1. What is this supposed to be about?

I used to avoid Psalms. That year, when I decided to read the Bible from start to end, I reluctantly and sleepily ploughed through it.

I couldn't understand what it was about. It was set in this faraway land of chariots and swords, wild beasts and deserts. It was repetitive and chaotic - all one hundred and fifty chapters seemed to be about David and others being constantly paranoid about their perhaps real perhaps imaginary enemies (was thinking about this a long time before I learnt anything about psych), then asking for their enemies to be crushed, and then moving between whinging about their fears and anguish, to random bursts of praise of how high God was, and how good he was to them. The praise and complaints were equally perplexing to me.

2. Poetry, and paintings with words.

Then one year, I read in a book that Psalms was loved for its richness in human emotions. So it was like poetry. Painting with words, and even with unfamiliar imagery, or events which are different to what we would encounter, the emotional landscape of the psalmists are what resonates with us, many centuries later.

So it was no surprise that I didn't like Psalms. I disliked poetry and literature for most of high school. Why waste so many words, write so elaborately, when it could all be so simple? Why waste time writing about war and love at all; and even if you have a message to the world, why not write in clear prose instead of confusing the poor students annotating your text with all this rhyme, rhythm, metaphors, alliterations and more. To me, it was so pretentious and unnecessary.

I guess rather unexpectedly, here I am often thinking about how to craft language, and jotting down many (what I would have considered to be) unnecessary words.

3. He was a writer!

During a sermon on a psalm of David last week, I thought about how this man of God, king of a nation, military commander, strong warrior, was also... a writer and harp player. How bizarre! What's more, his outpourings of feelings, his sins and repentance, his relationship with God, and references to life events, are deeply personal. Presumably, psalms were sung publicly, and not only written for his reflection alone. Can you imagine, a king's blog, or a leader making known his struggles and prayers to God?

In Psalm 55 we looked at how David cries out in fear and betrayal, then desires to "fly away and be at rest" (isn't that what suicidal ideations are about...). He cries out to God constantly, recalls God's justice, and finally concludes with, "but as for me, I trust in you".

In Psalms, the feelings of pain, hate, and fear are honestly expressed. Yet these emotions are dealt with alongside the remembrance of who God is - his greatness, holiness, love and faithfulness. One day I was trying to explain why I would take weeks to write stories for myself, and in answering, I realised that just as students draw mind maps to show how they arrived at what they learnt, written words can be a mental map of a journey, so that you don't have to start afresh, finding a new route every time. I think Psalms, parts of Job, and other such passages, are similar. They don't necessarily give an answer to why there is suffering, or provide a solution to our fears, but are a model or map for how to go about thinking, feeling and praying with the knowledge of God, in both troubled and joyful times.

It's good to know that words can be purposeful, and that writers need not to be indulgent narcissists or dreamers who toy with abstract ideas for the sake of it (I guess it depends on how you go about writing).

4. What did the old tunes sound like?

We went through a story in Judges in English class, and at the end of it, the teacher for that week got all of us sing the Song of Deborah to the tune of Australia's national anthem. Which was strange. The same words sung and spoken out loud felt different.

The words of Psalm 23 come alive so beautifully in a sung melody!

I love many songs, but find it particularly meaningful to meditate on lyrics which are closely based on scripture itself. How memorable are verses in a tune! Not being able to read much of the Chinese Bible (unfortunately), but in songs, I can recall 我要向高山举目 (Psalm 121) and 除你以外 (Psalm 73).

Another song I like (not in Psalms though) with lyrics almost directly taken from words of the Bible is Highest Place - amusingly, many time I can't read Philippians 2 without the chorus of the song playing in my head:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name above all names
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow
in heaven and on earth and under the earth
and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord,
To the glory of God the Father.



Design in CSS by TemplateWorld and sponsored by SmashingMagazine
Blogger Template created by Deluxe Templates