Monday, April 29, 2013

Psalms Introduction

While we are reading the events of King David's life we are also reading some of the poems and songs and Psalms that he wrote. Here is my introduction to the book of Psalms:

The Book of Psalms is the song book of ancient Israel. There were many contributing poets, and the poems were written in various times and places. The Psalms span the years from Joshua to Ezra and places from Jerusalem to Babylon. The individual Psalms often contain headings indicating the author or the musical style in which it was to be performed. The Psalms contain titles and musical directions such as “to the choirmaster” or “with stringed instruments” and technical terms (Shiggaion – Psalm 7 or Miktam – Psalm 16) which may have been the names of the musical tunes. Tradition lists David as the author of the Psalms, and he likely was the author of at least half of them. In imitation of the Torah, the Book of Psalms is organized into five (5) smaller books: Psalm 1 – 41 is Book 1; Psalm 42 – 72 is Book 2; Psalm 73 – 89 is Book 3; Psalm 90 – 106 is Book 4; Psalm 107 – 150 is Book 5.

There are many types of Psalms:
 1. The Lament For examples see Psalms 44 and 74. A lament is a song or poem of mourning and sadness. These psalms were sung in times of great sorrow or trouble and usually contained a statement of the poet’s distress, a word of trust, and an appeal to God.
2. The Thanksgiving For examples see Psalms 30; 32; 34. A Thanksgiving is a poem written to give thanks for what God had done in specific historical circumstances to save an individual or the nation.
3. Hymn Psalms For examples see Psalms 8; 19; 29. A Hymn is a song of praise to God for what God is accustomed to do in nature or history for the welfare of humanity. The hymns can be seen in sub-categories: Enthronement Psalms were used to celebrate the kingship of God; and Songs of Zion were expressing devotion to the Holy City of Jerusalem.
4. Psalms of Trust expressing confidence in God’s readiness to help in times of trouble. See Psalms 11; 121.
5. Royal Psalms For examples see Psalms 2; 18; 20; 45. The Royal Psalms dealt with civic and spiritual matters related to the human king; used for coronations or weddings.
6. The Wisdom Psalms reflect the teaching of the sages of Israel. See Psalm 37 for an example.
7. Psalms of Sacred History which recounts the story of God’s dealings with Israel. See Psalm 105 for an example.
8. Liturgical Psalms See Psalm 24 for an example. These were written for special worship or historical occasions such as the annual renewal of the covenant.
9. Psalms of Ascents were sung by pilgrims on the way up to Jerusalem. Because Jerusalem was built in the mountain range of central Israel, pilgrims had to climb to get there (hence songs of ascent). See Psalms 120-134.

There are other types of songs and psalms scattered throughout the book.

Key Lesson: The book of Psalms was the worship and song book of ancient Israel and remains a primary source for lyrics and worship songs in modern Jewish worship and Christian churches. The art of music and poetry were used to celebrate, lament, and  remember, and for ceremonial occasions. Music remains today a means of worship that speaks to the heart and mind of people simultaneously.

1 Chronicles Introduction

I neglected to post this when we started reading 1 Chronicles last week:

1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles were written about 400 BC by an unknown author who may have been a priest in the temple in Jerusalem. They form part of a longer story that concludes with Ezra and Nehemiah. The author, known as the Chronicler, has taken specific stories from Israel’s history to show the link from his current post-Babylonian exile community to the older pre-exile community of King David and his descendents. The Chronicler uses many sources but depends heavily on Samuel and Kings, often quoting entire chapters and longer sections. He also had access to another historical source that is now lost.

The main point of Chronicles is to link the new post-exile community with the old and to remind the readers of the greatest lesson their history had to teach: prosperity and security depended on their faithfulness to God. Idolatry and neglect of God’s law always has and always will lead to disaster and judgment. David is the center of 1 Chronicles.

