Beckett: Psalms to Pray During Pestilence/Pandemic/Quarantine

I provided this list on my personal Facebook page, but I thought it’d be beneficial to provide it in a more permanent context. The list is long, so I will only give a brief description of what’s going on in the text. Because this list is really long, you don’t have to read it all in one sitting. Feel free to come back to it several times, but I do encourage you to read the whole thing because there is a theme going on here. Feel free also to use each psalm listed in your own devotional practice as you meditate on each psalm.

The psalms I mark with an asterisk ( * ) are ones you should pay closer attention to during times of pestilence. The list that follows is a result of my own careful consideration, not derived from an outer source. I hope this list is of some benefit to you in your devotional and prayer times. Enjoy!

Psalm 6

As a penitential psalm, it might seem odd that I included this as the first of what I call “penitence psalms.” Yet I thought it was appropriate to include because times like a pandemic should lead us toward self-reflection and repentance. I’m drawing some of this from Luke 13:1-5:

There were some present at that very time who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And He answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

Ever since the dawning of this pandemic, blame was being pushed around: Blame the Chinese, blame the liberals who are killing babies in the womb, blame the conservatives who are not welcoming the sojourner in the land, and so on. This is a repeat of the aftermath of Adam & Eve’s sin—they each pushed the blame onto somebody else (Genesis 3:11-13) when both of them were culpable. Even I was among the fools pushing the blame on somebody else rather than using this time as an opportunity to self-reflect and to repent.

Could God be punishing our nation? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know the mind of God. Neither do you.

Therefore, let us begin such times with self-reflection and repentance. This is why I’ve always said that it was very apt that the pandemic in America started during Lent. “O LORD, rebuke me not in Your anger, nor discipline me in Your wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled” (vv. 1-2). Then let us lament about our isolation, “My soul also is greatly troubled. But You, O LORD—how long?” (v. 3). How long will this pandemic and quarantine last, O God? Deliver my life from death (vv. 4-5)!

The psalm ends with forgiveness delivered, “The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer” (v. 9), while also taking confidence in the fact that “[our] enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment” (v. 10). The enemy in this case being the virus.

Psalm 9

After we repent, and during times of pestilence, I believe it is fitting to remember the works of the Lord and praise Him for His wonderful deeds. “I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all Your wonderful deeds!” (v. 1). During times of pandemic, worshiping God is of utmost importance, especially during quarantine when we are unable to enter the house of the Lord!

Yet we live in rather unique times. For the first time in history, we are able to worship the Lord without being physically together because of the Internet. The Christians during the Black Plague did not have this, nor those during the Spanish Flu from 1918-1920, nor even during H3N2 virus pandemic of 1968 that took place during Woodstock. Yet today, we are able to worship the Lord online.

Yet even this is extremely limited. We still lack that vital function of togetherness during the Divine Service. We cannot partake of the Lord’s body and blood in the Eucharist for the forgiveness of our sins. We even end up missing sitting on those hard wooden pews! Online worship is certainly no replacement for what the Lord has ordered to be corporeal and communal. Yet this is only temporary.

Nonetheless, we are blessed that we are able to, “Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples His deeds!” (v. 11), even if it is online. What a blessing we have!

Psalm 11

This psalm might seem an odd thing for me to add, especially v. 4, “The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in Heaven; His eyes, His eyelids test the children of man.” For us, the temple is our local congregation. In ancient Israel, the Israelites understood the temple as the place where God has promised to be present. The same is true for us today. God has promised to be present in His Word and Sacraments where the Word is rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered. Yet during quarantine, we cannot gather to such a place to be with God. Even during times when quarantine is no longer mandated but the pandemic is still raging on, we still experience limitations with access to church and worship.

This psalm, therefore, ends up causing me to miss church. So, why would I include this psalm for encouragement? That’s exactly why included this psalm in my listing: to cause you to miss church.

When the pandemic hit the United States hard, I was half-way through my vicarage assignment. Towards the end of the lockdown, the people were beginning to realise how much they took for granted the liturgy and our corporeal worship. They realised just how much they need church. They also realised that even though worshiping online was a great blessing, it was still in great lacking. They missed not only the corporeality of our worship, but they also ended up missing each other (and they fight often!).

Thus, during times of pandemic and quarantine, we ought to realise just how much we truly need church. The church exists for a reason. The church is our mother who exists to feed us with the Word and Sacraments. So, you should miss it. You should long to enter the church to worship the Lord and be with your brothers and sisters. We are a family, after all. It is not good to spend a lot of time away from your family. It leaves a vacant hole that nothing can fill, not even seeing them on a screen.

Psalm 13*

The psalm begins unashamedly, “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” (v. 1). This psalm probably strikes home for a lot of people during a pandemic, especially those who directly suffer from its affliction, even those who’ve lost a loved one due to the virus.

This psalm gives room for you to complain to God. Yes, I mean it—complain to God. That’s what David does here. Yet notice how David ends the psalm, “But I have trusted in Your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (vv. 5-6).

