In the Daily Reader for Psalms 1-8, I pointed out that one of the joys of reading this book all the way through is picking up on themes and artistic flourishes that bind certain Psalms together. Although each Psalm stands individually, they are compiled in such a way that indicates intention to the whole work.
This is evident in the final five chapters today, Psalms 10 through 14. First, thematically, each of these Psalms deals in some way with wickedness. Whether it’s a call to “Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted…”; or acknowledgement that “The fool says in his heart: ‘There is no God…’”; or a desperate plea: “Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…”, the elements form an aggregated reflection on what it is like to live in a broken world.
And these chapters have at least one artistic flourish: in each one there’s a question. 10 and 13, both Psalms of lament, begin with a question that asks why the LORD has not yet acted on behalf of the righteous: “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?” In the others, the question is buried; for example, in Psalm 14, the composer asks, “Have they no knowledge – all the evildoers – who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the LORD?” This could be a rhetorical technique, or it could hold deeper meaning, or it could, in fact, be simple artistry. But it is fascinating the think about the intentions behind these flourishes, like studying the brush strokes of a painter.
This conversation about God’s response to the wicked is launched after a majestic tribute to the LORD in chapter 9. On the heels of “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” The Psalmist personally gives “thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” In the Hebrew, this is an acrostic poem, with each stanza beginning with a successive letter of the alphabet. Throughout, the LORD is celebrated as “a stronghold for the oppressed… and those who know Your name put their trust in You, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you…”
Our verse for this week is Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Psalms 9 through 14. Now let’s read it!
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.