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Psalms for the seasons of life: May

April 30–May 6

Psalm 103: “Psalm 103 is one of the most beautiful psalms of comfort. It is especially appropriate during sickness or hospitalization. . . . We can say with certainty that no sickness of a Christian is punishment for sin in the strict sense. Christ has already been punished for our sins so no further punishment is necessary. . . . The Lord has not dealt with us as our sins deserve. He has forgiven our sins for Christ’s sake. . . . The psalm concludes with an invitation for all creatures to join the multitude [of angels in heaven] in praising the Lord. Today we praise the Lord on earth as the angels do in heaven. Soon we will join together with those angels in heaven to praise the Lord” (COP 2, pages 212,215,217,221).

Psalm 104: “Psalm 103 praises the Lord for his work of redemption. Psalm 104 praises him for creation and providence. . . . The outline of Psalm 104 is based on the days of creation as reported in Genesis 1. . . . The psalmist closes with a prayer that God would continue to preserve his creation and rule it with justice. . . . Using our memories and minds to reflect on God’s work of redemption and creation should stir up our emotions and our will to praise the Lord. Motivating such praise is the goal of Psalms 103 and 104” (COP 2, pages 221,232).

Psalm 105: “Psalm 105 emphasizes God’s faithfulness to his covenant. Psalm 106 focuses on Israel’s unfaithfulness and disobedience. . . . Verse 42 is the key to the psalm. God’s remembrance of his covenant is more than a calling to mind. It is taking decisive action for the benefit of his people. God’s faithfulness was not due to Israel’s worthiness but to his own faithfulness to the promise he had made to the patriarchs. . . . The same principles set forth in this psalm apply to Christians today. God has redeemed us from sin and continues to forgive our sins, not because we are worthy but because of his faithfulness” (PBP 2, pages 130,135).

Psalm 106: “The history of Israel recorded in the Bible is unique in the literature of the ancient world. Unlike the literature of other nations, which glorifies those nations, the historical writing and poetry of Israel gives a frank account of the sins, failures, and defeats of the nation. The only unblemished hero in Israel’s literature is the Lord. The Israelites’ bad examples and the sad results which they produced should warn us against repeating their behavior. Let us be on guard lest we take God’s grace for granted and squander the blessings which he has provided” (COP 2, pages 245,258).

May 713

Psalm 107: “All who wish to be wise should apply the principles of [this] psalm to their own lives. They should take warning from the judgments that fall upon the disobedient. They should be strengthened by the love of God that is displayed in his blessings on those who remember his covenant. When injustice seems to reign, they should wait patiently for God’s justice. The wandering, hunger, confusion, and imprisonment described in this psalm are all used as pictures of man’s natural spiritual condition” (COP 2, page 270). 

Psalm 108: “ ‘Mercy and faithfulness’ is a common word pair in Psalms. ‘Mercy’ emphasizes the compassionate, gracious character of God’s love. ‘Faithfulness’ emphasizes the dependability of God’s love. . . . This psalm teaches us not to depend on human schemes and maneuvering or on human weapons—no matter how powerful—for salvation either in time or eternity. Only in the Lord will we gain the victory” (COP 2, pages 273,277). 

Psalm 109: “The curses contained in these psalms [55, 56, 58, 69, and 109] are often shocking to modern readers, but such prayers simply echo God’s curse against sin. . . . David did not take matters into his own hands or seek to avenge himself. His solution to slander was to entrust the matter to God. David was a man of prayer. . . . David’s call for punishment on his enemy is one of the most prolonged and vehement curses in the psalms. . . . God’s strongest judgment against sin is that he gives a sinful man what that man loves. The man who loves curses receives them. The man who enjoys living his life apart from God will live apart from him forever. . . . Though we are sinners, all the accusations of our enemies and of Satan against us will be thrown out of court. Satan accuses us in vain because Christ stands at our right hand as our defense attorney. For this we, with the multitude around his throne, will praise him” (COP 2, pages 277,279,282,285,286).

Note: If this psalm is disturbing, it is important to move on to Psalm 110. 