This is one of my favourite psalms because it takes suffering and lament seriously. Too often, the church tells people not to complain to God because it’s sinful. Maybe it is, but to say this is also a poor witness to the Scriptures and it fails to take peoples’ suffering seriously; it’s unsympathetic and cold.

Psalm 13 and many others show just how human it is to complain to God. Yet they always end with hope and trust in the Lord, knowing He is faithful to His people no matter how things may look. The only exception is Psalm 88, but this is followed by a song of worship, Psalm 89, both of which will appear later on this list.

Psalm 16*

This is simply a beautiful prayer that calls out to God to preserve you as you trust in the Lord and His divine providence—an appropriate psalm to pray during a pandemic.

Psalm 18*

This is a terrific psalm of trust and confidence in the Lord, which begins, “I love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (vv. 1-2). It is highly vital to remember that God is our strength, refuge, and fortress in times of pestilence.

It is also important to remember the authority God has over creation, even things like a virus, “The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire. And He sent out His arrows and scattered them; He flashed forth lightnings and routed them” (vv. 13-14). Since God has such control over powerful things such as these, imagine the control He has over a minuscule virus.

Psalm 20

This is a good psalm to pray on behalf of others, especially those whom the virus afflicts, “May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May He send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion [the church]! May He remember all your offerings [prayers] and regard with favour Your burnt sacrifices!” (vv. 1-3). If you ever visit someone in the hospital during the pandemic (or any other time), I encourage you to read this psalm to them.

I put “the church” and “prayers” in brackets because the church is the New Testament Zion and our prayers are understood as the spiritual sacrifices we bring before God (see Romans 12:1-2; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; 1 Peter 2:4-5; Hebrews 13:15-16).

Psalm 23*

This is the typical favourite psalm of virtually every Christian, and for good reason. Yet I want to specifically point out v. 4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Note especially the prepositional phrase, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” In other words, here we pray, “Despite the fact that I’m walking through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil!”

Currently, we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death of the pandemic, but we shan’t fear any evil because the Lord is with us. We know we shall appear on the other side of this dark valley whence the Lord prepares a table before us (v. 5)—both the Eucharist and the eschatological table (Revelation 19:6-9)—and where goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives (v. 6).

Psalm 24

I included this psalm to remember that God is the Lord of all creation even during times of pandemic. “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (vv. 1-2). It is highly vital to remember God is still in control despite pestilence.

Psalms 26-27

I thought it important to pair these psalms (there are a couple paired psalms throughout). Both these psalms are psalms of deliverance from our enemies. We usually think of our enemies as people, but our enemies can also be pestilence and sickness.

I paired these together because of how Psalm 26 ends and how Psalm 27 begins. Psalm 26:11-12 ends, “But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.” And Psalm 27:1 begins as if it’s a therefore. Thus, “My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the LORD [Psalm 26:12]. [THEREFORE], The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? [Psalm 27:1].”

I trust in the Lord’s vindication (26:1), mercy/steadfast love and faithfulness (26:3), wondrous deeds (26:7), and His redemption and graciousness (26:11). Therefore, “the LORD is my light and my salvation” (27:1a). Furthermore, why should I be afraid of my enemies? Even the pandemic?

Some might say, “You should be afraid because it can kill you!” Yet as a Christian, my response should be: “So what? I know that the darkness of death is not the end for me, for the Lord is my light and my salvation. Because I meditated on Psalm 23, I know the other side of this valley of the shadow of death is a feast with my Lord. I know that, according to the word of my Lord, that though I die, yet shall I live [John 11:25]. Therefore, I am not afraid.”

Of course, this does not mean you shouldn’t take the right precautions to ensure you don’t spread the plague. Nevertheless, we do so not out of fear, but out of love for our neighbour.

Psalm 28

Another psalm asking God to hear your cries for mercy (v. 2) while taking confidence in the fact that God has heard your pleas for mercy and is your strength and your shield (vv. 6-9).

Psalm 29*

Another reminder to sing songs of praise to the name of the Lord despite these times of pestilence. Such times should not prevent us from praising our God for who He is.

Psalm 30*

A reminder that we will get through this pandemic not because of anything we might do, but because of the Lord’s graciousness. “For His anger is but for a moment, and His favour is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (v. 5). Is this pandemic a result of God’s anger? Maybe. Who can say? Yet even if it is, His favour—His grace—is forever. Therefore, this suffering is like the momentary weeping of the night, but it will cease as the Lord’s joy dawns upon you.

This is not only true presently, when the pandemic will surely end, but especially eschatologically when we shall sing, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever!” (vv. 11-12).

An Israelite would put on sackcloth for a time of mourning and grief. By loosening the sackcloth so that it falls and is removed, God removes the psalmist’s grief and replaces it with joy. So it shall be with us not only presently when the pandemic ends, but especially eschatologically when there will be no more illness and death.

