* There was a sound system issue this morning and unfortunately there is not an audio recording.
Platt, Charles A. (Charles Adams), 1861-1933. Clouds (Landscape near Cornish), from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=50271 [retrieved August 20, 2018]. Original source: http://www.mfa.org/.
Scripture Reading • Colossians 3.16-17 (NIV)
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
This summer we have looked at David’s life.
We can’t talk about David without mentioning the Psalms.
There is debate if David actually wrote all or any of the Psalms attributed to him, and there are good arguments on either side. Whether or not David wrote these Psalms, Jewish and Christian history has connected David to the Psalms and has tended to see David as something like our “all-star worship leader.”
Lets look at Psalm 145:
A psalm of praise. Of David.
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
All your works praise you, Lord;
your faithful people extol you.
They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.
The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.
Psalm 145 is an acrostic poem – each line starts with a different letter of the ancient Hebrew alphabet. Verse one starts with “alef,” the Hebrew equivalent of the letter “A” and the final verse starts with “Taw (tav”,” the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It is kind of like a way to wrangle the whole alphabet into praising God.
[Two pieces of Dead Sea Scroll trivia – 1) The line for the letter “nun” was missing in most of the manuscripts early scholars used to translate the Bible – and the missing line was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls … so if you were to compare the King James translation of verse 13 against the New International Version, that is a reason why they are different. Trivia piece number 2) In our call to worship, the response, “Blessed is the Lord and blessed is God’s name, for ever and ever!” comes from the Dead Sea Scrolls. One of the scrolls has a version of Psalm 145 with that response after each line, possibly giving us a picture of how the psalms were used by ancient worshipers.]
John Calvin, one of the ancestors of our Presbyterian tradition, wrote that Psalm 145 verse 8, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…” is, “As clear and satisfactory a description of the nature of God … as can anywhere be found.” I would agree with Calvin here (probably good since I am a Presbyterian pastor), if Jesus really does give us the best picture we can find of God’s heart and character, we for sure see these traits in Jesus.
Psalm 145 stretches us out.
It catches us when we are thinking too small about God.
It reminds us of God’s character.
It invites us to think bigger.
This psalm expands and stretches our understanding of God. It reminds us how great God is. And, most importantly, it reminds us that as big and awesome as God is …“God is near to those who call on him in truth.”
That is good news – in our world the bigger someone or something is, the more inaccessible they can be. God is greater than we can imagine, and still, God is near to those who call to God in truth.
When the psalm talks about the mighty acts and wondrous works of God there are a lot of things it could be pointing toward; maybe creation and the wonder of God’s world, maybe to God leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and into the promised land, it could be talking about God giving Moses the law, or to the ways David experienced God’s mercy … It could be inviting us to think about the ways we have experienced God’s goodness and love in our lives …
I read an interview with a songwriter who was asked about one of her songs, the interviewer said the song really resonated with him, but he was curious what specific life experience it was pointing to. The songwriter refused to say. She said, “the beauty of songs … is if you do it right a lot of people can relate to it in their own way and make their own meaning out of things. And so, I don’t want to give away the secrets and ruin somebody’s idea of what the song is to them” (https://www.npr.org/2018/08/05/634976197/amanda-shires-wont-give-away-the-secrets-of-her-songs). She wouldn’t say what was behind the song, I think she made a great point. Really good songs invite us to connect our own experiences to them. I think Psalm 145 is like that, the psalmist, invites us to bring our own experiences to the psalm … maybe even to add our own verse.
This psalm reminds us of God’s character, it breaks us out of a small view of God, and it invites us to contribute our own verse and join the song.
“My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.”