Tuesday, September 17

Still, Small Voice of Calm

Yesterday's prayer was one for revival, since that's what the sixth verse of this psalm called for. And the eighth verse puts that into context. I picture revivals to be rather raucous occasions of manipulative preaching and spirited singing, the point being to whip people into an emotional frenzy. But if Psalm 85 is any indication, biblical revival seems almost the opposite of that

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Ps 85:8-9
This context of attentiveness and peace is actually the story behind a John Greenleaf Whittier poem that we sing as a hymn. Dear Lord and Father of Mankind* is actually just a small part of a 17-verse poem called The Brewing of Soma, which describes the concocting of an hallucinogenic drink of the Vedic religion intended to

Monday, September 16

Revive Us Again

Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you?
Ps 85:6

Eugene Peterson said that "nothing suffers from time quite so much as religion. The skeletal structure of obedience becomes arthritic, and the circulatory system of praise becomes sluggish."*

Such was the case in ancient Israel, and such is the case in the church and the people who comprise it. When I realize my own forgetfulness or when I fall into sin, I as an individual need to pray for my own quickening. The community as well needs to pray for revival, so that we as a people will not lack

Sunday, September 15

The Best of All Consolations

O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.
Ps 84:12 ✙ 

Calvin's interpretation of this final verse of one of the most beautiful of the psalms is quite elegant. Referring to the psalmist, he states that it...
"seems to refer to the season of his banishment. He had previously described the blessedness of those who dwell in the courts of the Lord, and now he avows, that although he was for a time deprived of that privilege, he was far from being altogether miserable, because he was supported by the best of all consolations, that which arose from beholding from a distance the grace of God. This is an example well worthy of special attention. So long as we are deprived of God’s benefits, we must necessarily groan and be sad in heart. But,

Saturday, September 14

A Doorkeeper

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.
Ps 84:10

We live in a world in which "successful" people look to how they can best utilize others in order to gain power or happiness or wealth or fame for themselves. I, however, am called to follow One who came not to be served but to serve [Matt. 20:28]. The psalmist, no less a part of the church than I am, understood better than I what Christ meant. For they desired not length of life, but even the briefest time near to the heart of God. And they

Friday, September 13

Highways to Zion

Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
Ps 84:5
  
We usually think of the pilgrimage written and sung about in Psalm 84 as physical. But in the fifth verse I see that it is no less spiritual, for the roads I travel lie within me. I assume that only certain highways within my heart are highways to Zion, the others leading eventually to dead ends. But meditating on Romans 8:28,* I must remember that God's will for me—whatever that is—cannot be thwarted by my choices, good or bad.

The highways in my heart also remind me of a song that I've known (and have always related to) since I was

Thursday, September 12

Sparrows Happily Tweet

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.
 
Ps 84:3-4
  
Raised as I was on the RSV and loyal as I am to the NRSV which replaced it, I have always counted on the above translation to be correct. But it might not be. Calvin interprets it differently, and he gives good reason. I need to hear him out:

The psalmist (probably David, he says, but he'll allow that he might be wrong) has no access to the tabernacle, the dwelling place of God. Even birds have nests, the psalmist says. Full stop. Then is added the exclamation, O your altars, O Lord of hosts! My King and my God! Happy are the people who can live in

Wednesday, September 11

On the Move

Psalm 84 is a pilgrim's psalm. I've divided the psalm up so that the verses most applicable to a pilgrimage will come later. But today there's a different kind of pilgrimage to look at, and I don't see it very clearly in the NRSV. So I'm posting it here as the Geneva Bible translated it, which is closer to the Hebrew:
O Lord of hosts, how amiable are thy tabernacles? My soul longeth, yea, and fainted for the courts of the Lord: for my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.  
Ps 84:1-2 (Geneva Bible)
The NRSV uses "dwelling place" (singular) for מִשְׁכְּנוֹתֶ, which is the plural form of a word used elsewhere in