Psalm 58

March 9, 2015

Occasioned by the injustices of the ruling class, the community petitions God to judge their unjust judges. A worshipper speaks for the community in a kind of “cultic prophetic lament.”[1] One might imagine a Jeremiah or some priestly leader voicing this complaint at the temple as Israel’s judges gathered to worship. Jeremiah may have appeared […]

Psalm 44: Communal Disappointment with God

March 4, 2015

Israel had recently experienced defeat. Though perhaps an exilic context, it probably reflects a military defeat in the pre-exilic period (e.g., the invasion of Zerah the Cushite during the reign of righteous Asa in 2 Chron 14:9-10, the invasion of the Moabites during the reign of righteous Jehoshaphat in 2 Chron 20:1, or some other […]

Psalm 139

February 19, 2015

This psalm is a favorite for many. The first eighteen verses are some of the most intimate and lofty descriptions of the God-human relationship in the Psalter. Most find it comforting, even affirming. But then a jolt hits us when we read Psalm 139:19-22. What does that have to do with what came before it? […]

Psalm 104

February 18, 2015

Psalm 104 is one of the great creation praise hymns of Israel. As worship, it blesses God as both creator and provider. As theology, it identifies creation in theocentric rather than anthropocentric ways. God is not only sovereign over the creation but is immanent within it. The creation is more about God than it is […]

Psalm 66

February 16, 2015

Some people enjoy hearing testimonies. Others do not. As for the latter, their reasons vary.  Some testimonies appear superficial or lack discernment. Some believe testimonies are too subjective and individualistic. Some regard testimonies as private, a matter of personal interpretation rather than public proclamation. People should keep “testimonies,” according to some, to themselves, and they […]

Psalm 88

February 15, 2015

Perhaps originally an individual lament by Heman, the Psalm became part of the repertoire of Israel’s communal worship at the temple. The faithful community sang and prayed these words. These words were not hidden in a corner, but heralded in the temple courts as the congregation of Israel worshiped God. Though they may have begun […]

The Closing Psalm (Psalm 150)

February 2, 2015

At some point Psalm 145:21 may have been the final doxology of Psalms. It makes a similar point to Psalm 150:6. Psalm 145:21 appears as the concluding doxology of Book V in the Psalter.  Books I-IV conclude with independent doxologies attached to the final psalms in those books. It is natural that Book V would […]

The Opening Psalm (Psalm 1)

January 31, 2015

Psalm 1, perhaps also Psalm 2, serves as a preface or introduction to the Psalter. It says something important about how we should read, sing, pray, and meditate on Psalms. There is some text-critical evidence (variant readings) that Acts 13:33 calls Psalm 2 the “first Psalm,” and some medieval manuscripts write the first psalm in […]

Psalm 2 – God Reigns Over the Nations

August 14, 2013

Psalm 1 counseled wisdom. Worshippers, as they pray, mediate and sing the Psalms, align themselves with the way of righteousness. Psalm 2 assures these worshippers that Yahweh reigns and even the nations must ultimately submit to the God of Israel. Psalm 2, then, as a further introduction to the Psalter, grounds the worship of and […]

Psalm 1 – Two Ways, a Wisdom Poem

August 13, 2013

The opening Psalm functions as a kind of preface or introduction to the whole collection. It orients the worshipper to a particular path and the value of pursuing the life the Psalter envisions. Indeed, it offers us a choice. There is the way of the wicked (sinners, scoffers) and the way of the righteous. There […]