Psalm 110: “This is a true and exalted psalm, the main one to deal with our dear Lord Jesus Christ. . . . This King sits above at the right hand of God, where he is invisible, an eternal, immortal Person; but his people are here below on earth in this miserable, mortal condition, subject to death and any kind of mishap which a man may meet on earth. . . . [He reigns over] a kingdom of life, peace, joy, and redemption from all evil, not a kingdom of death, sorrow, and misery. Therefore [his believers] will not remain subject to death, anxiety, fear, spiritual conflict, and suffering. . . . [He is] the true sacrifice. Once and for all [he took] away the sins of all the world and brings an everlasting reconciliation and forgiveness. . . . On the other hand, those. . . who will not endure the gospel will be punished. . . no matter how mighty, great, and powerful they may be” (LW Vol. 13 pages 228,240,319,341). 

Psalm 111: “Such great works of God are studied with much pleasure by the upright. That is, one must meditate on the words of God and consider them well. Then one will discover how wonderful and great they are, and then the heart will find in them nothing but admiration, pleasure, and joy. . . . Whoever would thank God must sincerely realize and confess that the thing for which he offers thanks is purely God’s grace and gift. . . . We are to publish, praise, preach, and confess the indescribable wonders God has done for us through Christ. . . . Here one should contemplate, diligently regard, and consider what a glorious and beautiful work it is that Christ has delivered us from sin, death, and the devil. . . . Whoever earnestly regards God’s Word as God’s Word knows very well that he will forever remain its pupil and disciple” (LW Vol. 13 pages 358,364,372,373,386). 

May 1420

Psalm 112: “ ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ It is really nothing else than to keep God in sight. Whoever does this has enough for time and eternity. For he keeps his Commandments, gives God his honor, and exalts God as he should be exalted. . . . The blessing of God will rest on the house of him who fears God. . . . God has always exalted those who fear him and who delight in his commandments. But there are so few of them!. . . In weariness and affliction, the sun shall rise for them. God knows the art of making his own have pleasure in weariness, and comfort and joy in affliction. . . . A righteous and pious man is also merciful, like his God” (LW Vol. 13, pages 396,399,400,403,406). 

Psalm 113: “Psalms 113-118 became a standard part of the Passover celebrations. Psalms 113 and 114 were used before the meal, and Psalms 116-118 were used after the meal. These psalms are often called the Passover hallel [praise]. . . . The Lord should be praised for what he does. He is both far above us and very near to us. Although he is lofty in power and majesty, he uses that power to help his people” (PBP 2, pages 170-172). 

Psalm 114: “Psalm 114 makes the specific application to the exodus. . . . The skipping of the mountains and fearful flight of the sea are poetic ways of describing the awesome power of God, which makes the whole earth tremble. . . . This psalm expresses the awe that even the inanimate creation experiences in the presence of its Creator. . . . If even the universe stands in awe before its Creator and preserver, how much more so should man” (PBP 2, pages 172-174). 

Psalm 115: “What a beautiful temple [Israel] built! The opening verse of this psalm put a damper on such pride. Not to us, not to us, but to your name be the glory! . . . The one and only God made them what they were. He alone deserved the praise. . . the idols of the nations are simply lifeless creations of their worshipers. This is true whether they are carved images or idols of human philosophy, human achievements, and earthly wealth. None of these will be able to give life to those who serve them. . . . But those who trust in the Lord will be blessed. . . .  We are to make full use of the time he has given us on this earth to spread the glory of his name before our opportunity to do so is ended by death. But even when death ends our opportunity to serve God on this earth, we will continue to praise him forever” (PBP 2, pages 75,176,178). 

Psalm 116: “The first two verses already tell the story of the psalm. The psalmist was in great danger of death; he prayed to the Lord; the Lord saved him. . . . We ‘repay’ God when we joyfully celebrate the salvation which he has given to us. . . . God cares about the life and death of each sparrow in his creation. How much more then he watches over the lives of his saints. He controls the life of each one of us so that its length, whether long or short, best serves his glory and our good. He will be with us to help us cross the boundary of death, which is still fearsome to us. Our times are in his hands. Let us use the time he allots us wisely. Let us be ready to entrust ourselves to his hands when he calls us” (COP 2, pages 317,321,322). 

Psalm 117: “This is the littlest psalm of them all, but it is gigantic in its theme. This little gem sweeps across space and time. It echoes from one end of the world to the other. It embraces all the peoples and brings hallelujahs to the heathen. It celebrates love and mercy that stretch beyond time into eternity. . . . [The Lord] is the one and only God for all people. All people can come to him. . . . There can be a diversity of cultures and languages among those who serve the Lord, but there can be no diversity of gods. There is only one Creator and one Redeemer” (COP 2, pages 323,324). 

