Psalms of Faith

Join us over the next three Sundays as our sermon series, Psalms of Faith, examines Trust, Thanks, and Praise through the Book of Psalms.
08/25/2019 – A Psalm of Trust

Very similar to the prayers for help, the psalms of trust are prayed from a situation of severe crisis: “the valley of the shadow of death” (23:4), the times when “evildoers assail me” (27:2), or when the “waters roar and foam” and the “mountains tremble” (46:3). The major difference between the prayers for help and the psalms of trust is the dominant mood. Both types of psalm depend on God. Both types of psalm at least imply a request for help. And both types of psalm include expressions of trust. But whereas the prayers for help strike the dominant note of fear and desperation, the psalms of trust hit the chord of trust. They confess “I fear not, for you are with me.” Or, “the Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge” (46:7, 11). As such, one might imagine the prayers for help the prayer of those who are younger, who are going through their first times of crisis. The psalms of trust are the words of those who aren’t riding in their first rodeo. They have been through dark valley before, they’ve experienced God’s steadfast love in the midst of suffering before, and they so trust — even though the dangers are very real. That is to say, these are not naive psalms. They clearly and powerfully express the very real dangers and threats in life. And — in the midst of those dangers — the confidently express trust by means of a series of powerful metaphorical images for God: Shepherd and Table Host, Light and Salvation, Fortress and Refuge, Guard and Guide, etc. In the end, these psalms know that “you are with me, your rod and staff they comfort me.”
09/01/2019 – A Song of Thanks

Preaching text: Psalm 30; accompanying text: John 6:67-69
Psalm 30 is a song of thanks, which would was composed for moment when the person of faith has made it through the time of crisis — when one has climbed out of the darkest vale of Psalm 23, and now can now look back from a place and time of safety. As such, Brueggemann calls these poems “psalms of reorientation (or new orientation).” These psalms “bear witness to the surprising gift of new life just when none had been expected” (Message of the Psalms, pp. 123-4).
 
They recognize that the ship has sailed through the storm and a new shore has been reached. But — and this is crucial — there is no going back to a naïve “orientation.” These psalms speak for those who have been brought through a deep crisis. As such, they know that faith that speaks the truth can never pretend that all will always be well and that all is as it should be. And yet, they have experienced new life and grace — so they know that despair is not all powerful and evil does not have the last word.

Psalm 30 is typical of the song of thanks because it:
 
  • Calls for praise (that is, it bears witness to who God is and what God has done; vv. 1-5)
  • Describes the time of crisis and how the psalmist asked God for help (vv. 6-10)
  • Describes the help that God gave (vv. 11-12)
 
In this sense, the song of thanksgiving is related to the prayer help. In the prayer for help, which we saw earlier in this series, the psalmist asks God for help and promises to praise God after that help has been received. Now, the help having been received, the song gives the praise that was promised earlier and also recalls both the initial “ask” and also describes the help that was received.

In regard to Psalm 30, special attention should be drawn to the elegant beauty the language: “his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping my linger for the night, but joy comes with morning” (v. 5). And also, “you have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (v. 11).
09-08-2019 – A Hymn of Praise

Psalm 100 is a typical hymn of praise. This type of psalm recognizable because it has recurring imperative “calls to praise” and “reasons for praise.” There are seven imperative calls to praise: “make a joyful noise,” “worship,” “come,” “know,” “enter,” and “give thanks.” There are two sections that offer “reasons for praise” (v. 3b and v. 5).

Walter Brueggemann has argued that the psalms can be understood as functioning within the life pattern of moving from “orientation” through “disorientation” and then to “new orientation.” According to Brueggemann, the psalms of “orientation” function “to articulate and maintain a ‘sacred canopy’ under which the community of faith can live out its life” (The Message of the Psalms [Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984], p. 26). That is to say, that these psalms sing the faith of Israel — and by so singing, they give believers a different imagination than those who sing only the broken songs of Canaan. The psalm says that this world is the loving creation of The Creator — “It is he that made us, and we are his.” This psalm sings that we walk daily through a creation that God loves, and that God loves us (“we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture”). The psalm sings that God’s character is different than those other gods — money, success, youth, etc. — who would seek to rule us. The Lord is a God whose character is marked by “steadfast love” and “faithfulness.”

It is important to note that praise of God is fundamentally “witness.” We do not praise God for God’s personal sake, but for the sake of God’s mission. In praise, we do two things. First, by praising God we give ourselves to God fully — praise is a way of being in relationship with God. Second, by praising God to others, through praise we give God away to our neighbor. Praise is witness to who God is and what God has done.