Term 4 2019
“Psalms: The way of the righteous in the muck of life”
Psalms are poetic expressions of our relationship with God. Jesus prayed (and sang) the Psalms and the Apostles saw the Psalms as fertile ground for their teaching about Jesus the Messiah. The Psalms inform our prayers and our response to God as we navigate the difficult, joyful, easy and challenging times of life. For generations the Psalms have helped God’s people to speak to God in prayer with honesty and they have brought comfort in the “muck of life” to use a phrase from Dale Ralph Davis’ excellent commentary on Psalms 1- 12. In this series we look at a selection of Psalms that encompasses a wide range of the themes and situations covered by the book.
Hallelujah! Psalm 150 8th December
- Why do people praise things?
- “I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced … minds praised most, while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised least. … The healthy and unaffected man, even if luxuriously brought up and widely experienced in good cookery, could praise a very modest meal: … the snob found fault with all. Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise
almost seems to be inner health made audible.” ―C.S. Lewis, “Reflections on the Psalms”. Discuss.
- Do you think there is a link between a habit of praising things in general, and a habit of praising God? Do you think a person with a habit of fault-finding, is less inclined to praise God? Why/why not?
- Why praise the LORD?
- How would the original readers/singers of this psalm have filled out
a) ‘praise him for his acts of power’ (v2), and
b) ‘praise him for his surpassing greatness’ (v2)?
c) What can we add, that they did not know about?
- Verse 1 talks about where to praise God. How does this apply today?
- Psalm 150 speaks of praising God with music and dancing. What other ways can you think of?
- What helps you to praise? What hinders? How can you minimise hindrances and maximise what helps?
I Lift My Eyes to the Mountains Psalm 121 1st December
- The Psalmist looks to God for help. In what circumstances do you look to God for help? How about your not-yet-Christian friends and family members? When do they look to God for help? How about our nation and national leaders?
- There is an old saying “There are no atheists in a foxhole” – meaning in desperate times everyone turns to God for help. To what extent do you think this is true today? Was it ever really true?
- What do the name and title for God in verse 2 tell us about the distinctive answer the Bible gives to the question “Where does my help come from?”? What do each of these tell us about our relationship with God and his willingness and power to help?
- How do verses 3 and 4 add to our confidence that God can help us?
- Knowing that the nations surrounding Israel worshipped and were often fearful of the sun and the moon – how does this help us to understand the significance of verses 5 and 6.
- Verses 7 and 8 look like a guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen to God’s people. Do you think this is what the Psalmist is saying? Why? Could our “coming and going” include our own death? How do Jesus’ words in John 11:25-26 help us here?
- Imagine you are visiting a friend in hospital who is about to undergo an operation with some risk involved. How could reading this Psalm comfort your friend?
I Have Not Forgotten Your Commands Psalm 119 24th November
- Read Psalm 1 and Psalm 19:7-14. How do these form the basis of the extended Psalm 119? What themes do they have in common?
- Psalm 119 is an acrostic, with every line of each 8 line stanza beginning with the same Hebrew letter through the whole alphabet. How does this illustrate the place of human intellect and skill in the inspiration of Scripture?
- Read Psalm 119:1-8. What words does the author use to describe God’s word? How would you distinguish between the meanings of these English words?
- Read Psalm 119:169-176. How would you describe the emotion and mood of this stanza? What effect does this have as an ending or climax to the Psalm as a whole?
- Scan the rest of the psalm and notice how the word of God is described. Why do you think the writer repeats the claim “I love your law”? The biblical word for ”law” means “Instruction”. Can you honestly say that you love God’s law?
- Jesus says a person does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. What do you think he means by this? Can you think of an example of when you needed God’s word?
- Imagine you were imprisoned for your faith and did not have access to God’s word in any form. How much of the Bible could you write down from memory?
- As a group, write an acrostic psalm about the Bible with each sentence beginning with a letter of the English alphabet (in order A-Z). You may want to leave out Z!
Endow the King with Justice Psalm 72 17th November
- If you were the ruler of our nation, what would you want to achieve?
- If you were the ruler of our nation, how would you want people to pray for you?
- This psalm is ‘of Solomon’. For some background on Solomon, skim read 1 Kings 1:28 – 2:12 and read more carefully 1 Kings 3:3-15.
