In 1947, a thrilling discovery was made in a cave near the Dead Sea, Israel. The two oldest known copies of the book of Isaiah, and some of the Psalms known as the ‘Thanksgiving Hymns’, were found in clay jars, wrapped in linen, and perfectly preserved in the dark, dry conditions of the cave. Scholars all over the world eventually gained access to photos of all the scrolls and were able to note if there were any differences to manuscripts written hundreds of years later.
As I was reading Psalm 145 in my ESV Bible a few days ago, my attention was drawn to verse 13, which says, ‘Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. (The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works)’. There was a footnote which explained that the bit in brackets occurs in only one Hebrew manuscript, but is found in the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Even though there are complex arguments from some people about whether the last part of verse 13 should be there or not, I find it a beautiful description of what God the Father is really like. It agrees so well with verse 8, which says, ‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love’, and with verse 14 which says, ‘The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down’.
The next couple of days I found further uplifting and encouraging descriptions of the character of Father God in Psalms 146 and 147. ‘He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous’ (Psalms 146:7-8). ‘He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds’ (Psalms 147:3).
All these psalms point to how we should respond to our loving, heavenly Father. Psalm 145 is called ‘A Song of Praise’ and is attributed to David. In verses 1-2, he says, ‘I will extol you, my God and King’, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever’. In verse 21, he says, ‘My mouth will speak of the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever’.
In Psalm 147:1, the psalmist says, ‘Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting’. Later, in verse 7, it says, ‘Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre’.
Maybe your circumstances are disturbing and spiritually dark. Maybe you are suffering all kinds of difficulties and sorrows. It is so easy then to go down into a state of depression. But here is the answer for us all. We are to think about what God is really like, and the good things He does, and then give Him thanks and praise. This is a whole lot easier to do in a gathered community of meetings with other Christian believers. Here we can sing our praises to the Lord together, and the Bible tells us that the Lord inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). I’m sure this is what the psalmists had in mind for the people of Israel when they wrote the words of the psalms.
Yet there are times when we are alone, but we can still focus on praising the Lord. A long time ago, a friend of mine told me that she and her daughter were going through a terrible crisis one night. They decided to sing through all the songs in a booklet we always used in our prayer group meetings. They found it lifted their spirits and calmed their fears. I have tried it myself during times of sorrow and stress and found it is the best thing to do.
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