Psalms

PSALMS: Connivance (Part 2) by C. S. Lewis

March 12, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms (Besides our Lord there would have been among their guests toadies and those who wanted to be “on the bandwagon”; people in fact like the young man I once knew.) He had been a strict socialist at Oxford.  Everything ought to be run by the State; private enterprise and independent professions were for him the great evil.  He then went away and became a schoolmaster.  After about ten years of that he came to see me.  He said his political views had been wholly reversed.  You never heard a fuller recantation.  He now saw that State interference was fatal.  What had converted him was his experience as a schoolmaster of the Ministry of Education – a set of ignorant meddlers armed with insufferable [...]

PSALMS: Connivance (Part 1) by C. S. Lewis

February 26, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms Every attentive reader of the psalms will have noticed that they speak to us severely not merely about doing evil ourselves but about something else.  In Psalm 26:4, the good man is not only free from “vanity” (falsehood) but has not even “dwelled with” (been on intimate terms with), those who are “vain.”  He has “hated” them (v. 5).  So in Psalm 31:7, he has “hated” idolaters.  In Psalm 50:18, God blames a man not for being a thief but for “consenting to” a thief, (in Dr. Moffatt, “you are a friend to any thief you see”).  In Psalm 141:4-6, where our translation appears to be rather wrong, the general sense nevertheless comes through and expresses the same attitude.  Almost [...]

EARTH: Encouraged To Fly by Francine Rivers

February 26, 2019

From: Earth Psalms Jesus said, “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) A red-tailed hawk lives somewhere down in the green space behind our fence. We’d heard the hawk’s piercing cry before but figured it was the scrub jays again, imitating the hawk’s call. That high-pitched screech sends the mourning doves, quail, and songbirds scattering for cover – leaving those jays laughing as they claim our abandoned bird feeder and scarf down the seed. This time, the piercing cries really were from hawks: not one, but three.  Mom’s cry sounded encouraging, mature, and confident; the babies sounded so pathetic, I wanted to weep.  We kept trying to spot them, and then two perched in our [...]

PSALMS: Sweeter Than Honey (Part 3) by C. S. Lewis

February 19, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms By this assurance they put themselves, implicitly, on the right side of a controversy which arose far later among Christians.  There were in the eighteenth century terrible theologians who held that “God did not command certain things because they are right, but certain things are right because God commanded them.”  To make the position perfectly clear, one of them even said that though God has, as it happens, commanded us to love him and one another, he might equally well have commanded us to hate him and one another, and hatred would then have been right.  It was apparently a mere tossup which he decided on.  Such a view, of course, makes God a mere arbitrary tyrant.  It would be better and less [...]

EARTH: Uprooting Sin by Francine Rivers

February 19, 2019

From: Earth Psalms When you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.”  God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.  Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.  These desires give birth to sinful actions.  And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15) Where I live, Scotch broom blooms everywhere in spring. It spreads like a low thicket over pastureland, and even burning doesn’t kill it. Scotch broom smells wonderful, but it’s a problem when left to grow at will. Tiny seeds blow hither and yon, and soon there are sprouts along roads, in backyards, and in the “green space” meant only for native plants. If the sprout isn’t removed [...]

PSALMS: Sweeter Than Honey (Part 2) by C. S. Lewis

February 12, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms As everyone knows, the psalm specially devoted to the Law is 119, the longest in the whole collection.  And everyone has probably noticed that from the literary or technical point-of-view, it is the most formal and elaborate of them all.  The technique consists in taking a series of words which are all, for purposes of this poem, more or less synonyms (word, statues, commandments, testimonies, etc.), and ringing the changes on them through each of its eight-verse sections – which themselves correspond to the letters of the alphabet.  (This may have given an ancient ear something of the same sort of pleasure we get from the Italian meter called the sestina, where instead of rhymes we have the same end [...]

EARTH: Seeking The True Light by Francine Rivers

February 12, 2019

From: Earth Psalms Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world.  If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12) Every evening, moths gather outside the window of our downstairs family room. They beat against the glass, trying to get to the lamp inside. Sometimes after our dog Sarge has gone out, he stalls at the door, playing with them, and they manage to flitter inside and dash themselves against the light bulb. Remember the bug zappers that were once popular?  The false light attracted moths and insects, electrocuting them when they came close. People can be like moths, going after false light.  The prophet Isaiah begged the [...]

