A Paraphrase and Reflection Upon Psalm 34:1-8

Psalm 34:1-8 – My Paraphrase

1 I will bless the Eternal at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul will glory in the Eternal; the humble will hear and be glad.
3 O magnify the Eternal with me, and let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the Eternal, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Look unto him and be radiant; and your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor one cried, and the Eternal heard and saved him from every trouble.
7 The angel of the Eternal pitches his tent around those who fear him and delivers them.
8 O taste and see that the Eternal is good: blessed are those who seek refuge in him.

My Reflection

To praise God at all times and to trust that God will deliver. It sounds really good, but it can be incredibly hard to practice in life. First of all, most of us hardly do enough praising, especially in our more contentious and complaining moods.  Second, many of us prefer to save ourselves, or to at least have a healthy amount of the responsibility for the saving.

The Psalm does, however, have one of my favorite verses in it: “Taste and see that the Lord (or the Eternal) is good.” I often say this when distributing the elements for communion, and when someone complains that the hunks of bread that I give out are too big, I tell them what my old professor of United Methodist History used to tell us at Drew. Ken Rowe would look at us and ask, “How can you taste and see if the Lord is good by eating a crumb of bread or drinking a thimble full of grape juice.”

One final note: Psalm 34 is an acrostic Psalm. In Hebrew, the first verse begins with a word starting with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph), the second verse begins with the second letter (beth), and so forth through the alphabet (though there are no verses for waw and two verses for pe).

The Thoughts of Others

“If half the breath thus vainly spent” in finding fault with our fellow-Christians were spent in prayer and praise, how much happier, how much richer, we should be spiritually! “His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” – C. H. Spurgeon

Using the Tongue Well – a sermon by Dr. Marshall C. St. John at Wayside Presbyterian Church, Signal Mountain, Tennessee.

A Reflection on Psalm 90

Psalm 90 – My Paraphrase

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth or you had formed the world and its habitation,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You turn mortals back to dust, saying,
“Return to dust, O children of humanity.”
4 A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just past,
or as a watch in the night.
5 Yet you sweep them away;
they are like sleep at the break of day –
they are like grass that springs up:
6 In the morning it sprouts and flourishes,
but by dusk it is dried up and cut down.
7 We are consumed by your anger and we tremble at your wrath.
8 You have set our sins before you, our secrets in the light of your face.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a sigh.

10 The span of our years is seventy, or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are wearisome and sorrowful,
for they quickly pass, and we fade away.
11 Who knows the strength of your anger,
or the exceeding dread of your wrath?
12 So teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

13 Turn back, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants.
14 Fill us in the morning with your mercy,
so that we may shout aloud for joy and rejoice all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have experienced sorrow.
16 Let your work be seen by your servants,
and your splendor to their children.
17 May the delight of the Lord our God rest on us;
and establish for us the work of our hands –
yes, establish the work of our hands.


We are told that this is a psalm of Moses. In this beautiful poem Moses speaks not only of the brevity of human life, but also of the awesome might of God. One of the main points of this psalm is the relative impotence of humankind in the face of God’s power and strength. We are dependent upon God for our lives, and need to recognize our own mortality. In fact, nothing we do will last, unless God establishes it for us.

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Another Sunday morning has come and gone, and though the sermon I preached today was not all that great, I, at least, did finish writing it before I preached it (I was busy making corrections on it with a pencil until 5 minutes before I had to preach, however).  I think it “preached” better at the traditional service, where I actually got a few compliments on it.

The primary text I used was from Hebrews 11:1-3,8-16:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old–and Sarah herself was barren–because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. (NRSV)

This is such a vivid passage of scripture, and I fear my presentation did not do it justice.  I tried to convey the need to persevere in faith even in the darkest times, even when our faith takes us to places we don’t want to go, and even if our faith seems to be in vain.  I also talked about the fact that faith requires action on the part of the one who has it.  But maybe I would have been better off just reading them a prayer and sitting down.

The following prayer is taken from the book Celtic Daily Prayer (See link below, and thanks to Sonja of the blog Calacirian and the Google Group No Fairy Dust Here for originally posting it here.  I used in the traditional service but not the modern/contemporary one.

Lord, You have always given
bread for the coming day’
and though I am poor,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
strength for the coming day;
and though I am weak,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
peace for the coming day;
and though anxious of heart,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always kept me safe in trials;
and now, tried as I am,
today, I believe.

Lord, You have always marked
the road for the coming day;
and though it may be hidden,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always lightened
this darkness of mine;
and though the night is here,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always spoken
when time was ripe;
and though You be silent now,
today I believe.