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Posts Tagged ‘Psalms’

Hard to believe that we’ve finished the first month of our Bible in a Year Challenge. We’ve finished Genesis and are now watching the Hebrews leave Egypt in the book of Exodus and we are well on our way through Psalms and Proverbs.

As we begin month number two here are a couple of things for you to know and ponder.

  1. Our first discussion lunch will be Sunday, February 16. Bring your lunch or dash over to McDonald’s and grab something right after worship, and meet in the Fellowship Hall. We’ll eat lunch and discuss what we’ve read thus far.
  2. Think about the following questions before our lunch. Which passage(s) stood out for you? Which passage(s) were the most difficult for you to understand? What passage(s) was important for you? How has the reading, so far, been for you?
  3. Below you’ll find a blurb about Exodus and the book of Psalm.

EXODUS AT A GLANCE

Among other things, this book covers the flight of the Hebrews out of Egyptian bondage and to freedom – what is appropriately referred to as “exodus.”  It has been said that the Exodus event resembles our American Independence Day, kind of a “hallmark” event for the Jewish people as July 4 is for us.  But this may not be a good parallel, as Exodus is much more than a single event, going on for around 40 years.  It is more of a mindset for the Hebrew people; an incredibly important cornerstone of their faith and the way they understood God.  The fact that God came to God’s people in their bondage and misery and led them to the Promised Land reminded the Israelites for thousands of years – and us today – that God does not abandon God’s chosen people.

Exodus picks up where Genesis left off, except two things have changed.  First, Joseph has died.  Second, a new pharaoh comes to power who “did not know Joseph” – meaning he felt no ties to him or his people.  In fact, this pharaoh was fearful of the sheer number of Hebrews – and also saw an opportunity.  So he enacted a forced labor program targeting only the Jews, to build the infrastructure of his empire.  It was utterly miserable.  This leads us to the rise of Moses and the saga surrounding him; and his calling to implore Pharaoh to “let God’s people go.”

As punishment for the Pharaoh’s stubbornness, God enacts ten plagues upon the Egyptians.  Recent scholarship has shown how these miraculous events do in fact have a scientific rationale to them, centered around a severe drought and its aftermath.  If this were the case, it’s neat how the Hebrew people saw these natural events as God in action, working toward their freedom.

When the Hebrews finally acquire their freedom there is immediate rejoicing – but it doesn’t last for long.  God’s people embark on a grueling 40 year journey through what is now the modern-day Sinai Peninsula.  The people often complain for lack of food or water (can we blame them??), but God continues to provide for them.  About halfway in this journey we find the Israelites parking themselves at the foot of Mt. Sinai for what probably amounted to a couple of years; and it is here where Moses receives the Ten Commandments (and a number of other laws, as we’ll find in our reading).  These laws, the Torah, would form the center of the Israelite faith for many generations.  At the end of Exodus, the Israelites finally arrive on the doorstep of the Promised Land.

PSALMS AT A GLANCE

The Psalms are unique to the Bible for a couple of reasons.  One, it is comprised entirely of poetry with no historical/narrative literature.  While there are a few other books that share this quality (Song of Songs being one of them), Psalms is definitely the longest.  The other thing I love about the psalms is that they are the voice of the people to God – not vice versa, which is what we find in most of the rest of the OT.  And the real beautiful thing is that there are many voices – voices of praise and joy and thankfulness, but also voices of anger and revenge and loss.  It’s this second category that I find particularly intriguing.  It’s one thing to come to God when everything’s great and letting the praise fly, but it’s another to come to God when life is falling apart and you are angry at God about it, censoring nothing of your ill feelings.  I imagine it was comforting for the Jewish people to know they could share their voice to God, even when it wasn’t a pretty one.

I want to focus on six categories of Psalms that might help you in your reading. Of course, it’s not that the Psalmist (David and others – contrary to popular belief, David was probably not their only author) tried to write in these six specific categories.  They are a later creation that helps us to know and understand them better.

Here are six possible categories for Psalms:

    * Hymns of Praise – typically the English word “hallelujah” is found in these.  Usually praising God for something God has done or is in the process of doing.

    * Communal Laments – prayers of petition to God for community’s deliverance in times of disasters as in war, famine, epidemic, etc.

    * Individual Laments – basically the same type of thing as a communal lament, but focused on the lament of the individual.

    * Individual Song of Thanksgiving – used by individuals to praise God for deliverance from trouble.

    * Royal Psalms – used for special occasions in religious services for the king.

    * Psalms of Vengeance – used to express extreme anger/wrath/vengeance at enemies and even at God.

As you read through the Psalms, I encourage you to consider what category they may fit in.  In some instances it may be more than just one!

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