Discipleship and the Psalms: Celebrating, Trusting, Hoping in God’s Love

Summer with the Psalms   Psalm 90, 33                     August 29, 2021

Despite the impression many people have of the Old Testament as the story of God’s wrath and judgement on the people of Israel, if we look closely at the whole picture perhaps we can agree with the psalmists who see that the entire story of God’s relationship to the world is more like a love affair.  Love, and more commonly stated as steadfast love, is the root of God’s relation to us all.  First, God creates out of love.  Then, God teaches out of love.  Then, God expects fidelity because God loves.  When the one God loves is unfaithful, God punishes (sort of like the parent who disciplines a child, saying, “I am only doing this because I love you.). In time, God forgives because God loves. God promises God’s eternal love to this world over and over again in the psalms.  As Christians, we hold fast to the truth of John, 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will have life eternal.” God’s love exhibited in forgiveness makes a relationship with God even possible. That forgiveness comes to us freely as a gift from God, and for Christians, is based on the sacrificial act of Christ on the cross.

Throughout the Old Testament, there clearly is punishment, wrath and judgement against Israel and Judah because of their waywardness, their prostituting themselves with other love interests that are not God.  There is even punishment on other nations because they refuse to fall in love with God.  This love affair is no secret.  This love affair is not romantic love, although it is not unusual for the psalmists or the prophets to describe the relationship between Israel and God as that of a wife and a husband.  The marriage metaphor continues in the New Testament as well, with the church being described as the bride of Christ.  Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians—”A husband is the head of his wife like Christ is the head of the church….”, and continuing with the admonition to husbands: “love your wives just like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.”

God the Shelter

Psalm 61, 34                    8.22.21

After a long day on the Appalachian Trail, it is a welcome sight to see the outlines of a wooden three-sided shelter.  The shelter is a place of protection from the elements, whether the cold wind in the fall or winter or early spring, or the rain any time of the year.  It is also at least a little bit of protection from forest animals of all sorts.  At least it feels like any animal could potentially come a lot closer if you were in a tent.  By making use of the shelter, you can rest, you can relax, you can be warmer and drier than you would be without the shelter.  A structure can definitely provide shelter.

In another sense, so can a mother’s arms.  During this past week with our grandchildren around and interacting with one another, I saw the “mommy shelter” in action.  Our grandson Paxton is 18 months old.  He loves to play with his sister and his cousin, mostly by taking the toy they are playing with to another place in the room.  He laughs and teases with adult family members and loves to run and climb.  Until his mother walks in the room.  Just a glimpse of her makes him cry uncontrollably and reach his hands out for her until he can find refuge in her arms, hugging her neck and smiling immediately.  It is very difficult to distract him, even with daddy, and he is inconsolable until he finds himself wrapped in the sheltering arms of his mommy.  We all recognize this as a stage of child development, and surely it will pass as he grows.   

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