Psalm 118: “Psalm 118 is one of the foremost messianic psalms. . . . It falls into two main parts: the Messiah’s expression of trust during his suffering and his joy when God delivers him. Both of these experiences are shared with Christ by the believers who preceded him during the Old Testament era and by those who follow him during the New Testament era. This psalm is fulfilled in Christ’s passion. The anguish of the psalm is expressed in Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane. . . [and when] the leaders of Israel rejected him as the Messiah, even though he was the foundation on which God would build the church. . . . [Christ is] the stone over whom some stumble and the rock who is a sure foundation for others” (PBP 2, pages 185,186,189). 

May 2127

Psalm 119:1-8: “Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible and the longest psalm by far. . . . This great song of praise for God’s Word is a celebration of praise to the Lord himself, who gave that Word. We cannot separate loyalty to God from loyalty to his Word. . . . Each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet is represented by an eight-verse stanza. All eight verses of each stanza begin with the appropriate sequential [Hebrew] letter. . . . The psalmist pledges that he will be devoted to God’s Word. . . . The primary reason to keep God’s commands is obedience to God motivated by love. A secondary reason is the Lord’s promise of blessing” (COP 1, pages 333,334,341). 

Psalm 119:9-16: “Though this psalm has the form of a prayer, it is also a meditation on true wisdom that could be used for training the young. . . . God’s Word should be read, studied, meditated upon, and memorized so that it is hidden in our hearts to be used whenever we need it. One way of hiding God’s Word in our hearts is to memorize key verses of the Bible that will be sources of strength in times of trial and testing. Such memorization is an important part of Christian training, but keeping God’s Word in our hearts means more than knowing what is says. It means believing it and doing it” (COP 1, page 343). 

Psalm 119:17-24:Often we are more ready to learn in adversity than in prosperity. Troubles drive us to the Word for understanding and strength. The Lord strengthens the psalmist through his Word and will vindicate him in his judgment” (COP 2, page 346). 

Psalm 119:25-32: “[Verse 32 states] a truth which will be repeated throughout the psalm: only the Lord can give us the understanding of his Word and the ability to believe it and obey it. God must set our hearts free with the gospel before we can keep his commandments for the only right reason: the love of God, who has set us free from sin. The plea ‘Teach me’ is a thread running throughout the psalm” (COP 2, page 346). 

Psalm 119:33-40: “God’s Word should be read, studied, meditated upon, and memorized, so that it is hidden in our hearts for use whenever we need it” (PBP 2, page 197). “Verses 36 and 37 are noteworthy as a prayer for God-pleasing values and priorities in life. In God’s Word we find true riches. We will make it our top priority to get these riches. We will not place our hope in earthly things that have no power to save us” (COP 2, page 348). 

Psalm 119:41-48: “Verse 46 of this psalm must have been very comforting to the early Christians during those days of persecution when they often had to appear before rulers. This verse was also very meaningful to Luther and the reformers when they were summoned to appear before the emperor and princes. This verse is printed at the beginning of the Augsburg Confession as the motto of the confessors” (COP 2, page 350). 

Psalm 119:49-56: “ ‘Remembrance’ is a key theme [in these verses]. We ask God to remember his promises to us. We will remember his Word so we can put it into practice. We should be angry and offended when we observe people ignoring God’s law. The indifference to sin and blasphemy which is characteristic of our society cannot be justified as ‘tolerance’ or ‘open-mindedness’ ” (COP 2, page 352). 

Psalm 119:57-64: “Verse 57 reminds us of our confirmation pledge of faithfulness. . . . [This section] is a very intense expression of the psalmist’s determination to serve the Lord. . . . God is his chief possession, his teacher, and his merciful Savior. And this mercy of God is not limited to a few people in a little corner of the world. It is for the whole earth. Verse 63 reminds us of the importance of strengthening one another through the practice of Christian fellowship” (COP 2, page 352). 

Psalm 119:65-72: “[This section] emphasizes the disciplinary value which suffering may have for a Christian if it pushes him or her closer to God and his Word. See Hebrews 12 on the value of chastisement as discipline. We should be grateful for the bitter medicine and for the hard exercise that make us healthy. Even God’s discipline is good, though it may be painful for the present. God’s discipline is worth more than silver or gold” (COP 2, page 354). 

