I have encouraged our congregation to read through the Psalms during January and February this year. We are almost done. If you have been tracking along, congratulations. I know it’s been a lot of reading, but I believe God’s word strengthens and supports us in ways we do not always see at the time.
While many of Psalms were written by David, he wasn’t the final editor of the book. The current arrangement of the chapters was done following Israel’s return from Babylon when they began to place greater emphasis on the Scriptures. From there it has been handed down to each generation who have found the songs and prayers to be of great comfort and encouragement.
The Psalms were divided into five books, like the books of the Torah. Each book, or section, involved different themes and types of Psalms. Book Five, from Psalm 107 to 150 focuses on God’s presence among his people and gives thanks for bringing Israel out of the Babylonian captivity.
Today’s reading is Psalm 137 to 139 and illustrates how the chapters were arranged to help people remember and give thanks. Psalm 137 finds them in Babylon, longing for home and everything that is normal. There is anger and frustration at their captivity. They are afraid of forgetting their homeland, and wonder “How do we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (137:4)
Going onto Psalm 138 we hear thanks to God for hearing their prayer. “I called, you answered me, my strength of soul you increased.” (138:3) There is a recognition that “in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life.” (138:7)
Then the reader comes to Psalm 139 as the writer ponders “Where can I go from your presence?” (139:7) It’s a hymn to the fact that God is ever present and no matter what we go through, he sees it all and he is never far from us. This is an amazing statement of trust and faith in the Lord.
In our current season, we might feel the frustration of captivity in our homes. We are not used to restrictions on our comings and goings. There can be that sense of ‘how do we worship God during a pandemic when we can’t even gather together to sing?’
This is why it is so helpful to pray along with the Psalms. To remind ourselves that God truly is good and hears our prayers. Furthermore, he is very near to us, he sees us in our sitting and standing, when we are on Zoom calls and when we get bored. Even when we are on mute, God hears our prayers. And our prayer is like David’s, “lead me in the way everlasting.” (139:24)