The book can be outlined as follows:

·         1 Chronicles 1-9          A genealogical survey up to David
·         1 Chronicles 10-12      David’s ascension to the throne
·         1 Chronicles 13-16      David brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem
·         1 Chronicles 17           David’s desire to build the temple and the Lord’s response
·         1 Chronicles 18-20      David’s military achievements
·         1 Chronicles 21-29      Elaborate preparations for the building of the Temple                                               before David’s death

2 Samuel

Here is my introduction to 2 Samuel:

2 Samuel continues the story in 1 Samuel without a break. Following the death of Saul, David is installed as King. 2 Samuel is often called the “Book of David” as it outlines the events of David’s adult life and his forty (40) years as King of Israel. Following the death of Saul there is a short-lived civil war in which David and his men prevail, and David is established as King in Jerusalem. The rest of the book reports the good and the bad of David’s reign.

2 Samuel can be outlined as follows:

·         2 Samuel 1      David mourns for Saul and Jonathan
·         2 Samuel 2-4  The early years of David’s reign
·         2 Samuel 5 - 12 David’s kingdom is established
·         2 Samuel 13-20 David and his Eldest Sons: Absolom’s Rebellion
·         2 Samuel 21-24 Records of events in David’s reign

            A vital lesson from 1 and 2 Samuel is that the leaders of the ancient past were fallible human beings. When we read of David’s adultery or Saul’s apostasy, we are reminded that we are also capable of this same type of behavior. David was not chosen by God because he was special – he became special because he was chosen.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Introduction to 1 Samuel

This is the introduction I wrote for my Ugandan friends . . .

A note about scrolls: The Old Testament books were written on parchments that were rolled into scrolls rather than folded into books. In ancient times three of these scrolls became too large for one scroll and were divided into two. The scrolls of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles are presented in subsequent translations and books according to their scroll designation. It is appropriate to consider them as one story (not two) and might be better understood as Samuel (parts 1 and 2), Kings (parts 1 and 2), and Chronicles (parts 1 and 2). It is widely understood that Samuel and Kings should be viewed as one extended work that is primarily concerned with the kingdoms of Judah and Israel.

1 Samuel takes its name from the prophet Samuel whose birth and ministry are featured early in the book. The author is unknown, but was likely an aide to the prophet who was a witness to the events reported. The author draws from a number of sources and narratives. 1 Samuel reports on events that occurred between 1050 and 1010 BC. The primary focus of Samuel (1 and 2) is the establishment of a king in Israel and the rise of King David. This is a religious history. The author’s primary concern is the story of God and the nation – in particular the nation’s leaders. The author is familiar with David’s poems and psalms, and quotes them several times in 2 Samuel.
            1 Samuel begins with Samuel’s influence and ends with the death of the first King, Saul. It contains many significant stories, the best known being the Call of Samuel (chapter 3) and the story of David versus Goliath (chapter 17.)

1 Samuel can be outlined as follows:

·         1 Samuel 1-3      Samuel’s birth and early years
·         1 Samuel 4-7:1  The Philistines and the Ark of God
·         1 Samuel 7:2-17 National Revival: Samuel as Judge
·         1 Samuel 8-12    Saul becomes Israel’s first King.
·         1 Samuel 13-15  Saul disobeys and is rejected
·         1 Samuel 16-31  Saul and David

Friday, April 5, 2013

Introduction to Ruth

This is the introduction I wrote for my Ugandan friends:

Ruth. Ruth was a Moabite woman who, after the death of her Judean husband, chooses to return to Judah with her mother-in-law Naomi. Her faithfulness to her mother-in-law gets the attention of Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s late husband. Boaz marries Ruth and through this marriage, she becomes the great grandmother of King David (Ruth and Boaz’s son is Obed, who is the father of Jesse, who is the father of David.) This book was written during the time of the late judges and serves as a bridge between the time of the judges and the time of the kings. The author is unknown.

This very short book can be outlined as follows:

·        Ruth 1              Ruth and Naomi
·        Ruth 2:1-4:17  Ruth and Boaz
·        Ruth 4:18-22   David’s genealogy from Perez.

            A vital lesson from Ruth is that loyalty and faithfulness are rewarded by God.