Thursday, May 12, 2016

Beginning the study of Psalm 91

I just got back from giving an Association address in Washington DC, the fourth in four years. Each one was different and brought me much spiritual growth. I am so very grateful for this time of study and prayer. Nothing else is scheduled at this time so I was listening for what I could be doing to continue a daily focus. The answer that came was to study Psalm 91 one of the  most beloved of the Psalms.

When I begin a study in the Bible I like to get a sense of where it fits in the overall search for God. Psalms is placed just about in the middle of the Old Testament. It is a collection of 150 compositions described as prayers and praises addressed to God, not used for sanctuary worship. From The Reforming Power of the Scriptures I learned: "From the time of Moses through the tribal confederacy, the elements of this faith was transmitted orally, in the form of stories, hymns, prophetic oracles, poetry, and the wise sayings known as Proverbs. Although the art of writing had been practiced in the fertile crescent as early as 2000 BC these oral traditions weren't written down until later. The poetic psalms clearly sprang from deep feelings toward Yahweh. There were hymns of exultant praise, laments reached out to Yahweh from the depths of despair, and songs expressing the pure joy of life in Yahweh's courts.

Finally, a generation after the crucifixion of Jesus, militant Jews rallied for one last all-or-nothing effort to throw off Roman rule. The result was crushing defeat. The Temple was destroyed, never again to be rebuilt. Most Jews left Jerusalem for other lands in what has seen been called the Diaspora. Only a few stragglers remained. The only way to preserve any sense of national identity or unity in the face of these overwhelming odds was to preserve for all time the Holy Scriptures - the writings that recorded the unique love covenant between the Hebrew people and Yahweh. The Jews selected which of the many texts available  would stand in the final Hebrew Biblia, or group of 'little books.' And they arranged these books in an order approved by their Rabbis or teachers. So the Hebrew Bible, known to Christians as the Old Testament, was complete, as far as the Hebrew people were concerned.

In A Commentary on the Holy Bible edited by Dummelow, XXL is an abbreviation for The Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament. It attributes Psalm 91 to David.

Psalm 91 describes the safety of those who trust in God, and may have a special reference to the nation of Israel at a time when other nations were involved in calamity. The dangers that threatened Babylon toward the end of the exile have been suggested as a probable occasion for it.

Psalm 91 was very dear to our Leader. In 1898, Mrs. Eddy used the 91st Psalm for an address she delivered at Christian Science Hall in Concord. One of the local newspapers, People and Patriot, reported: "When the time came for Mrs. Eddy to speak, she stepped forward gracefully to the desk designed for her, and read the 91st Psalm, without using glasses. . . . She spoke extemporaneously, bringing out especially the theory of Christian Science applied to practical life, and she explained the doctrines of her faith with such simplicity, and yet with such choice language and richness of illustration, that the address was pronounced one of the most instructive and ennobling ever delivered in this city. (From the collection of The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity)

I look forward to spending quiet time with this Psalm and will study each verse, listening for inspiration and guidance for ways to make it a part of my life. I welcome any insights you might wish to share!

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