Seven Spiritual Gifts of the PsalmsAuthor: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Church, Discipleship, Faith, Gnosticism, Grace, Jewish Backgrounds, Psalms, Spiritual Disciplines, Worship
Early this morning I was sitting on the back porch with the Psalms. I am overwhelmed by the Spiritual gifts the flow from this book. The Psalms are essential to discipleship in the Way because of what they do. They are the Holy Spirit laboratory for the formation of souls – that is people of God. The Psalms DO certain things to, and through, the life of individuals and communities that – like Jesus – use them daily. Seven Gifts from the Spirit flow into, and through, our lives …
The Gift of Immersion in God’s Story
The Psalms confront us with God’s Story. This happens on several levels of the canonical book of Psalms. First is the “David” level. The “titles” of each Psalm is actually v.1 in the Hebrew text and always read. Though the headings are probably later additions they still connect the average person to various episodes of life that David, and all people wrestle with (see Pss 3, 7, 18, 34, 51, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 60, 63, 142 – a remarkably random series of episodes). The titles tug at us and say “Remember, this is a story YOU are in too.” Second, the Psalms place “us” in the context of the “big” story of God with creation, Israel and the world. We are reminded of God’s purposes for his whole creation, including the nations, beyond my little tribe or nation. It is a story of rebellion and God’s own grace. Psalms constantly holds these themes before the people of God. The Gift of the Spirit in the Psalms is that we are included in the story of the past and the future … God’s Story with his Creation.
The Gift of Thanksgiving
The Psalms teach us to be, as well how to express, thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is not something that comes naturally to most human beings – even religious ones. Ingrained in the fallen nature of humanity is the notion that somehow we have earned or deserve our “stuff” (whatever that stuff may be). But Psalms reminds us that even the air we breath is the gift of God’s own Spirit of Life. Psalms teach us to give thanksgiving to God. See Pss 27, 30, 34, 40, 65, 124, 138 to enumerate but a few. Thanksgiving is essential to any disposition of the soul/person that worships the one who has provided all. The Gift of the Spirit is thanksgiving.
The Gift of Confession and Repentance
The Psalms teach us to repent and truly know ourselves in need of grace. Self-deception is surely the fault of many a modern atheist but it is equally the trap of those who are serious about their faith. Routine immersion in these Holy Spirit psalms recovers our sense of implication in sin. This is the deception of the religious – it is always someone else that has committed the sin and not we ourselves. Our sin is lost to our consciousness therefore we pretend to be better than we really are. But Psalms prays us into a detailed awareness of OUR condition as sinners before God. Not them but us. Not just you but me. We are part of a long line of sinners standing in need of mercy. The Psalms force us to confess that we are rebels, guilty, liars, fools, corrupt and even lawless at times. In fact the Psalms place us in the “story of sin” that has been the history of all humanity especially those of house hold of God. Yes the Psalms teach us to repent … the historic church was clearly lead by the Spirit of God when it adopted the “Seven Penitential Psalms” to be prayed as a unit on a regular basis. They are Pss 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143. The Spiritual gift of the Psalms is bringing confession and repentance to our lips as God pours his healing and everlasting hesed on us.
The Gift of Channeled Anger
The Psalms teach us how to handle hate and anger. We can all agree that we should NOT actually hate anyone or have serious anger issues. But the fact is that fallen humans DO hate and they ARE ticked off about things – about real or imagined wrongs. The Holy Spirit does not allow us to deceive ourselves into thinking that “we” of all the people in world have some how escaped the poison of hate and anger. The Psalms refuse to allow us the illusion of DENYING this part of the fallen world that inhabits the hidden recesses of our heart. Dishonesty is never more “sanctified” among the religious as when we can lie to ourselves about the things that reside within our heart. The Psalms force us to articulate things we want to hide from God. The Spirit will no allow us to deny the truth. Rather thru the praying of the Psalms we give our “hates” and our “anger” to the One who can heal. In the Psalms the hate language is not directed to another human. It is given to God. We cast our burden upon HIM not another human. Such prayer allows the Spirit to “siphon” off the toxic waste of fallenness that lies buried deep within. The Psalms proclaim loud and clear that neither grace nor love are possible without both friends and enemies. The Spiritual gift of the Psalms is that it enables us to give God even our worst in anger.
The Psalms are the Holy Spirit’s vaccine for all forms of Gnosticism that so easily invades God’s people. Most religious gnostics have never heard the word and probably do not know what it means if asked. Gnostics have a low view of the material world and the public (private or personal is important in historical expressions of Gnosticism). The Psalms are the Holy Spirit’s antidote to the dematerializing venom of Gnosticism. The metaphors of the Psalms constantly affirm the preciousness of materiality, the sheer physicality, of all God has made. It celebrates God’s creation as expressions of his own wisdom, his beauty, his love, and his closeness to Israel. Spirituality according to the One who is the Holy Spirit is incredibly concrete and full of matter, flesh and bones. The Psalms show us why John opened his Gospel with the stunning declaration that the Logos became FLESH, the Logos did not become a good idea. The Gift of the Spirit in the Psalms is a love for God’s “stuff.”
The Gift of Community/God’s People
The Psalms teach us the importance and infinite value of God’s community. This is itself a very anti-gnostic thrust in the Psalms. The Psalms from Ps 1 to Ps 150 are communal and public. The Psalms force the person to identify with the “Great Tradition” of God’s people. The Psalm is prayed in the context of corporate worship. I am part of the community. That is the great assembly – the church – that is before the Mercy Seat of the Enthroned King. I pray with you. I worship with you. I confess with you. I receive grace and mercy with you. I NEED YOU to be what God wants me to me. I am part of a very long line of people that have prayed these very words – including Jesus. Community is not a option according to the Psalms. The Spiritual Gift of the Psalms is turning my relationship with God from a “me and God” to an “US and God.”
The Gift of Praise
The Psalms teach us to praise. Praise and thanksgiving are related but they are different too. Psalms identifies itself at “sepher tehillim” or the Book of Praises. All of the Psalms have some element of “praise” in them except Ps 88. Praise is for God simply because he is God. It is unbounded and unconditioned. The whole book ends with an “extended” doxology from Pss 145- 150. It is as if the Spirit is saying, if you pursue discipleship far enough it will end in the ocean of praise. Creation is our teacher in the praise of God in the Psalms. Simply because God is God, and we are not, makes him “worthy” of praise. Nothing reminds us of our creaturely status more than unbridled praise for the God of Israel the Maker of Heaven and Earth. The Gift of the Spirit is loosening the human tongue from its bondage to become the channel that God’s ruah flows thru and bursts into the praise we read in Psalm 150.
There are seven Spiritual Gifts that Psalms weave into the rhythm of our lives. They are Gifts of the Spirit. They are gifts that lead to the healthy formation of Christians who may even look like the Nazarene who immersed his life in the Psalms.