Today is ANZAC Day – a day to commemorate the work of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and everything that this represents. What do you do to celebrate ANZAC Day? Do you attend a dawn service? Do you join in with singing the National Anthem? Do you spend time listening to or reading stories of brave soldiers?
Israel had similar days of commemoration and celebration, such as the Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 16). They would engage in pilgrimages to the Jerusalem Temple, sing special songs and remind each other of the good work that God had done for His people. While they were on their way up the hill to the Temple, the Jews would sing the songs of ascent (Psalms 120-134) to prepare their hearts for celebration and worship. Today’s reading – Psalm 130 – is one such song. It is a desperate cry for mercy and forgiveness of sins.
When reading the Psalms, it is important to remember that they are different from most other parts of the Bible. Specifically, they are prayers: they are words to God, not from Him. Psalms are honest prayers that express how real people feel in various situations. Psalms are also praises: songs sung to God, played on instruments, praising Him for who He is, what He is like and what He has done. It is appropriate therefore to not only pray through the Psalms, but also to sing through them. The Psalms are also poetry, making use of various literary features such as wordplay, alliteration, acrostics, parallelism, imagery and metaphors. Not everything in a Psalm should necessarily be taken literally; rather, we should read a Psalm as a whole to get an overall sense of what it is going for. Finally, Psalms are sometimes prophetic, pointing directly to Jesus and His work. As we read Psalm 130 today, keep these four features in mind so that you can use this Psalm to glorify God and build up His Church.