Finding Peace in the Will of God, connecting with God on an emotional level, uniting with God, finding the will of God. These goals can be achieved in reading the psalms, reading them as a spiritual discipline, where over time the reader is drawn into a deeper relationship with God, and in turn a deeper relationship with the world and people around them.
This morning I want to try and keep it as simple as possible. The Psalms, clocking in as the longest of the books of the bible, just a little bit longer than Jeremiah, the psalms can be daunting. How does one enter into such a rich and massive collection of poetry and songs and lament, Praise and thanksgiving
The good news is that, at least based on some of the feedback I got last week with the white board in the back of worship, is that folks here are at least a little bit familiar with the psalms, and my guess is there are a few folks that are very familiar with the Psalms, but again, being such a large book, its always worth revisiting and delving deeper into.
If the goal of the Psalms is to find peace in the will of God, how does that happen, what is it about the Psalms that allow for the divine-human relationship to flourish?
Again, I want to keep it simple this morning, so I want to start with the text of the 42nd Psalm 42, and read through it and feel it out.
It starts with an image of longing, of deep longing, of a deep thirst, that of a deer in the desert who is looking for even the thinest rivulet of flowing water. For anyone who has ever been really thirsty, really really thirsty, and I bet there are folks in this room who have been really really thirsty, deep thirst can be overwhelming, all consuming. It can become one’s singular thought, dominating the entirety of one’s being.
This is the way the psalmist is thirsting for God.
The writer of this Psalm has come to develop such a deep meaningful relationship with God, that the writer longs for God in this very way, the psalmist knows God will quench that deep thirst, that in the same way water gives and sustains life, God gives and sustains life.
As the reader continues, it is revealed that this deep longing is coupled with a deep sadness, of constant crying. The reader is not told the specifics, but again, through vivid imagery, the depth of the sadness is felt, it is known, it is something that the reader can relate too, of deep lament, nearly uncontrollable lament. The psalmist is seeking the will of God in the midst of all this, the psalmist seeks the subtle whispers of God for direction, the way a deer seeks a stream in the desert, and for whatever reason, the pslamist just isn’t getting those whispers, even the tiniest rivulets of God’s love and wisdom and direction.
And a single line can catch one’s attention, the psalmist’s soul not only thirsts for God, but the writers soul thirsts for the living God, not a historical God, or a God trapped in idols or confined to holy places, but rather a God who is active, who is felt, who is in partnership, who is known.
Is this not sometimes the life of the faithful, to know God will provide, but in the darkest hours, feeling so lost, unmoored, where the longing for God has become a singularly dominating thought.
The writer continues, remembering a time of deep connection with God, with a connection so deep the psalmist was bold enough to lead the procession to the house of God, But in this moment, the writer is wondering where those same feelings are, where is the direction, where is the confidence.
It seems to me the psalmist is seeking nothing more than a nudge from God, and as the Psalmist continues, he goes on to recall not God’s rivulets, but the opposite, he recalls God’s great deluges, God’s great storms, specifically water spouts, a kind of tornado, seen only in the heaviest of storms, I am sure this is partly out of frustration – of not feeling even the lightest drop of rain. And the psalmist, in one of my favorite single lines of the bible, recalls that God is so capable, so capable of a clear resonate call that God can get deep to call to deep, that the deepest recesses of the universe, that they hear the call and can speak of it amongst the other deepest recesses of the universe.
The Psalmist continues.
Another line emerges, one of profound understanding, that by day God commands steadfast love, in hebrew hesed, which is a kind of connectional, love rooted in communal universal justice for all, for by day, a person is in community, and God in in the midst of that community, but at night, when one is alone, God can be a song, a prayer, a prayer of thanks, thanks for existence, for being created, for one’s very life, given by God.
At this point it almost seems as thought the psalmist is thinking of his lament, of all the things the psalmist had said in the past, and is almost shocked by the depths of those lows, this seems to be a kind of response to the psalmist’s realization in the few lines that proceed these, that his life and everything that surrounds him, is owed to God, The Psalmist then goes on to ask himself, why? Why is my soul cast down, saying in essence, everything I have is through God, so my only path is to hope in God.
And thus emerges the good news, that even in the depths of despair that this Psalmist found himself, that the Psalmist was still able to come to find hope in God, in knowledge that praise will again be on the psalmist lips, that this time in the desert, it may not yet be over, but one day it will.
This is a profound trust in God, this is not the stuff of self help books or motivational posters, or bumper sticker phrases. This is a trust in God, a trust clearly earned, through the trails and rewards of a full life. I know I have yet to fully develop this kind of trust, in my own forays into the desert, I can not yet summon this kind of deep trust in God.
This trust, this trust that the psalmist has found, it comes through practice, dedicated intentional practice.
And the good news, these words offer their own practice, if one reads and mediates on the psalms, and finds those places of connection, where the imagery and the words move deep, where they stir something inside, the more one reads those psalms, the more one comes in tune with the psalmist who wrote them, more can the reader access the deep relationship the psalmist had with God.
Reciting the words, getting to know the pslamists, over time, it changes a person, it transforms a person, brings them closer to God.
For me, in times of trial, I can think of that image of the deep calling to the deep in response to the activity of God. When my soul is longing for direction, for that slight nudge, I can remember that others have gone through the same, that the psalmist has walked that path before me, and over time, I can hopefully develop the same trust in God that is displayed in Psalm 42.
For Peace is found in the will of God, and the will of God is found in reading the psalms and getting to know God, that deep connection the psalmist cultivated, it is offered in these passages, it is offered to all ready to embark on their pathways.