Wandering through Psalms

I’m still creeping my way through the Old Testament, two chapters at a time most days. Or most days with the occasional day off. Or, really, on the occasional day with most days off. Some months I do really well at reading my two chapters a day. Others, not so much. 

Recently, I reached the book of Psalms and I have slowed way, way down. I know a lot of people who love Psalms, and there are a few psalms that touch me deeply. Who can read Psalm 23 and not feel something stirring? I mean, look at what it says: 

The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want

The emphasis is mine, but after five really, really difficult years, that’s huge for me. Even if that’s ALL it said, that would be amazing. But it goes on to say that he restores my soul and I need fear no evil. Incredible, right? And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Or how about Psalm 25? 

Lead me in thy truth and teach me . . ., , ,  O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee. 

Or Psalm 31 — 

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.

And Psalm 37 — 

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. 

But other psalms just leave me scratching my head. I have no idea what it’s supposed to mean and it’s so confusing, most days I don’t have enough energy to even want to attempt to figure it out. To me, Isaiah is easier to understand than some of the psalms. I’ve never really been able to put my finger on the issue until this morning. I think my problem is, some of the psalms seem a bit . . . dare I say “over the top”?  A bit melodramatic? A trifle exaggerated? 

You’d think the writer in me would appreciate the artistry, the imagery, the dramatic flair, but the truth is, no matter what I read, I appreciate the straightforward approach. Call a thing a thing. Don’t mess it up with a bunch of fancy phrasing. I appreciate the stylistic approach of a parable, but I’m not usually fond of the allegory. Just say what you mean already! 

Yet always, in the middle of the purplest of purple psalm prose, there will rise a simple, straightforward statement that pulls me back from the brink of eye rolling and irritation and ground me again. There I was wading through language about queens and gold and myrrh and wondering what the writer was really trying to say when I came across a gem in Psalm 46: 

46 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

Lately, I’ve heard a lot of preaching about end times events. A lot of people are quite certain that Christ is going to come again any moment, and many of them are focusing on the signs they see all around us as some kind of proof. Yet doesn’t the Bible tell us that no man knows the hour of Christ’s return. Even Christ doesn’t know. God alone knows. 

There’s a lot of doom and gloom being preached out there, a lot of fear being sown into peoples’ hearts. Yes, there are some serious, troubling and even frightening events taking place. But people 1,500 years ago were just as convinced that the second coming was imminent as some people are today. It didn’t happen then. It may not happen now. 

Meanwhile, how many times has the Lord told us not to fear? 

Fear not, despite what you may hear. Fear not, despite what others may say. Fear not, despite what you may see. The Lord is in heaven and He is a very present help in times of trouble. 

He doesn’t mean, don’t fear unless something scary happens. He didn’t mean not to fear unless we are facing an uncertain future. He didn’t say, “Don’t fear unless bad people are doing bad things, then it’s okay to work yourself up into a frenzy.” He said, “Don’t fear.” Period. End of story. And He assures us over and over again that He’s got this. 

Recently, I attended a Weekend of Worship at my daughter’s church in San Antonio. The keynote speaker (Dr. Jeremy Sims from Kingwood Church in Alabaster, AL) said something that I’ve thought about many times since the weekend ended. He made the point I shared above about the people from 1,500 years ago, and then he said that we should live with the urgency that Christ could, indeed, be coming back at any moment, but we should also live with the reality that He might not be coming back any time soon. 

Profound, right? I mean, whether or not Christ is coming back in 30 minutes, He’s not here right this second which means we still have to get up, get dressed, go to work, pay our bills, pay our taxes, serve others, and carry on. And in the midst of doing all that, we need to remember that God’s got this and we don’t need to fear. 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 

Really, could any message be better in these troubling times? I don’t know about you, but that fills my heart with peace.

photo credit: .sarahwynne. via photopin cc

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