Weekends With the Word is continuing to trek through the so-called “Wisdom Literature” of the Bible, digging for words of encouragement and comfort for healing, forgiveness and joy-filled living. Whatever seems to speak to me is what I’ll highlight here, which is also to say, if it doesn’t speak to me it won’t be highlighted here!
“Wisdom Literature” refers to those pieces of Biblical text that impart some kind of advice or wisdom about living a faithful and good life, from one person (a sage or elder or priest) or generation to another. We’ve already spent time pondering Proverbs, Sirach, and the Wisdom of Solomon, as well as the first seven Psalms in the Wisdom tradition.
This is the second weekend we’re pondering in the Psalms of the Wisdom tradition. Not all Psalms are considered part of the wisdom tradition. In fact, there are many different kinds of psalms: lament, hymns of praise, thanksgiving, prayers for help, and instruction. About 12 psalms have been identified as belonging to the wisdom tradition as I mentioned last week. This week I’m focusing on Psalms 107.17-32, 119, 131, 144.3ff, and 147.8ff.
Please note that while a specific set of verses are noted above as being part of the Wisdom tradition, I find it more helpful to myself to read the psalm in its entirety. And as you’ll se below, the verses that seem to call my attention would have been missed if I hadn’t chosen to read the full psalm. I’ll give thanks to my Hebrew Bible professor for suggesting that one always read the full text. (Thank you, Dr. Craven!)
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress…For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.(6&9) . . . he brought them out of darkness and gloom, and broke their bonds asunder.(14) . . . he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction.(20) . . . he made the storm be still and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. (29-30) . . . He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. And there he lets the hungry live, and they establish a town to live in; they sow fields, and plant vineyards, and get a fruitful yield. By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their cattle decrease.(35-38) ~Psalm 107 (verses marked)
My Take: Again, I didn’t look in to why only a section was identified as Wisdom literature. It is a treasure! A testimony to God’s saving grace for all who call on God. It is a psalm of thanksgiving and fills me with such great hope for the future and for healing as it recounts how God takes every difficult situation and turns it for good. There is nothing too difficult for God! There is a refrain of thanksgiving throughout it, stated slightly differently. My favorite of thanksgiving is verse 21-22: Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.
Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word. (74) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (105) Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it. (140) ~Psalm 119
My Take: Psalm 119 is the longest psalm, 176 verses! It is an acrostic (meaning in this case, each stanza is started by a letter from the Hebrew alphabet). It is a prayer for help, but I think it doesn’t speak to me so much because it is a long, drawn-out tale of self-justification. There are still lines that call to me, but for the most part I am distracted by the psalmists attempts at making himself worthy. Maybe it bothers me because I also want to feel worthy and loved, or simply because I love God. I’m not sure. I continue to hope though, and to look for encouragement and comfort in scripture.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me. ~Psalm 131:2
My Take: I’ve done a lot of this over the months, and as I think back a year ago at this time, when I was in IMRT; I really did a lot of calming and quieting and trusting in God that I was doing the right thing. This psalm is so short, but so full of trust.
Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; my rock and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge . . . Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down; touch the mountains so that they smoke. Make the lightning flash and scatter them; send out your arrows and rout them. Stretch out your hand from on high; set me free and rescue me from the mighty waters, from the hands of aliens. ~Psalm 144.1-2a, 5-8a.
My Take: I don’t normally find appeal in battle language, but then I was drawn in by how these words spoke to me about getting rid of the tumor, and I saw the familiar words my church uses so often in worship (stronghold, in particular), I found meaning for me. And then when I could imagine the mountains and smoke and lightning, it transported me to the mountains of western North Carolina, to a place where I feel healing taking place…just those feelings help me sense being set free and rescued.
He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars, he gives names to them all. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. The Lord lifts up the downtrodden . . . the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. ~Psalm 147.3-6a, 11
My Take: Do I even need to explain the comfort found in knowing God heals broken hearts? And the stars! Well, I just have such a connection with stars, and the idea of naming them shows how important they are. If stars were not of such great importance, they wouldn’t need names. My favorite place to commune with God is under a star-filled sky. And then there is God’s understanding! God understands everything, even my desires for healing, forgiveness, restoration, everything. And the Lord has a special heart for those who are downtrodden and who still love God. How’s that for encouragement and hope?! I think this one must be my favorite for today.
Quotes sourced from HaperCollins NRSV Study Bible, emphases mine