Pathways of the psalms
by Joseph Jagde
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Psalms 80 to 87 have a particular theme that resonates to the pathways of the Lord, which at times take us to the realm of the mystical.
From the Oxford Annotated Bible verse 1 through 2 read as follows:
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock, You who are enthroned on a cherubim, shine forth, before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, Stir up your might and come save us.
This psalm is particularly enthralling in how far and wide the Lord leads and opens a pathway.
From the bottom of a well and the jail cell, a pathway is opened by the Lord for Joseph to being the co leader of all of the known world and being the one controlling its grain supply in years of famine. And from there through his descendants two of the major tribes of Israel are formed.
Verse 8 through 11 reads as follows” “You brought a vine out of Egypt, you drove out the nations and planted it, you cleared ground for it, it took deep root and filled the land, the mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches, it sent its branches out to the sea, and its shoots to the River.
The context of this psalm is the favor of the Lord, which at this point has been removed. These verses are a reminder of what the Lord has done previously. The path he had cleared is so wide ranging and so large, that the shade from it tops majestically even the giant cedar trees which otherwise predominate over all the landscape in terms of shade given, and this path fills the land all the way to the great seas. His largess is evident and he may do this again.
Correlating with the first verses, this psalm shows that when the Lord clears or opens a path, it can be majestic in its origins and not only extends in terms of place but also in terms of the distance of time.
There had been a turnaround according to the psalmist as it says in verse 5, “ You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure,”
There was a felt absence of the Lord’s blessing and leadership and a call for it to return in prayer.
This psalm brings out an important point about prayer, to remind the Lord of what he has done and who he is. He had done awesome things, as evidenced by how he led Joseph and within his leadership to the Israelites and the psalm is giving reminder to this.
It says in verse 14,” Turn again, O Lord of hosts; look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine.”
Here the psalmist believes that they are of the vine and can be blessed and restored again. He is reminding the Lord of his first call to them. Whatever the Lord has done in the past, he might do again. Regard indicates that the Lord does see value and this is something to discuss in prayer, what does the Lord regard and see as valuable in terms of paths to take.
This psalm was a plea for the restoration for the shepherding presence mentioned in verse 1 which was so great, vast, and woven powerfully and personally in its presence even to the person of Joseph.
The ending verse of this psalm, verse 19 says, Restore us, O Lord God of hosts, let your face shine, that we may be saved,”
This would be a call or petition to the radiating and personal presence of the Lord. It goes to the face to face encounter on the pastureland of the Lord with the Shepherd, where there is no separation from the radiating presence of the Lord in its power and majesty..
Psalm 81 “’ This psalm goes into the theme where the Lord has very personalized blessings for individuals and people, blessings that they might miss out on due to their wayward ways instead of finding the Lord’s way and heeding it.
Verse 8 says,” Hear, O my people, while I admonish you, O Israel, if you would but listen to me,”
Verse 5 through 7 says,” He made a decree to Joseph, when he went out over the land of Egypt, I hear a voice I had not known: ‘I relieved your shoulder of the burden: your hands were freed from the basket, In distress you called, and I rescued you, I answered you in the secret place of thunder, I tested you at the waters of Meribah.”
As in the case of Joseph, the Lord relieves his presiding and entrenched troubles as he creates a new and even giant pathway. His decree to Joseph was that he took him out of his troubles and then went out over the land of Egypt, extending the reach of his presence to Joseph to all of Egypt through the hand of Joseph.
The mention of unknown places and an unknown voice correlates with this psalm as a whole. The last verse says. “ I would feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you,”
Honey from the rock would be something positive and good, but really this concept is of unknown and secret origin, it would not be known even now in this day and age how honey could come from a rock. But this verse is representative of how the Lord had unknown, secret and hidden things that suddenly emerge as given along a path to and from unknown origins. You are not going to know where every blessing is coming from or how it comes about or what it’s logical origin is. This is why you can only plan so much, because the blessings come out of seemingly nowhere, but you do know that the blessings arise out of the close relationship with the Lord that delves into the realms of the secret, unknown and mysterious. For a given individual, yes, the Lord has his secrets and secret paths for you on an individual basis. Regardless, the Lord has the honey from whatever origin it is from and he has the blessings from whatever origin they are from and he can bring it about not matter what the outer and prevailing conditions seem to be saying, as the rock in this verse symbolizes an impediment to getting honey, yet he will get the honey right from the impediment of the rock for you and you personally.
