The Monastic Period and Devotion to The Psalms
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. 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.
The Psalm of Harvest Blessing: Psalm 65
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.
Derek Kidner writes of 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 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.
God Hears and Forgives
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. &
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.
Silence is rest. Silence involves awe. 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 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.
The Height of Worship
Again Derek Kidner writes, Sometimes the height of worship will be fall silent before God in awe. Sometimes you’ve got to be quiet. 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 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. 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. This is about God. He’s vertical. 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.
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