He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love. And wonders of his love.
Click on the link for the Psalm above (my links show up as red words) or find it in your favorite Bible or digital Bible or listen to Psalm 33:
Bonus: The Lord’s Prayer is about the amount of time you need for hand scrubbing 😉
Breath Prayer: I am including breath prayers because this is the practice that I engage in most often. Sometimes, I simply manage my breathing as I would when I was singing as a warmup and strengthening exercise. This practice helps me to feel centered, strong, and connected with myself and the divine. Sometimes, I add words or intentions for the inhalation and exhalation.
One of the simple breath prayers people use is simply repeating the phrase, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I like to use another one that I find to be similar and that is the phrase “You are God and I am not”. One of my favorite sins is believing I can control things that are out of my control. I’m sure there are those of you out there who really like to be in control too. I think the psalmist knew that many of us have control issues. We think we have systems set in place that will protect us, and that we can trust human wisdom, power, and virtue to solve the world’s problems. We trust flawed human leaders to tell us what is right and true, we trust weapons and counter measures to keep us safe, and we believe that getting the right politicians in power will usher in a new age that we will personally benefit from. But all of these things are illusions, they are false hopes, they are unsatisfactory, unstable, unreliable, things that have no real power or control or care for us. These things are not God. I am not God. You are not God. God is God. And this confession leads me on a journey inward. I confess my sins to God and seek God’s love and forgiveness. I don’t quite have the language to explain what happens in the “you are God I am not” prayer, but something shifts. When I let go of the things I can not control, the false powers that are not me and are not God, I can see myself clearly in the warmth of God’s love. And that is the real power, God’s love. “The real power behind the universe, human history, and personal existence is the steadfast love of God, which fills the earth (Ps 33:5b) and is revealed ultimately not by God’s absolute enforcement of God’s will but by God’s forgiveness of sin (Psalm 32). The astounding good news is that the ultimate reality and power in the universe is love (see commentary on Psalm 19).” NIB p. 397
Love is what I find in the inward journey of meditation and breath prayer. And it is this inward journey that allows me to take the loving journey outward. Experiencing the deep love of God fills me with the power to go out and to connect with neighbors in the world and wherever I go and whomever I meet, to greet them with love.
Let us pray:
One way to think about breath prayer is that whatever is exhaled other people will inhale. So, sometimes we might inhale and exhale the same idea with the hope that what we receive from God, we can share with others. For example, you may imagine receiving God’s steadfast love while praying that others are receiving God’s steadfast love.
Another way to think about breath prayer is to pick something you would like to receive for your inhalation and something you would like to release for your exhalation. The idea is to keep it simple, so I encourage you to simply find one word for each inhale and one word for each exhale. That simple prayer could be something like this: God fill me with your Holy spirit. I receive your goodness and release my ungodliness.
Ok, everyone take a deep breath. Breath in. Breath out. Breath in. Breath out. Repeat as needed.
For a moment, I thought about talking about music with this psalm (see the notes from Mays) and also wanted to include these words from our church organist. I figured I would leave it in the notes and maybe someone will be inspired by the parts I don’t read out loud in church too.
The musicians at Third Church are incredibly thoughtful and try to incorporate scriptural themes into the music selections giving us an inspiring worship experience. This week our organist (you can find his other music and wiring on his website pianonoise) wrote this reflection about his music selection:
“Depth of Mercy” is a hymn that paints a stark contrast between a tortured soul’s experience of sin and self-loathing and the gift of God’s mercy. Originally in 13 stanzas, the five that are present in the Methodist hymnal (our Presbyterian hymnal does not include the hymn) may give undue weight to the histrionic language of “the chief of sinners” who has “oft provoked [God] to his face.” One verse that was cut has him “trampling on the Son of God.” Charles Wesley certainly seems to have won the contest to describe himself as the most awful sinner who ever lived, and he enumerates his terrible crimes in verse after verse, weighed down by the burden of sin, and the need to make it vivid. Yet the hymn text moves from this darkness to light, especially in the verse in which the author declares: “God is Love! I know, I feel; Jesus weeps, and loves me still!”
The piano piece for this week, based on the hymn, gives a psychological portrait of the hymn writer by first presenting a tumultuous, windswept theme, and then contrasting it with the gentle occurrences of this two-line hymn. The process does not occur just once; three verses of the hymn are necessary before the music is able to move into the depths of honesty required to hold an un-theatrical assessment of a soul in need—finally the blustery phalanx of notes falls away and after a bald exploration of the harmonic depths, the hymn sounds forth modestly one last time, and ends on a simple major chord.
