Psalm 68:1-8

Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
as wax melts before the fire,
let the wicked perish before God.
But let the righteous be joyful;
let them exult before God;
let them be jubilant with joy.
Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides upon the clouds—
his name is the Lord—
be exultant before him.
Father of orphans and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
God gives the desolate a home to live in;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious live in a parched land.
O God, when you went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,Selah
the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain
at the presence of God, the God of Sinai,
at the presence of God, the God of Israel.


David is credited with writing the Book of Psalms. Actually, he probably wrote only a handful. Ancient peoples often credited authorship to a great person who began or who offered support to an important literary project. The Book of Psalms allows us to see the soul of the Israelite; it teaches us how he talked to God in the deepest moments of his life.

Begun in David’s time, the book wasn’t completed until 400 B.C. Thus, more than 600 years went by before all 150 psalms were collected in the form we now have. Of note, the arrangement is not the order in which they were written. Nor are the psalms arranged with any special theme or category in mind. They are printed in the order in which they were found. Later, editors divided them into five booklets, probably as a nod to the Torah.

The psalms played an important role in the life and worship of Israelites. First, it served as their prayer book. It puts into prayer form the history, beliefs, and feelings of the ancient Hebrew people (to avoid word repetition of Israelites). Therefore, more than any other book of the Bible, the psalms allow us to glimpse the soul of the Israelite. We see firsthand how he talks to God in times of great doubt as well as depression and joy.

Secondly, the psalms are a song book. Children learned their lyrics and melodies. Often, they were sung under the open skies at night, when the Israelites gathered around campfires, relaxing after a day’s work. The second setting in which the psalms were sung was in the temple on holidays and on the Sabbath. And they weren’t simply sung but also performed.

Many attempts have been made to group the psalms by theme. The most agreed upon grouping is: Praise, Thanksgiving, Wisdom, Royal and Lament.

Even though the psalmist can’t understand everything, such as why God allows certain things to happen, or why the wicked go unpunished, the one thing the psalmist never does is doubt God. He always says or concludes his psalm with something like, “But my trust is in you, O Lord: I say, ‘You are my God.’” (Psalm 31:15)

I find the psalms comforting during these difficult days of the pandemic. The Israelites’ cries and laments are ours too. Our moments of thanksgiving mimic their songs of thanks. Our cries of “How long, O Lord” were theirs as well.

When I was a young girl, my mother asked me and my sister to memorize a psalm to recite for her birthday or for Mother’s Day. She would make the selection. The psalms are beautiful poetry, and once learned, they stay with you forever and can be an unexpected gift. Might I be so bold as to suggest that you commit a few to memory? I can assure you that you won’t regret it.

Love,
Melissa+

(Some of the information on the psalms came from the works of Father Mark J. Link, S.J., Path Through Scripture and These Stones Will Shout.)


“Help us Lord to learn from the Psalms, as they express every facet of human experience. Help us to see that the Psalms provide a richer palette of emotional colors to describe, understand, and feel our own and others’ experience. Just as a child graduates from painting in primary colors to using subtle tones in her art, help us as Christians soaked in the Psalms to move from an emotionally childish experience toward a richer and more nuanced life of the heart.” Amen.

Adapted from Christopher Ash’s “Seven Reasons You Should Pray The Psalms”.