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 [...]

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 [...]

EARTH: Something Small In God’s Hands by Francine Rivers

October 9, 2018

From: Earth Psalms “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.” Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” (Matthew 13:31-33) Whenever it rains, earthworms come up out of their burrows and squirm above the ground. Usually, I grimace and toss them back into the garden. Remember the old song, “Worms crawl in, worms crawl out”? Worms used to make me think of death and decay. Not anymore. Much to my [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 149 by W. Robert Godfrey

October 2, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms The focus in Psalm 149 is on God’s redemptive faithfulness in the covenant of grace.  So Psalm 149 is a “new song,” (v. 1), like the new song of salvation we see in Psalm 98: “Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!  His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.  The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.  He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel,” (vv. 1-3a). After the crisis of Book Three, the king and people in Book Four looked for comfort to God’s faithfulness, especially as displayed in creation and in the covenant.  Because Psalm 148 already made [...]

EARTH: Slow & Steady Transformation by Francine Rivers

October 2, 2018

From: Earth Psalms The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. (2 Corinthians 3:18) While on a voyage through the Inside Passage of Alaska a few years ago, we cruised into Tracy Arm, a fjord near Juneau, to see the Sawyer Glaciers. We were fortunate enough to have a balcony, and we sat dressed in bathrobes with steaming cups of coffee as the ship turned around, giving us a phenomenal view. Ice is usually clear or sometimes white, but a glacier has blue within it. Over centuries, feet of snow are packed down year after year. As weight and pressure increase, the dense ice absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue, which is what we see. Glaciers move slowly, [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 148 by W. Robert Godfrey

September 25, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 148 is a psalm that praises God for his faithfulness in fulfilling his promises.  It calls for praise of the Lord from the heavens and from the Earth.  This psalm calls the heavens, (v. 1), and the Earth, (v. 7), to praise.  This praise culminates in verse 13 with the acknowledgement that God is above all things both in Heaven and on Earth: “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above Earth and Heaven.” The praise from the heavens is to come from the angelic hosts, from the lights in the firmament, and from the upper waters.  The praise from the Earth comes from the sea creatures, from the weather, from the dry land and vegetation, and from the [...]

EARTH: Responding With Thanks by Francine Rivers

September 25, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) One day, I noticed a battle going on in the skies overhead. Crows were attacking a red-tailed hawk. These weren’t small birds defending a nest; they were like a gang of bullies circling their victim. The hawk didn’t return the attack, though there were several times when it looked like with a swift rollover, he could have grasped one of the smaller birds and had a tasty snack. Instead, the hawk dodged and gave a flap or two of his powerful wings to gain a little more height. In ever-increasing circles the hawk soared higher and higher, until the crows gave up and flew away. Life’s problems can seem [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 147 by W. Robert Godfrey

September 18, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Book Two of the Psalter reflects on the king’s commitment to the Kingdom of God.  Psalm 147 praises God for providing for his people and building up his kingdom.  The focus on the kingdom in this psalm is obvious in several verses: “The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel,” (v. 2); “Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!  Praise your God, O Zion!” (v. 12); and “He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel.  He has not dealt thus with any other nation,” (vv. 19-20a). This focus on the kingdom connects Psalm 147 with the language and themes of Book Two in several ways.  The gathering of the outcasts, (v. 2), points to the provision of the Lord for the needs [...]