Psalm 119:73-80: “[This section] emphasizes the solidarity between the psalmist and all others who fear the Lord (verses 74,79). The psalmist hopes that his example will encourage them and that they will help and support him in his trials. This stanza echoes many topics discussed in earlier stanzas: the benefits of affliction, delight in the law, comfort in mercy, not being put to shame, and aversion from evil” (COP 2, page 355).  

Psalm 119:81-88: “Any Christian may grow weary when suffering a long illness. Like a wineskin hanging in the smoke and heat of the fire, the psalmist feels dried out, shriveled up, cracked, and useless. In our idiom he might say, ‘I feel like I’ve been put through the wringer.’ He longs for his salvation. In spite of his exhaustion, the psalmist clings to his trust in the Lord” (COP 2, page 357). 

Psalm 119:89-96: “God’s Word is not limited by time or space. His law and gospel are for all people throughout all time. Even when heaven and earth pass away, God’s Word will remain. . . . God’s Word is not limited by any defect or flaw. All purely human work is subject to error, but the inspired Word is free from such limitations. . . . In the new heavens and the new earth, all of God’s plans will be accomplished, and they will stand forever” (COP 2, pages 358,359).  

Psalm 119:97-104: “This is one of the most noteworthy stanzas of the psalm. It is pure praise with no petitions. It expresses both the psalmist’s love for the Word and the pleasures he finds in it (sweeter than honey).  It is a mixture of affection and reflection. The person who follows the simple truths of the Word is wiser and has more insight and understanding than the person who follows the most sophisticated theories of men” (COP 2, pages 360,361). 

Psalm 119:105-112: “Verse 105 is the most famous verse of this lengthy psalm. Many of us memorized it in catechism class as a statement of the value of God’s Word. . . . At our confirmations we promised to ‘take our life into our hands’ rather than to deny God’s Word. The psalmist gladly undertakes the same risk. Whether the snares of the wicked are attacks or temptations, the Word of the Lord strengthens us to endure them or to escape them” (COP 2, page 362). 

Psalm 119:113-120: “This stanza is one of the strongest denunciations of the wicked in this psalm. Because the Lord rejects and discards the wicked, we must shun their ways and close our ears to the smooth-sounding double-talk of those who have a form of godliness but deny God’s power” (COP 2, page 364). 

Psalm 119:121-128: “Most of the points in this stanza are repeated from earlier stanzas: the psalmist’s integrity, his rejection of evil, his weariness from distress, his determination to grow in his knowledge and obedience to God’s Word, and the superiority of the Word to worldly riches” (COP 2, page 366). 

Psalm 119:129-136: “The psalmist expresses both his sorrow and indignation because of the negligence and scorn which many people show toward the Word. They do not respect the Lord’s authority and power as the psalmist does” (COP 1, page 369). 

Psalm 119:137-144: “[The psalmist] prays that God will take action against those who scorn his Word and that he will preserve the psalmist in his loyalty to the Word. In times when we are surrounded by apostasy and persecution, it is harder to stand fast in the Word, but it is in these times, in these hours of trial, that the need for a clear, bold confession is most critical” (COP 2, page 369). 

Psalm 119:145-152: “[This stanza with the remaining stanzas] emphasizes the commitment of the psalmist to obedience. . . . Watching day and night is the special focus of this stanza. The psalmist prays without ceasing. . . . The wicked are always near with their schemes, but God is even nearer with his help” (COP 2, pages 369,370).  

Psalm 119:153-160: “There is quite a focus on the wicked and the suffering that they cause in this stanza. . . . We must loathe what is loathsome to God. ‘Salvation is far from the wicked’ is an understatement. Terrible judgment is near for them” (COP 2, page 372). 

Psalm 119:161-168: “Though the psalmist loves and cherishes the Word, he never loses sight of the purpose of the Word. The Word is not an end in itself, like a great piece of literature. Its purpose is to put us into contact with the living God. The law shows us that our sins have made us guilty before God. The gospel shows us that God has removed the guilt of our sins. The gospel changes our hearts so that we love the Lord and begin to serve him gladly. We have come into fellowship with our Savior-God through the Word” (COP 2, page 374). 

Psalm 119:169-176: “The psalmist strongly emphasizes his determination to remain faithful to God’s Word in spite of the opposition of the enemies of the Word. . . . He confesses his own sin but also his eager expectation of God’s salvation. The emphatic position of the confession in verse 176 shows that the psalmist does not pray with the self-righteous attitude of the Pharisee but with the humble heart of the tax collector” (COP 2, page 374). 