Psalm 31*

This psalm is a great prayer to read aloud in pandemic times, especially v. 5, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.” It is a great thing to place our lives into the loving and caring hands of God rather than His hands of wrath. When you trust your life in the hands of God, either way, you will experience life whether that life is continued here on earth or life that rests and sleeps in the Lord upon death who will raise your spirit again with your body when He returns.

Psalm 32

This is the first penitent psalm I have you read since Psalm 6. We may not only fail to take time to repent and trust in the Lord’s graciousness to forgive at the beginning of a pandemic, but also during. For these are, indeed, trying times. Not only trying as in difficult, but also trying in that we are tempted to sin even more, whether that be shifting the blame, hurting our neighbours’ conscience by not following proper sanitary protocols, etc.

Psalm 33

This is another song of praise that causes us to remember the works of the Lord, specifically in creation (vv. 6-15), reminding us again who is truly in charge. This psalm also reminds us that our salvation is not in our nation, but God (vv. 16-17). While salvation from this pandemic may come from scientific efforts, ultimately it is God who provided the way of escape. It is not the war horse that delivers one from his enemy; it was God who put it there. Similarly, it will not be scientists who will have created the cure or vaccine that delivers us from the pandemic, but God who put it there, for all things belong to Him. Especially science, for as science deals with things of the physical world, it is God who created the physical world and all that is in it.

Psalm 37*

This psalm is important to remind the Christian that God has not forsaken you. “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (vv. 1-4).

As hard as it might be, try not to worry so much. This pandemic, our enemy, will not last forever. The grass soon fades away. So, too, this pandemic will soon fade away. Hardly anyone remembers the Spanish Flu or the H3N2 influenza virus of 1968. So, too, COVID-19 will be forgotten with time. Therefore, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him” (v. 7a).

Psalm 38

This is another psalm of penitence and deliverance. I thought its language particularly apropos to our current times, “My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness, I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning. For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh” (vv. 5-7). Those who are suffering from the coronavirus may immediately relate to this psalm.

When you are stricken with severe illness, you stink and your wounds fester because you are unable to bathe. This sickness may or may not be your fault, and it is likely your fault when you refuse to wear a face mask in mass gatherings and end up getting the virus! Thus, I bow down and prostrate before God to give me mercy. I rely on His mercy and His salvation (v. 22).

Psalm 40

I included this psalm to encourage the one praying to remember the times when God has delivered you. David, the author of this psalm, does this. “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (vv. 1-2), and so forth. It is from these past acts of the Lord’s deliverance that David is confident in the Lord, “Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me! …As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!” (vv. 13, 17). Thus, we ought to make this prayer our prayer as well.

Psalms 42-43*

This next Psalm pair go together because of the psalmist’s frequently asked question, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me,” coupled with trust in God, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God” (42:5, 11; 43:5). Both psalms also find comfort in entering the house of God, “These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival” (42:4); “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise You with the lyre, O God, my God” (43:4).

Both psalms function as a single unit as a song of lament that also finds joy in dwelling in God’s house. Certainly, the pandemic gives our souls ample reason to be cast down. Nevertheless, we hope in God, for we shall again praise Him in His house, our salvation and our God. Thus, alongside Psalm 11, this psalm also causes us to miss church and to look forward to being with one another again, while also realising we shouldn’t take for granted the freedom we have to attend church.

Psalm 44*

This is another psalm of lament. Like the psalmist, we remember the great deeds of the Lord (vv. 1-3) and we acknowledge our trust in the Lord (vv. 4-8), yet it appears as if God has “rejected us and disgraced us” (v. 9). Nevertheless, the psalm guides us toward diligent faithfulness (vv.17-18). Still, as we strive to remain faithful, it seems as if God is asleep (vv. 23-24). Therefore, in this psalm, we pray God to rise up and redeem us (v. 26).

Psalm 46*

Another one of my favourite psalms, Psalm 46 utilises vibrant imagery to convey the raging chaos of the earth and the nations (vv. 1-3, 6). Pestilence falls into this corruption of creation. Nevertheless, in the middle of all this chaos, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns” (vv. 4-5).

“The city of God” is a metaphor for Zion, which is a synecdoche for God’s people. God has promised to dwell in the midst of His people, which today He does in the Word and the Sacraments. Therefore, going to church during a pandemic is of utmost importance, for it is there that we receive our help. What is this river in the city of God? Presently, I like to think of it as Baptism in which we become children of God. Eschatologically, I like to look toward the river that will run through the City of God, the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:1-2).

Focusing on the present, however, we remember, “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (vv. 7, 11). With the church as our Zion, where God has promised to be present, the church is the fortress to which we run for refuge.

Psalm 47

As with Psalm 18, here we have another reminder that God still rules over all creation despite the pandemic. Therefore, we ought to praise Him even during times such as these.

Psalm 49*

This psalm declares before all people regardless of wealth and poverty (vv. 1-2), “Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?” (vv. 5-6). With Psalm 27, I have no reason to fear even in times of pestilent trouble.

