EASLEY: We think we’re so sophisticated but we really aren’t. An ancient man and woman had the same worries, the same fears, the same concerns, the same joys, the same expressions. In some ways, they were far far less encumbered than we are, so when we read these hymns of antiquity don’t think we’re so much more sophisticated. In fact, I hope you’ll see that what they found joy in ought to refrain our perspective.
You and I think we are unique. We think our problems our unique. Our challenge, our individual frustrations in life, whether it’s marriage, work, our children, our money, the way someone has treated us, we think we have a unique situation and no one else truly understands. One of the remarkable things in the book of Psalms; it’s a hymnbook by the way, one of the remarkable things that the Hebrew dealt with is the very same kinds of feelings that you and I deal with. Sure, there have been tectonic changes from the time the Psalms were written until today, obviously electricity, technology, healthcare, all kinds of things that did not exist at that caliber, that level, that kind of sophistication. But man at his core has not changed; he has joys, he has sorrows, he has hopes, he has disappointments as we’ll see, as we continue our series Living Life From the Heart. The Psalmist in Psalm 65, identifies the Worshippers problem before His God.
MESSAGE: What is the most important word at least in this guy’s opinion? What’s The most important word in the Old Testament?
Congregation: Hesed. (Hebrew word for loving kindness).
E: So what are some of the types of classifications of Psalms?
E: Thanksgiving. Are we going to look at one of those today?
E: Praise, lament, imprecation, imprecatory,
E: Messianic, desperation. What did we look at last night? What was one of the aspects of that Psalm? We’re going to look at it later today too.
Royal Psalms? What’s the book of Psalms called in the Hebrew Bible?
E: Very good. Tehillim. (Laughter) I didn’t tell him. I didn’t prompt him. That was just (unfinished thought). Do you know what tehillim is from? Halal, Halal sounds like hallelujah. Halal is one of the most common words in the Hebrew Psalter. Tehillim is the plural. An im ending on a Hebrew word typically means many, or more, or multiple. Elohim is one God, but He is the God, so the im ending is a little bit of a hint. So how do we get from tehillim to Psalms? If you were to ask an Orthodox Jew the name of the book of Psalms, they might not even not know the word Psalms. The Septuagint is a Greek rendering of the Hebrew Bible. The Greeks translated the Hebrew text. So if we took the Hebrew text and translated it into English, the Greeks translated it into Greek and that became known as the corpus of literature. There’s not one Septuagint, there’s many. And the Septuagint word is Psalmos, which was the closest word that they could come up with, not the tehillim, but the word mizmor. So when you read the word Psalm in your English Bible, it has nothing to do with the book of Psalms. But we have endeared the word in our English language and we call them the Psalms because it means a collection of songs, a collection of rejoicing, but it’s a long way from the word tehillim, which is what the Hebrews would call the book of the Psalter. They are classified into enthrallment, lament, praise, prayer, worship, imprecatory, royal monarch songs, and inaugural Psalms and we’ll look at a couple of those today.
I went back last night and pulled up some of the history that I’d forgotten to mention last night, but it was interesting rereading it this morning. Do you know what the Monastic period was? When people left the ordinary call of life and they went and lived in cloisters and monasteries, the idea was to get away from the world; we won’t be distracted by the wiles and temptations of the world and we’ll devote our lives to Christ. What they do now is raise German Shepherds and make wine and stuff like that. (Laughter). Early on, they used to really worship God in these monasteries. The Monastic period was a terrible failure, but what they tried to do in these monastic structures was to order their entire day around worship, prayer, and praise. Back in Gregorian and Roman times, they took the Psalms and put them into chants. Many of the monasteries would go through the entire Psalm collection each week. There were morning Psalms, evening Psalms, many of them extrapolated from the Hebrew Bible just like have. Like last night, we should have looked at an evening Psalm, we looked at a morning Psalm, so we could envision them singing that. You might even envision it in your imagination in those stone grottos with a bunch of men in odd clothing singing these beautiful chants of these Psalms. So there’s a rich history in the Psalms in the Catholic and Christian traditions throughout time.
