For my weekly quiet time, I studied Psalm 108. The content of Psalm 108:1-5 is also found in Psalm 57:7-11, and the content of Psalm 108:6-13 is also in Psalm 60:5-12. Psalm 57:1-6 contains the Psalmist's hope that God might deliver him from his enemies, then Psalm 57:7-11 talks about the Psalmist singing God's praise among the nations, God's mercy, and the Psalmist's desire that God might be exalted. Psalm 60 reflects the Psalmist's disappointment at his people's painful setbacks in battle, and Psalm 60:5-12 requests God's deliverance, affirms the Psalmist's belief that God is in control of the land of Israel and surrounding nations, and expresses hope that God will assist God's people in battle.
What is the impression
that is made when Psalm 108 copies and pastes (if you will) Psalm
57:7-11, and follows that up with Psalm 60:5-12? What we have is the
Psalmist in Psalm 108 first talking about singing God's praises among
the nations, God's mercy, and the Psalmist's desire that God be exalted,
and then following that up with a request for God's deliverance, an
affirmation of God's control over Israel and surrounding nations, and an
expression of hope that God will assist God's people. I'd say
that Psalm 108 is much more positive than Psalm 57 and Psalm 60, for
Psalm 57 and Psalm 60 focus a lot on problems, whereas Psalm 108
highlights the solution, namely, the sovereign and merciful God.
Moreover, Psalm 108 starts by affirming the importance of praising God
before it asks God to help God's people, whereas Psalm 57 and Psalm 60
start out by describing the problems, then they turn their attention
more to the solution.
Psalm 108 reminds me of the Lord's
Prayer, whose first half is about God's exaltation and overall agenda
(i.e., the kingdom of God), whereas the second half contains the
petitioner's requests----for food, forgiveness, and deliverance from
temptation. In essence, God comes first in the Lord's Prayer, then the
petitioner's needs. I also think of II Chronicles 20:21-22, in which
King Jehoshaphat of Judah puts the praise choir in front of the Judahite
army as it goes out to confront the aggressive Moabites and Ammonites.
can identify with Psalm 57 and Psalm 60, in which the Psalmist vents
about his problems before he gets to praising God. I have found
myself in those sorts of situations: I need to let out my anger and fear
in prayer before I can feel sufficiently at peace to praise God. But I
can also understand why Psalm 108 goes another route:
sometimes, it's important for me to remind myself of God's greatness
before I get to my problems in prayer, for a variety of reasons: to
affirm that my problems are small compared to God, to highlight that God
is more important than I am (as eager as God is to hear about my
problems, since God loves me), and to remember that God has an agenda
that is above and beyond me, yet also includes me.
A number of
scholars date Psalm 108 to Israel's post-exilic period. The Orthodox
Jewish Artscroll commentary says that, whereas Psalm 57 and Psalm 60
concerned "the consolidation and power of David's own reign", Psalm 108
is about the Messiah. Perhaps the commentary means that Psalm 108
expresses Israel's hope for a coming Messiah who will deliver her.
In my opinion, both interpretations make sense of the structure of Psalm 108. Psalm
57 and Psalm 60 appear to concern emergency situations----a person is
harassed by enemies, one's army is doing poorly in battle.
Some argue that these Psalms reflected David's problems, whereas others
contend that they were Psalms that were to be used for certain emergency
situations. Either way, the relevance of Psalm 57 and Psalm 60
to a context of emergency is probably why these Psalms frantically
focus on problems before they arrive at a a greater state of hope.
Psalm 108, however, within a post-exilic context or a context in which
Israel is hoping for a Messiah, is not set in an emergency situation.
At least that's my opinion. Granted, Israel does not regard
her situation as ideal or even as positive, for she desires God's
intervention. And there may still be times when she especially feels
the heavy hand of her oppressors and thus earnestly yearns for
redemption. But, overall, she's not in an emergency situation,
but rather a long-term period of national ills that she experiences.
Because every day stinks, she's not particularly frantic. Consequently,
her method of prayer as she attempts to cope with this long-term
problem is to comfort herself with the realization that God is good and
sovereign, and then to express the hope that God will assist her in
battle and restore her sovereignty.
The Same Four Chords (in Music and Religion)
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