Tag Archives: psalms

Hubris: My Journey through Psalms (10)

Psalm 10

Hubris, the greatest flaw of every hero be it tragic, epic, or romantic, throughout literature and history excessive pride always goes before the fall of almost every man or nation.

Which begs the question: why do we still allow ourselves to be puffed up with egos the size of the Chrysler building?
Because it feels good. It feels right. It is our natural inclination.

But it is also our natural inclination to sin, so just because it feels good and feels right, doesn’t mean it is what is good and right for our benefit or for God’s glory.

In his pride the wicked man does not seek him [the Lord]; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. His ways are prosperous; your laws are rejected by him; he sneers at all his enemies. He says to himself, ” Nothing will ever shake me.” He swears, “Now one will ever do me harm.” His mouth is full of lies and threats. trouble and evil are under his tongue. […] He says to himself, “God will never notice; he covers his face and never sees.” Psalm 10: 4-7;  11
They say pride goes before a fall. True. But pride also separates us from the Lord, because when we puff ourselves up, we push out all the other things in our lives that used to have priority. The Lord is the first to go, because he is supposed to have first priority, now we do. Then our family, friends, and the things we used to love to make time for. Slowly our identity shifts and we barely recognize ourselves–though we still physically may be the same person we’ve been consumed by greed and pride and become a vile creature, unacceptable to God and to the people who once were so important in our lives.

Excessive pride isolates, changes and extorts from us the value and peace of our purposeful lives. And it doesn’t look pretty in the end.



Macbeth had his head cut off.
Oedipus scratched his own eyes out.
Arthur’s brains oozed from his head.
Beowulf was killed by a dragon.
Nebuchadnezzar wandered for over 5 years (7? 8?), insane in the desert.


All because of pride.

If nothing else, Psalm 10 teaches us to take a look at our own lives and see where the excessive pride is and eliminate it. Have we been struggling with a problem that we need help with but are too stubborn to ask for guidance on? Do we need to confess something to a life group, partner, or friend? Have we built up a personal empire and rely on that wealth to protect us rather than God? Do we put more faith in something other than God to sustain us? Where is the pride in our lives?

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Questions to ponder:
It’s not a matter of if I have excessive pride but where is the excessive pride in my life?
Who can be an accountability partner to help eliminate and guard against the pride taking over my life?
Why is it important to continually guard against pride (especially in the first world)?

Healthy Respect: my journey through Psalms (9)

Psalm 9
Sometimes the world worries me. I read the news, I listen to political debates, and I shudder to think what will happen next. What could happen next? How far can we really fall as a nation? As a people?
And then I read something like Psalm 9. Verse 15 states that the nations fall into the pit they have dug. And sure enough, many of the problems in our world are a direct result of problems we created ourselves. We fall into the pit of our own iniquities. Instead of trying to right a wrong, we try to look out for the bottom line, or material productiveness. We don’t ask how can I make things better, we ask how can I profit from this. It is a direct result of this narcissism that has led to an unraveling of our egotistical minds.
When the psalmist declares in the end ‘strike them with terror, Lord; let the nations know they are only mortal’. I close my eyes and breathe deep. That is a terrible price the nations must pay to learn that we are not gods, but a part of the creation. And every time an earthquake, tsunami, or other natural disaster occurs striking down millions, we are reminded of our mortality–not that it is God striking fear into the world, but it is a stark reminder that we do not control everything ergo we should stop pretending that we can or even that we should.
A healthy respect for the world, for God and for each other is the only way we will ever really achieve any kind of peace on earth. And unfortunately, many are unwilling to do even one of these three things, let alone all three.
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Questions to ponder:
1) Do I have a healthy respect for the world, its guidelines and rules and my role in it?
2) Do I give thanks to God regularly for his presence, wisdom, guidance, and protection in the world?
3) Do I have a healthy respect for ALL people in the world and their roles in it?

Created to Praise: My Journey through Psalms (8)

Psalm 8

“What are men to rocks and mountains?” originally spoken by Mary Bennett in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice I’ve always interpreted this in a rather Romantic way. No, not as in lovey-dovey let’s grow old together romanticism of the 21st century, but 19th century Romanticism where idealism and nature reigned supreme and people really did look at the world around them in terms of simplicity and beauty as opposed to what they can use it for. Of course that was before industrialism stripped the world into a barren wasteland and though technology and progress certainly make life easier, I’m not entirely sure it has made our world better. But I digress.
On one level, Mary (and then in the adaptation, Elizabeth’s) spoken question is literally pointing out freedoms associated with natural beauty–anticipating Elizabeth’s upcoming trip to the lake district and the escape from the soul crushing societal expectations. On another it embodies the theme of most Romantics–the search for individual freedoms and happiness among a society that places pressure on each person to maintain a certain amount of social balance.  What I find interesting is the equivocating nature of the question: comparing “men” to “nature”. Men could, in fact, just refer to Elizabeth (and all the sisters’) search for ‘suitable’ husbands to save them from social ostracisim, yet “men” embodies so much more, especially in the 19th century before feminism took political correctness to a whole new level. Reaching beyond just the surface, “men” could also be “society” or “humankind”.
What is society compared to nature?
Psalm 8 cries out in verse 3 “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”
Humankind and nature have always been intertwined, and whether you want to admit it or not, nature holds a power over humankind that we cannot (and maybe should not) tame. Verse 5 continues “You made him little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hand”.  It’s a matter of order, not a matter of control.
Mark 11: 23 says, “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”
Read those pronouns. “Yourself”, the mountain is a part of the action. “Done for them”, man didn’t do it–their faith in the One with more power than they did. Humankind isn’t in control.
Just as a ruler who respects his people will have a more effective reign, humankind must respect our role in creation. Throwing mountains into oceans for no reason isn’t respectful to anyone. We are not gods. We are not masters. We are not in control. We are only a part of the whole. And we are all created to do the same thing: praise the one who created us.