What is the psalmist’s confidence for such a bold saying? “But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me” (v. 15). Sheol is the grave, or death. The psalmist knows that upon death, God shall receive him into His hands. We have the same assurance, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

Psalm 54*

Another appropriate psalm of deliverance to pray during pestilence. Yet notice how the plea is deliverance according to the power of God and not the power of man. “O God, save me by Your name, and vindicate me by Your might. O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth” (vv. 1-2).

Even before the prayer is answered with a yes or no, David knows he has God’s help. “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life” (v. 4). Even during pestilence, we ought to have such confidence in the Lord that He helps us and sustains our lives. After all, for those of us who have not fallen asleep in the Lord’s hands, is that not what He is presently doing?

Psalm 55*

This is another psalm of lament appropriate to pray during pestilence. “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me” (vv. 4-5). This describes many of the people, even Christians, who are frightened by the pandemic and its looming threat.

Nevertheless, we pray, “But I call to God, and the LORD will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and He hears my voice. He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me” (vv. 16-19).

Sure, there are some things in this psalm that will not relate, for this is a prayer against a close friend who betrayed David (vv. 12-15, 20-21). Nevertheless, there are certainly applicable parts in the psalm, such as the penultimate verse, “Cast your burden on the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved” (v. 22).

Psalms 62-63*

This next psalm pair I’ve chosen speak on David’s complete trust in God. “For God alone my soul awaits in silence; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken” (62:1-2); “O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary, beholding Your power and glory” (63:1-2). This power David beheld is the same power he speaks of in 62:11, “Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God.”

We, too, see God’s power when we enter the sanctuary of our local congregations. When we view the cross, we see God’s power not only of His wrath that Jesus suffered, but also His power of resurrection when He vindicated His Son, which we also shall experience (Romans 6:5). When we view the baptismal font, we see God’s power both to kill us and to make us alive in Christ (Romans 6:1-4) and to adopt us as His children (Romans 8:14-16; 4:4-7; Ephesians 1:4-7). And in the Eucharist, God’s unfathomable power makes the bread and wine Jesus’ body and blood respectively, which we consume to receive the forgiveness of sins.

Psalm 65

Another song of praise due God’s name (v. 1) because of His choice to be merciful to us (v. 4), in this psalm, we again praise God for His creative majesty (vv. 5-13).

Psalm 67*

This psalm is also appropriate to pray during pestilence. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations” (vv. 1-2). We pray this not only for our sake, but especially for God’s sake so that His saving power might be known in all the earth. In this psalm, we take confidence that God will bless us (vv. 6-7).

Psalm 70*

Another psalm of deliverance from our current predicament, “Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me! …But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!” (vv. 1, 5).

Psalm 71*

A great psalm to pray as our confession of faith in God as our refuge. “In You, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In Your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline Your hear to me, and save me! …For You, O LORD, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth” (vv. 1-2, 5). With the psalmist, we confess God’s providence throughout our whole lives from birth to old age (vv. 6, 9, 17-18).

Psalm 77*

Psalm 77 is the crux of all these pestilence psalms. “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and He will hear me” (v. 1). In all these psalms, we are crying out to God and have confidence that He hears us. “In the day of trouble I seek the Lord” (v. 2a). Some nights, we are so troubled and anxious that we cannot sleep or so troubled that we cannot speak to pray (v. 4). Nevertheless, we remember the great deeds of the Lord from past to present (vv. 11-20), taking comfort that He is a God who always acts for His people, knowing the Holy Spirit prays for us when our groaning is too deep for words (Romans 8:26).

Psalm 79

Although this psalm was most likely written during the Babylonian exile, just in case this pandemic is a result of our sin and the sins of others, we could probably pray this psalm. “How long, O LORD? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire?” (v. 5). Indeed, many question God’s presence in the midst of such troubles (v. 10). Even in spite of all this, “we Your people, the sheep of Your pasture, will give thanks to You forever; from generation to generation we will recount Your praise” (v. 13).

Psalm 80*

This is another psalm that calls out to God as our Shepherd. “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth! …Restore us, O God; let Your face shine, that we may be saved!” (vv. 1, 3).

Yet even as we call upon the Lord, His apparent absence troubles us, “O LORD God of hosts, how long will You be angry with Your people’s prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us an object of contention for our neighbours, and our enemies laugh among themselves” (vv. 4-6). Thus, we call out again, “Restore us, O God of hosts; let Your face shine, that we may be saved!” (v. 7).

We remember God’s great historical acts of salvation (vv. 8-11) and because of this implore the Lord to act on our behalf again (vv. 12-15). As we swear allegiance to the Lord if He delivers us (v. 18), let this vow be genuine as we cry out one last time, “Restore us, O God of hosts; let Your face shine, that we may be saved!” (v. 19).

Psalm 84

This is another psalm that causes us to yearn for God’s church. “How lovely is Your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God” (vv. 1-2). Thus, this psalm is an additional psalm of praise to pray to the Lord during trying times of pestilence.

Psalm 85*

In this psalm, we recall God’s mercy to His people throughout history (vv. 1-3) and use this as the reason for our petition for God to restore us (vv. 4-7). Because of who God is, we pray confidently, “Yes, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yields its increase” (v. 12).