- The Psalms are divided into 5 ‘books’. Look at how the first four books conclude: 41:13, 72:18-20, 89:52, 106:48.
- This psalm is a prayer for the king of Israel. What does Solomon ask God for?
- If God were to answer this prayer, how would it affect
- The afflicted, needy and oppressed?
- The natural environment?
- The oppressor?
- The righteous?
- The king’s enemies?
- Other nations?
- The king himself?
- Why does our form of government have a system of checks and balances? Why is there no such system in Psalm 72?
- To what extent did God answer this prayer for Solomon? Skim read 1 Kings 9:10 – 10:29 and contrast it with 1 Kings 9:1-9 and 11:7-13.
- To what extend did God answer this prayer for Jesus (another son of David)? Is there more yet to come?
- How could this Psalm guide your prayers?
God is my refuge and strength Psalm 46 10th November
- What type of psalm do you think Psalm 46 is? Lament, praise, thanksgiving, something else? What is the main emotional thrust of the psalm?
- Psalm 46:8 asks people to come and see what the LORD has done. What has he done? What will he do?
- Why might the psalmist repeat the line “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”?
- Can you think of a time when you’ve felt the refuge and strength of God?
- Is it reasonable to ask Christians to not feel any fear? Discuss the pros and cons of feeling fear.
- What is the instruction in vs 10? What can stop us from being still with God? How might that effect our relationship with him? What ways can you make time to be still with him?
Do not rebuke me in your anger Psalm 6 3rd November
- The words at the start of the Psalm “For the director of music …” indicate that this Psalm was used regularly in Temple services. Read the Psalm and see what makes it stand out from the usual songs we sing in church. What does this tell you about our worship services? Do you think there is a place in our gatherings for songs that express the themes of Psalm 6? Why / Why not?
- In verses 1-3 what indications are there that this Psalm reflects a long time of suffering and difficulty in David’s life?
- David thinks that his suffering may be God’s rebuke or discipline. Have you ever felt this? What extra assurances do we have that David did not have to reassure us that we are not the objects of God’s wrath or anger? What place does God’s discipline have in our lives? (See Hebrews 12:4-13)
- In verses 4 and 5 on what basis does David appeal for deliverance? What is his main concern in verse 5?
- A major transition occurs between verses 7 and 8. David moves from weeping to “the Lord has heard my cry for mercy”. What difference would it make to how we use this Psalm if we knew that between verse 7 and 8 was a time period of years instead of days or hours?
- How would this Psalm help you to comfort a grieving friend?
- How would it help you to respond to a certain strand of “Christian” teaching that says God promises to bless you – if you are unhappy it must be because you have sinned.” ?
Why do the nations plot against the Lord? Psalm 2 27th October
- How would you respond to a friend who says churches should stay out of politics and stick to religion? What biblical principles would you use to support your response?
- Read Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 and note the similarities in wording and themes between them.
- What is the key to “blessedness” in each of these Psalms (compare Psalm 1:2 and Psalm 2:12)
- The judgment pictures in Psalm 2 has not yet finally happened. What does the New Testament say about this judgment? – i.e. when will it happen?, why is it delayed?
- Imagine you are talking with a Christian believer in a country with an oppressive regime that is persecuting Christians. What comfort can you offer them from Psalm 2?
- How does the picture of God in Psalm 2 differ from the common image of a kind old gentleman in the sky who just wants us to do our best?
- What reasons does Psalm 2 give for its claim that opposition to God is foolish and futile?
Blessed is the one who… Psalm 1 20th October
- What is the book of Psalms?
- “The Psalms were Jesus’ song book”. Do you agree or not? Why?
- Psalm 1 talks about two ways to live. What are they?
- Which attitudes, thoughts and behaviours lead to destruction? Which lead to blessing?
- Discuss the image of the blessed person in v3. Discuss the image of the wicked person in v4.
- Why is this psalm so black and white?
- It is generally thought that Psalm 1 serves as an introduction to the collection. If that is the case, what themes can we watch out for in other psalms?
- Brainstorm as many possible ways as you can, of mediating on the law of the LORD day and night. Is there one way you would like to try out the week?