PSALMS: Sweeter Than Honey (Part 1) by C. S. Lewis

February 5, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms In Racine’s tragedy of Athalie the chorus of Jewish girls sing an ode about the original giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, which has the remarkable refrain ô charmante loi (Act I, scene iv).  Of course it will not do – it will border on the comic – to translate this, “oh charming Law.”  Charming in English has come to be a tepid and even patronizing word; we use it of a pretty cottage, of a book that is something less than great or a woman who is something less than beautiful.  How we should translate charmante I don’t know; “enchanting”? – “delightful”? – “beautiful”?  None of them quite fits.  What is, however, certain is that Racine ( a mighty poet and steeped in the [...]

EARTH: The Miracle Of Prayer by Francine Rivers

February 5, 2019

From: Earth Psalms Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:16) Rich used to take customers, friends, and family members salmon fishing in Alaska and British Columbia. Before heading out in a small boat, he and his companion always checked the gear, such as nets, gaff, compass, and map. His most memorable trip was with our eldest son, Trevor.  They were so excited one morning that they jumped right in the boat and headed out.  They fished, mostly catch-and-release, and cruised in and out of dozens of small inlets and bays.  When they were ready to head back toward the lodge where they were staying, a dense fog bank fell upon [...]

PSALMS: The Fair Beauty Of The Lord (Part 2) by C. S. Lewis

January 29, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms When the mind becomes more capable of abstraction and analysis this old unity breaks up.  And no sooner is it possible to distinguish the rite from the vision of God than there is a danger of the rite becoming a substitute for, and a rival to, God himself.  Once it can be thought of separately, it will; and it may then take on a rebellious, cancerous life of its own.  There is a stage in a child’s life at which it cannot separate the religious from the merely festal character of Christmas or Easter.  I have been told of a very small and very devout boy who was heard murmuring to himself on Easter morning a poem of his own composition which began, “Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen.”  This seems to me, [...]

EARTH: Unending Faithfulness by Francine Rivers

January 29, 2019

From: Earth Psalms If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is. (2 Timothy 2:13) My first of many sightings of storks took place in Segovia, Spain. While others gawked at the Roman aqueduct, I gawked at a muster of white storks (with black wings and red bills and legs) tending their hatchlings in huge nests on the tops of towers and tiled roofs. Four nests on one tower alone, and as many loving couples with young. I longed for binoculars. Storks are reputed to be monogamous (for a season).  Mating pairs return to these high nests year after year, adding to them until they weigh over a thousand pounds.  How would you like that nest on your roof? Storks have a varied diet of frogs, fish, insects, earthworms, and [...]

PSALMS: The Fair Beauty Of The Lord (Part 1) by C. S. Lewis

January 22, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms “Now let us stint all this and speak of mirth.”  So far – I couldn’t help it – this book has been what the old woman in Scott described as “a cauld clatter o’ morality.”  At last we can turn to better things.  If we think “mirth” an unsuitable word for them, that may show how badly we need something which the psalms can give us perhaps better than any other book in the world. David, we know, danced before the Ark.  He danced with such abandon that one of his wives (presumably a more modern, though not a better, type than he) thought he was making a fool of himself.  David didn’t care whether he was making a fool of himself or not.  He was rejoicing in the Lord.  This helps to [...]

EARTH: Waiting On God by Francine Rivers

January 22, 2019

From: Earth Psalms God has made everything beautiful for its own time.  He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) We have a dogwood tree in our backyard. A few springs ago, all the others in the neighborhood were blooming in their pink-and-white glory. Mine was still sleeping in the corner with the oak spreading its protective arms over it. I thought the dogwood was dead.  I gave it a closer look and discovered it had new growth coming, the promise of something happening.  I wanted to shake it a little and wake it up.  It worked on a birch tree that Rich got tired of looking at some years ago and tried to pull up with his bare [...]

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 [...]

EARTH: Faithful To The End by Francine Rivers

January 15, 2019

From: Earth Psalms Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.  Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (Philippians 2:3-5) Years ago, to celebrate our anniversary, my husband gave me a gold necklace with a pendant: too small golden geese flying side-by-side. The geese represent eternal love. Geese mate for life.  If a goose becomes too old or sick to continue in formation with the rest of the flock, the mate and another goose will fly with the weaker one between them to a place with food and water.  The two will wait and comfort the weaker one until either it is able to [...]

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 [...]

EARTH: Heeding God’s Warnings by Francine Rivers

January 8, 2019

From: Earth Psalms Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters.  Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.  You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.  For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. (Hebrews 3:12-14) One of my favorite state parks in northern California is Goat Rock, which is on the mouth of the Russian River. Our family is familiar with this area because Rick’s mom and dad lived in Jenner, a small hamlet overlooking the river and with views of the coast. If you’ve ever seen the [...]

