Psalms - The Bible from 30,000 Feet - Skip Heitzig - Flight PSA01
The Bible from 30,000 feet, soaring through the scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
The reformers believed, principally Martin Luther, those of the Protestant Reformation, believed that the Protestant Reformation would not be complete unless there were two things in place. Number one, a translation of the scriptures in the mother tongue of the individual so that it wouldn't be in Hebrew, Aramaic in Greek, but in the language of the people, German, English, French, that it had to be in your own tongue. That was number one. Number two, you needed a hymnal, what they called a psalter, a way to express through music your faith in God.
It's interesting that they believe those two things. Especially I said, Martin Luther believed those two things were critical, learning the Bible in your own tongue and a way to express your faith your praise to God with a psalter, a hymnal. Every revival that I've ever read about has those two things in place, a return to the scriptures, the importance of the understanding of the Bible, as well as hymnology, fresh songs and expressions of faith.
If I were to describe your daily devotional time, I'm going to guess that you pray. Am I right so far? I'm going to also suggest that you read your Bible. You probably do that. I wonder and I'm not going to take a poll, how many of you sing to the Lord in your daily devotional? If not, add that to your daily devotions. Try it. It's going to be fun.
You say it won't be fun for those who listen to me. Close the door. It's why it's called quiet time. Get alone with the Lord. Open your Bible, open your heart, open your mouth and not just pray but sing. And if you're a musician, why not sing to the Lord with your instrument and go a step further, write a worship song tomorrow. Who knows what might come of it. It might not last more than that devotional time, but it might be something we sing here. A challenge to you who do.
You probably read the Book of Psalms more than any other book in the Bible. You do that probably because it covers the gamut of human experience from the heights of human ecstasy to the depth of human despair. In other words, you read it a lot because you relate to it. You relate to the experience of the psalmist. You're not alone. Saints in every period of redemptive history have looked at the Book of Psalms for strength, courage, encouragement, direction. It's been loved by God's people for generations, for millennia.
Now the rabbis don't call it the Book of Psalms. They give it their Hebrew name which is [HEBREW]. [HEBREW] is the Hebrew word for book. [HEBREW] is the Hebrew word for praises. So the title for the Book of Psalms is the Book of Praises and what they mean by praises are poems that are set to music. That's the idea behind the Book of Psalms, songs accompanied by music. That's why when you read Psalms you will notice musical notations smattered throughout the entire 150 chapters.
You come across words like [HEBREW]. Remember that word? That means stop now. Consider this. Think about what you just read. Ponder it a while. Let it seep in, sink in. [HEBREW], to rest. You'll also read things like to the choir master or choir director or chief musician. You'll also read phrases like, and I'm talking about the beginning part of the psalms, set to. That is they want you to follow the tune of a familiar song and they mention the song so there's lots of musical notations.
The Book of Psalms is the longest book in your Bible. It has the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119. It also has the shortest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 117, only two verses. Psalm 119, 176 verses. We couldn't do Psalm 119 in one night verse by verse at the pace I try to attack it.
It's interesting that many people refer to the Book of Psalms as the Psalms of David. That's inaccurate. He wrote some of them, but not all of them. Did you know there are at least seven different authors. We know David is one of them. He wrote 73 out of the 150 psalms. His name is given in the superscription of 73 of them. The sons of Korah wrote 12. Asaph, one of the choir directors, chief musicians, wrote another 12. Solomon wrote two. Moses wrote one. A guy by the name of Heman wrote one and another guy by the name of Ethan wrote one.
Then there are 48 psalms that we call orphanic psalms. Do you know why we call them orphanic psalms? They're orphans. They're anonymous. They don't belong to anybody. We don't know who wrote them. So the technical term is they are orphanic psalms, anonymous psalms. David may have written more than he put his name on but that's what we know.
So what we understand then is this book covers a period of about 1,000 years. If you begin with Moses in Psalm 90, he wrote that one, if you go to the Ezrahites, you go now post-captivity. That's a period of about 1,000 years. Something to note. Jesus quoted from the psalms 11 times. What that means is he quoted from the Book of Psalms more than Jesus quoted from any other single book in the Old Testament. And it's obvious why. There are no less than, and probably more than, but no less than 17 psalms that we call messianic psalms. They refer to the future Messiah, future from that vantage point. They're looking forward and they give details about the birth, life, death, burial resurrection glorification, and future reign of the Messiah.
