Memorizing the Psalms

I saw a tweet the other week that suggested memorizing Psalms as a strategy for dealing with negative emotions. This seemed like a really good idea, so I’ve been memorizing Psalm 3 over the past several days. Each morning I take one or two verses and recite them over and over in my head until I’ve memorized them. And then whenever I hit something difficult in my day, I speak the Psalm into my soul again and again. In the past, my time in the Word has been more focused on reading and studying than on memorizing and meditating. But I am finding that this kind of close meditation can bring about a knowledge of the text that studying cannot. Commentaries and study notes are valuable tools for understanding the Bible, but need to be supplemented with both (1) meditation and (2) application to struggle. Especially this latter stage is essential. I wonder if I could go so far as to say that biblical truth is not really understood in the way God intended it to be understood until we apply it to the struggles in our life.

What this means for me as I walk through Psalm 3:

O Lord, how many are my foes!
    Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
     there is no salvation for him in God.

My enemies may be numerous (the word “many” appears 3 times) and serious (“rising against me” and speaking against God’s very work in my soul).

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.

But God is my refuge and my glory. I love the image of God Himself lifting up our head. What a powerful picture of God taking away my shame. That fills me with hope and encouragement. It enables me to face the hard things in life squarely. I also love the image of God as a shield around me. This helps me worship and love God as my protector.

I cried aloud to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy hill.

God answers my prayers. My sighing and crying out reaches up to His Holy presence, where angels fear to go (“his holy hill”). That inner sanctuary is not off limits for the burdens of my heart. From there He answers prayer.

I lay down and slept;
    I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.

God sustains me, moment by moment, with watchful care. He is not distant and removed. He is at my elbow. He is in the mundane. At 4:00 in the afternoon when I’m tired and scattered, God is there. At 1:00 AM when I can’t sleep, God is there. At 7:00 AM when I wake up, God is there. In fact, He is the One who woke me.

I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
    who have set themselves against me all around.

This verse always speaks to me. Its amazing how often we’re motivated by fear without even realizing it. As I meditate on this verse, and the gargantuan statement it is making through hyperbole, I find strength to release my fear to the Lord and trust in His goodness and sovereignty.

Arise, O Lord!
    Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
    you break the teeth of the wicked.

Salvation belongs to the Lord;
    your blessing be on your people!

Still working on these verses. But I love the vivid image of God’s active wrath against evil. Its portraying God as giving the wicked a shot to the face, like a boxer landing a vicious punch. Yikes. And as with the previous two Psalms, the Psalm ends by directing attention towards the Lord’s salvation.

Need to do this more often. Gonna work on Psalms 1 and 2 next. Why haven’t I done this before?

One Comment

  1. Wayne Sparkman

    Gavin:

    On the subject of meditating on the Word, you might enjoy browsing through the website “English Puritan Meditation”
    [http://segonku.unl.edu/student_projects/hist970/s07/agant/]

    See particularly the works in the Author section:
    http://segonku.unl.edu/~agant/archive/authors.html

    Like

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