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Background Text: Psalm 4Devotional Text: Psalm 19David, the young shepherd boy who would become king. David, the brave young man of God who killed the giant Goliath with a single stone. David, who danced before the Lord, praising his name in the Psalms.The book of Psalms in the Old Testament is our topic this week. Though there are 150 of them, it is known that David wrote 73, if not more. Although they cover a multitude of topics, they all were written in praise of God. They all center on a cry, a need, or even a joyful song dedicated to God.A psalm is defined as a sacred song or hymn. In the Old Testament, they are found in the book of Psalms, and they are regularly used today during worship time in both Jewish and Christian services. In this week’s column, we’ll look at some of David’s psalms — some familiar, others not so much — that speak to us, particularly in today’s world.The most popularly known Psalm is number 23, beginning with the famous line, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” The theme of this psalm is that of God as a caring shepherd. In the New Testament, we find Jesus known as the Good Shepherd in John 10: 11 and the Chief Shepherd in 1 Peter 5:4.In describing the Lord as his shepherd, David is calling upon his own experience when he tended to his family’s sheep as a youth. He knew well the importance of the shepherd in guiding, protecting and caring for the flock.As we read the poetry of this well-known psalm, often used during memorial services, we see the Lord as he cares for us, “guiding ... in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (verse 3b).”The following verse states that he walks with us even as we face death. As believers, there is no need to fear because through him we have eternal life.Finally, verses 5 and 6 refer to the Near Eastern custom at the time of David when banquet guests were anointed with expensive oil as a sign that their host would protect them and keep them safe within his walls. God offers us this same protection as we entrust ourselves to Jesus who is both shepherd of his people and perfect host who leads us throughout our lives and brings us safely home to life eternal with him.This psalm is a great comfort to many as we think of the calm waters of life that restore our very being. The Lord shows great comfort to us in this psalm, whether it be at the time of one’s death, at a time of healing from an injury, or as a comfort to us that we can always count on our God.The Psalms, though written before Christ, still easily lend themselves to the Lord Jesus. In Jewish worship, the word “Lord” is in reference to God. In Christian worship it is as well, and more, as we have come to know the ways of Jesus in our Trinitarian godhead.Many turn to the book of Psalms to echo their own thoughts, desires and needs. From peace and prayer, to joy and jubilation, to wisdom and stability, one can find a psalm to answer one’s soul-felt emotions. Feeling overwhelmed, maybe going through a time of loneliness — God is there in the Psalms. Worried, distressed, sad and troubled — there’s an answer to be found in the Psalms. Looking for God’s miracles, justice, integrity and provision — it’s all there, plus more.As we continue to touch on the Psalms as written by David, let us look at some of his opening and closing lines of poetic Scripture that even today speak so directly to us: In Psalms 4, 5, 6 and 9, David speaks to God for peace and safety; to defend us and heal us, to deliver us from times of trouble; to ask God for his justice and to praise him in song.Psalm 4 begins with, “Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress, be merciful to me and hear my prayer.” Verse 8 gives us comfort when David writes, “I will lay down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”As we look at Psalm 9, a song of praise to God, we find in the notes about this Psalm that it is to be sung to the tune of “The Death of a Son,” as written by David. It is a song of praise, of triumph over enemies, and of the wonders of God, as David opens with, “I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart.”In Psalms 13, 15, 16 and 19, we run the gamut from despair and trust to living a blameless life, to finding our joy in the Lord and worshipping God as the rock, our faithful redeemer.“How long, O Lord, how long? Will you forget me forever?” These, the opening lines of Psalm 13, find David losing his patience in waiting for God’s help. The last verses remind us of trusting in God as he writes, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation ....”David goes from despair to trust to joy in Psalm 16: 11 when he writes, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”With David, we see the path of our own emotions, when we too are in despair and lose patience in waiting for God. However, God in his perfect timing makes an answer that leads us back to his love and protection. With God, we find joy.Psalm 19 brings together the glories of God as our rock and redeemer, reminding us of Jesus (as seen in recent columns about the life of Peter), the foundational rock of the church. “The heavens declare the glories of God, the skies proclaim the works of his hands (verse 1).”“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer (ending verse 11).”Written centuries before the arrival of Jesus on the earth, this Scripture reminds us that we find throughout the Old Testament Scripture pointing directly to our Savior Jesus.Asking God for mercy during times of illness is the theme of Psalm 41, while Psalm 138 offers a hymn of thanksgiving for answered prayer: The opening lines of 41 read, “Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers him from time of trouble.” This Psalm ends with, “Praise to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.”This Psalm speaks of God’s presence when we are on our sickbed, asking for healing and restoration to a healthy life.Finally, I end this section with Psalm 138, a hymn of thanksgiving for answered prayers: In verse 1, David begins, “I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; before the ‘gods’ I will sing your praise.”Verse 3 continues with praise for answered prayer, “When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted.” The end of this psalm reads, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever — do not abandon the works of your hands.”As you can see, the Psalms have so much to offer to us today as we go through the ups and downs of our own lives. In their poetic beauty, they remind us of who our God is and all the wonderful attributes he shows to us in his care.This is just a sampling of David’s Psalms. My hope is that you will read this book from the Bible for yourself, and find the reality of a faithful, loving, caring God during all the times of your life.
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh is the pastor of the Schenevus United Methodist Church in Schenevus, New York.
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