The Psalms Are For Us: Reflections
We may love singing the Psalms, but we can also just enjoy them as they come to us in Scripture, as poetry. The following is a collection of reflections written by Christadelphian about the Psalms that speak most loudly in their own lives.
The Psalms. What a gift God has given to us through this beautifully collected work. I have always been so curious to know the original tunes the Psalms were set to, particularly when a Psalm contains an interesting little preface such as Psalm 45, “To the chief musician—Set to “The Lilies.” I suppose learning the original tunes will be another Kingdom activity we can look forward to. And perhaps the most musical among us will have the pleasure of participating in a grand performance of the original scores!
In addition to the fact that the musical notation system we use today originated long after the time of David and the Sons of Korah, perhaps God kept the mysterious original tunes within their historical age to inspire creativity within each new generation.
Since no one can claim one “inspired tune” for a Psalm, we should feel free to come up with our own! The Psalms (and other parts of Scripture) have inspired musical compositions throughout centuries of history. These range from grand and masterful works such as Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” to simple children’s tunes made from one verse worth memorizing. Examples are those written by Seeds Family Worship enjoyed by my young daughter.
And did you know that parts of Psalm 19, which C.S. Lewis referred to as “the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world,”1 have been set to music by the likes of Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, and Handel?2
We may love singing the Psalms, but we can also just enjoy them as they come to us in Scripture, as poetry.
What follows in this article is a collection of reflections written by Christadelphian sisters and brothers about the Psalms that speak most loudly in their own lives. Some are more reflective of the themes within certain Psalms, some share very personal connections to these Psalms, and some are messages to the reader about truths to be found and experienced through the lyrics or lines.
I suggest reading through the rest of this article with a Bible in hand. For ease of following along, I’ve arranged the reflections in numerical order. You might choose your favorite Bible—perhaps a version you’ve been familiar with since childhood—or, this time, you might pull up a version you haven’t read as often and see if anything new jumps out at you.
I’ve been reading the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) recently and have enjoyed how it brings in an element of freshness while preserving much of the language I love and am attached to. Even the slightest change in phrasing for a very familiar passage can help us stay awake to the living words of Scripture.
We’ll start with a short walk through Psalm 23. I’ll go out on a limb and say most of us have learned this Psalm by heart. Because I committed it to memory long ago, it has been a handhold for me through the darkest valleys of my life. I’ll end the introduction on that note—with a plug for all of us to prioritize memorizing new Scriptures, at whatever age we are. Once memorized, we have these words as a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths always and forever.
Psalm 23: Philip Sweeny (Atlanta North Ecclesia, GA)
Psalm 27: Patricia Herdoiza Hernandez (Washington DC Ecclesia)
My favorite Psalm is Psalm 27. It speaks of not needing to be afraid of absolutely anything in this world since God is with us. How encouraging! The Psalm lists various scenarios in which we need not fear. My favorite part is toward the middle in verse 7 “Hear O Yahweh, I cry with my voice, have mercy also upon me and answer me!” This has become my favorite Psalm also because it makes me think of the travail of childbirth and how I cried out to God for help in both English and Spanish. Praise God, He got us through it! My husband Elías and I are proud parents to a healthy and happy five-year-old daughter named Camila. Lastly, Psalm 27 keeps us looking forward to our ultimate hope and destiny, to live in the house of God forever. Amen!
Psalm 34: Patty Chelius (Simi Hills Ecclesia, CA)
The Psalms are a lifeline for me! So often, I need their wisdom and power in my life. There have been times that I have felt I couldn’t survive without them. I have been in that dark pit of despair, that cave of darkness and hopelessness. And our dearly beloved David has been there as well. And he is here for you and me, encouraging us when we turn to the Psalms he wrote.
“The Psalms are a lifeline for me!”