Here's what's cool. This was the hymn book for the nation. It means that daily and weekly and monthly and throughout the year they were singing about Jesus. Many of them not knowing until he showed up and Jesus and the apostles made reference to the Book of Psalms as fulfilled.
Let's talk about arrangement. Don't worry about time, we're going to make it. Let's talk about arrangement. The Book of Psalms has five parts, easy to see them. I'll show you them. There are five sections or five books of psalms. Each one has a beginning and an ending. It's book one, you'll see it when you read through the Bible, book two, book three, book four, book five.
Now someone has studied and they have made a notation that the five books of psalms corresponds with the first five books of the Bible or the Torah, the law, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. So the first Book of Psalms speaks like the Book of Genesis, has the emphasis on man or the relationship of mankind with God. Just as Genesis talks about the creation, the fall, the restoration of man, the first Book of Psalms has that emphasis, our relationship with God.
The second Book of Psalms speaks about deliverance, deliverance by God. That corresponds to the Book of Exodus. The third Book of Psalms is all about the sanctuary of God. That corresponds with the Book of Leviticus. Very good, you're there, your tracking, and you're with it. The fourth Book of Psalms speaks of rebellion against God. That corresponds to the Book of Numbers. They tested God in the wilderness. They didn't want to go into the promised land. They wandered around. And finally, the fifth Book of Psalms is renewal with God. They renewed the covenant back in the Book of Deuteronomy and there was the warning and the focus on the word of God. That is the fifth Book of Psalms.
Psalm 1 through Psalm 41 is book one. It's a song or they are songs of relationship, songs of relationship. Then Psalm 42 to Psalm 72 is the second book. That's songs of redemption. Then Psalm 73 through Psalm 89, that's the third book, these are songs of refuge. Then Psalm 90 to Psalm 106, that's the fourth book, these are songs of repercussion. This is what happens when you disobey, when you sin against God. And then Psalm 107 to 150 are songs of revival. Emphasis is on praise and worship and the word and God himself.
So each of the five books that comprise 150 chapters of psalms, each one ends with a doxology, that means a blessing and an Amen, either one Amen or a double Amen. Amen, Amen. So they get Pentecostal at the end of each book, Amen and Amen. Amen. Turn with me to Psalm 41 and you'll make a notice of this. Psalm 41, the very end of the book, or excuse me, the very end of the chapter, Psalm 41 verse 13, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel." That's the doxology, that's the blessing, that's the prayer. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen." That ends book one.
And then if you have a modern translation, it even says underneath that, book two. Does your Bible say that? Now go to Psalm 72 if you don't mind. Psalm 72 verse 19 is the end of that book. "And blessed be His glorious name forever and let the whole earth be filled with His glory." That's the doxology. Then "Amen and Amen." Then notice verse 20, "the prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended."
That brings us to book three. Now go to Psalm 89 verse 52. "Blessed be the Lord forever. Amen and Amen." Means so be it, I believe it. Now turn to Psalm 89-- Psalm we're in Psalm 89-- Turn to Psalm 106. I wrote in my Bible Psalm 89 in Psalm 89. Don't know why I did that. Psalm 106 verse 48, here's the doxology, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting and let all the people say Amen." Just one Amen. I feel a little shortchanged because it's only one. But it does add this, "praise the Lord." And then Psalm 150, we'll get to in a minute, as we close the book and it's obviously the end. There are no more psalms.
Now go back to verse one of chapter one, the very beginning of the Book of Psalms. I want you to notice some structure at this point. "Blessed is the man who walks not in the council of the ungodly nor stands in the path of sinners nor sits in the seat of the scornful but his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season whose leaf also shall not wither and whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment nor centers in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous but the way of the ungodly shall perish." Stop there.
The Book of Psalms is packed full of theology. . Every great doctrine of the Bible is found recorded in the praises of God's people in the Book of Psalms. However, having said that, it is primarily not a book of theology. It is primarily a songbook. It's a set of lyric sheets, if you will. It is poetry.
