I will sing to Yahweh, because He has dealt bountifully with me!

I will sing to Yahweh, because He has dealt bountifully with me!

I've been suggesting that Psalms 1-2 present the lens through which the rest of the Psalms should be viewed, namely in their depiction of the "blessed" man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, and who "takes refuge" in God. I also noted how Psalms 3-7 appear to be cries to God for justice because these rules that have been laid out in Psalms 1-2 do not appear to be true when one observes the apparent successes of those who do not take refuge in Him. Psalm 8 is a psalm of praise, bracketed by calls to praise at the end of 7 and the beginning of 9. Psalms 9-10 are an acrostic, when combined, that deals extensively with the subject of God's justice.

Psalm 11 also deals with the subject of judgment, although the terms "judge," "judging," and "justice" do not appear in this psalm. The psalm is structured in two basic parts (Psalms 11:1-3, 4-7). It begins with a reiteration of the Psalmist's faithfulness to God -- namely the fact that he has "taken refuge" in Yahweh (Psalms 11:1). This is, of course, related to the blessing of Psalms 2:12, and echoes the claim of Psalms 5:11 and Psalms 7:1.

In fact, there are several parallels between Psalm 11 and Psalm 5 in particular:

"At Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for you" (Psalms 5:7)
"Yahweh is in His holy temple; Yahweh's throne is in heaven" (Psalms 11:4)

"The boastful shall not stand before your eyes" (Psalms 5:5)
"His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men" (Psalms 11:4)

"You hate all who do iniquity" (Psalms 5:5)
"The one who does violence, His soul hates" (Psalms 11:5)

And the ending verses of both psalms:

"For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Yahweh. You surround him with favor as with a shield" (Psalms 5:12)
"For Yahweh is righteous, He loves righteousness. The upright will behold His face" (Psalms 11:7)

Also intriguing is the statement in Psalms 11:4, where it says "His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men." The phrase "sons of men" appears to be a reference to the wickedness or sinfulness of humanity, at least during the early parts of the psalms. Psalms 4:2 asked, "O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception?" Psalm 12 carries this theme by bookending itself with the phrase "sons of men."

"The faithful disappear from among the sons of men" (Psalms 12:1)
"Vileness is exalted among the sons of men" (Psalms 12:8).

Later on, in Psalms 14:2-3:

"Yahweh has lookeed down from heaven upon the sons of men
To see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.
They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt;
There is no one who does good, not even one.

These similarities between Psalms 5 and 11, coupled with the fact that Psalm 8 is bracketed by calls to praise in Psalms 7 and 9, initially led me to wonder if there is some sort of small chiastic arrangement within the Psalms that centers around Psalm 8. Of course, further searches for evidence of such a chiasm have been in vain so far and it may be that such parallels are coincidental in nature anyways, but I am still open to ideas or discussion on that.

Psalm 12 seems particularly focused on the subject of "speech." In fact, since I have been reading the Psalms, the subject of speech is something I have noticing in numerous places, usually in the context of God's speech being contrasted with man's. Virtually every line in Psalms 12:2-4 says something about speech or the tongue.

"They speak falsehood to one another;
With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak.
May Yahweh cut off all flattering lips,
The tongue that speaks great things;
Who have said, 'With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?"

By contrast, in Psalms 12:6

"The words of Yahweh are pure words;
As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.

This illustration of speech is crucial, especially in the overall context of Psalms 1-2. Psalm 1 acted as a contrast between the righteous and the wicked, particularly in terms of judgment. That is why it ended with:

"Yahweh knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish
" (Psalms 1:6).

Compare that with:

"You, O Yahweh, will keep them;
You will preserve him
[i.e. the righteous man] from this generation forever.
The wicked strut about on every side
When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.

Of course, if God's words are to be refined as silver, why are the wicked strutting around? Why are they winning? Has God "forgotten" like they seem to have thought in Psalms 10:11?

"He says to himself, God has forgotten;
He has hidden His face; He will never see it.

It is possible that such questions may have prompted the lament of Psalm 13, which begins with:

"How long, O Yahweh? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
" (Psalms 13:1)

Psalm 13 is probably the paradigm for understanding how laments work, and it is easy to follow since it is so short. The structure is laid out as:

  • Psalms 13:1-2 - Complaint to God ("How long?")
  • Psalms 13:3-4 - Cry for help ("Do something!")
  • Psalms 13:5-6 - Affirmation of trust ("I will praise you")

Because the nature of laments runs so counter to the praying and singing done in modern worship, a prayer like Psalm 13 would seem out of place in the modern assembly (especially one that is used to Stamps-Baxter publications and a "Hoedown" version of the Crucifixion). Coupled with the tendency of many to view all complaining as irreverent, the odds of something similar to Psalm 13 being used in any kind of current worship setting are pretty small. Yet the fact remains that many laments and statements of complaint towards God exist in the Psalms, and Christians who accept the divine origin of Scripture should be more willing to question their own conceptions of prayer than the Psalmists. In fact, many of the laments seem to affirm trust in God, rather than just complaining for the sake of complaining. All of the laments in the Psalms (with the exception of Psalm 88) contain some affirmation of trust in God to resolve the apparent conflict between what He has said and what appears to actually be happening.

Thus, the "paradigm lament" actually ends with another call to praise, not unlike the ones in Psalms 7:17 and Psalms 9:1-2. It seems doubtful that the Psalmist's conflict was dealt with halfway through writing such a short piece, and it also seems unlikely that the Psalmist was just inherently bipolar. A more likely possibility is that he is either writing retrospectively after God's deliverance, or he trusts God to the point that he knows the problem is resolved simply on the basis of his praying about it.