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 [...]

EARTH: Pruning Brings Growth by Francine Rivers

November 20, 2018

From: Earth Psalms I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch of mind that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.  You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.  Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. (John 15:1-4) In late winter, on a drive through Sonoma County, I’ll see farmworkers pruning fruit trees. A few farms haven’t given out to vineyard and still grow apples, peaches, cherries, apricots, and plums. In winter the view is bleak; we’ll see orchards or barren-looking trees and [...]

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 [...]

EARTH: Staying Close To The Master by Francine Rivers

November 13, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you.  Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly – not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. (1 Peter 5:2) Both dogs and cats have taught me lessons about faith. A dog loves unconditionally, accepting discipline and holding no resentment.  A dog follows its master and likes to be right at his or her feet.  Our dog Shabah was always where we were.  When we went upstairs to bed, he planted himself right in our doorway.  In the morning, he sat on my feet or Rick’s while we did our devotions together.  He was easily trained because he wanted to please us.  If he needed something, he let us know through his manner and his “puppy dog [...]

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 [...]

EARTH: Godly Protection by Francine Rivers

November 6, 2018

From: Earth Psalms The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. And the Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13:21-22) While in Spain on a bus tour with Rick’s sister and brother-in-law, we saw umbrella pines lining some major thoroughfares and highways. These roads were first constructed by the efficient Roman Empire, which built almost 250,000 miles of roads throughout areas that are now Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa. Hence the old saying that all roads lead to Rome – literally true at one point in history! [...]

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 [...]

EARTH: Glorious Creation by Francine Rivers

October 30, 2018

From: Earth Psalms The angel took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of Heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone – like jasper as clear as crystal. (Revelation 21:10-11) One of the places I would like to visit (again) is Holland. I’ve visited twice, and each time I missed the spring tulip season with the stripes of color filling vast acres of land. The Ottoman Turks were the first to discover wild tulips.  Tulip in Turkish means, “turban,” and these particular turbans were gorgeous.  In the 1550s, an Austrian Hapsburg ambassador to the court of Süleyman the Magnificent in Constantinople stole a few bulbs and sent them [...]

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, [...]

EARTH: Testing The Boundaries by Francine Rivers

October 23, 2018

From: Earth Psalms When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. (Matthew 25:31-33) We’ve seen that scripture often compares the people of God to sheep. But some of those same scripture passages go on to compare people who aren’t following God to goats – and the comparison isn’t flattering. How are goats different from sheep? While sheep graze primarily on grass, goats will eat anything they can find: clothes off a line, dog food (a favorite), toys, grass, vegetables, [...]

PSALMS: Continuing With The Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey

October 16, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms In our study, we have made a beginning of learning to love the psalms.  We have looked at some of the attractions and difficulties of the Psalter.  We have summarized the great themes, subjects, and emotions of these songs.  We have examined some of the forms and uses of the psalms.  But this book is at best an introduction and invitation to growing in an appreciation of the Psalter.  You need to carry on with what we have started together. One way to continue is through personal reading, reflection, and meditation.  The psalms are invaluable for us as they draw us ever deeper into the character of the Christian life, the movement of the history of the church, and the presence and power of Christ for [...]

EARTH: Following The Good Shepherd by Francine Rivers

October 16, 2018

From: Earth Psalms My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.  No one can snatch them away from me. (John 10:27-28) In scripture, God often refers to his people as sheep – which made me wonder what attributes I share with the reputedly dumb animal. Sheep are born with the strong instinct to follow other sheep.  Put a bold or curious one out in front and the rest will trail behind.  It’s called “flock mentality.”  All is well as long as the leader isn’t heading for a patch of poisonous weeds or craggy cliffs. Sheep are gregarious.  They stay in a group while grazing and are highly agitated with left alone.  They’re vulnerable too; when on their own, [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 150 by W. Robert Godfrey

October 9, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms With Psalm 150, we come to the culmination of praise.  Here, we have praise without a shadow or deflection of attention from God.  Thirteen times the call to praise is repeated.  The psalmist is full of joy and delight in the Lord for his great salvation. The fullness of praise in Psalm 150 is a fitting summary of the themes of Book Five of the Psalter, where God’s salvation of Israel is reviewed and the call to praise is often repeated.  At the heart of the first psalm in Book Five, Psalm 107, we read, “Tell of his deeds in songs of joy,” (v. 22b).  At the heart of the first of David’s last eight psalms of the Psalter, we read, “For they have heard the words of your mouth, and they shall [...]