Here's what you need to know. Hebrew poetry is written in a form known as Hebrew parallelism, Hebrew parallelism. It's quite different than our poetry. It's quite different than our hymnology. It's quite different than our song writing today. In Hebrew poems, in Hebrew songs, they don't have a rhyme. Rhyme is parallel sounds, right? They don't have meter or cadence. That's parallel meter. They don't have that. They have parallel thoughts. You see when we write a song we write it with rhyme and meter. The words sound alike at the end of the stanzas and it has a certain cadence. Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found was blind but now I see. Of course it sounds much better than the way I said it.
The Hebrews did not do that. They didn't care about that. Rhyming or meter and cadence did not matter to them at all. They paralleled not sounds but thoughts, ideas. They either paralleled it or they paralleled it with a contrast. They said something and then they contrasted it. So in Hebrew poetry, you've got to keep this in mind or the Book of Psalms just becomes kind of a rambling thing to you, you don't understand you're reading a lyric sheet. You have one thought that supports the previous thought or it contrasts the previous thought.
I'm going to show you some examples in Psalm one. If the second thought or the second stanza-- and by the way, let me just add this before I even say that-- what's helpful is almost all modern translations show you the parallelism. If you have an old King James Bible like an old Cambridge King James, they don't do that. But if you have anything modern from New King James, new American Standard, NIV, NLT, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera all the translations, they will have a phrase underneath it, the next phrase, the next phrase, the next phrase. They'll write the parallelism for you. You can see it in every one of the psalms.
So if the second thought supports the first thought, we call this synonymous parallelism. Make sense? One is like the other, synthetic or synonymous parallelism. The second line restates the first idea. Look at verse two. Here's an example. "His delight is in the law of the Lord." Next phrase. "and in His law he meditates day and night." See how the second supports the first? That's the poetry. The thoughts rhyme.
If the second thought is a contrast to the first thought, that's called antithetical parallelism. I know I'm giving you a lot of terms. You'll impress your friends tomorrow. Good to know some of this stuff. One is a contrast of the other, it's the opposite. So look at verse six. "For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish." Notice the contrast.
Now if the second thought and the third thought builds on the first thought, so it kind of goes up and up and up, we call that, guess what, stair-like parallelism. It's going up, it's ascending, so stair-like or climactic or again synthetic depending on which book you read. Verse 1 is an example. "Blessed is the man who walks not in the council of the ungodly." That's the first part. Second stair, "nor stands in the path that centers." That's step two. You're going up now to step three. "nor sits in the seat of the scornful." See how that works? That's the structure.
Let me give you some tips for reading the Book of Psalms because reading poetry is unlike reading a narrative or history or an epistle. Let me give you a couple of tips. Number one, read it like an artist. Read it like an artist. You have to read psalms with your heart. Again, you're reading lyric sheets. If you're a literalist, like if you're the engineer type, you're going to have a harder time with psalms than a lot of other literature in the Bible because it's not easy for you to feel. You analyze it, and you compare it, and you structure it, and it's just going to be tougher for you. Psalms are not meant to be analyzed in a sterile environment where it's all about context and syntax and sentence structure. That's important. It's meant to be lived. It's meant to be felt. So sometimes you've just gotta read it and let it seep in. Just enjoy it. That's why there [HEBREW]. OK. Stop, don't even go any further. Just think about what you just read.
I play ukulele. Actually I play "ooo-coo-lele" that's how you say it. I always correct people when they give it the false pronunciation. Anyway I play that instrument. I play it but if I played it for very long, you'd want me to stop. But if Jake Shimabukuro plays ukulele, I think one of the world's finest players ever, I've seen him in concert. Man, he makes it talk. He could have it quote scripture. He can make its sentence structure out of four strings. He plays it with feeling, vastly different. You read this book with feeling. Feel with the psalmist. Let your mind roam free when you read this book. Allow the emotions-- if you're not given to emotions, let them out here when you read it. So read it like an artist.