Along with this, as a sign of the blessings and the pathway of the blessing, there is a lightening of the burden, an easing that takes place as part of the invitation to proceed in these secret places and paths of the Lord. Wherever you see an easement or things seem light and easy, this could be the breezy signs of the Lord’s invitation to you.
This is really a parallel path or universe that to a degree people might not believe in, that these paths are really there. On these parallel shores, there will be unknown and secret things that can only be found by heeding the presence of the Lord and not following signals and signs only your own devices and councils. An example of what might be found on the parallel path is a face to face encounter with an angel of the Lord, but these secret meetings are found through seeking the Lord and his shining face for you.
The secret place of thunder would more so be like a paradise like setting introduced with a type of clamor or through a massive infusion of the presence of grace.
Verse 10 says, ” I am the Lord your God who brought you up out of the land of Egypt”
Use of the word up is very interesting, the pathway was not only out of the troubles they were facing but also upwards towards into the higher plain blessings of the Lord, upon which the blessings could now be seen because they had reached a higher plain of visibility towards the manifestation of these blessings. The Lord is the one who upholds those to whom his favor rests.
This psalm talks about unjust judges and judgments by people in positions of power on the earth. This can do great damage as per verse 4 which says,” They have neither knowledge nor understanding they walk around in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.”
Their unjust edicts which are in the darkenss of evil can have reverberations throughout the land or country or even in world wide ways like a giant earthquake echoing into distant lands.
The call of the psalm is for the Lord to overall right these injustices, as the concluding verse 8 says,” Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you.”
The call is to the ultimate ownership of the Lord and his ways or pathways. Within his judgment, the pathways that could be traversed successfully actually belong to the Lord. His light conquers the darkness of evil judges and lights up a newfound and greater path.
Verse 3 says,” Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and destitute.”
The Lord is the champion of the rights of the downtrodden, or those who may have been victimized by the unjust judges.
The Lord is the maintainer of the way or the pathways; the ultimate hold is in the hand of the Lord as far as maintaining anything good. He will maintain things for the lowly, so a high status or estate is not the criteria for the maintaining of a path by the Lord’s wisdom and might.
The theme of this psalm is the mounting evidence of intruders upon the pastureland of the Lord and a call to the Lord to rise against them.
Verses 11 through 12 say,” Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna. Who said,” let us take the pastures of God for our own possessions”.
The final verse is 18 which says, “let them know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.”
The Lord is the one who will have the finality or final say.. The exultation of the Lord as most high indicates that his paths will prevail and shine forth. Imaging this could be like seeing the highest mountain overlooking the seas and the entrance land to the coasts. At the high point and every detail underneath that, the Lord will protect his sheep and pastureland from evil intruders and the retribution may be warlike if need be.
This psalm has the vision of a pilgrimage to the courts of the Lord for which the psalmist has a deep longing. A strong theme of this psalm is the happiness that is found on the paths of the Lord.
Verse 1 and 2 says, “How lovely is the dwelling place, O Lord of hosts. My soul longs, indeed faints, for the courts of the Lord, my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the Living God. ”
Verse 3 says, “ 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.
Verse 4 continues,” happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.”
Even the sparrow is well taken care of in the courts of the Lord. There are also New Testament references to the care given to the sparrow. The theme here is one of livable paths or paths that are comforting and also that can be inhabited and deemed livable and workable. If even the sparrow finds his way with the Lord, then you can find your way with the Lord.
Verses 5 through 7 have mystical connotations, and read as follows,” Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways of Zion, As they go through the valley of Baca, they make it a place of spring; the early rain also covers it with pools, they go from strength to strength, the God of gods with be seen in Zion.”
