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The Seven Pillars of Wisdom: Pillar 2: The Book of Psalms

  The Psalms comprise the longest book in the Bible.  They are poems, speeches, supplications and prayers made to God, yet at times clearly they can be prophetic utterances of God's responses, God's words, to the one who is praying. But in certain cases they also contain text that quite clearly seem to be God's replies or proclamations on varying subjects addressed in that Psalm. So, the Psalms seem to contain direct statements from God, uttered through His Psalm writing Prophets.  The psalms are beautiful, they are poignant, they are instructive, and they speak eloquently to how very little the thoughts and fears of the human heart have changed during these many many centuries. How many centuries? About 3,000 years it would seem. King David is believed to have been reigning in the year 1,000 B.C., and many of the Psalms were written by David. His son King Solomon was also a writer of Psalms. There are other writers as well.

  So, let's take a short look at this writing called 'the Book of Psalms', one of the 7 great books of wisdom that exist in the Catholic Bible (and in part in the Protestant Bible, which retained 5 of the Wisdom Books.) This book, the Book of Psalms, is in both Protestant and Catholic Bibles. Here following are some words from some of the 150 different Psalms, and a few comments about some of those.  It is posted in progress. 

  Taken as a whole, I feel that the Psalms cover a vast swath of all the possible thoughts on our human condition that the human mind could ever be brought to consider.  If you've ever considered it, worried about it, cried about it, had suicidal thoughts about it, rejoiced about it, been grateful for it, been hurt by it, or mentally or physically suffered through it, it's probably addressed in the Book of Psalms.    

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 1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

6 For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

   End Quote       King James Version

  So, the Psalms open with this one.  This is the first of them all, and God usually seems to choose the first and the last of things to be tone setters for what lies in between.  It can seem that way at times, anyway.  If so, He seems to be opening with a message that assures us that there is a difference between one who follows God and one that will not.  They are treated differently by life, and the state of their soul in the end is different also.  Very different.  And note that it adjures us to consider the laws of the Lord and think about them often if we wish to be a godly person. 

  And if we do, we will be like 'a tree planted by the rivers of water'.  Such trees will never thirst, right?  And we will 'bring forth fruit in our season'.  We keep trying, and stay in God's Word, and we will apparently be shown what work it is fitting or pre-ordained for us to do, or we will accomplish the Lord's purposes for our life..  Is that what is meant?  It seems like it to me. 

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Here is Psalm 2 to consider.

2 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,

3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

End Quote     King James Version

  So,  Psalm 2 speaks of a time when the rulers of mankind will band together against the constraints of God.  And it speaks of how God will enthrone his chosen king on Mount Zion anyway, whether they wish to follow Him or not.  It speaks of Yahweh actually having a Son, right, though it was written about 1,000 years before He came?  So, there was a way to know that the Son of God was coming to this Earth even 1,000 years before He did!  It's not the only place in the Old Testament that reveals that such an event was coming!  This Psalm shares important pieces of the puzzle.

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Here is Psalm 6, for the person who suffers great pain and sickness, perhaps because of their sin....at least in part.

Psalm 6

King James Version (KJV)

O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed.

My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O Lord, how long?

Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake.

For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?

I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.

Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.

Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.

The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.

10 Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.

End Quote King James Version

  Sometimes it seems like the troubles of life, deserved and undeserved, have almost quenched our flame.  This Psalm 6 is a good prayer for such times I think.

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Here is the Psalm that I think every child should be taught to know well....even to memorize perhaps.  It is a treasure and a half.  It is a great trove of wisdom.  Though many Psalms offer a great deal both spiritually and intellectually, this Psalm, number 37, truly is a Psalm for the long haul of life.  It is useful when feeling angry, it is useful when feeling jealous, it is useful when feeling that God has forgotten you yet seems to bless those who do not even try to serve Him.  It is a Psalm for the soothing of the exasperated soul.  I like many Psalms, but I sometimes think that this is the king of Psalms.      

  

Psalm 37

King James Version (KJV)

37 Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.

For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.

For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.

10 For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.

11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

12 The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.

13 The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.

14 The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation.

15 Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.

