Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse
Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages
“We have heard it with our ears, O God; our ancestors have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago.” ~Psalm 44:1
Update from Acts: The great missionary remains in custody for “stirring up trouble.” His crime? Thanks in part to Paul’s church planting initiatives, the gospel is beginning to upset the established social order. Many Jewish people are becoming followers of “The Way” (Acts 24:14). We are listening to the songs of the old church (Israel) and of the new churches planted all over the world by Paul and the earliest disciples.
The psalmist recalls the “good old days” when God did awesome things for His people. And then he complains that in the present day, God has rejected and humbled them, even though they trust in Him (vv. 9, 17). We all know what the poet is feeling. We’ve experienced periods when we are being faithful to God with all our might but nothing seems to be going our way. Here we are given permission to express our frustration to God and to ask Him to bless us! “Awake, O Lord, Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever” (v. 23). What bold words! God, we have heard stories of your great deeds in the past. Come and do great things NOW. TODAY! Wake up and help us! Wow! Perhaps we need to pray like this more often when we want to see God do awesome things for us and those we love!
Here we have what some would call a secular song, although such distinctions are really hard to make when a piece of music celebrates anything God created. Psalm 45 is a song written for the king on his wedding day (see verses 10-11), but the Lord is present throughout the piece. The expression, “Your throne, O God,” conveys the sense that the throne on which the king sits is also God’s throne (v. 6). God gives the king his position for the purpose of serving the people. (In later generations, Psalm 45 would be used to convey anticipation for the arrival of the Messiah.)
In this poem, as elsewhere in Scripture, we see that it is good and proper to sing about everything in this world God has created. Songs about love, courage, beauty, and strength were understood as celebrations of the ONE who created and reigns over all these things. This poet celebrates perfume and palaces and princesses! All of this is beautiful because the Lord of all creation is the one behind the beauty! It is His world, His “throne.” Do not hesitate to celebrate beauty wherever you see it and to give God praise.
The renowned reformer, Martin Luther (1483-1546), drew inspiration for his song “A Mighty Fortress” from this psalm. If you lived in early modern Europe, the era of castles and kings, you could appreciate the importance of a fortress (v. 7)! A fortified castle protected by a well-equipped army provided security for both king and court in a tumultuous world.
The psalmist tells us that “the Lord Almighty” Himself is the castle—the fortress—that protects us when the world rages. Neither the poet nor Luther was opposed to armies or castles. But these things are not a definitive source of safety in this dangerous world. Our ultimate protection is the Lord Almighty! Only He can make wars cease, break bows, and shatter spears. Put your trust in Him! And praise Him for His protection.