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Questions to ponder:

  1. How is humankind and nature intertwined?
  2. Do I have any bad habits that need correcting to make me a better part of God’s creation?
  3. How can I praise God more?

Regret to Repent: My journey through Psalms (6)

Psalm 6

The other day I was babysitting my nieces. My eldest niece is eight going on thirteen and so when we were sitting down to eat dinner, she was in quite a sassy mood. In her attempt to assert some kind of rebellious authority after having been told no, she reached over and tried to jerk something out of my hand. Well, you can imagine how well that went over. She was in trouble now, and she knew it. Out came the water works, but you see. I’ve been the queen of water works since I was three, so that didn’t work on me. Off to your room, I said, you can finish your dinner when you’re ready to act like a decent human again.

The big guns came out then. There was foot stomping and hands on hips now and for a moment I thought she was going to tell me no. Straight to my face. Until I said the magic words.

Do you really think your mother and father aren’t going to hear about this little fit?

Instant silence. Rebuked and shamed now, she begrudgingly trudged to her room.

Later, worn out from her fit, she put a card in my hand that read ‘I’m sorry, Aunt Ashley’ and she whispered, “Please don’t tell Mom and Dad.”

The fact is we all mess up and feel regret–especially when we feel like what we have done is going to be found out (as clearly seen in Psalm 6), but it is the Lord’s unfailing love that allows us to heal when we come to Him with our sorrow and repentance. Because the Lord accepts our prayers readily and forgives our transgressions even mores readily than an Aunt who forgives a niece for a temper tantrum of epic proportions.

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Questions:

1. What am I afraid of admitting to God and others?
2. How does my openness with God shame my enemies and free my soul?
3. What are the rewards of repentance?

Out of the Pit: My Journey Through Psalms (5 and 7)

Psalm 5 and 7

Mostly Psalm 5 is on of pronouns. Once again the Davidic speaker is crying out to God for help, begging the Lord to hear him, but what I really hear are the personal pronouns “my, I, me” in the first few lines, and repeated again later on in the psalm, each time as part of a plea. These are juxtaposed in a stark contrast against the “yous” of the next few verses, and the “theys” of the following verses, each outlining the roles of not a single individual but representatives of groups. Symbolic figures. Even the you isn’t just the single entity of the Lord, but rather the trinity–a group.
The volta in verse 11 is sharp, because it brings all the pronouns togehter, naming them and describing how and why “my, I, me” is protected and cared for.

I cry out to you against them.
You are good.
They are guilty.
I am righteous.
THEREFORE,
You protect and bless me.

Simple logic showing the two sides of God, the vengeful and the protector. Not a contradiction, but a complementory personality necessary to bring justice to an unjust world. Proof of why we all need a savior.
And a theme that is continued in Psalm 7–especially in verse 14-17 where the psalmist uses distinct images to separate the wicked from the righteous.
Pregnancy usually has strong positive connotations, yet here it is used with negative intent ‘one who is pregnant with evil gives birth to corruption’, which again is simple cause and effect imagery. Followed by the image of digging a pit in which you yourself will then just fall, so true as Sir Walter Scott once eloquently put it in Marmion ‘oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive’. You cannot nurture negative habits and expect positive results. The opposite, in fact, is sure to result. One little white lie is not as innocent as you expect it to be, but rather leads to another lie and yet another, and another, perpetuating the lie until it unfortunately can land you into a pit. Sometimes the pit is sinister, and sometimes it is just a sticky situation, but a pit it is nonetheless so unless we are nurturing good habits, we cannot expect to give birth to healthy offspring. There is a reason the warning label says ‘do not use if you are pregnant or nursing’ because you must be extra diligent when you are growing a baby human–we too are growing our spiritual selves and we must be intentional about it. If we are not, the outcome is not going to be spiritually healthy.
God gives us these guidelines for a reason and I thank him for it. Personally, I don’t want the trouble and violence to come crashing down on my head in the pit I dug for myself, but that is exactly what happens when we fall into our own tangled web and dug pits of deception, bad habits, or strongholds.
So I thank God today because he is good and he offers instruction, protection and blessing for all those who seek it. Because he knows I sure need it.
Without his hand, I sure wouldn’t be able to get out of those pits I’ve dug for myself.

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Questions to Ponder:
1) Are there any pits I need help getting out of today? Who can help me aside from God?
2)How does God help make straighter paths for me?
3)How can I better nurture good habits and starve the evil ones?