This is why the book is filled with figures of speech. They're all over the place. They're practically, well they are, in every psalm, figures of speech. Things like under the shadow of His wings. That's not literal. God isn't a bird. He didn't have wings flapping around in heaven. That's a metaphor. It's a figure of speech. It conveys something of protection and warmth. Or the figure of speech, the Lord is my rock. He's not really a rock nor is He a strong tower literally, but you get the idea. These are figures of speech. This brings emotion when you read it.
So I just thought for me to approach this, this way was more important than just looking at all the different psalms together and trying to read and cram as much as we can into this. I want you from here on out to read the psalms differently. I spend every single day of my life in the Book of Psalms, somewhere. So read it with your heart. Read it like an artist. As the Holy Spirit stirs your heart when you read it, it will evoke certain thoughts. I always turn those thoughts into prayers. I use psalms as a guide for my daily prayer life.
Second tip. Pay attention to the superscriptions. You're looking at me like what on earth is a superscription, some of you. Those are the words, the notations at the very beginning of the psalms. They are in the original text. They are inspired, as much as verse one, two, three, four, all the way through. They're put there for a purpose. You should notice them.
An example, look at Psalm 3. It says a psalm of David when he fled from Absalom, his son. That's important. At that point if you're reading it and you don't know the story of David and Absalom, his son, you may want to go back to 2nd Samuel, get a fresh read on that story, then read this psalm. It makes more sense. It orients you. You get a feel for it.
It says verse 1, "Lord how they have increased to trouble me. I've had a lot of enemies but now my own son is my enemy. Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me there is no help for him and God." Think of the people that Absalom gathered in that rebellion. And then here's the word, [HEBREW]. "But you oh Lord are a shield for me, my glory and the one who lifts up my head."
Now, if you have a son or a daughter in rebellion, Psalm 3 is particularly crafted for you. It will mean more to you than it will mean to anybody else when you understand the superscription of the psalm, or if you feel betrayed by somebody you love. And I bet all of us can relate to that at some point in our life.
Go over to verse 32. If you don't mind, just turn a few pages. You were in Psalm 3. Look at Psalm 32 and look at the superscription of that psalm. A Psalm of David. A contemplation. Do you look at it? Can you see it? A Psalm of David. A contemplation. So it tells us number one, who wrote it. It's one of the 73 penned by David.
Number two, it gives us a little background, a contemplation. Your margin, or at the bottom of your Bible, there is a little notation, I believe, it says [HEBREW]. Does it say that? That's the Hebrew word. I'm reading the translation in the New King James. A contemplation. A [HEBREW] is a directive, an instructive piece or poem, or better yet, insight. It is the psalmist giving you an insight, a piece of wisdom, about a particular subject. In this case, it happens to be forgiveness.
You want some insight about forgiveness? Here's the psalm. Verse 1, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute or count iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit." I'm convinced if believers could grasp the truth of this psalm, it would revolutionize them. They wouldn't live lives of guilt and remorse and burden. They'd understand some of these principles.
"When I kept silent my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me." This is conviction he's feeling. "My vitality was turned into the drought of summer." [HEBREW] That's where you stop and you think about that. Then you go on. "I acknowledge my sin to You and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord and You forgave the iniquity of my sin." [HEBREW]. "For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found. Surely in a flood of great waters they shall not come near here."
This is David's personal confession. Most scholars believe Psalm 32 is a companion to Psalm 51. Psalm 51 tells us in this superscription the events that were happening. That was David's sin with Bathsheba. It is believed that this psalm, stated in Psalm 51, implied here by the language being very, very similar was during that period. Do you remember the story of David and Bathsheba? David sinned. He did not immediately confess his sin. He sat on it for almost a year. A year.
What happened to change that year? Nathan the prophet came in and said, hey, I want to tell you a story about a guy who-- really, really rich guy who-- had a whole bunch of sheep, could spare thousands if he wanted to. One poor guy had one sheep and he took his poor little lamb, took it home and killed it. He robbed the poor man of a sheep and he killed it, for his friends, for a feast. David said, find that guy. I'm going to kill him. The prophet said, you're the dude. You're the man. You're the guy.
Then David confessed to sin before the prophet. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, had her husband killed, married her, brought her to the palace, and then sat on it for a year. And if you think that he had a year of guilt free fun in the sun, you're wrong. This psalm tells you what was going on in his heart. Finally he confessed it. Finally, he got it out. God's hand of conviction was heavy on him and finally he found relief when he confessed to sin.
