Finding hope in the treasure of the Psalms

Is there hope?, asks Christopher Holmes. 

"My hope is in you." So says King David in Psalm 39:7.

My vocation, as a Christian, is to bear testimony to this hope.

The God we meet in the pages of Holy Scripture anchors hope. This God is in the business of making all things new. See Revelation 21:5: "See, I am making all things new."

In order to understand the riches of this promise, I meditate and pray. Specifically, I pray the prayers of the Christian church's great prayerbook, the Psalms.

It is hard to pray. I struggle. Many others do too. But God, in his great mercy, provides us with prayers. These prayers are the Psalms.

The book of Psalms is a collection of prayers and songs written over the course of God's long history with his people, Israel.

One of the reasons why the Psalms are such a blessing to the church and synagogue is because they lay bare the human condition before God. Many of us live as if God does not matter. The Psalms teach otherwise. They remind us that all of life is relevant to God, the good and not so good.

In this season of Easter, we have a great opportunity to think about why we are here. Why, indeed, is there anything at all? The Psalms remind us that we are here because of God. God creates all things in order that they may sing his praises. That is why we are here.

The Psalms teach us to sing of God's goodness and to celebrate the works of God's goodness. They help us to learn God's law, as embodied in the Ten Commandments. See Exodus 20:1-21. "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me."

They enable us to see

that our lives are to be lived before God and in obedience to God's commands.

Life is a great gift. One of the gifts of the life of faith is patience. "I waited patiently for the Lord," says David in Psalm 40:1. The Psalms encourage patience over and over again. Why? When we are patient, we recognise something of how fleeting our life is. Every one of us is a mere breath. And that is OK.

The ground of hope, Christians believe, is God. We belong to God, dust that we are, through Jesus Christ. Easter is a time in which the faithful recognise the call to wait. The healing of the world, the expulsion of sin and death, all that is God's doing, not ours.

Hope lies outside ourselves. When we relinquish the myth that we belong only to ourselves, we open ourselves to life, God's life. And that life is abundantly poured out in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

A life of patience is rooted in prayer. One of the most ancient prayers of the church is "Come, Lord Jesus!" When we pray, we give ourselves over to God. It is God, and not ourselves, who makes new. Nothing could be more urgent or relevant to human flourishing than prayer.

When we pray, we see ourselves as God's. We also see ourselves as belonging to one another through God. Prayer unites us to God and to one another in the context of the Christian community. Ultimately, the sufferings of Christ return us to God. Through him, all that separates us from God and from one another is destroyed.

The gift of Easter is hope. We become hopeful by praying, praying the prayers that Jesus himself prayed. Those prayers are the Psalms. They are a great treasure.

 - Christopher Holmes is head of the Theology Programme at the University of Otago.


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