These verses depict as the mysterious even mystical highway of the Lord.
They go from strength to strength. There is more that one pool to draw upon and draw strength from, there are pools provided maybe for each area and each issue found along the pathways. Each pool is available and made available to draw from, there is more than one resource provided along the pathways of the Lord.
The highways are found in the heart of the travelers and they also have powers of intercession for others and their powerful prayers in fact create in part what is found on these pathways. Within there prayers, there is the power of creation in terms of creating pathways. Without their hearts of prayer, these pools of prosperity would not be there.
Their presence is manifest as having the pathways of the Lord in their hearts, and this creates the pools and springs along the pathways, and they create along the paths through their power of intercession. There would otherwise be a degree of baroness on these paths had their hearts for intercessions not been excercised.
As the psalmist refers to these great men, we can see that the very next verse after these 3 key verses says, “O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!”
Here the psalmist wants his own prayers to be as powerful and vast as the prayers of those mentioned in the previous three verses. With their heart of prayer, even the pathways they tread took on powers of mystical proportions, where pools sprung up on the very pathways they took. The power of God was seen through their intercessions. The psalmist is seeking the same prayer power for himself.
He is still humble as it says in verse 10,” For a day in your court is better than a thousand elsewhere, I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than live in the tents of wickedness.”
He doesn’t feel that he must be as powerful as the mighty men who went from strength to strength and proceeded with awesome signs, but feels that even to partake in some role is majestic compared to all else that is out there, which even if multiplied by a thousand is matchless to what the Lord has in his courts.
Verse 11 says, “for the Lord is a sun and shield, he bestows favor and honor, no good thing does the Lord withhold from them who walk uprightly.” This verse talks about God’s favor as being like the sun, his favor has awesome connotations and an inescapable reach and like the sun does not withhold its good rays, the Lord will not withhold any good thing to his faithful ones. The shield indicates that the honor is separated off for those being honored, it is a separate location shielded away just for them. The Lord will shield the good things he gives. He will give the gifts but also let them shine in the sun of his graces and he will shield those gifts in the glory of his protecting presence.
The sun symbolically can be seen as vast and awesomely large, just showing how large and uncontainable the Lord’s favor might be and how it might follow you on many paths.
Verse 12, the final verse says,” Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.” The offer for all these good things that will not be withheld goes to everyone who trusts in him. No one who trusts in him will be left off these paths. All are invited to the roads or mystical highways of the Lord. And this final verse continues with the overriding theme of happiness and gladness found within these secret paths of the Lord.
This psalm speaks of restoration for the faithful. The Lord will restore his paths.
Verse 8 says,” Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.”
This psalm gives another key to the mystery of the paths of the Lord, that it is a matter of the heart. The manifestation of anything good you would want that comes from the Lord is from having your heart turned towards him.
Then there is a good prayer tip as well. Ask the Lord to speak his peace to a given situation that troubles you. His peace is actually a manifestation of power and strength.
Verse 9 says, “Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him that his glory may dwell in our land.”
On the pathway to ultimate salvation, the Lord brings his hand from heaven to right here and right now for those who are faithful, right to the very paths you are on. His hand isn’t ahead of you or behind you only but right in front of you to steady your way.
The dwelling of his glory in our land is described in the following verses of the psalm starting with verse 10 through the final verse of 13.”
“Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet: righteousness and peace with kiss each other; Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase, righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.”
Within this is the word kiss which symbolizes just the right touch and that he will make a path for his steps with just the right touch. A situation or dilemma you are in might require just the right touch. The swimmer enjoys the water at just the right temperature.
The final verse shows how the Lord goes ahead of you in mysterious ways and prepares paths.
Within these verses there is the reference to land and for the crops to increase so just the right touch of rain is needed for that, a monsoon might be too much and actually destroy the crops. In any area, including healing, just the right touch from the Lord is the best possible scenario and result you can have. Just the right touch on your job, your finances, and your relationships can only come from the hand of the Lord reaching in. Looking down from the sky symbolizes that the Lord is indeed at hand and his hand in upon those who are faithful even now for restoration of any kind. The Lord’s sees in real time what is needed and wanted. His glorious presence can be felt and peace can be a sign of this presence of the Spirit and his touch right here and right now.