Psalm 86

Here, we ask God to graciously do several things for us, “Incline Your ear, O LORD, and answer me… Preserve my life… save Your servant… Be gracious to me… Gladden the soul of Your servant… For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of trouble I call upon You, for You answer me” (vv. 1-7), and so on.

At the end, with the psalmist we assume God has already done His good and gracious will for us, hence the amen to our prayers, which means, “so be it.” We pray, “Show me a sign of Your favour, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because You, LORD, have helped me and comforted me” (v. 17). In other words, with the psalmist we pray God to give us a sign of His favour not so we can have certainty, but so it is obvious before our enemies so that they know God is our help and comfort.

Psalms 88-89*

Earlier, I mentioned Psalm 88 is the only song of lament that does not end with hope and trust in God. The psalm ends, “You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness” (v. 18). This is rather troubling to read. How can the psalmist do this? I think the better question is, “Why wouldn’t he?” After all, isn’t this what we do all the time in our complaints to God? How often, in our complaining to Him, do we truly end our complaint with trust in Him and His will? Never, if not seldom.

Hence why I paired Psalm 88 with Psalm 89, which begins with praises to God. Although written by two different psalmists—Heman the Ezrahite wrote the former and Ethan the Ezrahite wrote the latter—by reading these two psalms together it is as if we are praying, “Lord, You have placed me in darkness. Nevertheless, ‘I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD forever; with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness to all generations'” (89:1).

Thus, at the end of our complaining, we take a moment to stop and praise the Lord, calling all of creation to praise Him (vv. 5-7). As we go on for quite some time, we finally end with hope, “Remember, O Lord, how Your servants are mocked, and how I bear in my heart the insults of all the many nations, with which Your enemies mock, O LORD, with which they mock the footsteps of Your anointed. Blessed be the LORD forever! Amen and amen” (vv. 50-52).

Psalm 90*

Psalm 90 leads us to remember, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God” (vv. 1-2). A comforting fact, indeed, that for thousands and thousands of years God has been the dwelling place of His chosen people. Ever since the literal dawn of creation, God has been the gracious God of His people.

We remember that we return to dust (v. 3; cf. Genesis 3:19; Job 1:21; 42:5-6). Therefore, we pray, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (v. 12). Meanwhile, we pray with confidence, “Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” (v. 17).

Psalm 91*

This psalm is noteworthy for its prayer directly against pestilence, “For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from deadly pestilence” (v. 3). We pray confidently, “You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday” (vv. 5-6). As I preached on this psalm during vicarage, I noted how all things were going normal during Christmas and Epiphany. But then, all of a sudden, during Lent we find out that a virus has been stalking us in darkness. Yet we do not fear because of who the Lord is.

Here also, the Lord speaks to us, “‘Because he holds fast to Me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him because he knows My name. When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will rescue him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation'” (vv. 14-16). Even if the Lord does not give us long life here on earth, He will give us even longer life in eternity.

Psalm 93

A reminder of God’s control over all creation despite pestilence. “The LORD reigns; He is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; He has put on strength as His belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved” (v. 1).

Psalm 95

A song of praise deserving of God’s name during pestilence. “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” (v. 1). It is this psalm that I like to point to when I encourage Christians to sing, saying, “The Psalms say to make a joyful noise to the Lord; they don’t say it has to be in tune.”

Psalm 96

Another song of praise. “Sing to the LORD, bless His name; tell of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!” (vv. 2-3). Also, from this psalm, I encourage songwriters to take the time quarantine offers to compose new hymns, “Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!” (v. 2).

Psalm 97

A psalm reminding us of God’s unimaginable power over creation despite pestilence, using imagery drawn from His theophany over Mt. Sinai (see Exodus 19:9; Deuteronomy 4:11; 5:22). “The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are all around Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. Fire goes before Him and burns up His adversaries all around. His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the LORD of all the earth” (vv. 1-5).

If God can do all this to mountains and bodies of water with His mere presence, imagine what He can do with a microscopic virus!

Psalm 98

Another song of praise inspiring new hymns (v. 1), we remember His salvation has been revealed to us ultimately in Christ (vv. 2-3).

Psalm 99

Another reminder of God’s reign despite pestilence. “The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The LORD is great in Zion; He is exalted over all the peoples” (vv. 1-2).

Psalm 100

Not only another psalm to praise God, but it also serves as a great reminder. “Know that the LORD, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture” (v. 3). Because we are the Lord’s and the sheep of His pasture, certainly He will take care of us, especially during times of pandemic.

Psalm 102

Once again, we cry out to God, “Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to You! Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline Your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call! (vv. 1-2). We cry out to God because the pandemic is a stark reminder of our finitude, “For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace” (v. 3).

Nevertheless, the Lord is in control and will have mercy on us. “But You, O LORD, are enthroned forever; You are remembered throughout all generations. You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is the time to favour her; the appointed time has come” (vv. 12-13). We hold fast to the certainty, “The children of Your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before You” (v. 28).

