Monday, August 31, 2009

Psalms 90-100

Wait, What?

I still have a Bible project? And I'm still in the Psalms? Sigh....

The good news is, I've finally made it to Psalm 100! ...and the bad news is, there's 150 Psalms. Well, onward! The strategem today is just to identify the main point of each Psalm -- this batch consists for the most part of thematically unified chapters -- and give you a short soundbite that captures the mood. Ready? Let's go!

Psalm 90

This is another Psalm on a topic that is always surprising to me, how much the world as created by God kind of sucks. The tone isn't complaint, but resigned acceptance of the limitations of human life, and the harshness of God:

7 We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
...and then you die, as lain out in this famous passage:

9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
10 The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
There is just this one upbeat, uplifting passage to break the gloom, toward the end of the Psalm:

14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Otherwise, this is a hard-bitten, that's-just-the-way-it-is sort of Psalm. Psalm noir, as it were.

Psalm 91

A far more optimistic Psalm than its immediate predecessor, #91 is on the popular theme of how God will protect and shield his worshippers.

9 If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-
10 then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
These assurances always seem a little problematic in a prayer or a religious song. After all, does God really provide complete physical protection for all his believers? Well, ask any saint.

Psalm 92

This one is a straightforward song of celebration, an upbeat celebration of greatness of God and the greatness of worshipping God.

5 How great are your works, O LORD,
how profound your thoughts!
The second half continues in the same mood, but reintroduces the theme of material benefit for believers:

12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon

Psalm 93

A short piece, five verses long with a loopy, repetitive quality, you can just imagine this one as a a slow number in a minor key. It is on the theme of the mightiness of God.

4 Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea—
the LORD on high is mighty.
Psalm 94

The 94th Psalm is, by contrast, a long and rather blunt recitation on the theme of God's vengeance. It complains of the actions of the evildoers, and predicts their punishment by God, rooting God on in the process:

1 O LORD, the God who avenges,
O God who avenges, shine forth.
2 Rise up, O Judge of the earth;
pay back to the proud what they deserve.
Psalm 95

The 95th starts out as a call to worship God and ends with a sort of monologue by God to the Israelites. It is hard to tell exactly where one morphs into the other, but I think it's somewhere in here:

7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the desert,
9 where your fathers tested and tried me,
though they had seen what I did.
At and before verse 7, God is "he"; at and after verse 9, God seems to be "I."

Psalm 96

A fairly ecstatic song of praise, with a bit of a prosylatizing edge to it:

3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
4 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
You don't often see calls in the Old Testament for believers to spread their faith, but this seems to be a bit of an exception.

Psalm 97

Another straightforward song of praise.

5 The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all the peoples see his glory.

Psalm 98

This is one of a great many Psalms that starts along the lines of Sing to the Lord a new song, which is kind of ironic seeing as how they are all now old, old, old songs. Of course, every song is a new song when it's being written, but the phrase happens often enough so that one wonders if it has any particular meaning in this context.

This is, in any event, another song of religious celebration, specifically religious celebration through music.
4 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
5 make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King.
Psalm 99

A song of praise and thanksgiving -- we seem to have uncovered a rich vein of them here -- this time with references to earlier Old Testament history.
5 Exalt the LORD our God
and worship at his footstool;
he is holy.
6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel was among those who called on his name;
they called on the LORD
and he answered them.
Psalm 100

And Psalm 100, finally, an uncomplicated thanksgiving Psalm that simply exhorts the reader to get happy and praise God:

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

And with that, we're 2/3 through the Psalms.


Jennifer said...

Nice transition there at the end...

(I like "psalm noir," too. :-) )

gl. said...

i'll bet you will be so, so glad to be done with psalms.