A Meditation on Psalm 15

Kevin J Youngblood

 O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart;

who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;

in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things shall never be moved.

(Psalm 15)
 
Psalm 15 has an interesting and rather unique structure. It unfolds as a kind of Q&A with God as though YHWH were
being interviewed by the psalmist. The question involves the kind of person to whom YHWH gives refuge, those he shelters in his sanctuary.

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A Meditation on Psalm 102

Kevin J Youngblood
 
For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread.

(Psalm 102:3-4, ESV)

For my days pass away like smoke and my bones, like dried meat, are parched.
Beaten down, like withered grass, is my heart because I forget to eat my food.
(Psalm 102:3-4, My translation)
 
Dry bones – probably one of the most famous metaphors in Scripture thanks to Ezekiel 37 and the famous spiritual inspired by it. Ezekiel 37 is not the only place in Scripture, however, where we encounter dry bones. They appear in Psalm 102:3 as well, and, no doubt, in at least a handful of other texts in Scripture. They are not as easily recognizable in Psalm 102 because our English translations have struggled to understand the comparison the psalmist is making. A word occurs here that occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible, making it difficult to translate (qēd). The ESV takes this word to mean “oven.” I think that is unlikely in the light of the most recent evidence. DJA Clines’ Dictionary of Classical Hebrew suggests the gloss “dried meat.” This makes better sense in context since the parallel line compares the psalmist’s heart to withered grass and expresses what was apparently a favorite image in ancient Israel for hopelessness and loss of will.
 

Dry bones. What an appropriate metaphor for a living death – a seemingly unending season of joyless, hopeless existence when we feel so dead for so long that we no longer see the point in going on.


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A Meditation on Psalm 101

Kevin J Youngblood
 
I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will make music.
I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart within my house;
I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.
(Psalm 101:2-4)
Psalm 101 is an incredibly intimate prayer of David that has come to mean a lot to me over the years. It hits on all of my vulnerabilities, and, for this reason, it is a psalm that I have often avoided and tried to forget about, though it is one that I should read and recommit to daily. The psalm opens with a series of pledges each one more serious and specific than the previous. Between the second and third, however, there is a surprisingly soft, sad, wistful question: “When will you come to me?” The psalmist is lonely, longing for communion with God who seems distant and aloof.

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A Meditation on Psalm 72

Kevin J Youngblood
 

For Solomon . . .

. . . The prayers of David, son of Jesse, have been fulfilled

Psalm 72:0, 19; (MT, Psalm 72:1, 20)

Up until recently, I had always simply read the final verse of Psalm 72 as an indication that the collection of Davidic prayers was complete – perhaps an indication that an earlier edition of the Psalter concluded with this psalm. Of course, in the Book of Psalms as we now have it, one finds a number of other Davidic psalms after Psalm 72. I read it, therefore, as nothing more than old scaffolding of the developing structure of the Psalter that someone had forgotten to remove once the collection as a whole was finished (mid 4th century BCE?).

While I still believe that this verse may have originally had this significance, I now read it differently in the light of the heading of Psalm 72 (“for Solomon”) and in the light of the Psalter as a whole. The fact that this psalm is dedicated to Solomon points to the moment when Solomon succeeded David as king, i.e. at the time of David’s death (1 Kings 1). Could this have been David’s deathbed prayer – a prayer for his son and for the success of his reign? The content of the psalm is certainly fitting for such an occasion. The prayer asks God to grant the new king wisdom and compassion for the people of God, especially for the poor and oppressed. It asks that God would guide him to exercise his power for justice and for the cause of the marginalized, the mistreated, and the poor.


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A Meditation on Psalm 89

Kevin J Youngblood
 

Blessed are the people who know the festal shout,

who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face,

16 who exult in your name all the day

and in your righteousness are exalted.

(Psalm 89:15-16)

I never cease to be amazed at what a profound impact the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:24-26 had on the Psalter. Dozens of these prayers and hymns allude to this benediction as they unpack its significance for Israel’s every-day life. Obviously, for the psalmists, this benediction was no mere liturgy, no mere formality. They took it very seriously and thought deeply about its implications. The psalms that allude to Numbers 6:24-26, therefore, may be thought of as a kind of commentary on this priestly blessing.

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Meditations on Psalm 87 and 90

Kevin J Youngblood
 

On the holy mount stands the city he founded;

the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.

Glorious things of you are spoken, O city of God. Selah

Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon; behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush—

“This one was born there,” they say.

And of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”; for the Most High himself will establish her.

The Lord records as he registers the peoples, “This one was born there.” Selah

(Psalm 87)
 

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world,

from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

(Psalm 90:1-2)

The hymns of the Psalter strike a remarkable theological balance seldom witnessed elsewhere within a single book. Psalms 87 and 90 are a perfect example. Psalm 87 is difficult for Christians to relate to due to its over-the-top enthusiasm for physical space, its unrelenting insistence that YHWH loves Zion best. Jerusalem is, after all, where YHWH chose to live among the tribes of Israel. The psalm makes YHWH sound like a devoted New Yorker (“Start spreading the news. I’m leaving today. I want to be a part of it, New York, New York.”) or any resident of the state of Texas (“The stars at night shine big and bright deep in the heart of Texas”). Such loyalty to a particular city and determination to reside there seems inappropriate for YHWH on at least two grounds: first YHWH is omnipresent and, therefore, supposedly not located in any particular place that can be found on a map; second, YHWH loves all of his creation, all nations and cities and therefore, supposedly, cannot favor one over the others. Thus, Psalm 87 smacks of the kind of ethnocentrism and tribalism that is roundly condemned elsewhere in Scripture, especially the NT.

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