December 2, 2015
My Bible study group at church has been studying the Psalms – the prayer book of God’s people from pre-Temple days through the early church. Not only do these prayer-poems connect us with Jewish and Christian worshipers throughout the ages and today, the Psalms also comprise the prayers and poetry read, memorized, recited, and prayed by Jesus and His disciples.
Think, for example, of Psalm 22, which Jesus spoke from the cross. Although He didn’t recite the whole psalm, the opening verses reminded His followers to consider each line as they wept. Most likely, this reminder of the full psalm brought hope. And, now, once we have heard the 22nd Psalm, the 23rd Psalm gains even more significance and offers even more comfort.
After reading the latter in our study group today, we had a fresh and insightful discussion as we compared various translations and talked about word choices, metaphors, and what we learned about God from the poem.
For example, the psalm begins with the reminder that, with God as our Shepherd, we have everything we need – physically, mentally, and spiritually. We have nothing to fear with God providing for us, protecting us, caring for us, and giving lavish gifts – a banquet where the Lord God treats us – you and me – as honored guests!
Wow! We should be honoring God with every part of our lives, but Psalm 23 reminds us that God honors us, welcomes us, and takes care of every need.
Many of these joys in fellowship with God had occurred to us at one time or another, but with our commitment to read, pray, and study the Psalms, we saw amazing details we’d never noticed. For instance, verse 6 tells us:
“Surely goodness and mercy shall
all the days of my life.”
In the previous verse, we’re in the presence of enemies – people who want to do us harm! And yet this psalm and others assure us that we’ve nothing to fear. Not only can we totally count on God’s presence to be with us, we can count on the Lord's goodness and mercy to follow us around!
Can you picture it? Goodness and mercy follow us. Goodness and mercy pursue us. Goodness and mercy stalk us!
Even if we’re surrounded by ill will, enemies, and evil, Goodness and Mercy WILL follow us all the days and nights of our lives.
Well, I hope this gives you an idea of why I wanted a separate book of Psalms to read, study, and use as my prayer book – maybe an edition with room in the margins to write “Claimed” and the day's date beside promises or space to make a note, such as writing “stalks” or “pursues” beside verse 6.
You might have heard by now that I also appreciate quality paper with pages sewn into a supple top-grain leather cover that feels great to the touch and should last for generations.
Searching the Internet, I found one such edition of Psalms that fits all of the above – and fits nicely into my hand! So I bought the Psalms in ESV (English Standard Version) published by Crossway for myself, but oh, what a great Christmas gift this would also make for other lovers of prayer and God’s Word. Praise God!
©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a poet, writer, and lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the Church in all its parts.
Psalms, ESV, bound in top grain leather