Constructing a Psalm of Praise

Westerman(This assignment was developed from “The Psalms: Structure, Content & Message”, Claus Westermann, Augsburg, 1980.  Last week we look a the psalms of individual lament, here we consider psalms of praise.  Our goal is to construct our own just in time for Thanksgiving.)  Download here – Psalm of Praise

The Individual song of Lament (we studied last week) usually ends with a promise to praise the Lord.  E.g.  Psalm 13:6

“I will sing the Lord’s praise,

For he has been good to me.”

            Psalms of Praise by individuals are common in the Psalms.  They tend to take up where the lament left off.  The Sadness is turned to Gladness.


I. Introduction:  e.g. Psalm 30:1

“I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths..”

II. A summary of what has happened: e.g. Psalm 31:2-3

“…You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead…”

III. A testimony to God’s action: the trouble faced and the answer given. There is a sense of joy and peace because of God’s action. e.g Psalm 30:4-11

“Sing praises to the Lord, you his faithful people….”

IV.  A promise to praise  e.g. Ps 30:12

“Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”

 Assignment: Construct a Psalm of Thanksgiving (I, II and IV can be one sentence)


God is Good, all the Time.

All the Time, God is Good.







Bilingual Devotions in the Psalms – Psalm 76:4

31 PsalmsI have been working on Spanish for a number of years, an embarrassingly large number of years.  One of the things I try to do is read the Psalms in the morning in my Spanish/English (NVI / NIV) bible.  I have two methods:

  • A list of top 31 Psalms that I follow according to the day of the month. 31 Psalms (downloadable)
  • Pastor Dave’s Guilt Free Method:  Simply multiply today’s date by 5, read from the five Psalms that end in that number.  eg  April 16 – 16 x 5 = 80, read from Psalm 76 to Psalm 80.  On day 31 read wherever you wish.  It is guilt free in that you  don’t have to check off any boxes.

What I find is that the two translations are interestingly different.  Sometimes dramatically different in their choice of textual variants.  Consider Ps 76:4

You are radiant with light,

    more majestic than mountains rich with game.  (NIV)

Estás rodeado de esplendor;
    eres más imponente que las montañas eternas. (NVI)

(you are surrounded with splendor, you are more majestic than the eternal mountains

– my translation)

The NVI follows the LXX (Greek Text); the NIV follows the MT (Hebrew).  It would seem that the glory of a game filled mountain is less suggestive of God’s radiance to some that the mountains themselves.  I suppose a Montanan might prefer the game filled mountains and the New York resident the majesty of the mountains themselves.

This is a Psalm that celebrates conquest, so the comparison to hunting seems to fit. It is perhaps disturbing to those with more sensitivities than an ancient Israelite such as Asaph.

Nature & Name – Psalm 148:13-14

A clip from Sunday’s message:

The heavens and the creation declare Gods praise.  Its content is that God is the one who created and who orders all things.  The creation sings of its creator.  It sings in the language of planetary orbits and seasonal change. It is in the roar of the lion and the cooing of a dove.

Let them praise the name of the Lord!

For he commanded and they were created.

And he established them forever and ever;

he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

                 The people of the earth add something unique to this praise service.  We can agree God is creator and the one who brings order.  Our praise goes beyond that.

13    Let them praise the name of the Lord,

for his name alone is exalted;

his majesty is above earth and heaven.

14    He has raised up a horn for his people,

praise for all his saints,

for the people of Israel who are near to him.

Praise the Lord!

                             A study of God’s world can lead us to believe in a Creator.   Yet that falls short.  We can conclude that there is a creator, but we cannot know who he or she is.

Let’s say you have a meal at a restaurant.  It is delicious.  You have never tasted anything like it.  You conclude that there is a good cook in the kitchen.

               What if the chef comes out and introduces himself to you.  He tells you his name. You lean where he lived, where he studied cooking, and why he made this dish.  He takes a seat and spends time with you and you become friends.  Now you not only know that there is a cook but you know him by name.

Name.  God reveals himself to us in nature in a general way. He reveals himself in the story of Salvation in a particular way.  The bible contains the story of God introducing himself.  He said to Moses – My name is Yahweh – “I am”.

