Our month of prayer continues. The prayer guide can be downloaded here: Harvest Prayer 8 -14 October2017
This week Graham continued the series on the eight prayer Psalms of David. We learn about the significance of the Psalms in the history of the Israelites and how we can apply them to our own life, challenges and experiences. You can listen again to the sermon here:
Psalms 138 – 145
The eight prayer Psalms of David
In order to read these prayers in such a way that they speak to both you and I in our time we must first note some features of their context.
These prayers are the prayers of one person. They present us with his thoughts, his hopes and beliefs and sometimes his human limitations. These are the prayers of a king. They are from the pre New Covenant age.
An introduction to the Psalms
The book of Psalms can be seen as a collection of poems prayers and songs. So it is a collection of these that have been used and are intended for use.
The Psalms represent the faith that had matured over centuries and had reached the stage of development at the time the collection was put together during, or shortly after, the exile into Babylon, probably by temple priests. It became the prayer book during the exile, in the life of the rebuilt temple after the exile and in the synagogues up to the time of Jesus and beyond. It is still used in synagogues and in the church of Jesus the Messiah.
One way to use the Psalms is to pray aloud portions of them as words of our own prayers to God.
1 I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you. 2 May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. “May my prayer be set before you like…”
Luke 18:1 “Pray and don’t give up”
Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray”
Matthew 6:9 “This then is how you should pray”
Perfumes and incense were part of the culture of the ancient east. Proverbs 27:9 “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart…”
The offering of incense in worship was widely practised in the various ancient religions of Israel’s neighbours. The Egyptians offered huge amounts to their gods each year. According to one record, King Rameses III. presented during the 31 years of his reign, 368,461 jars and 1,933,766 pieces of incense, honey, and oil (Erman, “Egyptian,” p. 407). Incense featured in the Babylonian-Assyrian cult and according to Herodotus (i. 183), at the great yearly feast of Bel, 1,000 talents (58,944 kg.) of incense were burned on his great altar.
However, before we leap to conclusions about the ancient Israelites, we do not have a record of its use in their worship. The offering of incense is not mentioned until quite late in the Old Testament period. Offering a sacrifice of incense hardly mentioned at all in the historic and prophetic books. They could have traded for the ingredients but no trace can be found in Hebrew literature of the offering of incense in the time of the early kingdom; nor is it represented as a regular and especially important part of worship, as it became in later times.
Although the noun “?e?oret” and the verb “?a?ar” (“ki??er,” “hi??ir”) occur, they do not designate incense burnt on the altar and its offering, as in the sacrificial legislation. “?e?oret” is rather a general term for the burning sacrifice and the sacrificial odour; and in the same way “?a?ar” is used as an entirely general term for the burning of any gift on the altar (compare Amos 4:5; Hosea 4:13; 11:2).
Based in material: http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8099-incense
Therefore David could have been referring to general sacrificial living as worship.
38 ‘This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day: two lambs a year old. 39 Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight. 40 With the first lamb offer a tenth of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil from pressed olives, and a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering. 41 Sacrifice the other lamb at twilight with the same grain offering and its drink offering as in the morning – a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord.
42 ‘For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the tent of meeting, before the Lord. There I will meet you and speak to you; 43 there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory. 44 ‘So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. 45 Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. 46 They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.
1 Kings 18:25-39
25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.’ 26 So they took the bull that was given to them and prepared it.
Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. ‘Baal, answer us!’ they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said. ‘Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or travelling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.’ 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come here to me.’ They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, ‘Your name shall be Israel.’ 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench round it large enough to hold two seahs[a] of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, ‘Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.’ 34 ‘Do it again,’ he said, and they did it again. ‘Do it a third time,’ he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’ 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The Lord – he is God! The Lord – he is God!’
Why would David offer the lifting of his hands as something equivalent to the evening sacrifice? Perhaps an answer is found in the early understanding of this which is commented upon by Paul when he appeals for followers of Christ to lift hands in prayer.
1 Timothy 2:7-8
7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle – I am telling the truth, I am not lying – and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. 8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.
When we lift hands in prayer we signal that we submit to Christ, that we give our lives again as a sacrifice, that we are turning in repentance and seek holiness of life. We can give few things to God, but we can give ourselves, prayer and worship.
3 Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. 4 Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies. 5 Let a righteous man strike me – that is a kindness; let him rebuke me – that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers.
Worship is drawing near to God. In these lines we have David reaching for personal holiness as he guards his speaking, the temptations of the heart, and his willingness to receive correction.
This is a man who wants to walk in step with his Lord God.
Verse 8, “But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord…”
An interesting turn of phrase, but what does it mean?
See Psalm 123
A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven. 2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy. 3 Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured no end of contempt. 4 We have endured no end of ridicule from the arrogant, of contempt from the proud.
I suggest David is talking about the focus of his life.
Last week I suggested taking a short phrase of a previous Psalm, writing it down and carrying it with you so you could pray it often during the week. If you were to repeat the exercise this week, what portion of this Psalm would you carry with you?