The Psalms reflect the human experience of banishment and homecoming. They are very much like our own lives now with times of scattering and gathering. We are a people in exile from God who knows us even before time began.
“I will gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, say The Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.” Jer 29:14
In the Psalms, we reach out to the Lord with poems of sorrow, grief, pain, expectation, hope. We chant songs of thanksgiving and praise to the Lord to be free from these haunting realities of life. Our lives reflect the human condition of the exiled and the gathered, the lost and the redeemed.
Israel’s psalms of sorrow and hope give authentic expression of life as it happens, life beset by hurt, loneliness, disease, anger, hate, strife and betrayal. They remind us life is not all pretending, not all glamour, or fanciful dreams and exaggerated romance.
The Prayers of Israel speak about and invoke the sacred reality: the journey from woundedness to healing, from death to life. Jesus makes that journey for us starting from the cross to rising in glory. Jesus from the cross in pain and anguish cries out words from Psalm 22:
“My God, my God why have you forsaken me? “And are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?
You are the Holy One, enthroned upon the praises of Israel. Be not far from me for trouble is near and there is none to help.”
For the marginalized and forsaken, these songs and poems awaken the desire for peace, justice, righteousness and a good life in the midst of a dangerous and soulless world. From Psalm 65: 5; 25: 5:
“Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness. O God of our salvation, O Hope of all the ends of the earth and of the seas that are far away.”
“Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting.”
Suffering is not the last word. Jesus comes to us “to seek and to save the lost.” We were lost in exile, now are saved, and redeemed by Jesus. That’s the good news, the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who embraces the meek and the broken, the humble ones swamped with heavy burdens.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28:
We are a people weary and burdened by the guilt of sins we commit. We are weary of the sins done against us, of the effects of sin in the world around us: sickness, suffering, and death. Jesus knows the depth of human longing for good news and our need for rest.
God favors the weak, not the spiritually proud or arrogant. Jesus embraces the meek and the broken, the humble who feel swamped with heavy burdens.
Martin Luther captured this in these words: “God receives none but those who are forsaken, restores health to none but those who are sick, gives sight to none but the blind and life to none but the dead.… He has mercy on none but the wretched and gives grace to none but those who are in disgrace.”
And this same message is all over the Bible:
“A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Ps. 51:17b.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3). “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6b).
There is a devotional feature of reading and praying the Psalms. They can nurture our prayer life. We can draw guidance and strength from the Psalms. The Psalms present humanity when most vulnerable and in pain, most ecstatic in joy and most sensitized to life.
*Based on “The Psalms, The Life of Faith” by Walter Brueggeman, 1995