The Ministry of the Psalter (Part 1)
September 27, 2018 | by: Stephen Sprague | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Over the next two weeks I’ve been given the chance to write for the weekly Touchpoint article. Given my current preaching series from the Psalms, I thought this might be a good opportunity to expound upon my fascination with/ appreciation for, the Psalms. There are a number of benefits to reading the Psalms regularly. Often times they connect with us emotionally in ways other biblical texts don’t, they also remind us of various attributes of God giving us a greater reason to worship and adore him. In all these things the Psalms minister to us in unique and refreshing ways. This article, and the next, will be an attempt to identify and expound upon some of those benefits of regularly reading the Psalms with a case study of one of my most favorite Psalms, Psalm 121. So pick up your bibles, turn to the Psalter, and let’s get going!
From where does my help come?
Psalm 121 has been a Psalm “near and dear” to me for some time now. I remember the first time it stood out to me. It was over a year and a half ago, just a few months after I had herniated two discs in my lower back, and a few months before I would have the surgery that would “fix” the situation. I wasn’t sleeping, I was in a lot of pain, my leg was getting weaker, and I was down and out in more ways than one. My wife, Madison, first shared this Psalm with me. She had read it earlier in the day and had left her bible open to it on the table. I had just painstakingly sat down next to it and probably muttered some frustration or complaint about my malfunctioning body, and then I saw this Psalm. Psalm 121 is a Psalm clearly written by someone who knows the low places in life, yet has found in God their refuge and strength. A Psalm written from a suffering soul, but with such great hope, confidence and boldness.
This Psalm quickly became my anthem during the remaining months leading up to, and after my initial surgery. I read it often, prayed it often, and used it to fix my eyes on the Lord when my heart would begin to wander. It’s recently come back into my life full force with the re-herniation of one of my discs. This time around, thanks to better medication, I’m not in nearly as much pain as I was previously, but my leg is getting significantly weaker. Somehow the Psalmist’s claim in verse 3, “he will not let your foot be moved,” has been a source of reassurance to me that this weak ol’ leg of mine will not overcome me. It’s temporary. Minor in the grand scheme of things. And the Lord is looking after me. He cares for me. Perhaps this wasn’t the Psalmists original intent, but the beauty of the Psalms is that they range from specific in their circumstances, to vague, all of which have the ability to connect with our hearts at various times and in various ways, to show us how believers of times past have worshiped God, both in the midst of celebration and in the pits of desperation. We can see this reality here in Psalm 121, in the Psalmist’s initial glance upward.
He begins with a question. You can almost sense the desperation in it. We’ve all been there. That circumstance or moment where you just don’t know or can’t imagine how you’ll make it through. How you’ll dig yourself out of the hole or get through the pain. Verse 1 – “I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come.” Psalm 121, like many other Psalms, brings us into the eyes of the hopeless and helpless to point us to the only true hope we have in this life. Verse 2 – “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and Earth.”
The LORD, who made heaven and earth.
In bringing us into connection with our own frailty through the frailty of the Psalmists, the Psalms also do an excellent job of ministering to us by reminding us of who God is. They remind us of his power, his sovereignty, his creative control over every last inch of his creation. Psalm 121 is no different. In this Psalm the eyes of our heart are lifted up to the God on high, the great I AM, the very creator of heaven and earth. The Psalms, as songs and prayers, remind us of exactly who it is that we are praying to. That is, “The LORD, who made heaven and earth.”
At times such a reminder is necessary. Why? Because we forget exactly who God is. In our weakness we offer up rote and trite prayers. We pray as if we’re talking to a boss or an earthly official – someone that perhaps has some sway over things, some sort of influence, but that’s it. Our prayers can end up lacking faith on multiple levels. On one hand, perhaps we find ourselves praying as if God is weak, as if he’s somehow also resigned to the events already at play in our circumstances. As if he’s unable to truly change the course of things or to offer much help or comfort in our calamity. As if God is simply a good shoulder to lean on, or an ear available to listen to our cries and pleas. On the other hand we can fall into the trap that, while still believing that God is powerful and able to intervene, we end up praying with hearts that doubt his love and care over his creation – especially us.
Yet the Psalmist speaks against both of these weak and false mentalities – to the first he says, “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” And to the second he declares the faithfulness of God to his most treasured creation – his image bearers –“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.” The Lord who created the heavens and the earth and everything in them never ceases to rest in looking after his creation, especially his people. What a great comfort in our times of need.
Stay tuned for next week as we consider more of the Ministry of the Psalter.