Psalm 103*

I marked this psalm as most significant for the following verses, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy” (vv. 1-4). As with Psalm 33, we know God is the only one who can bring us healing, whether through miraculous healing or through medicine, for all are His good gifts. No matter the outcome, “Bless the LORD, all His works, in all places of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!” (v. 22).

Psalm 104

This psalm is a continuation of Psalm 103, but it’s significant enough to stand on its own. While continuing to urge his soul to bless the Lord, the psalmist (possibly David, the author of 103) sets this psalm apart from the one previous in that he extensively praises God for who He is (vv. 1-32). It is for these reasons that we pray with the psalmist, “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being” (v. 33). Here along with the other psalms of praise and the upcoming songs of ascents, we remember to praise the Lord despite the pandemic.

Psalm 111

Another song of praise. “Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Great are the works of the LORD… Full of splendour and majesty is His work… He has caused His wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful. He provides food for those who fear Him; He remembers His covenant forever. He has shown His people the power of His works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations” (vv. 1-6).

As with the other psalms so far, we praise God in the congregation of the righteous. Indeed, we look forward to be reunited with our brethren in Christ. We remember the great works of the Lord—how awesome they are. He provides for His people who are in need.

Most of all, in His Son, “He sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever. Holy and awesome is His name!” (v. 9). Though the virus may threaten our lives now, it has nothing against the promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Psalm 113

Yet another psalm of praise. It seem superfluous to include so many psalms of praise in my list, but how often we neglect to praise the Lord when times are trying! It is easy to praise God when things are good, but when things are bad we don’t want to praise Him. Yet we must praise Him even more during times of tribulation! Most often, it is not during times of peace that we know God’s faithfulness, but times of suffering and struggle that we discover God’s faithfulness. Consider all the psalms we’ve briefly gone through so far. How do the psalmists know of God’s faithfulness? How can they profess such a thing? Because they’ve experienced it during times of suffering, whether slavery, war, famine, and so on.

Therefore, “Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD! Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore!” (vv. 1-2). This psalm also reminds us of God’s faithfulness during great difficulty: “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of His people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!” (vv. 7-9).

God has literally made a poor person sit with princes, such as Joseph (Genesis 41) and Daniel (Daniel 2). God is also known for making barren women bear children, such as Sarah (Genesis 21:1-7) and, most notably, Elisabeth (Luke 1:5-25), the mother of John the Baptiser who was the forerunner of our Lord. Since God can do these utterly impossible things, what is a mere virus to Him? What an ant is to us, so a virus is to God.

Psalm 115*

Like the nations of the psalmist’s day, people today wonder, “Where is their God” (v. 2)? They wonder this even when there is no pestilence, but the question pounds their heads even more during such trying times. Our response is an honest but unsatisfactory one, “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases” (v. 3). The unbelievers trust in their idols, but they never measure up. “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them” (vv. 4-8).

Because their gods are mere figments of their imagination, we have cause to trust in the Lord (v. 9). History attests not only to His existence, but even more so to His gracious acts for His people. He always remembers His people, and when He remembers, He acts (vv. 1-13). Therefore, “we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!” (v. 18).

Psalm 118

Some great reminders throughout this psalm: “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? [cf. Psalm 27:1]. The LORD is on my side as my helper… It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes” (vv. 6-9). Multiple times, the psalmist brings us to “give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” (vv. 1-2, 29).

Psalm 119:17-24

It is worth nothing that Psalm 119 is an acrostic poem. In a typical acrostic poem, the first letter of each line spells out a word. In the case of this long Hebrew poem, each section is divided up by each letter of the Hebrew alphabet where each line begins with that Hebrew letter. In this section, for example, the letter is gimel (ג), and each line in Hebrew begins with that letter.

After many songs of praise, we have another psalm of deliverance, which I find rather appropriate to pray during a pandemic. “Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your Word” (v. 17). The psalmist asks God to open his eyes to the Law so that he may take counsel in it (vv. 18, 24). We are saved by grace through faith, but as holy people whom God has called to live differently than the rest of the world, we would do well to pray the same. How do we know how to live as God expects us to live in the world? The Law tells us. The Gospel has freed us to live; the Law tells us how to live.

Psalm 119:25-32

The daleth (ד) section of the psalm begins with us clinging to life, such as we would in a pandemic. “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to Your Word!” (v. 25). Throughout this psalm, we call upon the Word of God, asking God to teach us His Word (vv. 26, 29), to understand His Word (v. 27), and to strengthen us with His Word (v. 28).

Psalm 119:41-48

The waw (ו) section speaks on God’s mercy, or “steadfast love” as the ESV is prone to translate it. In this psalm, we grab hold of God’s promise. “Let Your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, Your salvation according to Your promise” (v. 41). What promise is the psalmist speaking of?

Throughout Psalm 119, the psalmist emphasises the efficacy of God’s Word. His Word gives life (vv. 25, 107), strength (v. 28), understanding (v. 169), deliverance (v. 170), and bestows God’s blessings (v. 65). All of these are God’s promises according to His Word. The psalmist, therefore, trusts in God’s efficacious Word to do what He has said it will do, mainly, give Him life, strength, understanding, and salvation.