We add to the praise of Creation the ability to praise God’s name.  And we come to know that his name reveals who he is.  God has many names and each is a promise and a blessing.  He si “I am”.  He is “The Almighty”, “The Holy One”, “Heavenly Father”, “The Beginning and the End”.   Then we came to know through Jesus Christ that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  And the Son has names like “Immanuel – God is with us”, and “Lamb of God”, “Savior”, “Shepherd”, “Christ.”   The Holy spirit is the “Comforter”.

Horn.  God also adds another.  “He has raised up a horn for his people.”  The “horn” has come to symbolize power.  Think of a bull with powerful horns.  This is how he defends himself. This is his power.  God has raised up one who is called “the horn”.    This is a picture of the Savior Jesus.

On the altar on the temple there were four horns. Blood was put on those horns.  A refugee could hold on to the horns of the altar and receive protection from judgment.

So we have a Savior who is powerful.  He is the one we can cling to for our salvation.  The salvation that he offers is based upon his sacrifice on the Cross.  So we can receive protection from the judgment we deserve.

Psalms, Enemies & Bonhoeffer

In looking at Psalms attached to events in David’s life, we find a number of prayers of David where he calls for the destruction of his enemies.  This is jarring to those who have heard Jesus teaching about loving enemies.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer has a great small book, written for people in the church, on how we can pray from the Psalms as followers of Jesus.  In his chapter entitled “The Enemies” he writes:

“How can we as Christians pray these psalms?…The enemies referred to here are enemies of the cause of God, who lay hands on us for the sake of God.  It is therefore nowhere a matter of personal conflict.  Nowhere does the one who prays these psalms want to take revenge in his own hands.  He calls for the wrath of God alone. (Rom 12:19).  Therefore he must dismiss from his own mind all thought of personal revenge; he must be free from his own thirst for revenge….

   This judgment must be made public if God is to stand by his word.  It must also be promulgated among those whom it concerns….

  God’s vengeance did not strike the sinners, but the one sinless man who stood in the sinners place, namely God’s own son.  Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God, for the execution of which the psalm prays.  He stilled God’s wrath toward sin and prayed in the hour of the execution of the diving judgment: ‘Father, forgive them, for they don to know what they do!’….That was the end of all phony thoughts about the love of God which does not take sin seriously.  God hates and redirects his enemies to the only righteous one, and this one asks forgiveness for them.  Only in the cross of Jesus Christ I the love of god to be found…I cannot forgive the enemies of God out of my own resources.  Only the crucified Christ can do that, and I through him….Even today I can believe the love of God and forgive my enemies only by boing back to the cross of Christ, to the carrying of the wrath of God…

  In this way the crucified Jesus teaches us to pray the imprecatory psalms correctly.”


Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, Augsburg, 1970, p. 56-60.


Why Worship? Psalm 147:1

Praise the Lord.

How good it is to sing praises to our God,

    how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

We gather to praise the Lord together.  Have you ever wondered why?  Maybe it is a tradition – your parents and their parents did this.  But there are better reasons than simple repetition and tradition.

This psalm says that praising the Lord is good, pleasant and fitting.

It is good in many ways.  Only the ungrateful do not give thanks for a gift.  We all think it good to thanks our parents, to thank a vet, to thank a neighbor who lends a hand.  It is good because there is not harm in it, not sin.  It is good because Praise realigns our hearts from despair or doubt – when we praise we remember what God has done.

It is pleasant. Isn’t it delightful to hear good music?  Don’t you enjoy singing a great old hymn, even if you have more enthusiasm than skill?  God desires that our walk with him is delightful and pleasant.  We are not called to be grim, sour legalists.  We are called to live in delight.

It is fitting.   Sooner or later you will run into someone who says that this is all a waste of time.  Why are we here praising God when we could be doing something useful?  During the Civil War the army wanted to close churches and turn them into hospitals.  Lincoln stopped this idea because he said that a nation has to have a place to pray, especially in times of distress and danger.

