Hymns of Praise
117:1, “Praise ye the LORD, all ye nations: praise him all ye people
117:2, For his merciful kindness is great towards us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD.”
The Psalms are very varied in their content, impact and glimpses of the secret emotions of the writers. I think that it would be wise to spend some time on the Psalms to find out just how we can benefit from them. I mentioned writers and not writer, for the Psalms were not just written by king David, as some seem to think. There were a number of writers of which some are not known at all. Many guesses have been made as to who they were, but they still stay just guesses.
Before we take a look at individual Psalms and their content, I feel that it would be of great interest to analyse the Psalms as a group, or groups. This will extent over quite a few messages, but all of us will surely benefit in a spiritual way, a moral way as well, as in our daily life. The Psalms, just as much as the rest of the Scriptures, have much to say to us and to tell us.
Psalm 117 is the shortest Psalm, yet is has all the properties of what a Psalm should be. To illustrate this let’s go back quickly to the original language, Hebrew. The Hebrew word for Psalm is Tehilah, is in the singular and means praise or glory. The full title in Hebrew for the Book of Psalms is Sefer Tehilim, is in the plural and literally means Book of praises. Psalm 117 is calling all people to praise the Lord for His love to us.
The writer is extolling the faithfulness of God and is exhorting whoever is listening to come to the Lord to see for himself if it is indeed true that God’s love is everlasting. A short Psalm, but full of power to save. Herbert Lockyer, in his book “All the Books and Chapters of the Bible” had this to say about this Psalm, and I quote: “Being a small portion, made up of only two verses, it suggests that God’s worship need not be too long. Few words sometimes say what is sufficient.” Unquote.
Four aspects, which also are a part of the book or film world today, come to the fore when we read through the Psalms, and they are:
1. THE HORROR CONTENT
The word Horror has many connotations today, but it actually means anything that excites a feeling of fear. An instance in question are the horror films and stories. Small children are particularly prone to nightmares if they are subjected to a horror movie. The Scriptures are full of the human side of mankind. Nothing is hidden, all is revealed, the good side and the bad side. The reason for this is that God , in His wisdom, wants to reveal to those who read the Holy Bible, that people who even have the worst in them are able to come to Him as they are. As they commit themself to the rule of God and put their thrust in Him, so God changes them into worthy citizens of His kingdom. Man cannot do it, but God can transform the unworthy to the worthy. This is vividly brought out in some of the Psalms.
2. THE GLORY CONTENT
Many films and books have a hero content, where the star is glorified, even if he or she does things or performs acts that are contrary to God’s teachings. Maybe some of you can still remember the Asienne Lupin series on TV, the charming thief who never got caught. Often this is laughed away by saying that it is only a film and only done in fun or as a joke. The problem here is that continued exposure to wrong types of situations always result in the proverbial “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Rather, as we read the Scriptures, concentrate on the glory of the Almighty and His Son Jesus Christ. This way we are subjected to a building up of our character instead of a breaking down. The Psalms are interspersed with wonderful sections of the glory of God. Later on in the series we will spend time on how God’s glory is exalted by the Psalmists.
3. THE MYSTERY CONTENT
The mysterious has always been the target of searching by man. Right from the very beginning man has taken an unhealthy interest in one particular section of the supernatural. Supernatural meaning that area that is above and beyond the natural senses of what man is able to do and see. Although God operates in the supernatural world, man is more inclined to disobey God’s implicit commands to stay away from the occult. There are the evil spirits and then there is God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit. A mystery is something that is unknown or has not yet been revealed, a secret that has not yet been shared. The moment a mystery has been revealed it is no longer a mystery. One of the mysteries of the Scriptures is just how God works. We, being mere mortals, will never grasp just how great, how strong, how loveable, how wrathful, how merciful, how compassionate God can be. Yet, through His Word, for example the Psalms, God often gives us glimpses of Himself, like the sun breaking every now and again, in all its brilliance, through the dark ominous clouds of this world.
4. THE ROMANCE CONTENT
You may ask me what has romance to do with the Psalms! The whole of the Scriptures has to do with romance, a very special kind of romance; the love of a person with his God, and more so the love of God toward man, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) John 3:17 is just as important as verse 16 and yet it is never quoted with it: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him MIGHT BE SAVED.” Salvation is the main theme of the Scriptures, yet many get lost in all the sub-themes. They disembark somewhere off the Highway on a sight-seeing tour, and get so fascinated with the small details that they forget to come back to the Highway and to the destination they were trying to go to in the first place. I ask you today, “Have you lost your first love?” As we go through the Psalms I trust that that first love will return to you and renew your mind and your spirit in your Saviour Jesus Christ. Even more wonderful, if someone reading will put his or her trust in the Lord for the first time, that a romance will blossom between them and God; man and his Saviour.
These are the four main aspects in the Psalms as I see it.
The Horror part is in the Psalms. For example we read of it in Psalm 137:8-9, “O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”
The GLORY part of the Psalms: an example of this is in Psalm 135:3-4, “Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing praises to His Name, for that is pleasant. For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own. Israel to be his treasured possession.”
The MYSTERY of the Lord: Psalm 89:5-6, “The heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones, for who in the skies above can compare with the Lord? Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings?”
The ROMANCE part with the Lord: Psalm 89:1-2, “I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm for ever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.”
In conclusion I would just like to add that the majority of the Psalms were set to music and were meant to be sung, accompanied to musical instruments. The Psalms seemed to be a favourite with Jesus as He often quoted from them. The Apostles did the same.
What is wonderful about the Psalms are that they are a record of the intimate heart experiences of man. It is as if we are transported right into the inner secret prayer closet. The next few messages will form part of my introduction to this series. After that, as the Lord leads, we will place our attention on various selected Psalms that have special meaning to the growth of the Christian. Just how long the series will last I do not know, but I will say this, if I had to talk on just one Psalm per message, at three messages a week, it would take us exactly one year to complete, and how can one do justice to Psalm 119, for instance, in one message? As I normally only prepare each message and deliver it “hot off the Press” as it were, we must wait on the leading of the Lord. As we go into this teaching on praising the Lord, let us prayerfully read the Psalms in our quiet times, and ask the Lord to enlighten us spiritually through His Holy Spirit.