October Covenant Lab: The Psalms taught by Sandy Kress
October Covenant Lab
The Psalms, taught by Sandy Kress
1. Psalm 126 – read the whole psalm.
- This psalm is one of the 15 songs of ascent. What are ascents?
- What does it mean to plant seeds with tears of sorrow and then be able to reap with joy?
- Even going out, weeping, we are seed carriers? What does that mean?
- What does it mean that we come back with joy and sheaves?
- Do these verses remind you of the verses from which we rise out of the Valley of Baca to pools or blessings? How?
2. Psalm 104
- Read verses 1-4. What does it mean that God is cloaked in light? What do you make of God’s making messengers of the wind? His ministers, glowing fire?
- Note verses 10-18. Note images of watering, nurturing both the tame and the wild, the birds in their homes singing their songs, grass for cattle, wine/oil/bread for human beings. What does all this teach us?
3. Psalm 133 – read whole psalm.
- What is the Divine expectation of us in verse 1?
- What do we get out of the verse about the oil pouring down on Aaron? Who was Aaron? What does Aaron signify to and for us?
- Like the dew from the mountain? God’s command? Blessing of life forever more? Can you piece this together?
4. Psalm 86
- Verse 4 is best translated as: “Gladden the soul of your servant for to you O Lord I lift up my soul to You.” What does it mean to lift up our soul to God? Once we do so, how does God gladden our soul?
- Verse 11 is nicely translated as: “Unite my heart to be wondrous of Your name.” What does that mean? How do we unite our hearts to and for God?
Conclusion – what are our takeaways from our study? When you think of the Psalms we have examined, how do they inform you about what it means to dwell with God? What does God seek from us? And how are we blessed in the encounter?
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