Friday, August 26, 2016

How the Psalms Rhyme and Why it's Awesome

I’ll be honest. This post is going to sound a lot like a high school English lesson.

But I promise that it will be worth your time to read! (or watch the video)

If you grasp this idea of Parallelism (Thought Rhyme) - it will help you unlock some of the beautiful mysteries God has hidden for you in His Word.

Last time, I mentioned how the psalms don’t have any rhythm or rhyme to them, but then introduced this literary tool called Parallelism, or “Thought Rhyme” to achieve a poetic effect with two key benefits:
  1. It is completely translatable from language to language
  2. It provides a “3 Dimensional View” of the topic

Your left eye and right eye see slightly different images of the same object, and your brain combines those two images to form a single image that has an additional sense of depth that one eye alone cannot give.

In the same way, Thought Rhyme gives two slightly different perspectives on an idea, and combining the two gives a deeper perspective.

Let’s take a look at some examples, as well as the different types of Thought Rhyme.

The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein. Psalm 24:1

Looking a little closer at this verse, try and get the deeper perspective that is available by comparing the two lines:

The earth
is the Lord’s
and all its fullness
The world

and those who dwell therein
Two slightly different views on the same object
The fact that the world is the Lord’s is implied in the second part, though not stated explicitly
Two slightly (though not obvious) different views on the same thing

So you can make a connection between the “fullness of the earth” and “those who dwell therein” - that’s us, God’s people!

This type of Thought Rhyme is called “Synonymous Parallelism” - that is, when the two thoughts say the same thing.

Another type of is “Antithetical Parallelism”. This is when the two thoughts contrast each other. It’s like looking at two different sides of the same coin. E.g.
A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverb 15:1

Dissecting, we can make connections:

A soft answer
turns away
But a harsh word
stirs up
Opposite ways of responding to someone
Opposite results
Slightly different view on the same thing

I’ll leave it to you to meditate on that.

Yet a third type of Parallelism is  “Progressive Parallelism”.

In this case, there is a natural progression of the thought - going deeper on the same thought line by line.

Blessed is the man
​​Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
​​Nor stands in the path of sinners,
​​Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; Psalm 1:1

Do you see the progression? Walking to standing to sitting. It’s like stairs that lead deeper down into a single thought.

And a fourth type is Synthetic Parallelism. This is a cause & effect type relationship between the two lines:
The Lord is my Shepherd,
I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

The second line is a result of the first line. But they are still directly connected. They are not independent thoughts.

To summarize these types of Thought Rhyme:
  1. Synonymous - the thoughts say the same thing (left eye & right eye)
  2. Antithetical - the thoughts contrast each other (two sides of the same coin)
  3. Progressive - the thoughts have a natural progression (go deeper)
  4. Synthetic - the thoughts have a cause & effect relationship

Okay, so if you’ve stuck with me through this pseudo English lesson, it’s about to pay off. This is the punchline to the benefit of recognizing Thought Rhyme:

The two thoughts are sometimes not obviously connected. But because of the principle of parallelism, a connection can be made and insight can be gleaned.

Let’s look at two passages of Scripture that talk about this idea of “The Fear of the Lord”:

Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints!
​​There is no want to those who fear Him.
​​The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
​​But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing. Psalm 34:9-10

“The fear of the Lord” can sound like a strange statement. But when you compare:

Those who fear Him
do not want (or lack)
Those who seek Him
do not lack

Do you see the connection? Seeking the Lord is part of what it means to Fear the Lord.

Yet another example:

The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him,
​​In those who hope in His mercy. Psalm 147:11

Again, these are not isolated statements. It’s not like the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him and those who hope in His mercy. This is parallelism at work, and you can combine these two slightly different perspectives into a single images.

As a result, we can see that “hoping in His mercy” is yet another aspect of what it means to Fear the Lord.

Again, if you really understand this principle, and observe it in the Scripture, it can fundamentally change the way you understand the poetry of the Bible.

I'll be referencing this principle of Thought Rhyme often in the devotions on the Psalms, so I just wanted to take the time to introduce it properly. I hope it helps!

