In the Beginning…

Welcome to the first week of our Year Through the Bible.

Here’s the reading for this week:

July 1 – July 9:  Psalms 1-3; Genesis 1-19; Matthew 1-3; Psalms 4-6

If you want to listen, here’s some audio readings.

This first week I’m going to do things a little differently than I will in future weeks. This week I’m going to break the commentary into three separate posts.  In this first one, I’m going to begin with an opening prayer and then I’ll talk about reading through the Psalms. In the next post, I’ll talk about our Old Testament passage, and in the third post I’ll talk about the New Testament passage.  I’m writing more than usual this week as we get started, to help give some general guidance along with specific thoughts about the passage.  In future weeks, I’ll have the reading for the week posted, an opening prayer, the reflections on the OT and NT readings, all in one easy to manage post.

Week 1

  1. Opening Prayer:

Creator God, thank you for the gift of life. Thank you for the gift of love. Thank you for the gift of salvation.  As I enter into the Scriptures today, I begin a long journey. I want to walk with you this year and so I am committing to spending time reading about who you are and what you have done. Give me insight as I dig into Scripture and give me hope about what you are doing.  Teach me along the way, so that I do not read it out of my own biases, but so that I learn from you, and in learning from you I live in light of who you have called me to be.  Forgive me of any sins that block my understanding. Calm my heart and my mind so that I am not distracted.  I seek you God.  Amen

  1. Psalms 1-3

Each week, there will be reading of Psalms.  I won’t generally provide a weekly commentary on these, but want to have a little introduction as we begin our reading adventure.  The Psalms are a wonderful help for us, and I love that this reading plan spreads them throughout the year.

Some have called the Psalms the Bible’s songbook.  No doubt they had musically accompaniment when they were composed. We don’t have that music anymore, so we lose a little of their power and influence.  Even still, I think it helps understand them better.

We’re not really a poetry reading culture, but we do love our song lyrics. Think of the weekly Psalms as the liner notes for your weekly reading. They’re a way to enter into thinking about God, giving us words that reflect realities in life.

We might not exactly resonate with all the details, but we certainly share the experiences. We know what is like to celebrate—there are Psalms for that. We certainly know what is like to struggle—there are Psalms for that. We know what it is to hope for God’s blessings—there are Psalms for that.We know what it like to wonder what God is doing or why God seems absent—there are Psalms for these.

The Psalms give us words about God and teach us how to pray, how to praise, how to respond when we’re feeling overwhelmed, how to respond when life couldn’t be going better.That’s why the Psalms are important to know. They’re songs we can sing, prayers we can pray, giving us words for life with God and life together.

The Psalms also give us permission to pray in ways that might seem out of bounds.  They embrace our emotions, they guide our passion.

Some of the Psalms are like stadium cheers, while other Psalms are like heavy metal, and others like jazz. There’s country Psalms, and hip-hop Psalms.  Some are love songs and some are songs you might listen to after the end of an especially bad week.  Some are sitting-at-home-eating-a-half-gallon-of-ice-cream songs, some are going-out-into-an-isolated-field-and-screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungs songs and some are songs-you-learn-as-team-building-exercises-at-work (with choreographed hand movements).  There are some hallmark-greeting-card songs and there are going-to-war-give-us-victory songs and there are war-has-come-to-us-what-are-we-going-to-do songs. There are also songs you’d sing in church and songs you’d be rather embarrassed to sing in church.  As you read, think of what kind of music would fit the lyrics.

The Psalms are truth, speaking about life, speaking from the heart to our lives. Deep calls to deep.

Sometimes when we read a Psalm, it hits us right where we’re at. Those give us words we didn’t know how to say at just the right time.

Not all the Psalms fit what we’re going through as we read them, though. That’s why it’s important not to just read the Psalms (or the Bible in general) as a snack to satisfy our immediate craving.

The Psalms are also like practicing a skill, or going back to that music analogy, they’re like playing chords. The more you practice techniques in a sport or chords in music, the better you’ll be when it counts. So, think of reading the Psalms as helping you get in shape and training your spiritual “muscle memory.”  The better we know the Psalms, the more likely a fitting one will come to mind when it is perfectly suited.

A lot of the Psalms, like Psalm 3 that we get to the first week, refer to specific events in other parts of the Bible. That shows how the Bible really ties together, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.  They’re the common language of the people of God, and that is why it is so helpful for us to become fluent in what they say.

Next up for this week: