, “Who can worship in God’s sanctuary?” The answer: “Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right” (15:2). Then the psalm lists examples of the kind of righteous living that should characterize those who worship God, beginning with “speak the truth from their heart.”
I spend much of my workday in front of a computer screen. One of my challenges is keeping a good posture. I tend to lean forward, with shoulders hunched over my keyboard. Not exactly a prime example of good ergonomic practice! But, that’s what happens to me when I’m focused on my work. I have my head down, both literally and figuratively.
I remember when I first resolved to read through the whole Bible. I was in high school and it seemed like the godly thing to do. But, as I began making my way through Scripture, I kept stumbling upon verses that were unsettling to me. Sometimes what a verse described seemed abhorrent to me (Should I be happy when babies have their heads dashed on the rocks?). Other verses just seemed wrong (Should I always give to those who ask?). I believed that the Bible was God’s Word and was always true. But what was I to do with verses that seemed to be, well, false?
There are times when it’s fairly easy to trust in God’s love, to rejoice in his salvation, and to sing because he has been good to us. I think of times in my life when I was overwhelmed by God’s blessings, when I could hardly believe how good my life was. My heart was filled with thanks and praise.
Yet, there are other times, aren’t there? Times when life is hard, when sorrow fills our hearts, when we wonder if God is even there for us.
As we read Psalm 2 today, our context is quite different. We no longer have human kings ruling over us. Moreover, we have come to understand that Psalm 2 points ahead to the one who was fully the Son of God. Thus, when we read verse 12, we hear a call to kiss, that is, to submit to Jesus, the Son of God.
Psalm 12 begins with a dire description of a culture on the road to ruin: “[T]here is no longer anyone who is godly; the faithful have disappeared from humankind” (12:1). As he continues, the psalmist sees neighbors lying to each other and violence done to the helpless (12:2, 5). “On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among humankind” (12:8). The bonds that hold society together are being severed as people lose the ability to determine right from wrong.
Sound familiar? Have you ever found yourself checking CNN online and thinking that the godly are disappearing and the faithful have vanished from the earth?
Psalm 11 explains God’s relationship to justice in terms of love. Verse 7 reads, “For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds.” This translation is possible, though it could also be rendered, “For the just LORD loves justice” or “For the righteous LORD loves righteous deeds.” The Hebrew uses the adjective tzaddiq in reference to the Lord and the plural noun tzedaqot to depict that which he loves. Even without knowing Hebrew, you can see the close relationship between these two words, which are based on the tz-d-q root.
Psalm 10 begins by wondering why the Lord lets the wicked do their evil deeds and even prosper because of them. The wicked think God is absent or, at any rate, not paying attention to what they’re doing. But the psalm writer knows that God is there and that he is, in fact, watching. Thus the psalmist cries out for the Lord to punish the wicked, to give them the justice they deserve.
The psalm ends on a different, tender note. The Lord pays attention, not only to the wicked, but also to their victims.
When my wife became pregnant with our second child, she and I were overjoyed. We had hoped and prayed for another baby and were thrilled to know one was on the way. When we learned that our baby was a girl, we started thinking of a name for her. We decided upon Kara (pronounced CARE-uh), not only because we liked the sound of that name, but also because it was an Anglicized version of the Greek word meaning “joy.” We felt great joy over the pending birth of our little girl and wanted our joy to be captured by her name.
We never realized, however, just how perfect this name would be. Even when she was a baby, Kara rejoiced in life. She is still one of the most enthusiastic, fun, and, indeed, joyful people I know. It’s almost as if her name summarizes the essence of her existence. If you know that “Kara” means joy, and you know my daughter’s name is Kara, then you know her.
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