What's the point? Easy. Sin is bad for your health. In more modern terms, you have all sorts of psychosomatic problems that come out when you try to repress it and push it down and hide it. You're constantly filled with fear and stress and worry. As one person said, God's wheels grind slowly but they grind exceedingly fine. You feel God crushing you when you hold it in.
Now go back a couple psalms to the world's favorite psalm, the most famous psalm of all, which is Psalm 23. Look at that for a moment. It is called the shepherd's psalm. It is one of the most well-known passages in the Bible. Even pagans know this psalm. It is written in Hallmark cards. People buy it, put it on their walls whether they believe in the Bible or not, a lot of them. Spurgeon called it the pearl of all the psalms that delights every eye.
I, on the other hand, feel very sorry for Psalm 23. I feel sorry for it. I feel it because I think it's a misunderstood psalm. When do you hear Psalm 23 mostly quoted? Yeah, funerals. A guy kicks the bucket. You bury him and you read Psalm 23. And why do they do that? Because there is that little phrase, in the valley of the shadow of death. But Psalm 23 has everything to do with living and the only part of dying is, I'm going to dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever. But it really is about living presently under the shepherd's care. Not dying as a poor old dead sheep. But it's about living.
So it says, who wrote the psalm? David. A Psalm of David. "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures." All the language of a sheep being taken care of by a shepherd. "He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His namesake."
You could quote this eyes closed. "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." That's Psalm 23. It's been sung. It's been quoted. It's been recited. It's been engraved.
The best way to read Psalm 23 is on all fours, like a sheep. It's the perspective of a sheep under the care of a shepherd. You got to read it like a sheep. Says the Lord is my shepherd. Who has a shepherd? Sheep. David was a shepherd. Now David becomes a sheep. It's better to read it on all fours.
"The Lord is my shepherd." I don't need anything because He's such a great shepherd. "He makes me lie down in green pastures." He gives me the best to eat. Sometimes I don't want to eat.
"He makes me lie down." Sometimes I don't want to lie down. He makes me lie down because He's a good shepherd. "He leads me beside the still waters." I'm a little sheep. I don't like the fast running river so He puts some rocks in there and dams it up a little bit so it's still so I can handle it.
See, it's all about the tender care of a shepherd toward his sheep. In fact, there's even two sheepdogs here that follow me all the days in my life, named Goodness and Mercy nipping at my heels. Goodness and Mercy, there they are.
Now, all through the scripture you know that this is a very common and comforting motif, right, of God being the shepherd, good shepherd, and we're the sheep. People in the Middle East were comfortable with this.
People in the West, I have noticed when they really dig throughout Bible history and Bible dictionaries and commentaries, they start getting a little insulted that God refers to them as sheep because they discover that sheep are absolutely idiots. They are stupid animals. Any shepherd will tell you this. They can't live on their own. They can't really think for themselves. They get scared at everything. They can't manage or maintain without a shepherd.
Some people are insulted. Not David. David who wrote this was elated. He's bragging. Look who my shepherd is. David understood that the quality of life for any sheep depends on the faithfulness of the shepherd It's like a little boy bragging about his dad. My dad's the chief of police. Don't mess with me, he'll arrest you. My dad is God. My shepherd is the Lord. He speaks with great sanctified pride.
Now let me take you quickly to book number three, the first psalm in book three, which is Psalm 73. Turnover there. See we're just getting smatterings of these. Psalm 73. Why? Because it was written by another author. I want you to see that. Asaph writes Psalm 73. His name is at the top. Asaph writes Psalm 73 through Psalm 83 and another one besides that, a total of 12 psalms. He is one of David's three worship leaders, his choir masters, his chief musicians.
And it was Asaph who, when David died and Solomon dedicated the temple that he built, it was Asaph who at the dedication sang before the people to the Lord. Asaph writes this psalm after an honest struggle with God. This is why I like the psalms. It's not just pretty worship songs. It's struggle. It's honesty. He's struggling with a deep theological issue. His belief system is challenged by a dilemma.