Throughout Psalm 119 we also see the psalmist’s adoration for the Law. Can we delight in the Law as Christians who are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9)? Of course we can! For as Ephesians 2:10 continues, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We don’t want to be legalistic, of course. Yet neither do we want to be on the other end of antinomianism. We also don’t want to be law-gospel reductionists who say the Law is always bad and the Gospel is always good.

Rather, we confess with Paul, “The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12). The Law might reveal our sin, but that does not mean the Law is bad. That the Law shows us our sin does not mean the Law is bad but that we are bad. The Law shows us that we don’t measure up. So, in our continued stupidity to self-exalt and self-justify, we say we’re really not that bad and it’s the Law that’s bad. We turn the Gospel into a cheap thing when we use it as an excuse to ignore our sin and not to live as God’s holy people. The Gospel does not free us from holy living; it frees us for holy living.

Psalm 119:73-80

The yodh (י) section looks to God’s mercy, first with God’s merciful act of creation, “Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn Your commandments” (v. 73). It was a merciful thing for God to create in the first place. He created not out of necessity, and not merely ex nihilo either (out of nothing), but also ex amore (out of love). God loves to create and He loves what He creates.

While the psalmist continues asking for understanding God’s Law, he nevertheless relies on God’s mercy and Gospel promise (vv. 76-77), showing that even the psalmist is not legalistic. Rather, he desires to do what a true believer wants to do: live as God has created him to live.

Psalm 119:105-112

The nun (נ) section is like a love song for God’s Word: “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (v. 105). God’s Word shows us the right way in which we should walk. Therefore, we delight in the Law of the Lord, which is His Word, for it shows us how we ought to live before God and before one another.

How do I love God? Commandments 1-3 tell me. How do I love my neighbour? Commandments 4-10 tell me, which are also how I love my God. Therefore, “I incline my heart to perform Your statutes forever, to the end” (v. 112) not because I think they will justify me, but because God has given me the joy to do His good deeds.

Psalm 119:137-144*

I found this section instrumental to include in my list of pestilence psalms. The tsadhe (צ) section speaks to God’s righteousness, that is, His perfectly right nature. The psalmist is nearly redundant in his praise of God’s righteousness. “Righteous are You, O LORD, and right are Your rules. You have appointed Your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness… Your righteousness is righteous forever, and Your law is true… Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live” (vv. 137-138, 142, 144).

I thought this section important to include because this psalm leads us to confess in the midst of a pandemic that God is right(eous) in all He does, which is an extremely difficult confession to make during such times. Nevertheless, we need to know this. God is still righteous even when pandemics and worse things are going on. Let us be like the psalmist and say, “Trouble and anguish have found me out, but Your commandments are my delight” (v. 143).

Psalm 119:153-160

The resh (ר) section is a psalm of deliverance. “Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget Your law” (v. 153). So, it is unsurprising why I added it here. However, this section is unique from the other psalms of deliverance so far because of Psalm 119’s continued emphasis on delight in the Law (vv. 158-160). Yet we also have much needed Gospel in this psalm: “Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to Your promise! …Great is Your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to Your rules” (vv. 154, 156).

Yet we might say, “I thought the Gospel gave life! Not the Law!” True, the Gospel gives eternal life. Nevertheless, the Law also preserves temporal life. As Kidner notes, God’s laws are restorative in that “they turn one’s eyes and steps towards him” (Kidner, 457). Consider the two uses of the Law.

As a curb, the Law keeps us from sinning. For example, the 5th Commandment forbids us from committing murder. So, the next time you think of killing somebody who’s getting on your nerves and you stop yourself because you know that’s wrong, you have the Law to thank for preserving your life; for since you would be caught, you’d either suffer the death penalty or live life in prison which, in a sense, takes your life from you.

As a mirror, the Law reveals your sin and you know to repent, wherein you receive Christ’s mercy to forgive you your sin and He removes it from you. The next time you repent, you have the Law to thank for preserving your life.

Psalm 119:169-176

As the last section from 119 I’ve selected, the taw (ת) section, which is also the final section of Psalm 119, ends the epic with a cry for deliverance and a final cry for understanding of God’s Word. “Let my cry come before You, O LORD; give me understanding according to Your Word! Let my plea come before You; deliver me according to Your Word” (vv. 169-170).

Perhaps most notable of all, these sections from Psalm 119 urge us toward keeping God’s Law. This is likely something we need urgent reminding of during a pandemic, at least this one. This pandemic has brought out many selfish people from hiding, even Christians. We say face masks are a hindrance on our “rights.” What rights? We care more about ourselves than our neighbour.

In his explanation to the 5th Commandment, Luther writes, “We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbour in his body, but help and support him in every physical need” (emphasis mine). Yet by refusing to follow proper sanitary guidelines, we are refusing to care for our neighbour’s every physical need who just might be at a higher risk than we are.

