Reflections on the Psalms

PSALMS: Death In The Psalms (Part 2) by C. S. Lewis

January 15, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms In many passages this is quite clear, even in our translation, to every attentive reader.  The clearest of all is the cry in Psalm 89:46: “O remember how short my time is: why hast thou made all men for nought?”  We all come to nothing in the end.  Therefore “every man living is altogether vanity,” (Psalm 39:6).  Wise and foolish have the same fate, (Psalm 49:10).  Once dead, a man worships God no more; “Shall the dust give thanks unto thee?” (Psalm 30:10); “for in death no man remembereth thee,” (Psalm 6:5).  Death is “the land” where, not only worldly things, but all things, “are forgotten, (Psalm 88:12).  When a man dies “all his thoughts perish,” (Psalm 146:3).  Every man [...]

PSALMS: Death In The Psalms (Part 1) by C. S. Lewis

January 8, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms According to my policy of taking first what is most unattractive, I should now proceed to the self-righteousness in many of the psalms.  But we cannot deal with that properly until some other matters have been noticed.  I turn first to a very different subject. Our ancestors seem to have read the psalms and the rest of the Old Testament under the impression that the authors wrote with a pretty full understanding of Christian theology; the main difference being that the Incarnation, which for us is something recorded, was for them something predicted.  In particular, they seldom doubted that the old authors were, like ourselves, concerned with a life beyond death, that they feared damnation and hoped for [...]

PSALMS: The Cursings (Part 2) by C. S. Lewis

November 20, 2018

From Reflections on the Psalms Then another thought occurred which led me in an unexpected, and at first unwelcome, direction.  The reaction of the psalmists to injury, though profoundly natural, is profoundly wrong.  One may try to excuse it on the ground that they were not Christians and knew no better.  But there are two reasons why this defense, though it will go some way, will not go very far. The first is that within Judaism itself the corrective to this natural reaction already existed.  “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart…thou shalt not avenge or bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” says Leviticus, (19:17, 18).  In Exodus we read, “If thou seest [...]

PSALMS: The Cursings (Part 1) by C. S. Lewis

November 13, 2018

From Reflections on the Psalms In some of the psalms the spirit of hatred which strikes us in the face is like the heat from a furnace mouth.  In others the same spirit ceases to be frightful only by becoming (to a modern mind) almost comic in its naïvety. Examples of the first can be found all over the Psalter, but perhaps the worst is in 109.  The poet prays that an ungodly man may rule over his enemy and that “Satan” may stand at his right hand, (v. 5).  This probably does not mean what a Christian reader naturally supposes.  The “Satan” is an accuser, perhaps an informer.  When the enemy is tried, let him be convicted and sentenced, “and let his prayer be turned into sin,” (v. 6).  This again means, I think, not his [...]

PSALMS: “Judgment” In The Psalms (Part 2) by C. S. Lewis

November 6, 2018

From Reflections on the Psalms I think there are very good reasons for regarding the Christian picture of God’s judgment as far more profound and far safer for our souls than the Jewish.  But this does not mean that the Jewish conception must simply be thrown away.  I, at least, believe I can still get a good deal of nourishment out of it. It supplements the Christian picture in one important way.  For what alarms us in the Christian picture is the infinite purity of the standard against which our actions will be judged.  But then we know that none of us will ever come up to that standard.  We are all in the same boat.  We must all pin our hopes on the mercy of God and the work of Christ, not on our own goodness.  Now the Jewish [...]

PSALMS: “Judgment” In The Psalms (Part 1) by C. S. Lewis

October 30, 2018

From Reflections on the Psalms If there is any thought at which a Christian trembles it is the thought of God’s “judgment.”  The “Day” of Judgment is “that day of wrath, that dreadful day.”  We pray for God to deliver us “in the hour of death and at the Day of Judgment.”  Christian art and literature for centuries have depicted its terrors.  This note in Christianity certainly goes back to the teaching of Our Lord himself; especially to the terrible Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.  This can leave no conscience untouched, for in it the “goats” are condemned entirely for their sins of omission; as if to make us fairly sure that the heaviest charge against each of us turns not upon the things he has done but on [...]

PSALMS: Introductory by C. S. Lewis

October 23, 2018

From Reflections on the Psalms This is not a work of scholarship.  I am no Hebraist, no higher critic, no ancient historian, no archaeologist.  I write for the unlearned about things in which I am unlearned myself.  If an excuse is needed (and perhaps it is) for writing such a book, my excuse would be something like this.  It often happens that two schoolboys can solve difficulties in their work for one another better than the master can.  When you took the problem to a master, as we all remember, he was very likely to explain what you understood already, to add a great deal of information which you didn’t want, and say nothing at all about the thing that was puzzling you.  I have watched this from both sides of the net; for when, [...]