Look at verse 1. "Truly God is good to Israel to such as our pure in heart." Now notice that verse. That is an affirmation. He begins with a statement of truth. This is what I believe. I believe in a good God and I believe God is good to people who are of a pure heart. But now, that belief system gets shaken, gets challenged.
Verse 2, "But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled. My steps had nearly slipped for I was envious of the boastful when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death. But their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men. Nor are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride serves as their necklace. Violence covers them like a garment. . Their eyes bulge with abundance." Fat cats, we'd call them. "They have more than the heart could wish."
Now notice how frank he is. Notice how honest he is. He's saying, here's what I believe. Here's my theology. I believe God is good and I believe He rewards people who are of pure heart. But what I believe seems to not square with the hard facts of life. Here's my struggle. He sings about it. He writes about it.
This by the way, is called by theologians, theologians like to analyze everything, this is called theodyssey. This is called the doctrine or the idea of how can a loving God and a just God, or how can God be both all loving and all powerful, allowing evil to exist? If God is all loving, He wouldn't allow evil to exist. If God allows evil to exist, He's not all loving. How can He be all loving, all just, and allow evil to exist?
Now I mentioned the struggle. He's honest but he's not accurate. These are feelings, right? He's not accurate. What do I mean he's not accurate? He said you know unbelievers they have no pains in their death. That's not true. Unbelievers have trials like believers. Unbelievers have hard deaths and harder. I would say than believers. They have troubles like we all do.
But notice now the real problem in this psalm. He even admits it. Verse 3, "For I was envious." Ah, that's the problem. Aren't you glad that's in a psalm? I mean what songs today, modern hymns, say that? I was envious. Who does that? He does that. That's the problem. . I was envious. If you become green with envy you become ripe for trouble. That's the crux of it. He looked through a jaded lens.
Verse 13, "Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain." He continues to opine. "Wash my hands in innocence. For all day long I've been plagued and chastened every morning. If I had said, I will speak thus, behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children, when I thought how to understand this it was too painful for me." Now that's the honest confession of a struggling believer. Some today would criticize Asaph for writing this. They would say this is a negative confession. Darn right it is. That's what honesty sometimes is. He tells the truth. And let me add that by saying, he just wrote down what everybody else thinks but they're just not honest enough to say it. He said it and sung about it.
Verse 16, "When I thought how to understand this it was too painful for me until"-- keyword-- "I went into the sanctuary of God then I understood their end." Their, being unbelievers, end. "Surely You set them in slippery places. You cast them down to destruction." Just when Asaph was about to walk away, he walked into the temple. And when he walked into the temple he got a whole different perspective. Maybe he noticed the altar of sacrifice as he walked in the temple. Maybe he looked at the priest donning their flowing liturgical robes and saying their prayers, or the choirs on the steps of the temple singing. Whatever it was that triggered a thought, he started thinking of eternal matters as he went into the sanctuary.
Gathering together with God's people for worship gives people perspective. When you suffer, the thing you need to do, when you're in pain, when you're suffering, when you've been hit hard, when you're hurting, when you're at your lowest, don't go away from church. Go to church. I meet so many people who say, oh man, I haven't been to church lately. Well why? Well life's been really hard. Did I hear you right? Yeah I've just been going through a lot. I should see you more often. You should be around here all the time. We have a tendency to avoid fellowship, avoid prayer, avoid our bibles when we're wrestling. We need to soak those things in.
In Hebrews chapter 10, he writes, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as is the manner of some but exhorting one another and so much the more as you see the day approaching." When you come into fellowship with God's people, you see clearer. You see better.
Now let me take you to book 5, last book of the Book of Psalms. I'm going to have you turn to Psalm 119, don't worry about it, not going to read all the verses. Impossible to do so even if I read it at this speed. Psalm 119, longest chapter in the book, longest chapter in the Bible. And it has one theme, the Bible. The theme of Psalm 119 is the word of God. If you're looking at your Bible, you'll notice that it's an acrostic. There are 22 sets of eight. Do you see that? Eight verses and there are alphabets So it will say [HEBREW] and then a little verse later, [HEBREW]. You have all the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
What that means is, if you were reading it in Hebrew, all of those verses begin with that letter of the Hebrew alphabet from A to Z, from A to Z or from [HEBREW] to [HEBREW] as you would say in Hebrew. From beginning to end. Why? Here's the idea. God has something to say about every aspect of life. He is to be integrated into every aspect from A to Z from beginning to end. There is not one thing out of God's purview. The scriptures cover the gamut of life.
