Synopsis Psalms 119:169-122:9 4/19/2022
The psalmist remembered past situations where he felt despair. So, he said, “I raise my eyes toward the mountains. From where will my help come from?” But he immediately answered his own question by noting that his help came from God, who is the creator and sustainer of all things.
Valley of Despair
Living in the shadow of a mountain has a curious effect on my senses. The night comes on more quickly in the valley because of the shadow cast by the mountain top. So, for a little while each sunset, I perceive the sun has gone down as it descends behin the mountaintop. But at that moment, I can still see that the sun’s rays are streaming above me.
In the valley, there is a sense of being below the real action. Like the things that matter most are only visible on the mountaintop. And so, it creates a natural desire to visit the top of the mountain. Only there can I see what’s really going on.
My wife and I talk about hurry. I hurry from one thing to another as though the activity before me is the most important thing. Because I so often seem in a hurry, my mind shifts from the focus of creating value for another human being to the focused effort needed to just get things done. The experience of action becomes more important and more immediately satisfying than the work of creating value for others.
It seems so easy. The events of the day distract me. And so, I often forget what I instinctively know matters most. Thus, inevitably comes the moment when I realize that I am lost. Curiously, in that moment I cannot quite remember how this happened. Why I am caught in a cycle of activity that I neither planned nor intended?
What should I do when I realize that I have allowed myself to become trapped. That is the moment to look to the mountains. Get perspective. Tie the ordinary to the transcendent and eternal. And if I can not thus tie it, then I must let it go.
“When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them.” Matt 5:1-2
Synopsis Psalms 119:137-168 4/19/2022
According to the psalmist, there is an eternal truth. Therefore, he proclaimed that God’s justice is forever right, and His teaching is forever true. His words are enduring, and His edicts never perish.
For this, the psalmist promises to praise God seven times each day.
Seven Times Each Day
Having an appointed time to offer praise doesn’t destroy spontaneity. Just the opposite, it creates the habit of praise. And once a habit is formed, it becomes the basis for creative spontaneity.
“Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart” Acts 2:46
Synopsis Psalms 118:1-119:3 4/18/2022
The psalmist rejoiced in reflection on God’s goodness. He encouraged the people to give thanks to God because He is good. And he explained how he was not afraid because God was with him.
Reminiscent of King David, he described how the nations surrounded him, but with God’s power he crushed his adversaries. So, the joyful shouts of deliverance are heard in the tents of his victorious army.
Finally, he exclaimed his anticipation of goodness. I shall not die, but live and declare God’s deeds. Blessed is the one who comes in God’s name. I give thanks to God.
Praising the Goodness of God
God is good. And His blessings flow from His goodness. So, the only right response to blessing is to praise God’s goodness.
“After this I heard what sounded like the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying: “Alleluia! Salvation, glory, and might belong to our God” Rev 19:1
Synopsis Psalms 119:104-136 2/16/2022
For the psalmist, God’s word is a light to enlighten his path. Therefore, bring everything to the light.
Similarly, the law is a heritage from the Lord. It was a legacy for the psalmist, and also for his children.
So, the righteous man will have nothing to do with evil. Instead, he will say, “Depart from me, workers of iniquity, that I may follow God’s command.”
Bring Everything to the Light
When I do something wrong, I do not need to be told to hide. I instinctively look to avoid the temporal consequences and the shame of my own faithlessness. I instinctively hide.
And I’m good at hiding. I’m so good that sometimes I even deceive myself. I tell myself that the evil I’ve done doesn’t really matter. I hide things so well that sometimes I even forget what I’ve done – at least for a while.
But everyone knows there’s no healing a forgotten thing.
Healing only comes by bravely bringing it back to the light. It’s only when I bring my iniquity back to conscious awareness that healing can start. It’s only when I allow the light of God’s truth to fully measure my behavior that I begin to embrace redemption.
“For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” John 3:20-21
Synopsis Psalms 119:73-103 2/15/2022
The psalm writer reflected on the experience of his life. He noted how people who feared God were happy to see him. They were encouraged by his hopeful anticipation.
This same author lamented that his enemies had almost ended his earthly life. Even so, he had not forsaken God’s law. He figured that he probably would have died except that the joy of God’s word preserved him.