In the fifth century Saint Maurice taught Charles the Great. He was his private religious tutor and he made him recite the Psalm every day. So one hundred and fifty Psalms, I don’t know how long that would take. It takes me a little over an hour and a half, if I just read at a clip, and that’s a fast read and I don’t get much out of reading it that quickly. So how you’d recite it in the course of a day like that, I don’t understand. Gennadius 1, the Patriarch of Constantinople during 458-471, would not ordain anyone who did not have the complete Psalter memorized. The Bishop of Ancona, a man named Resticas, had known the Psalms by heart and when men would come to him for ordination he would quiz them. If they didn’t have a comprehensive knowledge to be able to answer any section of the Psalms, he would not allow them to be ordained. By the second Council of Nicea, which is 587 or so after Christ’s death, it became Canon Law that if a priest candidate couldn’t recite the whole Psalms, he couldn’t be a priest. And they wouldn’t let a bishop go up the ranks unless he could continue a demonstration of the texts. The Psalms of course have a rich marked history.
Now we talked a little bit about some structure. What were some of the structural cues I gave you? Parallelism? Where did the word parallel come from? Three kinds of parallelism. What was the big one I showed you? Chiasm. What was the point of a chiasm? Memorization, a structural tool. What was the point? The point is in the middle. So you have a A,A prime, B,B prime, C,C prime, D,D prime, E. So the point of the Psalms in the middle and those structures are common in the Psalms, not only in the whole Psalm but often in little sections, like verses 1-3, you’ll see a chiastic device if you look for it.
We talked about loving kindness being the most important word in the Bible. What were the two things that God is lovingkind toward? His covenant promises and His chosen people. God loves to be loyal to His covenant promises and His chosen people. Okay, very good I’ll leave you alone now.
Let’s look at Psalm 65. Psalm 65 is a Public Hymn of Thanksgiving. Some have called this a Harvest Psalm. I have never taught this Psalm before. It was fun to prepare for it and I thought how fitting during this time of year when soon we’ll see pumpkins and squash in great quantities coming on the shelves and we’ll all buy them and put them on our steps and then we’ll throw them away in a few weeks. I don’t understand it, nonetheless. So this is the harvest season. There are some various titles for the Psalm: The Song of Harvest Blessing, The Bounty of the Saviour. I have called it responding to God’s generous blessings that we too often overlook. The Psalm is going to remind you and me to look at God’s generosity, to look at His blessings in your life and not to overlook these things.
If you’re a person who buys books of the Bible to help you study, the two best little tools you can use on the Psalms are by Derek Kidner. They’re little tiny volumes; they’re not these massive commentaries. Derek Kidner teaches at Cambridge University in Histon. He is a brilliant, wisdom literature scholar and he wrote these two tiny books in the seventies, Psalm 1-72 and Psalm 73-150, and they are extraordinary. What he says in two pages, I couldn’t say in a year. He just has the ability to synthesize the message down to just these little exquisite paragraphs. If you want to get into your Psalm study and you do this in your devotions, get Derek’s little books and go through them.
Quick story: I like to write authors that have ministered to me. Years ago in 1984 or 1985, I wrote Dr. Kidner a letter. In those days we didn’t have email; I used an aerogram. Anyone know what an aerogram is? Aerograms were these lightweight international things, and you could fold them and seal them and it was a fixed rate and so you have to write real neatly inside. I wrote him an aerogram and I thanked him for his ministry and how much he meant to me and that I just loved his writing on the wisdom literature and he wrote me back. One of the questions I asked him was, “Do you have any sermons on tape?” because we like to listen to sermons. He wrote back, in typical British fashion, “Thank you for your kind words. Regarding tapes, I have no knowledge of any such thing.” Derek Kidner. (Laughter). I still have the aerogram somewhere. I have written him over the years ensuing and I get about the same kind of response. I love Derek Kidner and I hope one day before glory to meet him. He’s a brilliant Hebrew scholar. He writes this Psalm: A stanza as fresh an irrepressible as the fertility it describes puts every Harvest Hymn to shame. We almost feel the splash of showers; the sense of springing growth about us. Yet, the whole Psalm has a directness, whether it is speaking of God and His temple courts or His vast dominions, or among the hills and valleys which his vary passing wakens into life. God just moves across something and it comes alive and that is a great depiction of the Psalm. H.C. Leupold writes, we venture to claim, this is the most eloquent and beautiful description of God’s blessing that He bestows on fields and meadows.
