9 May 2016

Psalms and Raw, Unadulterated, Grace … What the Spirit Has Taught Me Thru Immersion in the Psalms

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Grace, Hebrew Bible, Psalms

136psalmPsalms and the Spirit of Grace

From the beginning, Jews and Christians have instinctively known there is something special about the book of Psalms. Lovers of Yahweh from other biblical writers, to Jesus, to the monks in caves, to Luther, to Bono and Eugene Peterson have prayed, meditated upon, sang and ruminated on the Psalms. They have been called the Little Bible, the Mirror of the Soul, and the “soul of the people of God.”

Making a Spiritual habit of letting these God words flow over and thru us, gives the Holy Spirit “permission” to do remarkable things to our way of looking at the world and ourselves.  There are many that will resist the practice of simply reading the Psalms prayerfully from beginning to end over and over. But as Thomas Merton once noted, the Psalms “warrant lectio continua.” That is, they are worthy of simply washing over our hearts and minds daily, drinking the whole Psalter and letting the Spirit that gave the words mold us and shape us into Messianic people.

While at the recent 2016 Pepperdine Bible Lectures, I had the opportunity to walk with the Psalms on the beach between 5:30 and 6 twice and once from the Garden of Heroes. What beautiful places to enter into the Bible’s “sanctuary” (Psalms).  In the Garden of Heroes, as I finished praying, I reflected on how the Spirit has taught me grace in the Psalms. Sometimes learning grace has been painful recognition that I, yes even me, stand in need of mercy and grace because I am not nearly as smart, nearly as righteous, and do not worship, walk or understand the Bible nearly as well as I think I do. Grace in Psalms is humbling but that humbling is also liberating and produces joy in the Lord of all grace.

And the Psalms are like a honeycomb that pours out grace unapologetically.

What follows is ten ways the Psalms inoculate us against legalism by putting transfusions of grace directly into the blood stream of the people of God who plug into the river of God’s Spirit in the Psalter.  Just remember some of the greatest preachers of grace in history have been saturated in the Psalms … Jesus, Paul, Peter, Augustine, Luther, Barth, Bonhoeffer and many many more.  As we sometimes sing “deeper than the ocean and wider than the sea” is God’s grace.  The Psalms remind us of the priority of Yahweh’s grace in biblical faith.

Grace Lessons from the Holy Spirit in the Psalms

1) The Psalms constantly remind me that long before I had faith, long before I decided to follow him, long before I was even born … Yahweh had already Graced me. Psalm 75; Psalm 77; Psalm 114; Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills –
from where will my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep … (Ps 121)

2) The Psalms constantly remind me that my standing within the family of God is a matter of God’s grace and not my righteousness, holiness, or anything else. Psalm 8; Psalm 23; Psalm 32; Psalm 66; Psalm 107; Psalm 126; Psalm 130, etc

Out of the depths I cry to you,
O LORD,
LORD hear my voice!

If you, O LORD, kept a record of iniquities
LORD, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you … (Ps 130)

3) The Psalms force Israel to practice the confession that they (we) NEVER were faithful. I wonder what would happen in our churches if we regularly went before God to confess that our grandparents were faithless. That our parents were faithless. That we are faithless. The Psalms force us to be honest with the magnitude of our faithlessness. Our righteousness is literally filthy rags. How different Christians would be if we genuinely believed that we bring nothing worthy to God. We do bring our rebellion. Psalm 32; Psalm 51; Psalm 65; Psalm 78; Psalm 81; Psalm 106; Psalm 124; etc

Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people,
help me when you deliver them …

Both we and our ancestors have sinned;
we have committed iniquity, have done wicked things …
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake ... (Ps 106)

4) The Psalms taught me that God’s grace for Israel/People of God is supposed to inspire awe and worship among the pagans … not self-righteous, judgmental, attitudes. Psalm 93; Psalm 95; Psalm 98; Psalm 111; Psalm 117; Psalm 149, Psalm 150, etc

O sing to the LORD a new song
for he has done marvelous things …
He has remembered his steadfast love (hesed)
and faithfulness …
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth … (Ps 98)

5) The Psalms teach me that I can be wrong and still be on God’s side. Being right was never the criteria for being God’s people. Psalm 105; Psalm 106; Psalm 136; and I will place the longest of all psalms here, Psalm 119

I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
seek out your servant
for I do not forget your
commandments (Psalm 119)

6) The Psalms teach me that a true experience of grace results in joyous praise for the goodness of God. Psalm 29; Psalm 84; Psalm 135; Psalm 149, etc

For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the
house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
FOR  the LORD God is a sun and a shield;
he bestows grace and honor … (Ps 84)

7) The Psalms teach me that Yahweh’s Hesed is higher than the skies and deeper than the oceans and new every morning. They taught me his grace is greater than my sin. Psalm 33; Psalm 107; Psalm 136, etc

O give thanks to the LORD, for
he is good;
for his steadfast love (hesed) endures forever.

Some wandered in desert wastes …
Some sat in darkness and gloom …
Some were sick through their sinful ways …
Some went down to the sea in ships …
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble
and he brought them out of their distress …

Let those who are wise give heed to these things
and consider the steadfast love (hesed) of
the LORD. (Ps 107)

8) The Psalms teach me that the most studious stickler for God’s word is still in desperate need of, and crying out for, God’s grace to understand his word as it should be and for his dire sin and faithlessness. Ps 119

I treasured your word in my heart
so that I may not sin against you.
Teach me your statutes …
Open my eyes, so that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law …
Teach me, O LORD …
Before I was humbled,
I went astray …
Let your mercy come to me …
I am yours, save me …
Your word is a lamp to my feet …
Make your face shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes … (Ps 119)

9) The Psalms teach me that every breath we take, every moment we have, every sunrise, every sunset, every animal, every tree we see is a sermon on God’s grace. Psalm 19; Psalm 33; Psalm 65; Psalm 104, etc

Praise the LORD with the lyre …
Sing to him a new song …
For the word of the LORD is upright
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his steadfast love (hesed)
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made … (Ps 33)

10) The Psalms teach me that the greatest blessing a human can experience is to behold the beauty of the LORD. Wow what grace. Grace is the gift of God himself to his Graced people. The Psalms teach me that I am never – ever – worthy to behold his beauty. I am here because before I was born God chose to grace us – me – despite the fact that I am from a people of unclean lips, and am myself sinful from time I can remember. Psalm 27; Psalm 73; Psalm 84.

One thing I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
and to behold the beauty of the LORD,
and to inquire in his temple …
Your face, LORD, do I seek. (Ps 27)

Conclusion: Grace in the Raw

The Psalms proclaim the raw unadulterated truth of God’s grace. I suspect one reason we have a habit of not “living in the Psalms” because they reveal the truth about who we really are. We prefer the illusion that we are better than “them” … and them can be anyone. Yet Israel had supreme confidence in the mercy, hesed, and grace of her Creator and Redeemer and so offered worship to him.

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The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (hesed).
The LORD is good to all,
and his compassion is over all
that he has made
(Psalm 145.8-9)

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