Psalms 1; 23; 46; 139: Songs of the Christian Life
Is there some Psalm that we all can say? Let us say it together. I think it begins: "The Lord is my shepherd." What is the number of this Psalm? Do some of us say as a part of our prayer at night: "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety"? It is a part of Ps. 4. These are very loving Psalms that help us not to be afraid or anxious, and make us feel safe and trustful in the Lord's care.
Say again Ps. 23, and notice how it seems to follow us through all our journey of life. It thinks of us as very little children when it calls us the Lord's flock in green pastures and beside still waters. It thinks of us as older children, learning and keeping the Lordís commandments when it says that He leads us in the paths of righteousness. The valley of death can mean times of trouble and temptation, but the Lord's words are the shepherd's rod and staff to protect and guide us. Even in hard times, the Lord prepares a table before us. He feeds our souls and sends us on our way to His heavenly home. Other Psalms have told us that we are pilgrims journeying up to the Lord's house. (Ps. 120-134)
Ps. 1, which some of us have learned, tells what to do and what not to do if we wish to be trees always fresh and fruitful. What is the river to give us life? You find this river mentioned again in Ps. 46:4.
Some of us are learning to find help in Ps. 139. We are never alone; the Lord is always with us, in the light and in the dark. "The darkness and the light are both alike to Thee." There are no better helps than Psalms like these for Christian boys and girls, for Christian men and women.
The whole Scripture is the Book of Life, and from beginning to end it tells one story of life. Also, life's story is told in miniature in short passages of the Word. See how wonderfully this is true of Ps. 23, as I have suggested to the primary children. There is a wonderful spirit of trust and comfort in this Psalm. Perhaps no other words have brought the Lord's comfort to so many anxious souls, and to souls troubled by the thought of death, as this short psalm. Other Psalms are also full of help. That is why it is important to learn many of them and have them always with us. It is well to keep a list of the Psalms we know and to say them often, at bedtime or in Sunday school, to make sure that we do not forget them.
Ps. 23 brings a comfort and trust that a little child can feel. Ps. 46 brings help not so much for little children but more for older boys and girls and grown-up people who are having hard fights with temptations to do evil things and are much distressed about them. Then God is "our refuge and strength." He will give strength to overcome. He will help us by His word. (Verse 4) Disorders and conflicts in the world sometimes alarm us. The Psalm tells us not to be anxious but to trust. "He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth." "Be still, and know that I am God." You will many times need this Psalm to help you not to be anxious, but to work on and trust.
Let us look once more at Ps. 139, which some of us have been learning. To know that nothing is hidden from the Lord is a warning to us to do nothing that would grieve Him, nothing which we would be ashamed for Him to know. We will not shrink from the Lord's searching knowledge. He can help us better because He understands, because He knows all. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
There are Psalms that tell of trouble and discouragement which are relieved when they are taken to the Lord. (Ps. 42; 107) And there are Psalms of victory and rejoicing. (Ps. 96; 100) Every experience of Christian life finds its expression in the Psalms. Notice how many Psalms end with thanksgiving, and the whole Book of Psalms. So it should be with life.
The intermediates have wider acquaintance with the Psalms, and we may speak of the Psalms in a more general way. No other book of the Old Testament reveals so much of the spirit of the Gospels. The Psalms have also the power of songs to touch the heart with humiliation and penitence, with courage and rejoicing. For thousands of years, the Psalms have been loved and their power has been felt. The penitence of David was external, the rejoicing of psalmists was largely for external blessings of victory and rich harvests; they had little definite thought beyond this World, but their expressions of penitence, of longing for God, of praise of His Divine perfection's, of thankfulness for His help are Divinely adapted to stimulate and to express spiritual and Christian emotions. The Divineness of the Psalms will give them power to express the loftiest emotions to which human hearts can ever rise. They even express the emotions of the Divine Human life.
Question may arise in relation to Psalms which express fierce resentment toward enemies, and invoke horrible punishments upon them. Ps. 55, 69, and 109 are of this character. The question arising in relation to such Psalms is the same which may arise in relation to portions of the Jewish law, a question which the Lord answered in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil. I say unto you, Love your enemies." (Matt. 5:38-39, 44) The Lord came not to destroy the law or the prophet, but He stripped from them the harsh terms of expression due to the unspiritual state of people of old time, and presented the eternal truth in its Christian and heavenly form. People of the old time had not learned to separate hatred of an evil from hatred of the evil doer. The Lord taught this separation as He lifted the sayings of them of old time into the light of heaven. The hardness of the letter in certain expressions of the law and of the Psalms wholly vanishes in the spiritual sense contained within the letter, in the Word as it is read in heaven. Read the unfolding of the spiritual lesson contained in the harsh words of Ps. 137:5, 9, concluding with the statement, "It is hereby meant, that he is blessed who disperses the falses of evil springing up in the church, which are here signified by the infants of Babylon." (E. 411)