There are 176 verses in this psalm. There are 174 references to the scripture in this psalm. It's called getting your point across. Here's a sample. 25 times the word law is found. 22 times the word testimonies comes up. 21 times the word precepts is written. 21 times statutes is found. 11 times "way" meaning the scripture, "God's way". 22 time commandments. 23 times judgments. 39 times word. That's just a sampling of 174 references to the scriptures.
Can I give you a sampling? Psalm 119 verse 9, "How can a young man cleanse his way?" One of my favorite verses. "By taking heed according to Your word." Go down to verse 18. "Open my eyes that I might see wondrous things from Your law." That's something I pray almost every time I open the Bible. Go down to verse 67. "Before I was afflicted, I went astray but now I keep Your word." Verse 71, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted that I might learn Your statutes." I'm just giving you smatterings of some of my favorites. Verse 105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
It's all about the word, all about the testimonies, all about the Bible, all about the scripture. It's all the Bible all the time. So if you ever wonder, I wonder how important the Bible is to the believer, just read this psalm. Just check out one letter of the alphabet. This psalm. It's everywhere. And I love those two scriptures that I just read to you. Before I was afflicted I went astray. Now I keep Your words. Good that I was afflicted. So think of Asaph going, I'm afflicted. Unbelievers aren't. I am. What good is this affliction? Well I went into God's house and the sanctuary, and I figured it out. This psalmist says, it's good that I've been afflicted. I was going astray but the course correction came in the trial, the affliction. When I was brought low, when I was hurt, when I was crushed, I changed my course. Now, I keep Your word.
It was P. T. Forsyth, who is a Scottish theologian, who said it's a greater thing to pray for pain's conversion than to pray for pain's removal. What that means is when you're hurting, don't say how can I get out of this, say what can I get out of this? What are you teaching me? What are you showing me? How do I need to course correct?
Go to the very last chapter, Psalm 150. Last psalm, last chapter, last utterance, last song, last hymn of book five and all the books. Psalm 150. In Psalm 150 the word praise is mentioned 13 times in six verses. Can you guess what the theme of this psalm is? Very good.
Notice the very last phrase of the psalm. What is it? Mentioned twice. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. In Hebrew it's one word. What is it? Hallelujah. Hallelujah means praise the Lord. I've made a discovery. Wherever I've traveled, the word hallelujah seems to be a universal word. Every language group I've ever been in, even subsets of Indian dialects in India, they all know the word hallelujah. It's a Hebrew word. It's not an English word. It's not a Hindi word. It's not a Maliala word. It's a Hebrew word but it seems to be a universal word. It means praise the Lord.
Verse 1, "Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary. Praise him in his mighty firmament. Praise him for his mighty acts. Praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet. Praise him with the lute and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and the dance. Praise him with stringed instruments and flutes. Praise him with loud symbols. Praise him with clashing symbols. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord." Praise the Lord.
Now that's a stand alone psalm. It's self-explanatory, but would you mind noticing a couple of things? Let's answer some questions about praise. Where should praise happen? Well let's read the psalm. In his sanctuary. Certainly when you come to church you ought to sing praises. You shouldn't just stand there like a bump on the log watching it happen. You should be doing it, right? You should do it in the sanctuary. It stands to reason. You should also praise God in His firmament. That's the heavens. That's the context here, heavens. So there is praise by God's people on earth. There is praise by angels in God's heaven. And by the way, by you eventually in heaven. Heaven is going to be the greatest worship service in history. So on earth and in heaven. That answers the question where praise should happen.
What should praise include? Answer, we should praise God for what He does. Verse 2, praise Him for his mighty acts. That's what He does. And we should praise Him for who He is. Also verse 2. Praise Him according to His excellent greatness. You praise Him because He does so many cool things but whether He does them or not, He still is awesome. You praise Him for who He is, His person.
