In preparation for our recent concert on the Psalms, I asked the members of the choir to write down which Psalm is their favorite and why. Their comments were so encouraging that I thought you all would like the opportunity to read some of them. The choir as a whole was blessed in our preparation for the concert as we sang the words of Psalms 98, 121, 23, 130, 51and 84 over and over again each week. Familiarity brought warmth and life to the words as they increasingly became a part of us. We encountered the joy of praising the Lord with His own words, the deep wells of lament, the brokenness of repentance, and we were renewed in our confidence in the Lord of Hosts, our Shepherd, our Refuge, our Helper and Keeper. Here are some thoughts on particular Psalms. Which Psalm is your favorite?
Psalm 1 has probably been my favorite psalm since college. I have enjoyed singing it in church, over the years, as the familiar words are always new and refreshing to me. In the Psalm, the writer contrasts the righteous and the wicked. He gives us two vivid examples to ponder. I was reminded of these verses recently when we were in the country. Standing in a field, I plucked a head of wheat to see what the seeds looked like. No sooner than I had it in my hand, the chaff started blowing in all directions. Immediately, I thought of this verse – “But they (the wicked) are like chaff which the wind blows away”. (v.4) Then, as I looked at the trees around me, I was reminded of this verse: “He (the righteous) will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” (V.3) In summary, “The way of the wicked will perish,” (v.6), “But blessed is the man whose delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (v. 1&2) In Neil’s wedding band are inscribed in two words – Psalm One.
Psalm 51 has always been special to me. Many of us know the story of David and Bathsheba and how God sent Nathan to bring David to repentance. Well, I have my own “Nathan” in my life. My sophomore year at MSU, I was going through some very difficult times, slipping into depression and wanting to control areas that I couldn’t control. That spring, I sat down in my new history class and recognized a girl that had also been in my previous semester’s class. One day this girl said, “I think you live by me.” You may be thinking that this would be common on a university campus. However, no one could see my apartment from the road. You literally had to know that the apartment existed to say you knew where I lived. What evolved from that statement was a friendship. What came from that friendship was an invitation to RUF where I heard the Gospel for the first time. I had “graced” the pews of a church my entire life (Free Will Baptist) but I didn’t know Christ. I don’t know how long after I started attending RUF that I had the “infamous” Brian Habig (RUF campus minister) talk. He had a gift for really getting to the heart of the issue. I remember sitting in the middle of the university bakery with tears streaming down my face. There I realized that I didn’t need the world or society to define who I was or where my hope/freedom should be; only through Christ could I find true freedom and security. This was the turning point in my life. Today, as I reflect, I am amazed to think about how our Sovereign God literally placed Amy in two of my classes at such a precise moment in my life, how I just “happened” to start renting an apartment from the Eshee family, and how Amy literally lived right around the corner from me. All these details are not by chance. I also can’t help but be in awe that when so many in my family are unbelievers, God chose me!!!! Amy is my “Nathan” and I pray that one day I may be someone else’s “Nathan.”
Mary Hope Bryant
Psalm 88 is an unusual “favorite psalm” because it is kind of depressing, but that is why I love it. The speaker, though he is a believer, feels lonely, abandoned by his friends, guilty, overwhelmed, and even assaulted by God. He sees no light at the end of the tunnel, no hope to ease his suffering. In fact, the psalm ends by saying, “You (God) have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; darkness is my only companion.” He knows God is gracious, wonderful, wise, etc. He is aware of the fact that God is a source of comfort and mercy to the troubled. But his experience is the opposite. And yet - God could put that believer’s experience in Scripture because, despite what the speaker felt at that moment (however long that moment was), God had guaranteed hope for him in Jesus Christ. I am thankful for this honest, despairing believer’s song, because I have had periods in my life in which I was not cognizant of God’s grace and care, and in which I felt incapable of escaping my own sin. This psalm reassures me that those experiences do not change God’s great love for me or his salvation of my soul. Instead, in ways beyond my understanding, they are actually part of his gracious provision, and no amount of weakness on my part can change the fact that he loves me and has redeemed my soul for his eternal kingdom.
Many entire books have been written about the beauty and truth of Psalm 23 so speaking about it in 2-3 minutes is like having a quarter of one of those little Sam's quiches and calling it an appetizer. But here is a taste for you to meditate on and consider later. Psalm 23 is my favorite Psalm not just because it is true, beautiful, and comforting. It is all those things. But even more because in six short and beautifully crafted verses it encompasses the entire gospel and the entire Christian life. It speaks of the shepherd meeting my deepest need: soul restoration--which Christ purchased for me by walking through the Valley of the Shadow of death. It speaks of the shepherd's work in my sanctification, leading me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of his great name and glory. It speaks of the glorious ending--which is the real beginning--dwelling in the house of the Lord forever. Consider too the position and presence of our good shepherd, Immanuel: leading us in paths of righteousness, with us in the Valley of the Shadow, pursuing us with his goodness and mercy, and ultimately allowing us redeemed sinners to sit at his victorious banquet table in the presence of His and our enemies, declaring for all eternity: "She's with me." In my own wobbly and storm-tossed journey to the Celestial City, God has used these magnificent words which signify wonderful solid realities to lead, keep, pursue, strengthen, comfort, discipline, and rescue me.