In this way, he noticed that there was something special about God’s law. Although he had experienced many glorious things in his life, God’s law was unlike any of these. The more that he reflected on God’s wisdom, the deeper and richer it became. In this way, the psalmist recognized that God’s wisdom was a limitless resource.
When I think about the resources available to me, I tend to think in terms of money. Alternatively, sometimes I think in terms of time. Or, other times I think in terms of relationships and support.
Of course, all these forms of resources have one thing in common. They are all limited and finite.
And so, God’s wisdom is distinct from every other resource I might encounter because I never fully comprehend it. No matter how deeply I enter into it, my experience of wisdom is that it only grows deeper and more expansive. I know, at least in this life, that I will never exhaust it.
“Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14
Synopsis Psalms 119:39-72 2/13/2022
Your laws become my songs
My portion is the Lord; I promise to keep your words.
It was good for me to be afflicted in order to learn your laws.
Wisdom and Song
Sometimes wisdom seems like a hard teacher. It has sometimes led me places where I did not naturally want to go.
But on rare occasion, God’s wisdom transcends its implication for me. And when it’s no longer a matter of what might be in it for me, be it pleasant or unpleasant, I see differently.
In such a moment of freedom, wisdom is revealed with a brilliance that is greater than the shine of the sun. No longer a subject for mere words, the only fitting response to such brilliance is a song.
For God loves nothing so much as the one who dwells with Wisdom. For she is fairer than the sun and surpasses every constellation of the stars. Compared to light, she is found more radiant; though night supplants light, wickedness does not prevail over Wisdom.” Wisdom 7:28-30
Synopsis Psalms 119:4-38 2/12/2022
The psalmist marveled at God’s faithfulness in giving the law. And so, he exclaimed: If I have wide open eyes, then I will see the wonders of your teaching.
Furthermore, he delighted in knowing God’s decrees. He viewed the precepts of the law as his counselors.
Eyes to See
St. Augustine argued that a person cannot do good without God’s having caused the motivation for the good behavior.
If I have wide open eyes, then I will see the wonders of God’s teaching. Therefore, blessed is the man whose eyes have been opened.
“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” Matt 13:1-17
Synopsis Psalms 118:1-119:33 2/12/2022
The psalmist celebrated God’s deliverance. He encouraged all the people to praise God for His deliverance and celebrate God’s victory.
In this way, the psalmist recognized that God had done something through Israel that the nations could not understand. He had taken His Chosen People, who were rejected and enslaved, and made from them the foundation. Thus, the stone the builders rejected became the cornerstone.
And so, he proclaimed, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Praise God who gives laws – who let’s human beings know His thoughts. A youth can be without fault by following all of God’s commands.
Jesus told his followers that the world would reject them. And, in fact, the world has largely rejected Christ. As the apostle once said, Christ’s way is “foolishness” to those who are perishing.
Yet, for those who walk in this way, Christ is the very foundation of the most radical alternative lifestyle in history. The offer of salvation by the forgiveness of sins. It offers meaning and purpose here on earth. And the hope of eternal blessing in heaven.
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes’? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” Matt 25:42-43
Synopsis Psalms 115:9-117:2 2/9/2022
The psalmist makes a distinction between God and the gods of other nations. God is in heaven. In this way, he points out that their idols are nothing more than statues made from silver and gold. They have no power.
Fittingly, the psalms then reflect on God’s power to save from deadly situations and disease.
Finally, because of God’s greatness, the psalmist calls on all nations to praise God alone.
All Nations Praise the Lord
The truth about creation is that God is the Creator. The truth about sin is that God is our Savior. And so, the most righteous thing we can do is acknowledge the truth and praise our Creator and our Savior.
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: “To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.” Rev 5:13
Synopsis Psalms 112:6-115:8 2/8/2022
God cares for the poor. And so, His name should be praised from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Israel, itself, was once poor. And yet, God delivered His Chosen People out of Egypt. He put them in a land flowing with milk and honey. And he demonstrated His strength throughout the world by the manner in which He brought them out.
Blessed Are the Poor In Spirit
Poor in spirit means I come to God with a persistent awareness of my absolute need for Him. My state by myself is an utter poverty. I am always indebted.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 5:3