This Week’s Readings
Monday, July 2: John 13-15
Tuesday, June 26: John 16-18
Wednesday, June 27: John 19-21
Thursday, June 28: Psalms 42-45; Proverbs 15
Friday, June 29: Psalms 46-49; Proverbs 16
Next week we will begin Isaiah. I gave us 3 weeks to work on that 66-chapter book.
The overall year’s plan is here.
Psalm 42 is an interesting mixture of despair and hope. Sometimes we have to speak to ourselves (“Oh, my soul”) and remind ourselves that however we feel right now and whatever we are going through, we trust that we will once again experience the praise and beauty of our God and his works.
If I may throw in a personal anecdote, this Psalm makes me think of the days after my bone marrow transplant in January (2012). I had no energy, and there’s a big gap in this through the Bible blog from that period. I didn’t even eat, much less do anything else. Yet lying their in bed, unable to have the energy even to care what was going on around me and probably clinically depressed due to all the medications, there was peace. Deep down inside, I had somewhere to retreat to, a place of fellowship with God and trust, even when my brain itself could not function properly.
The distinction between the feeling in my brain and the feeling in my heart/spirit was strange, something I’d never experienced before; at least not so strongly. The weakness and mental depression were real, but hope continually bubbled up out of my experience with God, always providing a peaceful place for my soul to retreat to.
The LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime; and his song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life. (v. 8, NASB)
Psalm 43 seems a continuation of Psalm 42. The psalmist is obviously in a difficult situation, but his hope and faith are inspiring. He does not just say that he will be delivered, but he has a clear picture of what that deliverance is like. Once delivered, he will be led by light and truth, walk on God’s holy hill, be among the dwelling places of God’s people, go to the altar of God, who is exceeding joy, and offer praises on the lyre (vv. 3-4).
I had to consult some commentaries to try to find out the setting of Psalm 44, but no one really knows. The only two guesses that I saw were during the Babylonian captivity or at the end of Josiah’s reign, who was the last good king. Josiah was killed by Pharaoh Necho in battle because he involved himself in a war he should have ignored (2 Chr. 35:20-27).
I like the idea that this Psalm occurred at the time of Josiah’s demise. The people would have been following God faithfully, as the Psalmist claimed, but the judgment of God would have been upon them anyway. God promised only to delay that judgment until after Josiah’s reign, not to lift it entirely. And none of Josiah’s children followed him in righteousness. They were all evil until Babylon carried Judah away in captivity for 70 years.
This psalm is in the Bible, handed down to us as inspired by God. From that, we can learn that it is okay to cry out to God in this manner. Though we are not to be a complaining people, when his people cry out to him, not understanding what is going on, God consistently answers. Sometimes he delivers the people (as happened many times in the wilderness on the way to the land of Canaan), and sometimes he points out where they have been sinning (as in the case of the conquest of Ai and the sin of Achan).
No commentary I found wants to commit to which king is being talked about in this Psalm. It is clearly a Messianic Psalm, quoted extensively by the writer of Hebrews. Thus, we need simply to be satisfied that the King being discussed here is the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Psalm 45:1 is quoted throughout the early Christian writings as a Trinity verse. In the LXX, the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures, the early churches read this as "My heart has emitted my most excellent word" (Tertullian, Against Marcion II:4, c. A.D. 210).
Another early Christian, Theophilus of Antioch, explains Psalm 45:1 and the relationship between Father and Son in this way:
God, then, having his own Word internal within His own bowels, begat Him, emitting him along with his own wisdom before all things. He had this Word as a helper in the things that were created by him, and by Him He made all things. (Theophilus, To Autolycus II:10, A.D. 168)
There’s two passages I want to comment on in this Psalm. Verses 6-7 are applied by the writer of Hebrews to Jesus and used as proof of his divinity. More accurately, they are used to establish that Jesus, the Son of God, is more important than Moses and the Law that was delivered through angels (Acts 7:53 & Gal. 3:19 say the Law came through angels). Hebrews chapter one argues all this, and it is worth reading. Later, that chapter will provide a good foundation when we go through Hebrews, which can be a difficult book if you don’t understand his arguments.
The other passage is verses 10-11, which I believe to be directed at us. Jesus has plenty to say about leaving our own families to join his. This does not mean that we simply cut off our biological families. We are to love them as we love all others, but Jesus says that the one who loves father or mother more than him is not worthy of him (Matt. 10:37). When his mother and brothers came to take him away from a meeting, thinking that he had lost his mind, he declared that his real family were those who listened to and heeded the Word of God (Mark 3:31-35).
Here in Psalm 45, we are told that if we will forget our own people and our father’s house, the King will greatly desire our beauty.
One other thing. In verse 16, the statement that the Messiah’s sons would be in the place of his fathers means that his descendants would be even greater than his ancestors. Perhaps this is best tied to Jesus’ statement about John the Baptizer: "Among those born of women, there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist, but the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than him" (Matt. 11:11).
I try to limit my comments on Proverbs, but I do have some comments I want to make here.
Verse 2: The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable (NASB, and so throughout this chapter’s comments). The mere fact that we’re speaking truth is not enough. We should learn to speak the truth in wisdom and give people a better chance to hear what we are saying.
Verse 8: We’ve talked about this before. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination. Sacrifices do not purify the offerer. The repentant heart of the one who sacrifices purifies the sacrifice. God hates sacrifices from an impure person. Psalm 51 expresses this best, but it’s stated plainly enough here.
Verse 10: Worth remembering, because it will come up in your walk as a Christian if you are going to be fully a part of the church. Grievous punishment is for those who forsake the way. There is a difference between stumbling and turning away from God. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, we are told to warn the unruly, but the fainthearted we are to encourage. We must be able to recognize the difference between the weak and the rebellious.
Verse 10 again: He who hates reproof will die. Speaks for itself. I just wanted to point it out.
Verse 15: All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast. I don’t take this to mean those who are struggling with adversity (poverty, sickness, etc.), for many of them are cheerful! I take this to mean those who do evil, and whose consciences are not clean. I am always telling my children that righteousness, generosity, and kindness are their own reward, and evil is its own punishment, stripping the evildoer of any real joy.
Verse 27: He who profits illicitly troubles his own house. This speaks for itself, but it’s worth thinking about. (Of course, this is a great chapter, and I was sorely tempted to highlight just about every verse in the chapter. I chose instead to highlight the ones that seemed most easy to miss.)
Verse 28: This verse should be combined with James 1:19: “Let everyone be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (KJV).
Verses 32-33: Great summation of how to live life. If you neglect discipline, you despise yourself. So therefore listen, but the most important listening is to listen to God in fear and humility.
Okay, having said that about verses 32-33, let me close with another great summation of how to live life.
He that would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from deceit. Let him eschew evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. (1 Pet. 3:10-11, KJV with a couple wording updates)