How should praise be expressed? Well, with instruments. Verse 3, praise Him to the sound of trumpet, lute, harp, et cetera. There's always been controversy throughout church history about instruments and music. Either there's some persuasion of Christians who think there should be no instruments at all and what instruments are acceptable. And then if you get churches that like instruments, how loud the instrument should be or what is this, a guitar but not an electric guitar. I'm for 4b but not three 4b. It gets absolutely insane what God's people argue about.
So I've looked at music in worship like a knife. People say, is that music good or bad. I say, do you have a knife. Yeah. Is it good or bad? Well, the way I use it, it's good. I cut up vegetables with it. But what if you stab somebody with it? Well it's bad. But It's the same knife. You see, it's only good or bad, depending on how it's used. Music is good. All music, rock and roll, heavy metal music, or soft quiet harp music, or no music, just ahhhh. It's all good. Only if you use it right. You can use all of those types wrongly. Hip-hop can be used for God. Depends who uses it and why. So how should praise be expressed with instruments?
Also praise should be expressed with breath. See what it says, "let everything-- verse 6,-- "that has breath praise the Lord." Whether you play an instrument or not, do you breathe? There you go. You answered the question. Then breathe out praise to God. So here's a fitting way to end the psalms with an encouragement to praise the Lord.
All of psalms could probably be brought to a bottom line summation by stating the question in the Westminster's Shorter Catechism. What is the chief end of man? Question mark. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Psalms helps you do that, helps you do that.
I want to just think for a moment as we close. We're now closing. I'm looking at the clock, believe me. Four minutes. By the way, I'm kind of a slave to that only because I want to keep commitments to teachers, volunteers, kids, parents who have kids and have got to put them to bed, all that stuff, traffic, whatever. I read Psalm 119 through on one of the days this week and every time I get to it, I go, oh yeah, 176 verses, gotta plow through it. So I take a section of it in the morning, a section of in the middle of the day, and a section of it at night. That's how I do when it's my day to read that psalm.
But I wonder why, why so many verses about the Bible? Why 174, slam it in your face, words about scripture? And I could only come up with what I think I just stated a moment ago. God's truth is to be woven into every part of your life from the boardroom, to the workroom, to the bedroom, to every thought, to every experience, every age, everything.
There was a man who looked out his window one day and he noticed three different people coming into his garden or three different entities I should say, coming into his garden. The first was a butterfly. The butterfly flew in, beautiful, touched on the flower, touched on another flower, touched another flower, and just kind of danced around. Derived no benefit from the flower. Just flew around and left. Second came a botanist with his notebook and his magnifying glass and his pencil and he looked carefully and he wrote notes and he looked carefully he wrote notes and he observed. Third, a bee came surrounded the flower sunk itself deep into the sweet spot of the flower to extract all of the pollen and when it was empty, he left. He went in empty came out full. Went in empty came out full. Another bee, empty full.
Begs the question as we close, which are you? Are you the butterfly? You just sort of dance around from Bible study to Bible study, church to church, worship experience to worship experience, you get a little here and a little there, but not much. Are you the student? Do you analyze and you look and you make notes and take notes good? I do too. I love that.
But what about the bee? Get the pollen man, get the nourishment, get the meat from it. So that it becomes a part of you. So that you find yourself just quoting scriptures. My wife and I will quote scriptures in our talk to each other, in fun, not like we're thus sayeth the Lord or anything you know. I'll just say, Lenya where art thou, like God said to Adam where art thou. We incorporate a lot of it because it's such a part of our fiber and Spurgeon said that our blood should be bibline. Classification, what kind of blood type do you have? Bibline. Type A, type B, type AB negative? No bibline. The Bible is in my blood man.
I thank God that there's so many like that here. You love it. I love you for it. And Father we love you for Your word that You have given to us. Such variety. We get history. We get poetry. We read about battles. We read about struggles. We think about Job and all that he's suffered and the difficulties with Satan behind the scenes. We go from the depth of despair in Psalms to the height of ecstasy and joy and just transparent worship and praise. It covers all of our experiences. I pray that in all of our experiences we would find comfort as we read this song book of your ancient people. In Jesus' name, Amen.
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. For more resources, visit CalvaryNM.Church. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from the Bible from 30,000 feet.