In the last two weeks, we have just touched on how Hymns and Psalms help us in worship and prayer. This week I would recommend to you a book by John L Bell. The title of his book is Living with the Psalms. He is an ordained minister, hymn writer, lecturer and broadcaster who lives in Glasgow. He is known to several people in Meltham who have attended various Christian events. He is a member of the Wild Goose Resource Group, which works under the aegis of the Iona Community. Again a few of our own people have been to Iona on Retreat.
John describes his book as – for the general reader that may be of interest to theologians and preachers. Some psalms have been sung since childhood. Some may even have been committed to memory and therefore be clothed with fond associations from our past.
Different people attribute personal interest and affection of the Psalms to a diversity of causes – the following four are the most popular reasons.
- They cover a wide range of emotions. This is undoubtedly true but it tends to be the more positive emotions of joy, gratitude and praise than doubt, despair and anger that we can focus on
- They have been set to music – Psalm 100 set to the tune the Old Hundredth. Psalms 23 & 121 are also remembered because of their associated tunes.
- Psalms are standard fare for Jewish Worship and have been used in the liturgies of Christian Churches since Pentecost.
- Jesus knew and quoted the psalms.
PSALM 121 1 If I lift up my eyes to the hills, where shall I find help?
This is one of the Psalms in frequent use. Misty- eyed romantics have regarded the psalm as a celebration of the wonders of creation—tree covered hills next to a calm loch overhung by white clouds in a blue sun-kissed sky. This is a misconception. For the writer, the hills were neither the source of aid nor alive with the sound of music. In the ancient world, the hills were places of mystery and of danger to travellers, especially where there was no path or guide. In them, thieves might hide, waiting to rob or mug unsuspecting travellers, as indicated in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.25-37). So, when people were leaving a town or village, say on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, it would have been helpful for them to have a text in which they could ask where they might find security for a potentially dangerous journey. They could ask – If I lift up my eyes to the hills, where shall I find help? And they would be given the answer in v2 of the Psalm 2 My help comes only from the Lord, maker of Heaven and earth.
In John Bell’s book it is not Psalm 1 –150 with commentary but rather he cleverly cross references by type and content which makes for a better understanding from the readers perspective. As you pray this week perhaps read a psalm per day and place yourself in the picture. I suggest you leave out Psalm 88.
As we pray let us be once again mindful of psalm 100 “It is he who made us, and we are his, we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” God listens to us as we intercede for all he created. Let us continue to offer thanks and intercessions for the world and for our community.
KEEP SAFE KEEP PRAYING