October Covenant Lab: The Psalms taught by Sandy Kress
I. Review and recap of the first session – discussion
2. Consider new psalms
A. Psalm 48 – introduction
- Note key words in the early verses that are descriptive of God’s dwelling place: holiness (kadosho), beautiful (yepay), joy (mesos), refuge (mishgav), loving-kindness (chesed) and righteousness (tzedek). How do you understand these words to fit what you see as the place where God lives?
- Read verses 12-14. This was the psalmist’s entreaty to the reader (or listener) to mark and remember the sights and the experience of the Temple. Do you have similar reflections on your experience of sacred space – in church, for example – going all the way back to your childhood or even just to this past week? What of these memories do you believe to be enduring, that you would want children and future generations to know about and sustain? Please share.
B. Psalm 77 – read verses 1-15. This psalm is, in many ways, a consoling psalm. It is a teaching psalm. The psalmist feels desolate at the beginning but finds ways to respond to the desolation. Number and name each and all of those ways. What effect does such thought/action have for a person of faith?
C. Psalm 73. After a short introduction on verses 1-20, read verses 21-28. What do we learn about God’s nearness in these verses? Have you felt this nearness in such moments? There’s a name of God I will reference that may trigger further reflections
D. Psalm 84
- Read verses 1-4. How does the image of the sparrow help us understand the beauty and meaning of dwelling with God?
- Read verses 5-7. We’ll look at the Hebrew words here and unpack the flow of thought in these beautiful verses. What do they say to us? Has this progression been something you’ve experienced in your lives?
I. Overview of the Sessions
- The Psalms respond to the deepest needs of the human spirit. For this reason, this book of the Bible has spoken powerfully for centuries to a vast array of peoples – in the form of words used in prayer, meditation, and song.
- Why? What is it about these Psalms that has created such deep resonance for so many?
- We’ll consider in our introduction the history of the Psalms, its purposes, its author(s), its uses. We’ll look at form as well as function.
- I’ll ask what views of the Psalms folks bring to our study. And then I’ll lay out a hypothesis for a possible understanding of the book’s deepest purposes.
II. Focus on Several Psalms to Start
A. Psalm 1 — Read the whole psalm.
- Why might this psalm have been placed first?
- What’s with all the verbs at the outset?
- What does “Torah” mean?Why is a “happy” person compared to a tree planted by streams of water, that bears its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither? What do we believe is meant by the saying that “in
- Why is a “happy” person compared to a tree planted by streams of water, that bears its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither? What do we believe is meant by the saying that “in all he does he prospers?” What might it not mean?
- So, what then is happiness, from the psalmist’s point of view?
B. Psalm 22. — While those reading ahead should read the whole psalm, we’ll read verses 1-6, 12-15, 24- 31 in class.
- You know the first line. Let’s discuss it at some length.
- Jesus certainly knew this psalm. Do you have thoughts about why he mentioned these first words on the cross? Was it just these words? Or, after having read the psalm, do you think the whole of the psalm was on his mind? If so, why?
- What are the lessons of the psalm? After its painful beginning, how do we find hope in the end? With what vision does it conclude? What do we think of God when we walk away from the psalm?
C. Psalm 23. — We’ll read the psalm slowly and in chunks.
- What has been your general view of this psalm before our study? Do you see other possibilities now?
- What does it mean to be a Shepard? Sheep? In religious terms?
- What are green pastures? Still waters? What do they mean here? Deeper meaning?
- What is meant by the phrase – “restores the soul?”
- Why the emphasis on righteousness? Any idea why the psalmist defined righteousness as “for his name’s sake?”
- If you knew that the Hebrew word “tsalmavet,” which is usually translated as the shadow of death, more accurately means a very deep darkness, how might that change your understanding of this psalm?
- What are rods and staff? What are they used for? Why might they “comfort” me?
- While righteousness is essential for reasons we discussed, we conclude with the idea that goodness and loving kindness follow me all of my days. What does that mean?
- What is the final message in the last verses of the psalm? Does it square with our hypothesis about the overarching purpose of the Psalms? How?
D. Some difficult issues arise from Psalms 39 and 44
- Concluding discussion and reflection