On the Hundredth Reading of a Psalm

Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

stream

Reading the Bible can be a timely reminder of how the Holy Spirit continues to work, remaining the Christian’s source of Scriptural understanding through the ages. He continues to open blind eyes.

Several months ago, I noticed that Psalm 1 (which I have read many times over the years), while beautiful, had become somewhat stale–could it really have anything new to teach me that I hadn’t already noticed? Or so I thought, anyway.

As I was reading Psalm 1, I was thinking about how odd it was that this psalm speaks of a righteous man when elsewhere Scripture says, “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;”” – Romans 3.10. The psalm talks about a righteous person but another verse says such a person doesn’t exist? How do these two ideas reconcile with one another?

So I read the psalm, for what seemed like the millionth time. And there it was:

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The metaphor is what I hadn’t really examined before. The righteous man as a fruitful tree–that much I had comprehended before. But looking deeper, another aspect of the metaphor stood out: trees aren’t self-sufficient. They can’t bloom and flourish without nourishment. They are reliant on “streams of water” (and sunlight and good soil for that matter).

The point is this: the righteous man is only righteous because of the streams of living water that have flowed into his life. In Christ the Christian is righteous, a fruitful tree. Furthermore, the living water can often be seen in the lives of Christians. But whether this is specifically Jesus, Godly influences, or the Holy Spirit, the source of the stream is God.

Thus, the righteous man can claim righteousness in Christ, for in the end there was one righteous man–the man Christ Jesus.

Before Jesus ascended back to heaven, he promised a helper, a comforter, to his disciples. This comforter still works today, changing hearts, inspiring imaginations, and opening eyes so that, on the hundredth reading of a psalm, blind eyes opened.

On the Beaches of Troy

An Entry from the Journal of Odysseus

In the tenth year of the war with the Trojans.

I had forgotten how exasperating that Achilles is!  He’s a fool when running into the fight and when abstaining from it in his senseless rage.  Just now, the man finally let go his anger with Agamemnon and agreed to fight – only after Hector slew his friend, of course.  I thought the man had finally come to his senses.  But no, I hoped for too much; Achilles is as insane as usual.  What did he want to do after making peace with the king?  He was all for going to battle immediately!  When I tried to persuade him to let the forces eat first and strengthen themselves (unlike him, they had been fighting all day), Achilles declared, “I, by god, I’d drive our Argives into battle now, starving, famished, and only then, when the sun goes down lay on a handsome feast…You talk of food?  I have no taste for food – what I really crave is slaughter and blood and the choking groans of men!” (19:246-256).  That Achilles has no taste for tactics and craves death, not slaughter.  I tried a second time to persuade him, battering at his blindness with all Athena’s wisdom and logic that I could muster.  (I did not want him to be as ruinous for our side fighting with us as he had been while refusing to fight at all.)  I told him, “When could we find a breathing space from fasting?  No. We must steel our hearts.  Bury our dead, with tears for the day they die, not one day more.  And all those left alive…remember food and drink – so all the more fiercely we can fight our enemies” (19:270-275).  Only then did Achilles relent.  He let the soldiers eat, though he refused to do so.  I care little whether he eats or drinks.  Let him die if he chooses!  But I will not let him bring down Achaeans with him in his folly.

If Achilles continues to act like this, I may regret that he made peace with Atrides* and has begun fighting with us again.  It will take a lot of swordplay on his part to make up for his senselessness, in my opinion.

The fight resumes, and I must arm again.

 

*Explanatory note: Agamemnon is often called Atrides because he is the son of Atreus.

 

Works Cited

Homer.  The Iliad.  Trans. Robert Fagles.  London, England:  Penguin Books, 1990.

Music from the Bible

As a source of faith based lyrics, the Psalms have been a largely silent and untapped source by modern music -usually only sung during Sunday services, and even then many churches do not have Psalters or any form of the Psalms in their hymnbooks. However, Psalm’s set to modern music do exist and provide a refreshing way to hear God’s word spoken.

SonsOfKorah_700x467Named after the Levitical sons of Korah, the band “Sons of Korah” seeks to take the Psalms and set them to a variety of contemporary acoustic styles. The Psalm-based lyrics are the main highlight of the group. Every genre of the Psalms is covered -even imprecatory. I have found listening to the Psalms, even more so than reading, refreshing. The frank honesty of the Psalms -the hope, praise, pain, sorrow, and deliverance have not been lost in the Sons of Korah’s rendition, and they are both uplifting and hope-filling: a reminder of the greatness of our God while still acknowledging our own failings and the pain experienced so often in this life.

While the lyrics are great, the accompanying instrumentation is also good -albeit sometimes a little repetitive. However, the variety of accoustic sounds that the group uses complement the lyrical content well and provide an appropriate frame for the words. Some of the variety of instruments used by the band include guitar, steel guitar, electric bass, keyboard, drums, and upright bass.

While the Psalms are not incredibly prevalent in modern Christian music, Sons of Korah provides an outlet for those looking for the heart of the Bible set to contemporary music. Providing good vocals, a unique (though sometimes repetitive) acoustic sound, and solid renditions of the Psalms, Sons of Korah fills in a much needed gap in contemporary music.

 

Although they are mainly known for their work with the Psalms, the following song is also very good:

 

The band’s website can be found here.

An Ode to the Unread Books

O friends trapped within volumes, I promise I’ll dust you soon,

And get to those left unread — I’m sure in some blue moon!

The bindings make me happy, and the titles make me smug;

But knowledge left un-accessed is like wells left un-dug.

For the vessels may be filled all the way up to the brim,

But the storehouse will remain empty until I do begin.

May this year be the richer for every tome I read

And may my reading habits match the bibliophile’s greed!