One of the great things about journeys is the looking back on where you have been. In looking back you do not have to desire to remain back there but appreciate more a sort of forward motion of moving from the old into the new, from the known into the unknown and from your comfort zone into a place of challenge and I think that is where some people struggle when you speak about moving on in a journey they hear the word challenge and somehow it conjures up negative connotations. We are early in our journey through the Psalms but I want to take us back. I want us to look back to Tranent 1899 as I read the preface page from a book ‘New metrical version of the Psalms of David.’ By way of preface, I may give one reason for the following work. One day I met a gentleman from over the borders. He said, ‘I have been trying to read these Scottish Psalms of yours as sung in the Scottish churches, I mean and I find them the most fearful doggerel ever I tried to read. In fact’ he continued, ‘trying to read them puts one in mind of trying to walk on pointed sticks.’ I replied, ‘they are not Scottish Psalms at all, but English rather, seeing they were versified, if no altogether, almost wholly by an Englishman.’ ‘well’ was the rejoinder, ‘all I have to say is, more shame to old Scotland if she cannot find a son of her own to make a better job of them.’ I have tried it. The author. And the author of these words was a local East Lothian historian name Peter McNeill a forefather of our own treasurer Peter who dropped of this book to me last Sunday after the morning service and I thank him for doing so.
It is widely accepted that the book of Psalms can be taken as five books dealing with different aspects.
One breakdown suggests this; book 1 about humanity 41 Psalms, book 2 about deliverance 31 Psalms, book 3 about sanctuary 17 Psalms, book 4 about reign of God 17 Psalms, book 5 about word of God 44 Psalms.
I haven’t done such an in depth study of the Psalms to be really sure about the authenticity of this but the one thing that stands out to me is that the highest number of all the Psalms almost one third are centred around God’s word with a close second taken by looking at humanity. This whole train of thought will lead us to the first five books of the Old Testament known as the Pentateuch or the books of Moses, central to the Jewish faith. This coming together of God the Divine Creator and humanity the created, journeying together reminds of a song, ‘One of us’ by Joan Osborne that is played quite often on Forth 2.
What if God was one of us? Just a stranger on the bus tryin’ to make his way home?
If God had a face what would it look like? And would you want to see if, seeing meant that you would have to believe in things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints, and all the prophets?
Back up to heaven all alone. No, nobody calling on the phone. No, just tryin’ to make his way home
You may remember from last week that I said about different types of journeys we find ourselves on. Hoping the whole would end soon, wishing it had never started, or discovering pleasure and happiness in the surprise of the journey. Well today our journey through the Psalms takes us to marriage and I say no more. Many things have had to be rethought and rearranged over this year and quite possibly, with the exception of family holidays, weddings are high up on the list of things being delayed. The wedding we find ourselves entering in the Psalm is that of the King.
Probably written for a specific wedding day of a descendant of David. It would have been used again for other weddings. The king in these Biblical times was much more than many monarchs of today who act as figureheads of a nation. This king was more than a symbol. Collectively he was seen to be the nation’s Prime Minister, he would be commander in chief of all the armies and he would be the supreme chief justice. If the king turned out to be cowardly in nature the lives of his people were at great risk from surrounding hostile nations. If he was deemed to be unjust
he would lose the trust of the people. A king had to be clever in a political sense as well as in other ways. He had to be successful and thus assuring his people of prosperity. When wishing their king well the people were in fact wishing their nation and themselves well too. Seeing their king, their top man, kitted out in such finery for them was looking to their nation as a picture of success for others to behold. If their king started out on this journey of marriage in such a way they hoped for a happy and fruitful marriage, for in the mirror image of this they see looking back to them a stability for the future and a journey that just might well be much more pleasant for all. In a nutshell the king’s welfare represented the welfare of God’s people. Most of the Psalms were written during the time of the monarchy it is no surprise that God as king of Israel is a recurring theme. Israel would lead his people and he would appoint their kings. They would take righteousness to an ungodly world. We know that the time of the kings ruling over Israel did not go well. This part of their journey witnessed the fall of Jerusalem, the nation and its monarchy ceased to exist.
But we must also remember that the Psalm continued in use long after Israel no longer had kings ruling over them
and from this we can understand the ideal remained. On their from exile with no king ruling over them, they still had that vision of the ideal king who come and restore their nation, their people, to its former glory. The picture of the king in the Psalm is idealised. The kingdom of Israel was seen by the people as an earthly version of God’s heavenly kingdom and the king himself, like David himself, was as a forerunner of the Son of David. We see in the Psalm references to the coming King who is the Messianic King. ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever.’ in verse 6 aligned with Revelation 21:2‘I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.’