We think we’re fairly sophisticated people. To me the two greatest blessings God has given to man are the person and work of Jesus Christ and air conditioning. (Laughter). The south could not exist if it were not for air conditioning; Houston could not exist if it were not for air conditioning; Baton Rouge could not exist if it were not for air conditioning. When we see our technological advances, the microwave, digital technologies; even if you watch Marty play there’s certain pieces of technology here that are extraordinary. We grow accustomed to them; even this little gizmo has come such a long way from when we used to have them down here and when you turn your head, you had to learn to speak like this(Michael making funny noises), because the technology couldn’t keep up. We think we’re so sophisticated, but we really aren’t. Ancient men and women had the same worries, the same fears, the same concerns, the same joys, the same expressions, and in some ways they were far, far less encumbered than you and I. So when we read Hymns of Antiquity, don’t think we’re so much more sophisticated, in fact, I hope you’ll see that what they found joy in ought to reframe our perspective. We ought to learn to see some pretty basic joy in life like the Hebrew of the ancient world did.
Well let’s look at the Psalm. Let me begin first of all by reading the first four verses of Psalm 65: There will be silence before You, and praise in Zion, O God, and to You the vow will be performed. O You who hear prayer, to You all men come. Iniquities prevail against me; as for our transgressions, you forgive them. How Blessed is the one whom You choose to bring near to You to dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple. &
Now the first part of this Psalm: God hears and forgives. God hears and forgives. This is a Psalm of blessing God for his generosity to us and the Psalmist begins by acknowledging that God, You hear our prayers, You forgive my sins and You bless us lavishly. Now this is an unusual phrase because it begins with this idea of silence. There will be silence before you and praise in Zion. Of course, as Americans we rush right over the word silence. Some of your Bibles might say, await, The praise awaits You, or praise is due to You, and both of those are legitimate renderings. I like the word silence.
There’s another comprehensive set of commentaries that are huge, by Keil and Delitzsch, two Germans scholars who lived in the 1800’s. Dr. Delitzsch writes, “Silence is praise.” We don’t think about the idea of being silent as being an aspect of praise. Silence is what? It’s expectation. Silence is rest. Silence involves awe. Some of you are in the military, or have been; I had a number of tremendous experiences in the military, and I got to attend a seminar called the National Security Forum in Montgomery, Alabama a few years ago. It was a huge auditorium, three or four times the size of this, completely full of men and women and many of them were on their way to be officers. They were talking and a lot of buzzing going on, and it’s all a real raucous environment. Then a young Lieutenant walks in and as soon as he does it goes quiet. And then here’s the General standing behind him and everybody stands up and it’s dead quiet. He says, “Oh, sit down. Sit down.” Everybody sits down, but there’s a silence when the General walks in the room. If you’ve had the educational experience of being in a trial, maybe as a juror, when the judge walks in the room, you get quiet. There’s certain things in life we just intuitively know, “Be quiet.” Someone of respect has come into the room. I don’t know if you’re comfortable with silence. Last night I loved what Marty did. When Marty started this, I thought, oh no, this is not going to work. Remember what he did? He said, “Some of you just stand up and give a little shout out, we might say.” I’m thinking, oh, these things never work. They never work. Some persons going to soliloquy; you watch it. Some person’s going to get up and preach a sermon; you watch it. And he gave good instructions and the Spirit of God controlled you. I was over there in tears hearing God’s people bless God. I was moved and there was a silence about that. He’s just playing. He makes it look so stinkin’ easy, doesn’t he? I can’t do any of that stuff. He lead us in worship; it overwhelmed me; it’s interesting how worship does that. But the hardest part is waiting for that first person to say something, right? You die a thousand deaths. Will anybody say something? I also noticed that the women outnumbered the men about five to one in the comments. That’s another subject.