May 28June 3

Psalm 120: “[Psalms 120-134 are ‘songs of ascents,’ literally songs of goings up.] The collection . . . appears to be a group of hymns selected for use during the pilgrim festivals. . . . Like the psalmist, the pilgrims who sang this psalm expressed their longing for the peace and harmony that exists among God’s people in the courts of his temple in heaven. God’s people cannot have peace when they live among God’s enemies, since their two ways of life are incompatible” (COP 2, pages 375,377,381).  

Psalm 121: “[The pilgrim’s] help and security do not come from the hills but from the Lord, who made the hills and everything else in the universe. The rest of the psalm is an ascending promise of help. Each verse adds to the blessing. The Lord keeps the pilgrim safe from every type of danger in every time. The Lord is not a god who is on duty only at certain times. He is the untiring God who is watching over his people at all times. He will keep the pilgrims safe both as they come to Jerusalem and as they leave it again” (PBP 2, page 216). 

Psalm 122: “This psalm contains two main elements: joy in the beauty of Jerusalem and a prayer for its blessing. . . . However, like the other psalms about Jerusalem, this psalm points beyond the earthly city in the land of Israel. That city was glorious for the things which Christ accomplished there for our salvation. . . . [Yet] Jerusalem will reach its full glory only with the arrival of the New Jerusalem described in Revelation 21 and 22. There God’s people will live in complete safety. There great David’s greater Son will rule them with justice forever. For this city our prayers ascend. To this city we are journeying. There, at last, will be peace” (COP 2, pages 387,388).  

Psalm 123: “In Scripture the contrast between the humble and the proud is synonymous with the contrast between believers and unbelievers. The humble place God’s wisdom ahead of the world’s. They place God’s honor ahead of their own. They look to him for vindication and wait patiently for his mercy, remembering that Christ bore the contempt of the world for us and that it is an honor to suffer for his name” (PBP 2, page 219). 

Psalm 124: “This psalm speaks of the enemies’ acts of persecution and oppression. But the psalm also states that delivery from the threat has already arrived. . . . We can also apply this psalm to the traps the devil still lays for the church and to the raging floods he still unleashes against it through his henchmen, the enemies of the church. . . . Time after time God’s people have escaped destruction. Our final escape is the escape to heaven. ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ ” (Romans 8:31) (COP 2, page 394). 

Psalm 125: “The first section provides a general statement about the Lord’s protection of his people. . . . The remainder of the psalm speaks of one means which the Lord uses to provide security for his people: he gives them good leaders. . . . We should pray that the Lord will continue to provide us with leaders who are sound in doctrine and in their way of life. Both the church and the nation need leaders who will oppose evil and support good. We should support, encourage, and defend such leaders. . . . The hymn ends with a beautiful benediction prayer, ‘Peace [Shalom] be upon Israel’ ” (COP 2, pages 396,397). 

Psalm 126: “Psalm 126 reaches the pinnacle of the Old Testament pilgrim’s experience: the return to Jerusalem by the people. . . . The psalm is general enough to include every deliverance experienced by God’s people including the final delivery into eternal life. . . . During the hot, rainless summer, the streams [in the dry Negev] are empty and the land desolate. The swelling of the streams from the winter rains restores the beautiful flowers of spring to the land” (PBP 2, pages 222,224). 

Psalm 127: “To thank God for the blessings enumerated in this psalm was one of the main reasons the pilgrims came to Jerusalem. . . . Children are a blessing of the Lord. This message needs to be proclaimed strongly in our day when self-fulfillment and materialism seem to have drastically changed people’s attitudes toward children. . . . Many see children as more of a burden than a blessing. In God’s view, passing on the heritage of faith is the most important goal of each generation. It is doubtful if many in our society, including many in the church, would list this as the first priority of life” (COP 2, pages 404,407). 

Psalm 128: “Psalm 128 repeats the theme of the preceding psalm:  a contented enjoyment of the possessions and the family, which the Lord gives, is true happiness. . . . From solid families strength flows to the nation. From solid, godly families come workers who will build up the nation, parents who will raise godly children, and children who are our hope for the future. Without such families the future is dark. From such families the nation and the church will find strength” (PBP 2, pages 228,229). 

Want to dig in more? Read The People’s Bible: Psalms 1-72 and The People’s Bible: Psalms 73-150.

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This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series forward in christ psalms

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