Sources and notes:
Psalm 33 “It praises the God whom the righteous trust–therein lies their righteousness, that they trust the LORD. At the same time, it teaches and encourages trust and hope by describing the LORD as the one who can be trusted.” Mays p. 148
“The number of poetic lines is the same as the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. That is undoubtedly intentional on the part of the poet. It is a clue that the psalm is meant to be as complete and comprehensive in covering its subject as the alphabet is in listing the letters.” Mays p. 148
“In the call to praise (vv. 1-3), the vocabulary for worship with music is nearly exhausted. This is the first reference to the use of instruments in the canonical order of the psalms, and so it has been the textual occasion in traditional commentary for a discussion of the propriety and validity of the use of instruments in worship. …. There is an implicit theology of music here; it must be authentically the praise of the LORD and offered by those who are right with the LORD. The why and the who are crucial.” Mays p. 149
“So the righteous who live in the world in the midst of the nations as a community in need of salvation trust in and pray for the hesed of the LORD.” Mays p. 149
“The psalmist’s term for having the LORD as God is “to fear the LORD,” and that means to make his steadfast love one’s ultimate hope.” Mays p. 151
“We forget that God rules the world and we do not. Instead of praising God, our first inclination is to congratulate ourselves (see Commentary on Psalm 56). Psalm 33 is finally, then, a call to humility and to trust in God rather than in human power, wisdom, or virtue. To heed this call means nothing less than a revolutionary transmutation of values. The things and people that seem so obviously powerful–politicians, armies, weapons–are exposed in the light of God’s sovereignty to be illusions. The real power behind the universe, human history, and personal existence is the steadfast love of God, which fills the earth (Ps 33:5b) and is revealed ultimately not by God’s absolute enforcement of God’s will but by God’s forgiveness of sin (Psalm 32). The astounding good news is hat the ultimate reality and power in the universe is love (see commentary on Psalm 19). This power, to be sure, is made perfect in weakness (see 2 Cor 12:9). Indeed, Christians profess to see it revealed most clearly in the cross of Jesus Christ.” NIB p. 397
WBC Allen, Leslie C. 1983. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 101-150. Vol. 21. Waco, TX: Word Books, Publisher.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. 1974. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. 8th ed. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press.
Brueggemann, Walter. 2007. Praying the Psalms: Engaging Scripture and the Life of the Spirit. 2nd ed. Eugene, OR: Cascade.
Brueggemann Brueggemann, Walter. 2014. From Whom No Secrets Are Hid: Introducing the Psalms. Edited by Brent A. Strawn. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
WBC Craigie, Peter C. 1983. Psalms 1-50–Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 19. Waco, TX: Word Books.
Creach, Jerome Frederick Davis. 1998. Psalms: Interpretation Bible Studies. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
NIB Keck, Leander E. 2015. The New Interpreters Bible Commentary. Vol. 3. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Mays Mays, James Luther. 1994. Psalms. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press.
McCann, J. C., & Howell, J. C. 2001. Preaching the Psalms. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Miller Miller, Patrick D. 1986. Interpreting the Psalms. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.
Schlimm Schlimm, Matthew Richard. 2018. 70 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know. Nashville, TN: Abington Press.
Spong Spong, M. (Ed.). (2020). The words of her mouth: Psalms for the struggle. Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press.
WBC Tate, Marvin E. 1990. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 51-100. Edited by David Allan. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Vol. 20. Waco, TX: Word.
OTL Weiser, Artur. 1998. Old Testament Library: Psalms. Translated by Herbert Hartwell. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Manchester University Press.
Other Year D Psalm blog posts:
I’m attempting a series exploring the Psalms in year D. Many churches use the revised common lectionary that rotates scripture on a three-year cycle (A, B, and C). Year D was created with the goal of including scriptures that were left out or not used as frequently as others.
I began this series in Lent 2020. These blog posts include examples of meditation or spiritual discipline or mindfulness exercises. Here are the links: Ash Wednesday: Psalm 102; 1st Sunday in Lent: Psalm 6; 2nd Sunday in Lent: Psalm 143; 3rd Sunday in Lent: Psalm 38; 4th Sunday in Lent: Psalm 39; 5th Sunday in Lent: Psalm 101; 6th Sunday in Lent Psalm 94 or Psalm 35. I went a different direction during Holy Week and dropped the Psalms for a while, but I’m hoping to pick them back up again.
I’m going to try to move forward with the Psalms so that it might be useful for worship in the coming weeks and hoping that I can also go back and pick up some of the ones I missed.
The Season of Easter: Resurrection of the Lord (Easter) Psalm 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76, 2nd Sunday in Easter Psalm 64 or Psalm 119:73-96, 3rd Sunday in Easter Psalm 60 or 108, 4th Sunday in Easter Psalm 10, 5th Sunday in Easter Psalm 49: (1-12) 13-20, 6thSunday in Easter Psalm 129, Ascension Thursday Psalm 119:145-176, 7th Sunday in Easter Psalm 115, and Pentecost Sunday Psalm 119:113-136.
Then we move into “ordinary time” which is broken up into sections throughout the liturgical year. Remember that the year starts with Advent (I started this adventure in Lent) so some of the ordinary Sundays have already happened.
Trinity -Ordinary Time- Christ the King: Trinity Sunday Psalm 35, 9th Sunday in Ordinary time Psalm 142, 10th Sunday in Ordinary time Psalm 74, 11th Sunday Psalm 7, 12th Sunday Psalm 55, 13th Sunday Psalm 56, and 14th Sunday Psalm 57 or Psalm 3.
The Apocalyptic Discourse 15th -19th Sundays in Ordinary time: 15th Sunday Psalm 17:8-14(15) or Psalm 83, 16th Sunday Psalm 54, 17th Sunday Psalm 50 or Psalm 105, 18thSunday Psalm 59, and 19th Sunday Psalm 37.
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ 24th – 33rd Sundays in Ordinary time: 24th Sunday Psalm 92, 25th Sunday Psalm 25, 26th Sunday Psalm 136, 27th Sunday Psalm 41, 29thSunday Psalm 38 or Psalm 55, 30th Sunday Psalm 33: (1-10) 13-22, 31st Sunday Psalm 31 or Psalm 40, 32nd Sunday Psalm 71:15-24, 33rd Sunday Psalm 77, Christ the King Psalm 87 and Psalm 117, and All Saints Day Psalm 107.