From Ryan Ruffing
Psalm 86: Amidst trouble the psalmist depends upon what he knows about God’s character. The Lord is “good and forgiving,” (vs. 5) “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (vs. 15). As the walls are closing in, and things become desperate, the psalmist is already rooted in who God is – he is prepared for the circumstantial storm.
Psalm 87: This psalm praises the city Zion – Jerusalem. The city’s role in Israel’s worship was central as it contained the Temple, and was therefore the locus for seasonal pilgrimages made by faithful Jews to celebrate important religious festivals like Passover. What is clear, however, from this text, is that Zion’s majesty was not a result of human rituals, but rather the Lord’s presence, “for the Most High himself will establish her” (vs. 5). Under the New Covenant, we now know that this very presence dwells in all believers, and therefore, the glory of Zion is now the glory of the church.
Psalm 88: This psalm of lament is full of despair and pathos. The psalmist is close to death (vs. 4), and has been abandoned by his loved ones (vs. 8). There is really no resolution offered in the psalm – things are not wrapped up in a neat package. We see the raw edge of life’s reality – death and suffering. If this is all we see, however, we have missed what the psalm has to teach us. These cries of desperation are addressed directly to the Lord – “O Lord, God of my salvation” (vs. 1). In hardship there is often no resolution – there is no neat package to dress with a theological bow. But even then we can address God – indeed, faith in those times means keeping God in the conversation.
Romans 1.28-2.5: Paul makes it clear that seeing God’s kindness as payment for our own goodness, and viewing ourselves as better than others, is a fatal error. “For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things” (2.1). On the contrary, God’s kindness is not a recognition of our moral superiority, but is “meant to lead you to repentance” (vs. 4).