Our church is studying the Psalms for the summer. We were encouraged to read the psalms at home as well. So I thought it would be neat to try read over a few and write a little devotional on a psalm. (Being a teacher, the connection between home and school learning is huge, so obviously studying what I am learning at church at home should be a good idea right?) The idea doesn't sound too difficult. So I gave it a try.
But this turned out to be a bigger study than I expected!
I figured that since this devotional would be for July 15, I'd go read over Psalm 15. Then I would just write a few thoughts on that, and my devotional would be done. I'm feeling kinda under the weather, so this should be an "easy week."
But, I read Psalm 15—a whole 5 verses written by David—and decided that yes, everything he said was true. And they are things I should be doing. And I'm failing miserably each day, but it IS how I WANT to live. And oh, how I want to be worthy to be in His sanctuary and to live in His presence.
So then I thought, maybe I need to do a little research—see if there is anything I am missing (which those few verse are packed with some good visual pictures and contradictions to the Near East rituals and beliefs, setting believers in Yahweh apart, but that discussion can be for another time). My research led me to read over a few of the surrounding Psalms (try reading Psalm 10 or13 and contrast it with Psalm 18!) and then to the book The Bible Jesus Read, by Philip Yancy (Zondervan Publishing House, 1999).
Mr. Yancy has a whole chapter in his book dedicated to the Psalms, and he wrote something that spoke to me. It made me look at the Psalms I was reading in a new way. He said this: "More than any other book in the Bible, Psalms reveals what a heartfelt, soul-starved, single-minded relationship with God looks like" (p. 115). He compared reading the Psalms as if you were reading someone's (in many cases, David's) personal journal or hearing his personal conversations with God.
After reading that, I reread Psalm 15. And 10 and 13 and 18! It made me think of all the things I don't realize that God sees. I believe in an all-powerful all-knowing God, but sometimes my fallen side forgets. On one hand, I wish I could express my joys in Him as eloquently as the authors of all these wonderful pieces of poetry. On the other hand, there are things I want to hide from God. All the thoughts that I know I shouldn't be thinking because that is probably not the response God is looking for. It's not the right thing to do. All the mistakes I've made. All the things I just don't understand about Him. All the questions. . .
David was noted as a man after His (God's) own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). He was chosen specifically by God to lead His people for this very reason. On one hand, David had a gift with words and music. He could calm a troubled king with his harp and songs. On the other hand, David had a bunch of things that God saw that didn't make Him happy. David had some things that he wanted to hide from God. He responded in ways that God did not want him to. But David laid out his personal life for God. He laid out his joys in creation, his certainty in walking in the right path, his confessions of sins, his anguish over the dismal turns life was taking. When things were good, bad or ugly, David cried out to God through the psalms he wrote. He might not have been completely correct in everything he said and did, but he chose to take his emotions to God first. 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds me that we might look at the outward appearance, but God always looks at the heart. Yancey put it this way (p. 123): "Instead, I am continually amazed by the spiritual wholeness of the Hebrew poets, who sought to include God in every area of life by bringing to God every emotion experienced in daily activity. One need not "dress up" or "put on a face" to meet God. There are no walled-off areas; God can be trusted with reality."
Reading the Psalms this past week didn't teach me anything significant about the landmarks, the historical setting or story taking place, or any Hebrew words or phrases that might shed new light on old meanings. (Don't get me wrong, all those things are great for further study!) This week I did learn again that God wants me to come to Him with my life. He wants to be an active part of my life, not someone I call on in times of need but hide from when things are spiralling downward. I want to dwell in His sanctuary (Psalm 15:1). But in order to do that, I need to be someone after God's own heart—someone who is working towards bringing God every daily emotion and every daily activity.
One last thought for the week (s) to come . . .Yancy quoted C.S. Lewis as saying that "ideally being a practicing Christian 'means that every single act and feeling, every experience, whether pleasant or unpleasant, must be referred to God'" (p. 132).
And. . .I found this site that had Psalm 15 written in a kid-friendly manner.