16 A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.

17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the Lord upholdeth the righteous.

18 The Lord knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever.

19 They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.

20 But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.

21 The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth.

22 For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.

23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.

24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.

25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

26 He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.

27 Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.

28 For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

29 The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.

30 The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.

31 The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.

32 The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him.

33 The Lord will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.

34 Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.

35 I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.

36 Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.

37 Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.

38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble.

40 And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.

King James Version

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Psalm 78 is a special psalm to me in some ways.  It reminds me that retelling the great deeds of God is not just an honor and very interesting, but it is also something that God's scripture encourages us, specifically and in many places, to engage in all of our lives throughout all of our generations.  Psalm 78 is one of the 'retell the Deeds of God' psalms!: 

Psalm 78

A maskil[a] of Asaph.

My people, hear my teaching;
    listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
    I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
    things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob
    and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands.
They would not be like their ancestors—
    a stubborn and rebellious generation,
whose hearts were not loyal to God,
    whose spirits were not faithful to him.

The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,
    turned back on the day of battle;
10 they did not keep God’s covenant
    and refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done,
    the wonders he had shown them.
12 He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors
    in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and led them through;
    he made the water stand up like a wall.
14 He guided them with the cloud by day
    and with light from the fire all night.
15 He split the rocks in the wilderness
    and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
16 he brought streams out of a rocky crag
    and made water flow down like rivers.

17 But they continued to sin against him,
    rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.
18 They willfully put God to the test
    by demanding the food they craved.
19 They spoke against God;
    they said, “Can God really
    spread a table in the wilderness?
20 True, he struck the rock,
    and water gushed out,
    streams flowed abundantly,
but can he also give us bread?
    Can he supply meat for his people?”
21 When the Lord heard them, he was furious;
    his fire broke out against Jacob,
    and his wrath rose against Israel,
22 for they did not believe in God
    or trust in his deliverance.
23 Yet he gave a command to the skies above
    and opened the doors of the heavens;
24 he rained down manna for the people to eat,
    he gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Human beings ate the bread of angels;
    he sent them all the food they could eat.
26 He let loose the east wind from the heavens
    and by his power made the south wind blow.
27 He rained meat down on them like dust,
    birds like sand on the seashore.
28 He made them come down inside their camp,
    all around their tents.
29 They ate till they were gorged—
    he had given them what they craved.
30 But before they turned from what they craved,
    even while the food was still in their mouths,
31 God’s anger rose against them;
    he put to death the sturdiest among them,
    cutting down the young men of Israel.

32 In spite of all this, they kept on sinning;
    in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.
33 So he ended their days in futility
    and their years in terror.
34 Whenever God slew them, they would seek him;
    they eagerly turned to him again.
35 They remembered that God was their Rock,
    that God Most High was their Redeemer.
36 But then they would flatter him with their mouths,
    lying to him with their tongues;
37 their hearts were not loyal to him,
    they were not faithful to his covenant.
38 Yet he was merciful;
    he forgave their iniquities
    and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger
    and did not stir up his full wrath.
39 He remembered that they were but flesh,
    a passing breeze that does not return.

40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
    and grieved him in the wasteland!
41 Again and again they put God to the test;
    they vexed the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his power—
    the day he redeemed them from the oppressor,
43 the day he displayed his signs in Egypt,
    his wonders in the region of Zoan.
44 He turned their river into blood;
    they could not drink from their streams.
45 He sent swarms of flies that devoured them,
    and frogs that devastated them.
46 He gave their crops to the grasshopper,
    their produce to the locust.
47 He destroyed their vines with hail
    and their sycamore-figs with sleet.
48 He gave over their cattle to the hail,
    their livestock to bolts of lightning.
49 He unleashed against them his hot anger,
    his wrath, indignation and hostility—
    a band of destroying angels.
50 He prepared a path for his anger;
    he did not spare them from death
    but gave them over to the plague.
51 He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt,
    the firstfruits of manhood in the tents of Ham.
52 But he brought his people out like a flock;
    he led them like sheep through the wilderness.
53 He guided them safely, so they were unafraid;
    but the sea engulfed their enemies.
54 And so he brought them to the border of his holy land,
    to the hill country his right hand had taken.
55 He drove out nations before them
    and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance;
    he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes.

