Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Psalm 135 & 136 - Praise and Thanksgiving

LINK: Psalm 135 & 136 
(soak in these over the next two days) 

BACKGROUND


Psalm 135


As a perfect follow up to Psalm 134, this is a psalm that calls on the people, priests ("house of Aaron" in 135:19), and Levites ("house of Levi" in 135:19) to praise Him from Jerusalem ("Zion").  It praises God for His greatness by recalling the past. He refers to Exodus 12:12; Numbers 21:21-25; and Joshua 12:7-24. 


The introductory phrase "Praise the Lord" is in this psalm and Psalms 146-150. This phrase is the English transliteration of the Hebrew word, halelû-yāh, which is a compound word combining the Hebrew words, hālal, meaning "shine/praise," and yāh, which is a contracted form of Yahweh, the personal name of God and most frequent designation for Him in the Hebrew Scripture (5321 times). 


Psalm 136


This psalm is similar to Psalm 135. Yahweh's loyal love (ḥeseḏ) is mentioned 26 times in the response portion of what might have been a responsive antiphonal reading with the people saying these words together after a leader had read the first "Give thanks" and "to Him" lines. Maybe it was the psalm read in Ezra 3:11? The response is similar to Psalm 106:1; 118:1-4. It is often called "The Great Hallel" by Jewish rabbis (See posts for Psalm 111-113; 115-117).  This kind of response was also sung at the dedication of Solomon's temple (2 Chronicles 7:3,6) and when Judah was attacked by Moab and Ammon during King Jehoshaphat's reign (2 Chronicles 20:21). 


This loyal love (ḥesedis special for His covenant people. The word includes His love, kindness, mercy, and faithfulness all rolled into one great word!   


The fact that God is referred to as "the God of heaven" (136:26) gives indication that it might have occurred after the exiles returned to Jerusalem since this was a title attributed to him often in Ezra (1:2; 5:11-12; 6:9-10; 7:12, 21, 23) and Nehemiah (1:4; 2:4). 


The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

There are many historical references to the Exodus when He delivered His people from bondage (Exodus 15:16). This exodus is a picture for all of us of our deliverance from the bondage of sin through Jesus (1 Peter 1:18-19; John 1:29; Ephesian 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 4:12).  


How fun to be reminded of this as Christmas (and our Bible Book Club New Testament reading) fast approaches!


REFLECTION/APPLICATION/PRAYER

Christmas is a time for worship! So, pray and worship through these Psalms! They do not take long to read, but they have so much to contemplate that I want you to do it slowly, going deeper in prayer. 


I realize that I keep telling you to soak and pray through the psalms, and I have not reminded you that I have resources for helping you do that.


Here is a downloadable handout that I created that combines both of the above in a front to back document:

Tools for Meditation and Study with Application and Carol's Additions 


Here are things I added to this handout that you might like to try:

1) Write a Poem


2) Write a Song


I have posted a few Michael Card songs as we have studied Genesis. Many of his songs were written after he would meditate on a passage from his pastor’s sermon. During the week, he would write a song and teach it to the congregation on the following Sunday. I have done this periodically throughout my life with the Lord, and those songs are so meaningful to me now. For example, here is a poem based on Psalm 23 that I set to music back in 1982 when I was lonely and living in Spain:

I can feel the love of God surround me as I go;
Through peaceful fields, by waters still, on high paths and on low.
The things I fear all disappear; each snare each enemy!
God’s love directs my every step, surrounds me and sets me free.
3) Illustrate

You may NOT be artistic, but this shouldn’t stop you from trying this fun way to meditate on Scripture. My old roommates and I would meditate this way together, and we would decorate the walls in our stairwell with our art work! Years later, I did it with my children as we “meditated” through The Beginner’s Bible when they were 3 & 5. It was so fun. Break out the colored pencils or crayons and enjoy God’s presence in pictures. Use color and creativity and even get others involved!


Another variation of this is to use magazines pictures and cut and paste your meditations or take a picture in nature that illustrates your meditation. I know many of you take great pictures too!


4) Pray Responsively


Praying through the Scriptures brings the Word to a personal level. We can read a small portion and respond back in prayer. John 15:7 says that if we abide in Him and His words abide in us we can ask whatever we wish and it shall be done for us. Praying Scripture is definitely His will. Here is an example of praying Colossians 3:12:



"Lord, thank You for choosing me and making me holy and beloved because of Jesus. Because I am beloved by You, I want to love others with that love! Please help me to put on my 'love clothes.' I want to be compassionate, kind, humble, and gentle with my kids. Give me patience as Paul interrupts me while I type this" (Paul was five years old when I wrote this. He is better now.).
The psalms are great to pray through alone or with a friend! The first devotional time I ever had with my discipler in college was praying through a psalm.  Take turns reading a couple of verses and then responding to God in prayer.
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