Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.
Psalms 39-41, 53, 55, 58
Questions & Observations
Q. (Psalm 39): Do we know anything about Jeduthun? Why would David dedicate this psalm to him? To me, this psalm is asking God to pay attention to David, even though he is but a single breath to God when talking about the billions of people God has overseen for thousands of years. So, why should God care? From my humble knowledge, I would think that David is belittling himself to God. I think every one of us are important to God, even though He has billions of souls to watch over.
A. He is referred to as one of David’s choir leaders in 1 Chronicles 16:41-42, and he represented the priestly family of Merani, one of Levi’s three sons from which all the priests originated. We do not have any information on why David would dedicate this particular Psalm to him. I think David is in a moment of realization of just how fleeting life is, and just how small and humble even a great king like he is before the Eternal one. Certainly God sees things differently then we do.
Q. (40): David did a 180° turn in attitude in this psalm from the previous one, but we don’t know if they were written successively. I don’t understand verses 6-7.
A. Very likely the order they are assembled in is important: the editor is attempting to move through a variety of emotions in each of the “books”, so that’s part of the reason reading Psalms in order is a worthwhile exercise. You will see repeatedly in the OT that God is ultimately NOT interested in sacrifices and offerings so much as He is in obedience. David can see that it is not the dead animals that God is truly interested in, but rather David’s heart. This, as I said, will be a recurring theme of the prophets which we are approaching: God tells Israel repeatedly that He is not pleased with them, not because the are not making the right sacrifices — they are — but because their heart is not in the right place. They are using the sacrifices as a way to avoid a relationship with God, and that defeats the whole purpose of the Law. If you think that the sin management is the end point, then the relational aspect of the covenant between God and Israel is completely lost. Watch for how this theme is revisited.
Q. (41:1): I would say that I normally mingle with those who are good-natured, mostly Christian, and probably about the same income level and societal status. Sounds a little unchristian, huh?!! Lately, I have been seeing people in a different light. I have always shunned away from the poor — someone who looks homeless or maybe immigrants from another country — and on the flipside, those who are a much higher societal status than me thinking they wouldn’t want to mix with me and we wouldn’t have much in common anyway. I am smiling more at everyone. Today I smiled at three men who looked like immigrants were crossing the street. Normally, I wouldn’t give them much thought. But, they gave me a big smile. A week ago, I was picking up something from Wal-mart. The cashier wasn’t smiling much. I asked him how his feet felt after working all day. He said, “you have no idea.” He said they never stop aching. I got the feeling that no one cared. But, that conversation gave him an outlet. Did you know McDonald’s has $1 large ice teas right now? I told the drive-thru gal that I couldn’t believe they were only $1. She said, “they should be with as much ice as they put in them.” She made me chuckle, so I drove back through and gave her a couple dollars for making me smile. So, I’m looking at people thinking that, no, they are not like me, but we all belong to God and how would he want us to treat each other. How did Jesus treat others, no matter what income or title? With respect, compassion and love.
A. You’ve hit upon a major concept that scripture is clear on: when you come to fully understand what God has given to you, you cannot help but have a generous heart. That heart, I feel, is what will allow you to be effective in all sorts of ministry situations with people of all “social” levels that you might encounter. It certainly has been that way for me: as God has been at work in my heart, I find that I am more and more generous with my time, finances, and love towards other people, even those who could be considered my “enemies.” That’s a big part of what it means to mature as a Christian, and it leads to the type of conduct Jesus is talking about in the Sermon on the Mount (praying for enemies, turning the other cheek, etc.) That kind of thing sounds crazy to those who people who don’t know Jesus, but it will make more and more sense to you as you continue to walk closely with God.
Q. (41): This psalm sounds like David is on his death bed.
A. Could be.
Q. (55): I wonder whom David is talking about here — the companion that betrayed him. I’m just guessing Joab. At the end of this psalm, David says that God will punish the wicked. He says this often in other psalms. I wonder if he does it to help remind himself to stay on God’s path.
A. It could be Joab, but there’s no reason to assume he’s talking about one person; it might be a conglomerate of several people over his life. I think you’re right about David’s purpose for writing.
Q. (58): David is criticizing rulers in the beginning of this, lumping them in with sinners. I don’t remember where, but there was scripture about God picking our rulers for a reason. I believe it said that we must respect them because He put them there. With the last election, some felt joy with the results and some felt glum. Nevertheless, we know that God placed them and we are to respect them. But here, David scorns them. Is David in the wrong?
A. The Bible speaks of submission to authorities (including political ones) in the course of what they require of you does not contradict the clear teachings of scripture (i.e. if the king tells you to murder someone, you can ignore that). What David is saying matches that: kings and other rulers should be very careful of being unjust, because to do so runs the risk of the judgment of the true King.