Choosing a favorite Psalm is difficult. So many Psalms can lift us up and get us through whatever we are experiencing in our lives. Psalm 34 is a particular source of strength for me. This Psalm is filled with hope, courage, instruction, and strength and is centered on the praise of our Heavenly Father. Verse 4 says, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all of my fears.” Verse 6 states, “This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.” (ESV). The comfort comes from believing what David says in these verses. And that trust can be difficult for us at times. That is why we need to reach out to someone when we are in the dark caves. Don’t go through trials and doubts alone. We were not meant to suffer by ourselves. Troubles, sorrows, and disappointments will come in our lives, but don’t give up! God will get you through them, even when it seems so hopeless. Together we can work on finding the peace that comes from trusting in God.
Psalm 84: Maggie Schlageter (Schooley’s Mountain Ecclesia, NJ)
I have always found great comfort in Psalm 84. We see a beautiful picture of the house of God with space for even the most inconsequential. He will provide for us.
From the beginning of the world, God has provided for His children. The Bible depicts a heavenly Father that provides food, companionship, and stability. He also provides famine, isolation, and unrest. And that contrast can feel uncomfortable. When you are in the midst of trials, it can be so easy to question where God is and miss His presence.
In Psalm 84:11, the psalmist refers to God as sun and shield. Thinking about nature, a plant needs sun to grow but at a certain point, too much sun becomes harmful. With too much sun, a plant can become scorched and dry out. On the other hand, a shield blocks out sunlight and provides shelter, but with too much shade, a plant won’t get the sunlight it needs to grow. There is a time when the sun is good and when a shield is good, but these instances are not fixed or absolute. God has the perspective to provide for us the good we need and give opportunities for growth. “He does not withhold the good from those who live with integrity.” (CSB).
Psalm 84 talks about dwelling with God and longing for closeness with Him. It’s a beautiful reminder to me that inviting God into my everyday life will shift perspective, change my actions and help me to see His presence on both days of sun and of a shield.
Psalm 87: Levi Gelineau (Simi Hills Ecclesia, CA)
Psalm 87:5 in the ESV reads, “And of Zion it shall be said, ‘This one and that one were born in her;’ for the Most High himself will establish her.”
Psalm 87 has become more and more relevant to me each year since it first hit me in 2005, as part of the “Daniel” study at Manitoulin Youth Conference. I think belonging and identity, which can come from patriotism and nationalism, are things I deeply wanted at age 18 (in 2005) and things I would bet many of our young people are looking for today. The whole Psalm calls for us as believers and citizens of God’s future Kingdom to identify as being “born” in Zion. Many of us are “proud,” to varying degrees, of where we are from, or our local foods or cultures, and that can be harmless fun. But our real identity should be found in Zion.
“The Lord records as he registers the peoples, ‘This one was born there.’ Selah.” (Psalm 87:6).
Psalm 91: Kendra Smith (Simi Hills Ecclesia, CA)
Psalm 91:1-6 reads,
This passage has comforted me greatly over the last several years. There was a period in 2018 when my depression got very severe, and I was barely functioning beyond the basics of my daily routine. I was incapable of reaching out to people. But one day I read this passage, and it just resonated with me in a way nothing else could at the time.
The idea that God would protect and shield us like the birds of prey protect their younglings may not speak to everyone, but for me was a great comfort. The idea that I was being enfolded in a shadowy blanket of His love and protection was something that stayed with me as I fought my way back to a healthier place.
Though it cannot be the only thing that you have in your toolkit, it was definitely one of the stronger tools I had at the time to work with. And then, over the last few years, the continuation of the passage reminded me that if it was His plan, we would make it through the times of “pestilence.” (KJV)
As with previous struggles, the mental image of God hovering over us and covering us in a protective shadow or wing was such a strong image. It was increased by the need for a reassurance that we were not alone in our struggles even if physically we were isolated.
Simi Hills Ecclesia, CA
1 C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1958), 63.
2 Titles and years of works featuring Psalm 19. Die Himmel rühmen des Ewigen Ehre (The Heavens Praise the Glory of the Eternal), Beethoven, 1803. Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (The Heavens are Telling the Glory of God), Bach, 1723. Die Schöpfung (The Creation), Haydn, 1798. Messiah, Part II, Handel, 1741.