For over 3,000 years the Psalms have been one of the keystones of the worship of God’s people. All of the 150 Psalms that feature in the Christian Bible were first composed and sung in Jewish worship, and they are still prayed and sung in Jewish worship today.
Jesus, who was himself a Jew of course, frequently quoted from Psalms. New Testament references show that the earliest Christians used the Psalms in worship, and the Psalms have remained an important part of worship in most Christian Churches.
You may well have your favourite Psalm. A few years ago someone compiled a list of the most popular Psalms. Not surprisingly the No. 1 was Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd). Not far behind was Psalm 121 (I lift up my eyes to the hills - from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.)
One of my favourites is Psalm 46
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble;
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the
earth be moved,
and though the mountains tremble in the heart of the sea;
3 Though the waters rage and swell,
and though the mountains quake at the towering seas.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place of the dwelling of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her;
therefore shall she not be removed;
God shall help her at the break of day.
6 The nations are in uproar and the kingdoms are shaken,
but God utters his voice and the earth shall melt away.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
8 Come and behold the works of the Lord,
what destruction he has wrought upon the earth.
9 He makes wars to cease in all the world;
he shatters the bow and snaps the spear
and burns the chariots in the fire.
10 'Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations;
I will be exalted in the earth.’
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
The vicar of one of the churches where I worshipped as a teenager, Richard Bewes, paraphrased the Psalm and set it to the music of the Dambusters March – a very appropriate and stirring patriotic theme. It’s No.645 in our hymn books.
We had it at Evening Prayer one Tuesday in January, with the following reflection written by Peter Graystone.
In times of distress we try to trust God, but it’s so difficult when we can’t actually see him intervening. The psalmist knew that. He wrote about Jerusalem being shaken by an earthquake, but that the river which flowed through it was a sign of God’s presence (v.4).
You’ve been tricked! There never was such a river. It was and is an invisible river, detectable only with the eyes of faith. That river is God himself. Those who recognize it need not fear (v.2).
This is a psalm to return to repeatedly as our lives and our world pass through crises, which then become history. It speaks of how the God who sustained us in the past is the same God who will not let us down in the present.
We’ve flooded the bathroom and the world did not come to an end, and neither did our faith. We’ve fallen disastrously in love with all the wrong people, and we are still alive — and so is Jesus. We’ve lost our jobs and our car keys and our health and our tempers, and God is still bearing us up.
Our doubts and fears are not at an end But we can overcome difficulties because of the absolute commitment of the Lord of Hosts to be with us (v.11). And with that in mind, I suggest we all take a moment to be still and know that the Lord is God (v.10).
I love the third paragraph of that reflection. It bears reading again! However well or badly your 2020 is progressing, remember that God is with you and he will not let you down!
With best wishes