Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
During this read through of the Bible, I am trying to read the Psalms interspersed between the other books so that I can focus on them better. I am doing this instead of trying to tackle all 150 Psalms at one time. This is working with mixed results, but is helping me to connect better with them, which is the overall goal.
Psalm 89 has a really good message in it. We read in verses 15-17,
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
Who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.
They rejoice in your name all day long;
They exult in your righteousness.
For you are their glory and strength,
And by your favor you exalt our horn.
Let’s look closer at this Psalm and what it means today.
Do you ever feel weak? I’m sure you do, everyone does sometimes. When we are stuck, or afraid, or even when we can’t open a bottle or a jar we are confronted with our weaknesses. God knows our weaknesses as well. In fact, God likes weak people. -Wait, what? It’s true, check out what he says (through Moses) of Israel,
The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).
Our God did not choose his people because they were great, but because they were weak and in need. The Lord loves us all, but some people don’t have time for God, or think that they don’t need God (though we all do). Because the Lord loves us enough to give us free will, he backs away from those who reject him (for the most part anyway) and instead goes to those who know they need him (or are at least more open to some help). Paul writes about this in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29,
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things- and the things that are not- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
What is weak, God can make strong.
How does the Lord strengthen the weak? First we must actually go to him. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30,
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Jesus takes away our yoke of sin and death and carries it on his shoulders. We know this because the Bible says,
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on him
The iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).
As we are all separated from God by our sins, we need Jesus to come and take those sins away. This way, no longer burdened by sins, we are able to live a more free life because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Speaking of Jesus, the Lord says,
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
And he will divide the spoils with the strong,
Because he poured out his life unto death,
And was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sins of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12).
God’s redemptive plan to save us from our weakness has been in the works since the beginning, and he even gave us a head’s up in Isaiah. This has always been the Lord’s plan.
Our God is strong. How strong? By his power the universe was created and existence has since been maintained by our Lord. No wonder Ethan the Ezrahite writes, “The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it” (Psalms 89:11), and “You arm is endued with power; your hand is strong, you right had exalted (Psalms 89:13). We need to remember that our Lord is all-powerful. Even nature bows to its Creator, we can read one example of this in Joshua 10:12-13,
On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:
“O sun, stand still over Gibeon,
O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
So the sun stood still,
And the moon stopped,
Till the nation avenged itself on its enemies.
Too often though, we forget that our Lord is so big and strong. So, we try to act in our own power. Sure, we can get some things done by our own strength, but against circumstance, nature, and many other facets of life, we are still very weak. This is why the Lord reminds us of a wise animal in Proverbs 30:26, “coneys are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags.” The coney (or rock badger according to my Bible) is small and weak but it knows enough to rely on the rocky crags it lives in for protection. We need to rely on the Lord, who is our protector. David writes in Psalms 28:7-8,
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
And I will give thanks to him in song.
The Lord is the strength of his people,
A fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
God is our fortress and our strength. He can be both our defense and also our offence. The Lord says of Israel’s enemies,
I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land (Exodus 23:27-30).
And the Lord fulfilled his promise and helped drive the people out of Canaan. However, notice that by accepting God’s power, you also must accept his plan of attack. The Israelites learned all about this as the Lord came up with some very strange battle plans during the conquest of Canaan, for example,
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in” (Joshua 6:2-5).
It doesn’t make much sense to attack without fighting, but that’s our God. We are reminded in Isaiah 55:8, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.”
Now, I am not saying that becoming a Christian puts on easy street- it doesn’t. Jesus even makes sure to note that our physical life might not change much when he says, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). Actually, Ethan the Ezrahite suggests that in the physical life, we Christians face even more opposition in Psalms 89:50-51,
Remember, Lord, how your servant has been mocked,
How I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations,
The taunts with which your enemies have mocked, O Lord,
With which they have mocked every step of your anointed one.
Well hold on here, if life doesn’t get any better, then why do we follow our Lord? First off, it is not wise to oppose the creator of the universe. Secondly, we have a God who cares for us in our times of need. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you,” and Psalms 55:22 tells us to “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” As for me, I cannot count the number of times I have been praying and suddenly I start hearing (from a TV or radio in the room),
When the sun shines, we’ll shine together.
Told you I’ll be here forever.
Said I’ll always be a friend.
Took an oath I’ma stick it out till the end.
Now that it’s raining more than ever,
Know that we’ll still have each other,
You can stand under my umbrella (Rihanna, “Umbrella”).
It sounds silly, I know, but it’s happened enough times that I can’t ignore it (especially considering I’ve only ever heard the chorus of the song).
So, just as we read at the beginning in Psalms 89:15 (“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.”), we have to learn to trust in God. It takes time and hardship to lay down our battle plan in favor of God’s plans and to stop worrying about things we can’t control. As Luke 12:25-26 says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” God allows us to go through struggles so that we may see our weakness and turn to the one who can save us, our Creator, Lord, and Savior. For though it is unpleasant; it will bring us to a greater appreciation of our god and his strength. Paul writes,
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
By finding our strength in our God we will no longer have to rely on our feeble hands and weak minds (compared to his), but instead I will put my pride in one greater than me. As Paul says, “Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:31).
So when tough times come, don’t try to solve everything yourself, but remind yourself with these words, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). For with him, all things are possible.
Praise be to the Lord forever!
Amen and Amen.
-Ethan the Ezrahite