A Psalm of Belonging

Listen, now, to Psalm 132, as paraphrased by Eugene Petersen in The Message, Catholic Edition. This is what it meant to the people of Israel to be in covenant relationship with God. In a way, this is a song of belonging.

Fridays during our Lenten retreat, we’ll reflect with audio-only meditations. If you’re receiving this via e-mail, click through to listen to this week’s audio “Psalm 132.”

Psalm 81

Songs for Your Life: Lenten Psalms - online retreat at Days of Deepening Friendship

Today we read Psalm 81 in the language of The Message, Eugene H. Peterson’s paraphrase/translation for our contemporary understanding.

  • What does God ask of the people?
  • How does this translate to what God asks of you today?

A song to our strong God!
a shout to the God of Jacob!
Anthems from the choir, music from the band,
sweet sounds from lute and harp,
Trumpets and trombones and horns:
It’s festival day, a feast to God!
A day decreed by God, solemnly ordered by the God of Jacob.
He commanded Joseph to keep this day
so we’d never forget what he did in Egypt.

I hear this most gentle whisper from One
I never guessed would speak to me:

“I took the world off your shoulders,
freed you from a life of hard labor.
You called to me in your pain;
I got you out of a bad place.
I answered you from where the thunder hides,
I proved you at Meribah Fountain.

“Listen, dear ones—get this straight;
O Israel, don’t take this lightly.
Don’t take up with strange gods,
don’t worship the latest in gods.
I’m God, your God, the very God
Who rescued you from doom in Egypt,
then fed you all you could eat,
filled your hungry stomachs.

But my people didn’t listen,
‘Israel paid no attention
So I let go of the reins and told them, ‘Run!
Do it your own way!’

“Oh, dear people, will you listen to me now?
Israel, will you follow my map?
I’ll make short work of your enemies,
give your foes the back of my hand.
I’ll send the God-haters cringing like dogs,
never to be heard from again.
You’ll feast on my fresh-baked bread
spread with butter and rock-pure honey.”

Psalms of Covenant

Songs for Your Life: Lenten Psalms - online retreat at Days of Deepening Friendship

This week we’ll explore psalms of covenant. When these prayers and songs were written, the Israelites were a tribal people who understood that survival depended on strong alliances. Often a smaller tribe/nation would pledge allegiance to a larger and stronger tribe, who would repay the loyalty with protection. So their prayers to the ultimate protector, God the Lord, used language that praised God’s superiority and authority. A crucial distinction for the people of Israel is that they relied on God alone; in fact, they often ran into trouble when they made alliances with other tribes and allowed themselves to be influenced by people who did not believe or trust in God of the Israelites.

  • Read through Psalm 50 and find phrases that seem strange to your ears. Why are they strange?
  • What about this psalm do you find it hard to relate to, and why?
  • How can you translate this psalm to better express how you relate to God here and now?

Psalm 50

A Psalm of Asaph.
1 The mighty one, God the LORD,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.

3 Our God comes and does not keep silence,
before him is a devouring fire,
and a mighty tempest all around him.
4 He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
5 ‘Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!’
6 The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge.
Selah

7 ‘Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
O Israel, I will testify against you.
I am God, your God.
8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
your burnt-offerings are continually before me.
9 I will not accept a bull from your house,
or goats from your folds.
10 For every wild animal of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the air,
and all that moves in the field is mine.

12 ‘If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and all that is in it is mine.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls,
or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and pay your vows to the Most High.
15 Call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’

16 But to the wicked God says:
‘What right have you to recite my statutes,
or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
18 You make friends with a thief when you see one,
and you keep company with adulterers.

19 ‘You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
20 You sit and speak against your kin;
you slander your own mother’s child.
21 These things you have done and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one just like yourself.
But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.

22 ‘Mark this, then, you who forget God,
or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.
23 Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honour me;
to those who go the right way
I will show the salvation of God.’

Thank You, Lord

Songs for Your Life: Lenten Psalms - online retreat at Days of Deepening Friendship

The first eleven verses of Psalm 40 are classified as a psalm of thanksgiving. There are numerous other thanksgiving psalms, but I chose this one because it provides such a beautiful illustration of what I call the full cycle of thanksgiving:

  • God acts.
  • We recognize what God has done and say thank you.
  • We respond to God’s gifts by acting.

It’s wonderful to recount all our blessings. But if thanksgiving does its complete work in us, it changes the way we do things. It urges us to action.

  1. Read the psalm two or three times, at least once aloud.
  2. Identify what God has done for which the writer is thankful.
  3. Identify how that thanksgiving manifests in action.

To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.
1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2 He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.

4 Happy are those who make
the LORD their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after false gods.
5 You have multiplied, O LORD my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts towards us;
none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
they would be more than can be counted.

6 Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt-offering and sin-offering
you have not required.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.’

9 I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O LORD.
10 I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.

11 Do not, O LORD, withhold
your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
keep me safe for ever.