Psalms 37-41

Good morning! Today in Psalms 37-41 we close out the first of five “books” within the Psalms. These five songs (whose music is unknown) read in the current order like a conversation Job might have had with his friends. They capture well the vacillation between confidence and despair that is so normal in the life of faith.

Chapter 37 gives us an assertive “opening statement” declaring God’s protection of the meek and the eventual destruction of the wicked. This voice expresses a clear though simple reality, a firm dividing line between wicked and righteous, with each receiving their just desserts. (Perhaps this is the first of Brian McLaren’s types.) By contrast, psalms 38 and 39 are the voice of a sufferer crying out for relief. She or he is confident that God is aware of the way the righteous suffer, but remains mystified that God’s mercy is slow in coming. How long will human beings have to wait on God for vindication?

Psalm 40 begins with the promise that—though long in coming—God does deliver “out of the miry bog”. This might be our first glimpse of a “psalm of reorientation”, where the psalm describes an earlier simplicity, then the resulting chaos when righteousness doesn’t seem to prosper, and finally a learning to trust in the timeline of God. Patience and longsuffering is rewarded. But this is no permanent state of the heart. Later in that same psalm, the author reverts to waiting more for God, and a trusting-in-but-pleading-for hope of God’s deliverance.

A similar wandering through spiritual orientations emerges from psalm 41. It opens with clear moralisms and the assurance that God will punish the wicked but save the righteous. Yet the chapter goes from there into a tailspin through betrayal, hurt, and paranoia. Nevertheless, even in the depths of that, God protects from worse trouble according to this psalmist. Perhaps the moral of this passage is that no matter where human beings are spiritually on any given day, God is nevertheless the steadfast shepherd of every life. Therefore, David ends this first “book” with an eternal blessing of God. Happy reading!

Read Psalms 37-41.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Psalms 42-48. Thanks for reading!

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