A Psalm Book
There are seven psalms altogether – one for each day of the week. Two are taken from the Authorised Version and five are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
Jesus used the psalms to nourish His life of prayer – and this is sufficient encouragement for us to do the same. Once St. Paul wrote to the Colossians and invited them to use the psalms in their worship of God.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love,
which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
to which indeed you were called in the one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly;
teach and admonish one another in all wisdom
and with gratitude in your hearts
sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God.
Day 1 – Sunday
Sunday is the first day of creation, the day of resurrection, a new creation, a little Easter. The first Christians chose it to be the day on which they worshipped God together. In this psalm, the people are exiled from the Temple, God’s House. They remember the good times and the bad. For the Valley of Baca was a place of suffering but even there God transformed this desert into a place of refreshment.
How lovely is your dwelling-place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
Day 2 – Monday
God knows us intimately. He lays His hand upon us in blessing. No matter where we go, He is there. We may not sense His presence, living in His absence, but His promise is sure. On the wings of the morning and in the darkness of the night, He is there. He holds us firm and secure in His hands. ‘Even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you.’ says the Lord. ‘I have written your name on the palms of my hands.’
Psalm 139;1-5, 7-10
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
Day 3 – Tuesday
The poet thinks about the deer running across the hill, through the woodland and longs for God like a deer longing for streams of cool, running water. Tears have been his food day and night. People have mocked him in his distress. ‘Where is your God now?’ they say. ‘He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to!’ they derided the dying Christ. In the end, the psalmist finds hope in God.
As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me continually,
‘Where is your God?’
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God:
For I shall again praise him
my help and my God.
Day 4 – Wednesday
In the middle of the week, we think about God, the worker and His ministry among us. He is the good shepherd who suffers and dies for His sheep. He is the host who provides space for us in His heart and His house. He sets a table and invites us to sit, eat and drink of His goodness all the days of our life.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over
Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Day 5 – Thursday
In his distress, the poet longs for the wings of a dove so that he could fly away and make his escape from what would seek to destroy him. He longs to be free! Aren’t these the words of the Christ, agonising in the Garden of Gethsemane, longing for an escape, just before His arrest on Maundy Thursday. ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’
My heart is in anguish within me,
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, ‘O that I had wings like a dove!’
I would fly away and be at rest;
truly, I would flee far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness;
I would hurry to find a shelter for myself
from the raging wind and tempest.
But I call upon God,
and the Lord will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
I utter my complaint and moan,
and he will hear my voice.
Cast your burden on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
Day 6 – Friday
Jesus prayed every day in the place apart, the secret room. He taught His friends how to pray and gave them a model for their praying in what we call the Lord’s Prayer. In extremis, when words failed Him on the cross, He used the words of the psalmist to pray to God. What a shocking prayer it turned out to be – honest, human, distressing! But now we call it a Good Friday!
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me,
from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
Yet it was you who took me from the womb,
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me
you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Day 7 – Saturday
On the seventh day, God, the Creator, rested. And on Holy Saturday, Jesus rested in the tomb. This is the Sabbath, a day for rest and refreshment. ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.’ says Jesus. The Bible is full of images of refreshment – fresh water, baked bread and, in this psalm, shade from the heat of the sun. The opportunity to be refreshed and recreated is God’s Sabbath gift to everyone.
Psalm 121 (AV)
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,
from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord,
which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:
he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel
shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper:
the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil;
he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out
and thy coming in from this time forth,
and even for evermore.