A good many people, including myself, use Facebook to post updates of what’s going on in our life. We share the good and often the bad. We share opinions and persuasions. We share what others have shared. There are times when it seems we can’t let a day go by without posting something or looking to see what others have posted. Overall, it’s a way for us to express ourselves. Sometimes at levels that others really don’t care to read about.
The Book of Psalms, in a way, is the Old Testament version of Facebook. No, I’m not equating the two, I’m simply pointing out that often – very often – psalms express something different from what the other books of the OT express. When we read the Pentateuch, the Prophets, or the historical books we hear God’s communication with his creation. However, when we read the Psalms, we hear God’s creation, people created in his image, communicating with him. The table has turned and I’m thankful for that.
Whether it’s from the lips of David, the Korahites, or Asaph, the Psalms express human thoughts and emotions. They overflow with both angst and heartfelt joy. They display the raw words of doubt, fear and anger. They pulse with the heartbeat of living under the promise and protection of the almighty. They flow forward with waves of despair as the enemy flexes its muscle. They recede back into the depths of security and confidence. A confidence that only comes when sheltered in the cleft of the eternal one. If we feel it, it comes out somewhere in the Psalms.
For the most part these songs/poems are an expression of worship. They reflect the heart of Israel as the nation gathers to open its soul in the presence of Yahweh. The psalms reflect worship in its rawest forms.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. (Ps. 22:1-2)
The LORD lives! Blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation, the God who gave me vengeance and subdued peoples under me; who delivered me from my enemies indeed, you exalted me above my adversaries; you delivered me from the violent. For I will extol you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to your name. Great triumphs he gives to his kind, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever. (Ps. 18:46-50)
When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was stupid and ignorant; I was like a brute beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me with honor. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.” (Ps. 73:21-25)
Now that is worship laid bare before the throne of God. It is reflecting the heart and expressing the mind in ways that are often foreign to us.
I can read the Psalms and say, “yes, that’s how I feel”. But, for whatever reason, I find it hard to gin up that kind of angst when I pray. I feel it; I know the emotion is there. I know when I’m angry – angry with God. I know when I want God to hate my enemies as much as I do. I know when I want God to let me know his heart hurts as bad as mine. I know when I’m afraid as I walk through that valley of dark shadows and am scared spitless. I know when my heart is overflowing with love and praise. I know when joy is so powerful I feel lifted in the arms of the divine! I know all that. I know all that, yet it’s so hard to open the doors and let it envelop me in my daily walk.
O LORD, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. (Ps. 139:1-6)