56 But they put God to the test
    and rebelled against the Most High;
    they did not keep his statutes.
57 Like their ancestors they were disloyal and faithless,
    as unreliable as a faulty bow.
58 They angered him with their high places;
    they aroused his jealousy with their idols.
59 When God heard them, he was furious;
    he rejected Israel completely.
60 He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh,
    the tent he had set up among humans.
61 He sent the ark of his might into captivity,
    his splendor into the hands of the enemy.
62 He gave his people over to the sword;
    he was furious with his inheritance.
63 Fire consumed their young men,
    and their young women had no wedding songs;
64 their priests were put to the sword,
    and their widows could not weep.

65 Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
    as a warrior wakes from the stupor of wine.
66 He beat back his enemies;
    he put them to everlasting shame.
67 Then he rejected the tents of Joseph,
    he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;
68 but he chose the tribe of Judah,
    Mount Zion, which he loved.
69 He built his sanctuary like the heights,
    like the earth that he established forever.
70 He chose David his servant
    and took him from the sheep pens;
71 from tending the sheep he brought him
    to be the shepherd of his people Jacob,
    of Israel his inheritance.
72 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
    with skillful hands he led them.

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  The Psalms have their structural mysteries.  There are many of them.  One is that the smallest of them all (Psalm 117) is near the longest of them (Psalm 119).  So, that would almost make someone guess that the psalm sandwiched in between them might be special.  And it is!  It is a Psalm of special praise and gratitude to God.  Consider Psalm 118, which speaks of a stone which the builders rejected that has become the capstone.  We know that the fulfillment of that verse is Jesus, who was rejected by the Jews of His time, and crucified, yet He was raised and placed above all things, as the 'once here and still to return' culmination of all things, by God His Father.  That is what is done with a capstone as well!  It is the perfect and prominent completion of a project.  This Psalm, made suspicious by its placement between the longest and shortest (Between the Alpha and Omega Psalm in terms of length) seems to speak of Jesus, who was called 'the Alpha and the Omega' among His other scriptural names.  It speaks of the Lord's mercy rather than His justice.  This also speaks of Jesus.  No Christian could endure the Lord's justice, we depend wholly on the Lord's mercy and we know that.  Our only righteousness is from the Christ acknowledging us as one of His own.  That and that alone is acceptable to the Holy Father to allow us citizenship in Heaven.  So here is Psalm 118 :

118 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.

Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.

Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.

Let them now that fear the Lord say, that his mercy endureth for ever.

I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place.

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?

The Lord taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me.

It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.

It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.

10 All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord will I destroy them.

11 They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.

12 They compassed me about like bees: they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.

13 Thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall: but the Lord helped me.

14 The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.

15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.

16 The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.

17 I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.

18 The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord:

20 This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter.

21 I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.

22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

23 This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.

24 This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.

26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.

27 God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.

28 Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee.

29 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

King James Version 

It is a great Psalm!  It is a beautiful Psalm!

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  It only makes sense that if all of the Bible is organized by the Holy Spirit working through men, then the last of all the Psalms must hold some special thought.  It may showcase a thought that the Lord wants us to have in our mind when we finish the study of this great compilation of the wisdom of worship that is the Book of Psalms.  And so, what is it that Psalm 150 has us focus on as we leave the Psalms behind?  It is praise!!  It has us focus on joyous noisy musical praise.  See for yourself!:

150 Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.

Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.

Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.

King James Version

So there we end ....with Praise!  The Lord leads us through many thoughts in the book of Psalms, much as the Book of Job does.  But we end with simple heartfelt praise, joyous musical praise, as if perhaps to suggest that all things that can be thought, felt or known about the Lord should naturally lead one to wish to praise him with all the heart, the soul, the strength, and the mind!  Perhaps it means that.  Perhaps all wisdom boils down to that!

©2011 Daniel Curry & 'Deeds of God' Website