Friday, November 1, 2013

Psalms 32-35


We have four psalms today, three of which are attributed to David. One (Psalm 34) is given a setting in David's life. One (Psalm 35) has no heading which may mean that it is supposed to be connected to the previous psalm.

Psalm 32 is called a "maskil." No one seems to know exactly what a maskil is though my study Bibles suggest that it may be a didactic psalm, or an artful one. This psalm connects forgiveness of sin with physical healing which may assume the opposite connection: sin causes suffering. Verse 5 is familiar to me from the liturgies of my childhood where it was quoted:

I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord.
And thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.

Psalm 33 calls the audience to praise God with music (vv.1-3) because God is right, just, and true (vv. 4-5) and has power over creation (vv. 6-9) and over the nations (vv. 10-11). The first strophe of verse 12 is often quoted in the cause of civil religion:

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.

But let's be clear. The nation referenced here is ancient Israel, not the modern USA.

The remaining verses of Psalm 33 describe the Lord's power over armies and his protection of those who fear him (vv. 16-19) and proclaim the psalmist's hope (vv/ 20-22).

The heading affixed to Psalm 34 connect it to the episode in 1 Samuel 32:10-15 where David pretended to be mentally ill, though the king in 1 Samuel is identified as Achish, but here is called Abimelech. The psalm, another alphabetical acrostic, is a thanksgiving for answered prayers. God provides for the righteous, it says. The wicked don't fare so well.

Psalm 35 is a prayer for protection from enemies. Reading it reminded me of a friend, a pastor who read this psalm, or one like it to a paranoid woman. The woman found it "helpful."

Next: Psalms 36-39

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