From Ryan Ruffing
Psalm 44: Our very human tendency is to believe that we control our own fate – our actions determine our destiny. To the contrary, the psalmist makes his plea to God on the basis of knowing that God is the true force behind his life’s path – he is emphatic that it is not by the strength of his ancestors (vs. 3) or by his own strength (vs. 6) that God’s people have experienced success. Therefore in a time of trial, he also sees the hand of God at work – “you gave us to be devoured like sheep and have scattered us among the nations” (vs. 11). This is undoubtedly a hard word, but it is what allows the psalmist to cry out to God in the midst of the circumstances. Even in difficulty we are assured that God’s purposes are good for us (see Romans 8:28), and that should move us to bring all our turmoil to him.
Psalm 45: Seemingly an oddity within the Psalter, this psalm takes a human being, the king, as its subject of praise. It is difficult to know what to do with these praises, but we find guidance within the pages of the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 45 verse 6 (Heb. 1:8-9), and makes it clear that the king mentioned should be seen as Jesus. Israel by the time of Jesus, having experienced the deep brokenness of human rulers, had already begun to see the psalm in a messianic light, which may explain its inclusion in the Psalter. Read as Jesus, the psalm now flows with a deep beauty.
Psalm 46: This is a beautiful description of God’s protection for his people – note the repeated refrain: “the LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (vss. 7 and 11). God is indeed a refuge for his people (vs. 1) in times of trouble, and we are therefore able to live without fear (vs. 2). The psalm describes different kinds of trouble – whether from natural disaster (vs. 2-3) or from the hands of other people (vs. 6+9), we are able to find refuge in God during our times of trouble.
James 1:19-25: James exhorts us to not be merely hearers of the word, but doers. In a city that often emphasizes knowing the right things, we Bostonians can forget that following Jesus is about living a particular kind of life. We pursue life according to His ways, not because we are attempting to earn his favor, but because his ways are the ways of life – as James puts it, it is “the perfect law that gives freedom.” We experience this freedom not when we know the right things, but when we begin to live according to his way. Let us be doers of the word.