Psalms Everywhere

It turns out that this is a Psalm heavy month.

The Sunday evening group is looking at Psalms that are tied to the life of David in their inscriptions.

The Sermon series this month is on Gratitude and is based on Psalms 146 to 150.  These Psalms all start with “hallelujah”, which means “Praise the LORD”.   Eugene Peterson in his book Answering God: mentioned that these psalms form a 5 part wrap up of the book of Psalms.  The book itself is divided internally into 5 books, each of which ends with a “praising benediction”. (Ps 41:13; 72:19; 89:52;106:51; 150:6)

These 5 Hallelujah psalms also work as a sort of gathering place of themes from the book as a whole.  Where the struggles of faith are evident in the Psalms as a whole, whether that be enemies, doubts, laments or longing for grace, these last five issue in praise to God.

Hallelujah is a plural verb.  If we were translating this southern style, it might say,

“Come on, Y’all, Praise the Lord together.”  

Psalm 146 contains a benediction also:

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the LORD his God.


Story in a story – David and Psalms

I once heard an author say that the best novels have a story within the story.  In Harry Potter, there is the struggle with V…., but then the friendships at the school.  In the Hobbit, the quest and the fellowship of the ring.  Of course in Seinfeld, nothing happened, but there were the characters that kept people watching.

I was looking up the concept of Goodness and ran into the verse from Psalm 34 – “Taste and see that the Lord is Good.”  It is an acrostic psalm attributed to David and linked to an event in his life recorded in I Samuel 21.  Some see no value in these comments introducing the psalms.  However, Bruce Waltke, suggests that they are ancient and represent something significant. (An OT Theology, p. 871ff).

So what I found in a quick study was how much trouble David was in, and how he called to God for help, or testified afterward to God’s faithfulness.  This might be grist for an interesting study or sermon series sometime.  If I don’t get attacked, zombie apocalypse like, from all the OT scholars here in Madison.

Here is the list and OT Text

  • Psalm 3, 2 Sam 15:14-17 – when David fled from Absalom
  • Psalm 7, “the words of Cush”, not in scripture
  • Psalm 18, 2 Sam 22, Rescued from Saul
  • Psalm 30, I Chron 22, Dedication of the Temple
  • Psalm 34, I Sam 21, Escape from Abimelech
  • Ps 51, 2 Samuel 12, Nathan confronts David about Bathsheba
  • Ps 52, I Sam 22:9, David and Abimelech
  • Ps 56, I Sam 21, 22, Philistines seize David
  • Ps 57, I Sam 22, Hid from Saul in a Cave
  • Psalm 59, I Sam 19:11, Saul sends men to kill David
  • Psalm 60,  2 Sam 8, 10; I Chron 18, Battle of Valley of Salt
  • Ps 63, 2 Sam 16:14, 17:2,29; In Wilderness
  • Ps 142, I Sam 22 (Ps 57); In Cave
At first glance it looks like David learned the art of prayer in the school of hard knocks.
Does that sound familiar?


Psalm 126 – Their story is My Story

An interesting thing happens in Psalm 126.  We start presuming this to be the story of the returned exiles in the time of Ezra or Nehemiah.  However when we look at the first verse we notice something

Psalm 126:1
    A Song of Ascents.

    When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
        we were like those who dream.

the Psalmist identifies with the unspeakable joy of restoration. What was lost and far off for 70 years was now in the possession of the returnees.

Now look at verse 4

Psalm 126:4
    Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
        like streams in the Negeb!

   The Psalmist  identifies so strongly with the joy of return that you think it is his own story.  However, he reveals himself in verse 4 when he asks for another later restoration.   Other English translation makes this change of person evident in verse 1. 

NIV – “When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, WE were like those who dreamed.”    Notice the change from 3rd person to 1st person.

By faith the Psalmist accepts Israel’s history as his own, Israel’s God who acted in the past in a remarkable way, can act again in a similar way.

The present crisis is not explained, but described as dryness and a farmer who has sown seed but is awaiting a harvest.  The desert would bloom after a rare rain, and the riverbeds would be full.  Just as the farmer awaits positive conditions out of her own control.