PSALM 9 from the Song Book of the BIBLE

New-york

9:1 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

When my enemies turn back,
they stumble and perish before [3] your presence.
For you have maintained my just cause;
you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
their cities you rooted out;
the very memory of them has perished.

But the Lord sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
he judges the peoples with uprightness.

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion!
Tell among the peoples his deeds!
12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13 Be gracious to me, O Lord!
See my affliction from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may recount all your praises,
that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in your salvation.

15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
16 The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. [4] Selah

17 The wicked shall return to Sheol,
all the nations that forget God.

18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

19 Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
let the nations be judged before you!
20 Put them in fear, O Lord!
Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

The theme of vengeance is not an obscure part of the people of faith including the faith of the Psalmist, who is generally taken to be King David himself in this composition. If the Psalms is the “Song Book of the Bible” as Bonhoeffer and others have suggested, then this song touches the very heart of the ancient faith. The confidence of the righteous in the face of oppression and hate was a stedfast assurance that God Himself was to be looked to for vindication: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord! “The Lord will judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”, wrote the author of the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament.

If you have a Bible you can confirm for yourself the presence of this theme in the entire Biblical narrative. Here are just a few chapters that will serve as “evidence that demands a verdict”.

The Song of Moses- Deuteronomy 32 and 33.

The Wrath of the Lamb- Revelation 6

The Song of the Lamb- Revelation 15

So you see, there is a lot of singing going on by the people living by faith in the God of the Scriptures. When we consider today the persecution, oppression, and even destruction by the wicked that right now going on in the world, we need to have this quiet assurance and confidence so that our soul may be at peace, knowing that the Most High God will judge righteously. Selah.

Be Still My Soul (video by Selah)

The Festival of Weeks also known as Pentecost

For the Christian of the Twenty-first century, trying to get a handle on the major feast days of ancient Israel can be a difficult undertaking. But the Biblical Christian also recognizes just how important and necessary these festivals are to understanding the flow of the narrative. I’ve decided that in keeping with the “Year of Saint Paul” (which will come to an end June 30th), perhaps it would be helpful to see Shavuot through the eyes of the Apostle. First as a Pharisee before he became a follower of the Christ, and later, perhaps as long as twenty-four years,as he approached Jerusalem to observe Pentecost with the Jewish Church.

The Law-giving

Originally Shavuot was an agricultural festival. The barley harvest that had ripened around Passover would have ended, but the wheat harvest would have just begun. When the Temple still stood, Jews celebrated the harvest by offering its first sheaves back to God. But  celebrating the harvest was only one layer of meaning for Shavuot. Over the years, it was endowed with another: the anniversary of the giving of Torah.

The Book of Exodus is read on Shavuot, including the chapter containing the Ten Commandments. The general theme of the day is our traditional love of learning…More commonly, Shavuot has become a time for Confirmation. (“What is a Jew”, p.227, by Rabbi Morris N.Kertzer, 1996 revised edition by Rabbi Lawrence A.Hoffman) 

This book has been a great help to me in understanding through the eyes of twentieth century Rabbis the beliefs, traditions,and practices of Judaism including the ancient Biblical roots. I have posted earlier that Saint Paul was a highly trained Jew himself, and specialized on the Torah and its interpretation. Since his earliest childhood, he knew that there were three times (festivals) all Jewish males were expected to be present in Jerusalem: Unleavened Bread and Passover, Shavuot, and the Feast of Tabernacles. At Shavuot, the focus for him was undoubtedly on the anniversary of the giving through Moses of the Law to Israel which constituted the covenant agreement between their God, the God who had recently redeemed them from Egypt (Passover). It was also all about the promises of God that begining with Father Abraham,He commited to give them a “promised land” if they would keep covenant with Him by obeying the Law, by “walking in the steps of the faith which Abraham had when he was yet ‘uncircumcised’.”

John Bright in his book, The History of Israel writes, ” They (the Festivals) ceased to be mere nature festivals and became occasions upon which the mighty acts of Yahweh toward Israel were celebrated. ”  Saul’s conversion is sometimes dated as early as 34 a.d. which means he most certainly would have been at these great Feast days in the last year of Jesus life at Jerusalem and the first Pentecost just ten days after the Ascension. But as a non-Christian Jew he would be celebrating Shavuot as his foreFathers had done for centuries unaware that a dramatic and non-reversable change in the history of God’s redemptive acts with Israel was even then taking place. He was still a part of the “old” creation and the “old” covenant of which he would have a great deal to preach and teach about following his dramatic conversion.

Now, following over twenty years of taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles in obedience to the specific commission the risen and exalted Christ chose him for, he was on the voyage back to Jerusalem with the offering from the Gentile churches for the poor saints at Jerusalem. Undoubtedly he had plenty of time to relive those earlier years when he was convinced that this “sect” inside Judaism was a dangerous heresy and he had personally taken a major role in persecuting and trying to stomp it out. He was proving how zealous he was for the Law of God as he understood it and its importance at the heart of being faithful to the covenant that made Israel a distinct people in the midst of all the nations of the earth.

Yes, this was no ordinary Pentecost celebration he was headed for. But that will have to be in the next post. One other additional piece of the puzzel of God’s narrative. It is almost certain that when Luke wrote his second volume of early Christian history, the Book of Acts,he had these festivals utmost in his mind. I would even venture that one of the major factors in the organization of the Acts, is Pentecost. He begins with the events leading up to “when the Day of Pentecost had fully come“-his words, not mine; and then spends almost the final one-third of Acts around this last voyage to Jerusalem, the attempt there in the Temple on Paul’s life, his life-saving arrest by the Roman Centurion, his awaiting justice for more than two years, and finally his trip to Rome in chains to face Ceasar.

In the next post I will begin to connect some dots to the Saul of the Old Covenant and to the Christ event which all the shadows look to for their fulfillment, the fulfillment of God’s promises to His People and the establishing of the New Covenant. I hope you are seeing what I am seeing: we definitely cannot afford to neglect the Day of Pentecost!