Tag Archive | psalms

Love Week #1: Psalm 136, “for His steadfast love endures forever”

I was listening to RefNet.fm (Ligonier’s 24-hour Christian station) and Psalm 136 was read aloud. The recurring phrase “for His steadfast love endures forever” seeped into my soul and covered it like a balm. The whole Psalm was refreshing in its praise of God. I pray you have an opportunity to find an audio of the Psalm and hear it. Though it was not sung as it originally was, spoken aloud it had a ring of love and truth that was not otherwise impactful to me as I’d read it myself in the past.  I dug deeper and looked into the origin of the Psalm and found these study notes. I pray you are refreshed and encouraged as you read them sometime yourself.

Psalm 135-136, from John MacArthur Study Bible Notes.

These two Psalms complete the “Great Hallal.” The composer and occasion of Ps. 135 are unknown but likely postexhilic. Psalm 135:15-20 is strikingly similar to 115:4-11.

Psalm 135

I. Call to Praise (135:1-2)
II. Causes for Praise (135:3-18)

  1. God’s Character (135:3)
  2. God’s Choice of Jacob (135:4)
  3. God’s Sovereignty in Creation (135:5-7)
  4. God’s Deliverance of Israel (135:8-12)
  5. God’s Unique Nature (135:13-18)

III. Concluding praise (135:19-21)

Psalm 136

This Psalm, extremely similar to Psalm 135, closes the “Great Hallal*.” Unique to all the Psalms, Ps. 136 uses the antiphonal* refrain “for His steadfast love endures forever” after each stanza, perhaps spoken by the people in responsive worship. Author and occasion remains unknown.

I. Call to Praise (136:1-3)
II. Causes for Praise (136:4-22).

  1. God’s Creation (136: 4-9)
  2. God’s Deliverance (136: 10-15)
  3. God’s Care and Gift (136:16-22)

III. Concluding Praise (136:23-26).

*antiphonal = of music, especially church music, or a section of a church liturgy) sung, recited, or played alternately by two groups.

*Hallal = praise, hallelujah

Resources on Depression and the Christian

depressed
Depression is something Christians don’t talk about much. Some are embarrassed by it, deeming it a weakness. Others believe that they are supposed to present a joyful countenance all the time, every day. Others adopt a plan of fake it till you make it.

So I was surprised and heartened to read Drew Dyck’s heartfelt sharing of his own journey through a long-term depression which was also punctuated by panic attacks. Mr Dyck is an acquisitions editor at Moody Publishers and a senior editor at CTPastors.com. He’s the author of Yawning at Tigers (2014) and Generation Ex: Christian (2010).

It’s always risky when one is open about something that some parts of society stigmatize. He muses on some of that in his article, as he shares the lessons he’d learned. His article is here:

You Can Break Your Brain … And 4 Other Things I’ve learned from My Struggle with Depression and Anxiety

Did you know that the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, suffered from depression? It seems strange that on the surface, this man who was a global success at preaching, writing, pastoring, founding colleges, orphanages, and married to a wonderful woman, could ever be depressed. But he was. There are numerous resources available recounting it, including many of his own writings, but this can get you started:

The Anguish and Agonies of Charles Spurgeon

Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a physician and then a preacher. In 1960 he began preaching on depression in a lengthy sermon series which can be listened to here. The sermon series was also made into a book, “Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure”. The Amazon blurb introducing the books states,

[Lloyd-Jones] carefully and compassionately analyzes an undeniable feature of modern society from which Christians have not escaped — spiritual depression.

What robs Christians of the joy that is theirs? Why does faith’s vitality drain away, leaving melancholy and anxiety it its place? In the sermons, Lloyd-Jones explores the cause and the cure.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones Spiritual Depression series

David certainly had his own ups and downs. We read in Psalm 43:4,

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Mr Dyck says that prayer and Scripture were a tremendous source of comfort in the valley (especially the Psalms). It would be wrong and neglectful of me to leave off the Bible itself as a resource. Especially the Psalms.

depressed guy
Though the Bible is its own premier resource, Mr Dyck shares that the person suffering from depression “finds it hard to even muster the energy or concentration to engage deeply in spiritual practices.” He advises asking others to pray for you when your depression sinks you too low to open His word.

Therefore we have the greatest resource of all: the Body of Christ in prayer and supplication, appealing to the Great Physician, Jesus, in prayer.

All these resources and more are available to you if you happen to be suffering from persistent panic, anxiety or depression.

Further reading:

Insufficient Help, Part 1: Grace To You’s recounting of a depressed, suicidal young man seeking help from church counselors in addition to doctors and secular therapists, who eventually took his own life. The church was sued. Did the church offer insufficient help? Are Biblical counselors qualified to use the Bible in therapy?

Overwhelmed by Anxiety? A blog series on attacking the anxiety that is attacking you.

 

Who was Asaph?

We read the Psalms and think of David. Slayer of giants, musician, singer, King, David was a man after God’s own heart. He was multi-talented and wrote many of the Psalms, which are songs. But did you know that David wrote only half of the Psalms? Solomon, David’s son and successor wrote 2 of them. Moses is assigned authorship of Psalm 90, a prayer. The sons of Korah wrote 11 psalms while Psalm 88’s authorship is attributed to Heman, and one is assigned to Ethan the Ezrahite.

Another group of 21 psalms is ascribed to the Asaph and his descendants. Asaph is assigned authorship of Psalms 50 and 73-83. So, who was Asaph?

Asaph was a Levite music leader, leading the Tabernacle choir. (1 Chronicles 6:33, 39). His name means “to gather together” which is a great name for a congregational music leader. He is mentioned along with David as skilled in music, and of course not only did he write songs and play instruments but he was also a skilled singer. Interestingly, Asaph is also a seer, (2 Chronicles 29:30) which is a prophet who sees visions.

SEER (chozeh). Generally synonymous with the role of the prophet (e.g., 2 Sam 24:11; 1 Chr 21:9; Amos 7:12). However, at times, it is used as a distinct term from that of prophet (2 Kgs 17:13). Seer, by connotation of the Hebrew word affiliated with it being connected to the idea of receiving a vision (חֹזֶה, chozeh), may be more connected to the idea of visions than the prophetic word, although this is not necessarily the case in all usages. Barry, J. D. (2016). Seer. The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

In Psalm 73, of Asaph, we read that the author was angry and discontent with the sleekness and seeming prosperity of the wicked. He mourned their health and prosperity, and wondered if his own efforts at a narrow walk and holiness were in vain. Then comes the turning point of the Psalm at verse 16-17-

But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end
. (Psalm 73:16-17).

It is this way with us. Until you enter the prayer closet, or the sanctuary, and inquire of God, you will be disgruntled. Communing with God in prayer or song relieves the stormy heart and soothes the troubled mind.

We’re grateful that the Spirit inspired the Psalms and included them in the Bible for us to be refreshed by. We see that the human condition of faltering, wondering, coveting the wicked’s prosperous way are not new. We see also that our faithful God is always there, and can and does comfort us. As Asaph ended his Psalm,

For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works
.

Let us tell of Jesus’ works today.

old harp singing
EPrata photo