EARTH: Planting Seeds Of Faith by Francine Rivers

September 18, 2018

From: Earth Psalms All glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20) Our church has few parking spaces, and the fire department has graciously allowed us to use the lot next to their building. As we walk from the lot to church, we pass by a barrel filled with dirt that serves as a planter. There isn’t much in it, other than a few volunteer pansies. Seeds have apparently dropped, because those delicate kitten faces smile up at us from other places along the way, including cracks in the concrete pathway. Pansy comes from the French word, pensée, which means, “thought.”  In the fifteenth century, this little flower was the symbol of [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 146 by W. Robert Godfrey

September 11, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 146 is the first psalm of this concluding set.  It is full of praise for God’s care and specifies how God “keeps faith forever,” (v. 6), to bless his people. This psalm connects in many ways to the first book of the Psalter, both linguistically and thematically.  The word “blessed” in Psalm 146:5 is the same word found in Psalms 1:1; 2:12; 40:4; and 41:1-2.  Psalm 146:8 refers to the righteous, as does Psalm 1:5.  The phrase, “way of the wicked,” connects Psalm 146:9 to Psalm 1:6.  “Salvation,” mentioned in Psalm 146:3, is found in Psalm 3:2, 8.  The theme of not trusting princes, (Psalm 146:3), resonates with Psalm 2:2.  The Lord who reigns as King, (Psalm 146:10), echoes [...]

EARTH: Lessons In Risk Taking by Francine Rivers

September 11, 2018

From: Earth Psalms For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7) Our family has had many kinds of pets, and one of the most interesting was a turtle. He lived in an aquarium with nice rocks that he could climb. He ate live fish (which was disturbing to watch) and did not appreciate being handled. If someone picked him up, he would disappear inside his shell. After Rick read an article warning that such turtles carry salmonella, he decided the turtle had to go.  The children and I took a drive out to the coast and stopped in at a ranch reputed to welcome retired horses.  We had seen a large pond with rushes and wild birds (none big enough to carry off a turtle), and we [...]

PSALMS: The Last Five Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey

September 4, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms The last five psalms of the Psalter form a concluding group to Book Five.  All five of these psalms begin and end with the same word: “Hallelujah,” (praise the Lord).  Also, in contrast to the preceding eight psalms, (138–145), which are all ascribed to David, these last five psalms are untitled.  These psalms, united and highlighted at the end of the collection, invite the reader to explore their meaning and function in the Book of Psalms as a whole. The fact that there are five psalms in this group does not seem to represent a symbolic number in any way.  The only significance to the number five in the Psalter is the division of the Psalter into five books.  Are the last five psalms, then, a [...]

EARTH: God’s Thoughtful Creation by Francine Rivers

September 4, 2018

From: Earth Psalms For the Lord is God, and he created the heavens and Earth and put everything in place. He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos. (Isaiah 45:18) Several years ago, Rick and I took an excursion to see Claude Monet’s famous garden that inspired much of his artwork. Along the way through the rural countryside, we saw numerous thatched roofs, each with a row of irises blooming on the crest. A nice creative, decorative touch, we thought. Then we learned the French discovered long ago that the roots of the iris will interlock, holding the thatch firmly from the top. (How they learned that would make an interesting investigation.) But holding a roof together is not the only benefit the flowers [...]

PSALMS: Psalm 138 by W. Robert Godfrey

August 28, 2018

From Learning to Love the Psalms Psalm 138 begins the sixth section of the fifth book of the Psalter.  This section contains eight psalms of David, which contain both praise and intense prayer for help.  These psalms, as a recapitulation of redemptive history, point to a restored and blessed kingship.  This king still struggles – the new Heaven and new Earth have not yet arrived – but he is blessed by the Lord and praises him: “On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.  They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness.  The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” (Psalm 145:5-6, 8). All eight of these [...]

EARTH: Learning Generosity by Francine Rivers

August 28, 2018

From: Earth Psalms Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (2 Corinthians 9:6) Some years ago, we had a huge German Shepherd, Hercules, who was a full 125 pounds of muscle and energy and did not like to share his food. We fed him just outside the sliding-glass door on a large patio step to our deck, and sometimes he would leave a little food in his dish for later. One afternoon, a mouse showed up for dinner. Herk, trapped inside the house and forced to watch this rodent munch on his kibble, went wild. The mouse happily sat in the middle of Herk’s bowl and ate. (I think it had a smirk on its tiny face.) Next meal, Herk ate every piece of kibble and licked the [...]