God bless you!

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 22, 2016

If the Psalms are poetry, why don't they Rhyme?

Rhyme is a beautiful poetic device that is pleasant to the ear. It naturally draws in the audience, and adds a level of emotion to the writing beyond what the words alone can do.

So if rhyme is so wonderful, why doesn’t the poetry of the Bible use it?

One of the chief limitations of rhyme is that it is language specific. That is, what rhymes in English doesn’t rhyme in Spanish. Once translated, a poem must either lose the essence of the words, or lose the rhyme. It cannot keep both.

And the poetry of the Bible was written in Hebrew. So naturally any rhyme wouldn’t translate.

However - and this is so awesome- the poetry doesn’t rhyme even in Hebrew! At least, not in the way that we consider rhyme today.

The Psalms utilize a different rhyming method called Parallelism, or Thought Rhyme

So where normal rhyme has similar sounding words, thought rhyme has similar sounding thoughts, or phrases.

For example:
The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness
The world and those who dwell therein. Psalm 24:1

If you read that carefully, you’ll see that the psalmist is basically saying the same thing twice.

Do you see how the thought - the entire phrase - is rhymed? Instead of two words sounding alike, the two thoughts sound alike. You’ll quickly see that this runs throughout almost all of the poetry of the Bible!

Thought Rhyme has two significant benefits.

First, it is completely translatable. Hebrew, English, Spanish, French, German - the thought can be rhymed without losing its poetic effect. This is so brilliant! God knew that His Word would be translated into hundreds of languages, and so the rhyming technique He chose would allow the poetic effect to be carried through translation. Amazing.

Secondly, and I think more importantly, it enables what I call a “three dimensional view” of any given thought. Let me give an analogy:

With normal vision, you have two eyes. A left eye and a right eye. If you hold an object just in front of you, close your left eye and look at the object. Then close your right eye and look through just your left. Go back and forth a few times and you’ll notice that each eye sees the object in almost exactly the same way - but at a slightly different angle.

With both eyes open, your brain then takes those two subtly different images and combines them into a single, 3-dimensional image in your mind.

That is exactly what Thought Rhyme enables you to do! It gives you two slightly different angles on a single topic, so you can combine the two to get a sense of depth for any given passage of Scripture that would otherwise be “flat” or 2-dimensional.

If this idea of Thought Rhyme clicks with you - if you really get it and understand it, it will transform the way you look at the Bible. It will add a depth of perspective and understanding to the Scripture that will forever change your relationship with the Word of God.

And it’s not isolated to the Psalms! When you read the Gospels, you’ll notice, for example, that Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 all have accounts of “The Parable of the Sower”. They are all 3 very close, but have subtle differences. Combining the 3 together forms one complete picture. And so it is with all of the stories and parables in the Gospels.

Truly this idea of Parallelism, Thought Rhyme, is amazing. I cannot say enough about it!

I will share one more post, in which I will share the various types of Thought Rhyme, along with several examples. Then I will continue the devotions on the Psalms. But I will be making reference to this rhyming technique often, so I wanted to take the time to introduce it properly.

As you read the Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, etc., be on the lookout for “Thought Rhyme”, and consider how the two slightly different statements combine together to form a complete picture of what is being said.

A nice article discussing Parallelism (Thought Rhyme):

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 20:2a

2 ​​May He send you help from the sanctuary,

What kind of help is God going to send from the sanctuary?

Put another way: what is in the sanctuary for Him to send? Money? Weapons? Wisdom?

The sanctuary is the place of God’s Presence. In the Old Testament, it was a tent and surrounding courtyard that could be disassembled and relocated. It was there that God literally came and dwelt among His people (see Exodus 40:34-38)

And God’s Presence is His provision for the Day of Trouble. His solution is simply, “I will be with you”

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you. Isaiah 43:2

Fear not, for I am with you; Isaiah 43:5

There is probably nothing worse in the Day of Trouble than feeling like you have to go through it alone.

