Blogging the Psalmist

“Why should anyone devote a contemporary blog to David, to delving deeply into his life and prayers and to reflecting and meditating on his poetry?” one might ask. It certainly is a legitimate question and one that deserves more than just a word or two in response. So I have attempted to address it as thoroughly yet succinctly as I can in the “Why David?” section of this blog. I invite you to take a look.

But before you go there, let me be the one to pose and answer a couple of related questions: why am I writing this blog? and why now? It’s a story I love to tell. You can read it here.

The Ascending Heart

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning,” (Ps 130:5-6) wrote the unidentified psalmist of the eleventh Psalm of Ascent. The lack of ascription of this psalm to a particular poet seems to enhance the universality of its application. It removes the necessity or temptation to confine it to a particular place, time, set of circumstances or person. The speaker could be you, or me, or even David. The anonymity gives the poem and this verse of it a power and possession that each of us can take as our own hope and petition. [Read more…]

The Quiet Heart

Guatemalan Lake

One of the psalms that I see most often quoted (other than the 23rd, of course) and that I hear referred to as a favorite is Psalm 46, a song attributed to the Sons of Korah. It begins “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” and then moves to the line that I personally find the most compelling: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). What exactly does being still before God mean? Surely it refers to more than a state of physical inactivity. More important, how do we achieve that stillness, especially in the hyper-charged age in which we live? I believe– and think the psalmist David for whom the Sons of Korah worked as temple musicians and choristers and worship leaders, would agree– that our stillness must be preceded and accompanied by silence. [Read more…]

The Shepherd’s Heart

The beauty of the psalms, like most great poetry, resides in its independent meaning. That is, the poems can and do speak to us whether or not we know the context in which they were written or anything about the poet who composed them. Now I suspect that some of you, who read last week’s post, are scratching your heads. “Hold on,” you must be saying, “this seems to contradict what you wrote last week. Wasn’t the emphasis on looking at the work in an historical and situational context.” [Read more…]

The Contrite Heart

Spring Web

The title of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s marvelous monograph declares the Psalms “The Prayer Book of the Bible.” He is not the first, nor the last, to characterize the psalter that way. Many of us find the psalms to be an enduring prayer guide because these words of man addressed to God capture feelings we often find difficult to articulate and transform them into language to which we can relate and that we can use with ease. Yes, the psalms speak of our common needs in a universal, yet personal, tongue. Thus the psalms move us into a sacred place of communion with God where divine words  — because the psalms are also the Word of God — and human speech find a perfect union of expression. [Read more…]

Finding Faith among the Foxes

North Sea Anchorage, Isle of Harris

What might foxes have to do with faith? I have been contemplating that strange question lately, and I believe the answer is “quite a bit.” All last week, no matter where I turned, it seemed that I was encountering foxes. For the most part, they were those “little foxes that spoil the vines,” as David’s son Solomon described them in verse 15 of the 2nd chapter the Song of Solomon. [Read more…]

The Heart of Covenant

Poppies in the Wild

Yesterday I chuckled when I heard myself say to my dog the same thing I would have to a disobedient child. In response to my growing exasperation that my usually compliant pup had ignored me after I had used the “come” command several times with varying levels of firmness in my voice, I phrased my next directive in the form of a frustrated question. “Did you hear me?” I implored. He did not respond any less defiantly to the question than he had to the familiar command. After the incident in which I finally got him to comply with my instruction, I’m sure he never gave it another moment of thought. But I certainly did. [Read more…]

The Heart of the Law

Ladder to the Sky

In past posts we have talked extensively about David in the way that God Himself described him, namely as the man after His own heart. And we have looked recently at the psalmist’s love not only for his Lord, but also for his devotion to and respect for the law, as he expresses it in Psalms 19 and 119 as well as in his final words to Solomon. But we have not given the relationship of heart and law the attention it deserves. Now is the time that we do. [Read more…]

David’s Lexicon of Faith

Gilded! Huntley Meadows, VA

If you were asked to define your faith, where would you begin? More particularly, if you were required to explain the basis of your belief in God, as well as your understanding of the character of who or what God is, what words would you use? Suppose describing your relationship with God was added to the task. And then you were required to identify a limited number of words– say a dozen – as absolutely critical to your response. What would you say? Where would you find your answers? I would commence by looking to the man after God’s heart, for he has provided us the guidebook. [Read more…]

The Heart of Liberty

As a Burning Bush to Me

Yesterday I awoke with the opening line of Randall Thompson’s great choral work The Testament of Freedom playing in my head. It begins “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.” The words of that hymn were not Thompson’s. He lifted them from A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774); and as great composers do, he placed them in a setting that gave them a new life, which both honors and marvelously transcends the original text. From a document that was a decidedly American one, Thompson uncovered and then enshrined in music a universal and enduring truth. Just as the psalmist’s words do – which were also first uttered in a particular circumstance and historical context — these too belong equally to all people and every nation and generation.  [Read more…]

The Great Psalmist’s Voice

Grey Geese Rising, Scottish Highlands

One of my early blog posts discussed literary voice as a basis on which to establish the majority of psalms – particularly the “lamed-David” ones — as the work of a single poet. Although there is not universal agreement on that point, there is not much lively argument against it either. But a persistent, millennia-long debate continues to rage around the question of who that single poet is. [Read more…]