Day 123 Poetry and Power—"Hatred of Body and Soul”—Psalms 9 – 12
May 3, 2021, 9:18 AM

Day 123 Poetry and Power—"Hatred of Body and Soul”—Psalms 9 – 12

We are still just wading into the psalms and it will take time to settle in, if we are able to do that. We are used to reading biblical language that is different than the language we normally speak since we have already read so much of the bible—law, history, origins and even some poetry. But the psalms kick it up a notch, so to speak.

To enter more deeply into the psalms, take a deep breath before you start. Maybe even say a bitty little prayer—“God, help me see something new about You today as I read.” Or maybe even: “God help me see something new about ME as I read the psalms today.” So far we have not been overwhelmed with too much reading in the psalms, but those days will come, I think.

I think some general hints might help as we continue with the book of Psalms. After this, I will be doing mostly reflective blog posts on the psalms as I read them, approaching them from a ‘heart perspective’ rather than a scholarly perspective.

Mark up your bible. I know, I know. Alistair says not to do it, but I love underlining and writing notes and putting post-it tabs on the edges of the page. First of all it helps me remember. Second it focuses my attention. Third, when I come back to the psalm, I can see what struck me before and it gives me a bit of insight into my own mindset. Use a pencil that can be easily erased if that works for you, and makes you feel more comfortable.

Read the Psalms out loud. This changes our perspective,  and can really change the way we understand the psalm we are reading because we become the writer, and enter into the viewpoint of the person who wrote the psalm. If one of the lines catches you, or stops you, or takes your breath away, or knits your brow with a question—stop there for a moment. It’s ok. That might be where you need to stay for a bit. This isn’t a story in the traditional sense of the word, although the psalms are connected to stories, particularly stories of David’s life that we have already read.

Remember that they are prayers. Thus they are honest, emotional, opinionated about who the enemy is, and can represent real wrestling matches between God and the psalmist.

Notice the format. The psalms are often written as acrostics, although in Hebrew. That means that many of the psalms begin each line with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet, but there is not a comparative way that the English alphabet compares to this, so we can’t translate them to show this. The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet isn’t ‘a’ for example, so it wouldn’t make sense to us to try and do this, and the Hebrew alphabet only has 22 letters to our 26 letters.

Format again. This little note really changed how I read and saw the psalms when I learned it—quite often, the second part of the verse simply reflects the first part of the verse. For example, let’s look at v. 1 and 2 of Psalm 9 that we read today:

Verse   1a: I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
            1b: I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

            2a: I will be glad and exalting you;
            2b: I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.

Can you see how the second part of each verse is a re-worded or slightly different perspective of the first verse? Many of the psalms incorporate this method. Take a minute to read some more of the psalm for yourself to see how that continues in Psalm 9. In verse 5, both parts are about the LORD. In verse 6, both parts of the verse refer to the enemy.

Dating: Here’s a quick reference guide to when each psalm may have been written, (they are not strictly chronological), with the bible reference to the event that may have spurred the writing of each one. It could help give you additional understanding of the tone of the psalm, the viewpoint and the subject matter. https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/parallel/paral18.cfm

Remember music. If you are a choir member (or have been one) or if you love music, you may be able to search on your computer for versions of the psalms set to music. I already told you about the chant sites, but there is choral music, contemporary music and other arrangements that may help you fall in love with the psalms, which are, of course, written as songs. Simply type in the number of the psalm you would like to find in your search bar, then type in 'song' or 'music' or even 'video' after that to find musical settings for that particular psalm.

Use another translation of the Bible. Alistair and I like to look at a variety of sources to help us get enmeshed in the psalms. You do not need to buy anything else!!! We will probably share some of our additional translations with you, but once again, you can go to a website called Bible Gateway and it allows you to change the translation of the Bible you are reading in the app. It is an exhaustive source of information. Bible Gateway allows you to look at different translations and even compare them next to each other. As other sources, Alistair and I like to use paraphrase versions such as The Message, Psalms Now, and sometimes even the Street Bible. You may have another version of the bible that you especially like OR one with great study notes. I still stand by our Life Application Study Bible as one of the best for study notes. Life App Study Bible on Amazon

Ok. Now I’ve officially overwhelmed you, right? The teacher in me dies hard. Actually the teacher in me refuses to die!!! So if this is too much, just read the Psalms. You don’t need to do anything else.

And so, today’s line for me from the Psalms that struck me, from Psalm 11: 5

“The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked,
            and his soul hates the lover of violence.”

While we have read about warfare and bloodshed in the Bible, God has never intended for his people to love the process of war or of the violence that ensued. Violence occurs in our world today. War still rages. People die at one another’s hand. We are meant to hate it even when it is impossible to avoid. God hates the love of violence, is how I read this, and while I know that some people may be convinced that violence is an answer to the world’s problems, or to our own domestic problems, I am comforted when I know that God himself hates the love of violence.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,

ML

 



Comments

05-03-2021 at 7:12 PM
Linda Dow
Thank you for all your time and effort, to give us understanding. I appreciate and enjoy learning.
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