Several years before I met the Lord, I moved out on my own for the first time. I moved to San Antonio - away from all of my family and friends, except a girl I was dating at the time (which…yes, that’s why.)

Within a couple months, I lost my job, my apartment got flooded, I got ripped off for several hundred dollars, my car was vandalized, and the girl broke up with me. WHAT?!

Days of Trouble.

I thought, “Is this my life? Is this what I have to look forward to?”

The worst part of it all, though, was that I had to go through all of that alone. I felt like a failure. Alone in a new city with no friends. At least Job had a few buddies come and sit with him.

The truth is, Someone was there, I was just unaware of it. And so I suffered unnecessarily.

God is so marvelous: when you are in the Day of Trouble, He doesn’t send a messenger: He shows up Himself.

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble Psalm 46:1

So it’s not a matter of God being there, but whether or not we are willing to say, “I am in trouble. I feel alone, but I know that’s not true. God is with me, and He will see me through.”

About a year after I first Encountered the Lord, I drove to Houston to see some family. Off of I-10 I saw the sign for my exit, and it was ¾ of a mile.

I was about 27 at the time - in the neighborhood of a quarter century. And I thought, “If I lived to 100, I am about 1/4 of the way there - with 3/4 left.

Suddenly I began singing a melody with these words:

Three quarters of a mile until I exit
Lord, will you be there when I can go no further?

My heart was so moved, my eyes began to water, thinking that the Lord would be with me all of my life, and I would never again have to be alone.

To my surprise, I heard myself sing these words:

Yes, son, I’ll be there. I’ll hold you close to Me.
I’ll guide you gently, though you won’t see Me.
I’ll always be there when you can go no further.

No matter how bad things seem to get - we can always trust that God is with us. Even if we can’t see Him. Sometimes we find ourselves at our wit’s end - and the only thing we have strength left for is to bow our head and whisper, “Lord, I know You are with me.

Resist the temptation to feel alone in your Day of Trouble. It’s a lie.
Jesus is with you. As you rest and trust in Him, You will see His power and His love work in you and through you.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Thoughts on Psalm 20:1b

May the name of the God of Jacob defend you (Psalm 20:1b)

David is singing in Psalm 20 about “The Day of Trouble” - and he is laying out God’s provision, which can be summed up in the word “Trust.”

As an aside, the word “Psalm” comes from the Greek psallein - “to pluck” and further psalmos - “song sung to harp music” So as you listen to the music I’ve written for Psalm 20, realize that this is how the Psalms are meant to be experienced - sung with a stringed instrument.

First, we find Trust in the fact that God will speak to us - He will answer us and give us direction. (see Psalm 20:1a)

David then draws on his personal walk with the Lord and takes us deeper into God’s provision for the Day of Trouble: the fact that God’s name will defend you. So we go to David’s most famous story: David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)

I’ve tried to watch a few movie versions of David and Goliath, but unfortunately I am now one of “those people” who has “read the Book” and I haven’t been able to finish any of them. No matter how well it is done, it is sub-par to the theater of my imagination as I have poured over the details of this miraculous story.

David didn’t just grab a stone and run out to meet Goliath. There was actually a spiritual battle that took place first. Goliath took the first swing, when:

And [Goliath] cursed David by his gods. 1 Samuel 17:43

Isn’t it interesting that a giant who had a clear physical advantage still took the time to apply a spiritual element? Something to ponder.

David was unphased. He fired back:

“You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts…This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand… for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:45, 46, 47

And you know the rest of the story. Israel’s “Day of Trouble” turned out to be one of the most celebrated Biblical stories ever.

And it was settled when David spoke to his problem, and told his problem how the end would turn out - and he did it in the name of the Lord.

So again, we find the psalmist - not flippantly throwing around flowery words - but making a withdrawal out of the treasuries of a life lived, walking with God; fully aware of the power of releasing the name of the Lord into any situation.

And how much more - now that we know the Lord not only by His name “the God of Jacob”, but by the name of Jesus?

May the name of the God of Jacob defend you

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.