23 July. Psalms 133-139
Most of the psalms in this batch are communal songs of praise. The first two are the remaining “songs of ascent” – see yesterday’s post.
The next two (135 and 136) are longer, and similar in scope, each being in three parts, praising God first for his acts of creation, then for his acts of redemption (saving Israel from Egypt) and then for his acts of protection (enabling them to defeat their enemies). The two psalms are very different in style, however, as 136 is written in cantor-and-response format, such as is found today in some of the popular Taize chants, where one singer calls out short phrases of praise and thanksgiving, and the chorus responds with the same line each time, in this instance “for his steadfast love endures for ever”. The point of such repetition, as with any prayer mantra, is to get the concept deep inside one’s thinking. If you repeat many times that “God’s steadfast love endures forever” it becomes part of your thinking, and this is a good basis for a confident faith.
The last of these, psalm 139, is one of the best known, and very different in style. It is a personal and intimate prayer, a conversation with the God who wants each one of us to know that we are loved by God as by a parent, indeed more so, for God knew us before we were even conceived!