Here the psalmist David finds himself feeling poor and needy and within the day of trouble
His vision is that the Lord alone is his solace and the only place to go for reprieve. There is no place else that offers true solace. There should be no question of division on his part therefore but other things are pulling at him and from his point of view there is the risk of an divided heart, which doesn’t make sense in his acknowledgment within the psalm that there is no one else to pray to and this psalm is about his one on one relationship with the Lord as the only relationship he can resort to with trust in his day of trouble. But this potential for division comes out of human weakness even if indeed David does know there is no other way and therefore no reason to divide into another approach..
In verse 9 it says,” All nations you have made shall come, and bow down before you O Lord, and shall glorify your name.”
He knows that even the nations have ultimately no place else to turn in their day of trouble.
He knows that the troubles on these paths have become like smoke rising in the sky and obscuring his view of the Lord. A divided heart if it happens is only from this point of view and he must not let the smoke and ashes rising from these troubles disguise the truth that he can only go to the Lord alone.
Verse 11 says, “teach me your way that I may walk in your truth, give me an undivided heart to revere your name.”
From this verse, part of finding the pathways of the Lord is to seek what he is teaching, advising or counseling and asking for a heart towards what he is teaching, advising and counseling. David realized that even with the council, and even with seeing the good paths right in front of him, his heart if divided could still take him away. So he also asks not only for the council but for a heart that is undivided from the council the Lord gives.
Verses 14 through 17 says,” O God, the insolent rise up against me; a band of ruffians seek my life, and they do not set you before them, but you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness Turn to me and be gracious to me: give strength to your servant, save the child of your serving girl. Show me a sign of your favor so that those who hate me may be put to shame, because you O Lord have helped me and comforted me.
David is asking for signs of the Lord’s favor and for new strength. He is asking that the Lord show him these signs and that they would be right in front of him and on his paths. These signs would go to him personally to where he could see them for himself. Those who are chasing him have chosen not to set God before them. He by contrast is coming close to the Lord with his whole heart. He sights his mother’s preciousness in the sight of the Lord in his pleas and has knowledge of his mother’s powerful prior pleas to the Lord and their effective nature.
Verse 12 says, “I will give thanks to you O Lord with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. Verse 13 continues,” For great is your steadfast love toward me, you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”
He describes the Lord’s love as great for him. And his thanksgivings go into the depth of this great love and the dimensions that it manifests. This is something to meditate on within any thanksgiving to the Lord and that is that great pool of love which is manifest by the Lord for you. This also shows that the pathways are also found within the explorations of a thankful heart and this is the way to proceed on the Lord’s path that is into his great love with thanksgiving for the ways of his great love and the recognition of the Lord's pathways which are rooted in the heart of thanksgiving and part of the pools of great love by the Lord for you personally manifest in his mysterious pathways and blessings for you..
This psalm depicts a coming of the nations to Zion.
Verses one and two say,” On the holy mount stands the city he founded, the Lord loves the gates of Zion, more than all the dwellings of Jacob, Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God.
The Lord founded the city he loves, and it stands with glorious things, shining brightly or for all to see.
Verse 6 says,” The Lord records as he registers the peoples, “This one was born there.”
As he is bringing additions into his gates and also he also watvhes over them from the very beginning of there journey, just as the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son sees his son journeying home from afar..
Verse 7 says, “ Singers and dancers alike say, “ All my springs are in you.”
The singing and dancing also refer to a type of freedom to just be who you are in the presence of the Lord, joyfully but without embellishing and becoming someone who is fictional and not real.
What is found in Zion and on the path of the Lord is everything that is to be rejoiced over or even could truly be rejoiced over. It is an all inclusive paradise with all the choices. There is singing and dancing for joy over all that is found on the paths of the Lord, not some things but all is found there that is good and brilliant.
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