Again Derek Kidner writes, Sometimes the height of worship will be fall silent before God in awe. Sometimes you’ve got to be quiet. Now, I don’t know if you’re like me; if you have the gift of gab, God bless you. It’s a terrible thing. You like to hear yourself talk and that’s the worst thing in the world and you hope God gives you children who love to listen because otherwise it’s miserable. You know how I realize how much I talk, is when I’m around someone who talks more than me. You can ask Cindy this; I’ll say, “Do I talk that much?” She’ll say, “Hmmm, no, almost.” Sometimes you get around people and they don’t breath. They just talk. It’s like they’ve got an extra air pump in there. Brrrrr. Some of it’s fine and mostly entertaining, but why are we so uncomfortable with silence. They’ll be silence before Yahweh. Praise is becoming, but the Psalmist in an unusual passage says, Be silent. There’s an aspect of worship that stands in awe, that is quiet, in awe. As the young men in Jobs time put their hand over their mouth, they were speechless when they heard him speak. He was so wise and powerful. There’s times when you read the Word of God in the morning, or you’re overwhelmed by the beauty of your surroundings, or your cup of coffee looking out your window, or your prayer closet, and you’re just quiet. It’s a wonderful, rare thing I think, for most believers.
The Psalmist is calling on Israel to Zion in verse 1. This is the place the vow will be performed. Zion becomes synonymous with the worship center of Yahweh Elohim. It is the place He puts His name. You can only worship where He puts His name. How many of you have been to Israel? Did you go to Tel Danl? Do you remember Tel Dan? You walked in the wilderness; you walked over some rocks, it was muddy, and green; you felt like you were out in the jungle if you went to Tel Dan. Tel Dan is one of my single favorite sights because not only is it much like it was in antiquity, but when you come to the area on the North of Tel Dan that borders Syria and Jordan, on a clear day you can see Syria and see Jordan over to the far East. There’s a steel structure that the antiquities have built that is a square box that would be about the size of the altar complex that was put in Dan that was illegitimate. We know archaeologically, this is the very place Rehoboam and Jeroboam; remember your Biblical history, instead of making people go all the way to Zion to worship, they decided to put a temple complex there so they could collect the dues basically and not send people to worship at the place. God didn’t want that there. And as the kingdom is split, it shows an illustration that worship is split; God’s worship is ruined. You will worship me where I tell you and only where I tell you to worship me and that will be in Zion. If you’ve been to Israel, when you go to the sea of Galilee, there’s an area on the North part of the sea where you go and there are a bunch of stones of antiquity. They were there in Jesus day. There’s one particular stone that has a picture of the ark with two wheels on it and a cart. You don’t move the ark with wheels; you move the ark with poles. Just a few years after Christ coming, syncretism leaks in. You roll it around and you build temple complexes after the kingdom splits. You only worship Him where His name is. The Psalmist says, Zion is where the vow will be performed because that’s where God puts His name.
I want you to notice the second person pronouns in this list and these again are just observations you make when you read your Bible. Look at the number of times they occur: You, vs 1. Verse 2, Oh You, who hear prayer. To You all men come. Verse 3, You forgive them. How blessed is the one You choose. To dwell in Your court. Your house. Your Holy temple. What I literally do is take a pencil and circle these sections because the way this structure is, this is about God. He’s vertical: You, Your. You’ll see other times: I, Me, My and then He’ll talk about other people so the Psalm was taking on a vertical nature: You, You, You; be silent before You, You’re the One who forgives our sins. Then the Psalm will flatten. It’ll talk about the evil and the wicked, then He’ll talk about Himself. These are very easy to pick up when you study the Psalms.
CONCLUSION: My greatest hope and prayer as you listen to these series is that you will get out a pen and a pencil, or maybe several pens, and you’ll start to mark up your Bible. If you were to look at my Psalm 65 in my current Bible, you would see everyone of the second person pronouns, You, circled in pencil. You’d see key verbs underlined in blue; you’d see lines that connect the dots for me visually because when I read and reread these Psalms, I want to remember and see what I once saw because morning by morning new verses I read. I forget everything I read. So I find that taking notes in the margins helps me as I come back to the Word of God. I hope you’ll find Psalm 65 a lot more enjoyable and a lot more encouraging as we continue Living Life from the Heart. This is Michael Easley inContext.