So, perhaps now more than ever we need these psalms to urge us toward asking God for understanding in His Law in order to keep His precepts for the good of our neighbour. That is, we pray, “Lord, I do not fully understand this whole face mask mandate. Give me understanding according to Your Word, that I might learn why I should do this for myself and my neighbour.”

Psalm 121*

Entering the songs of ascents, Psalm 121 is an absolutely beautiful psalm to read during a pandemic. In a recent article, I wrote the following on Psalm 121:

Psalm 121 begins from a place of isolation, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” (v. 1). As I read this psalm, I imagine the psalmist somewhere outside Jerusalem, wandering around in the wilderness. As he is lost and alone, he looks up to the city set on a hill (Matthew 5:14). He sees Zion where God has promised to be present among His people, and the psalmist remembers, “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth!” (v. 2), the very Creator of these hills.

As the psalmist is outside the city, perhaps doing his work, living life, or perhaps being persecuted, he wonders where he can find help. But then, as he looks around for help, he looks toward the hills of Zion and sees the luminous temple whence God has promised to be. Therefore, he makes his way toward God his refuge.

As we live in isolated quarantine, we can probably still relate to this psalmist’s isolation outside the city of God. Yet as we look to the hill on which our local church rests, we remember, “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth!” And when we read, “Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep,” we think of Jesus.

Jesus was sleep deprived when He was crucified. He stayed up all night praying for you and me. In the night in which He was betrayed, Jesus neither slumbered nor slept. And in His passion-suffering and His hanging on the cross, still Jesus did not sleep despite His sleep deprivation. He stayed awake to die for you and me to keep us from all evil (v. 7).

Psalm 123

As Psalm 121 begins with lifting our eyes up to the hills, in Psalm 123 we lift our eyes even higher, “To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till He has mercy on us” (vv. 1-2).

Thus, as we pray this psalm, we keep ascending our eyes and our prayers to God until He finally has mercy for us in our poor situation. We continually look forward to God’s mercy that He will give us (v. 3).

Psalm 126

In this psalm, we call out to God for restoration. “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream… Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev!” (vv. 1, 4). With the psalmist, we remember the times when God has restored our fortunes, both historically and personally. It is from this remembrance of God’s gracious faithfulness that we call upon Him to restore us once more. I myself remember many times when the Lord has restored me from illness. Therefore, I call upon Him in this psalm to do the same for my neighbours who are suffering.

Psalm 130

Our last penitential psalm was Psalm 38. It’s been a while since we’ve repented. We’ve most likely sinned since then, especially during pandemic and quarantines that test our patience. Therefore, let us repent once more, “If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared” (vv. 3-4).

And after we have received forgiveness, we hope in the Lord, “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His Word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning” (v. 6). The watchmen of Israel’s day are not too different than the military watchmen today.

When I was in the Army, sometimes I would pull security in a watchtower with an M240B machine gun. There would be one watchtower on each corner of the FOB (forward operating base). My job and the job of my battle buddy beside me would be to keep an eye out for any enemy threat coming to attack us. If we saw a potential enemy approaching, we would call it in to follow IFF protocol (identification friend or foe) before firing upon the hostiles (if they fired on us first, then this obviously circumvented the IFF protocol). Sometimes these shifts would be at night, which made the job much more difficult. Thus, we eagerly watched for the morning for our shift to be over.

In this psalm, we pray that we wait for God more eager than the watchman waits for the morning. That is significant eagerness.

There are also theological watchmen, such as Ezekiel. “And at the end of seven days, the Word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from My mouth, you shall give them warning from Me” (Ezekiel 3:16-17). As God continued speaking with Ezekiel, He warned him that if he failed to give warning to Israel for the evil or even God’s judgement that were to fall upon them, Ezekiel would be held accountable for their deaths. But if he did warn them and they still did not repent, Ezekiel would not be held accountable. This is the weighty task all pastors are called to do. So, men, think about that before you decide if you want to pursue the pastoral office!

Psalm 131

This song of ascents is prayed when your soul is still and quiet—no fear and anxiety present in your heart because you trust in the Lord. Also, like the psalmist, we are not in love with ourselves to produce arrogance (vv. 1-2). It is from this humble, fearless, and trusting station that we call all God’s people to hope in the Lord (v. 3).

Psalm 135

This psalm is entirely dedicated to praising God, remembering He is good (v. 3), great (v. 5), does what He wills (v. 6), the Creator (v. 7), and His great acts in history (vv. 8-12). Because of who He is and what He has done, we say confidently, “For the LORD will vindicate His people and have compassion on His servants” (v. 14). Yes, even during pandemic. The church has survived multiple plagues, even ones much worse than COVID-19. We will survive this one too.

Psalm 138

This psalm brings us to give thanks to God (vv. 1-2, 4). What do I have to be thankful for during this pandemic? Am I healthy? I thank the Lord! Do I have what I need? I thank the Lord! Is my family healthy? I thank the Lord!

But what if I’m not well? What if I don’t have all I need? What if someone I love has suffered at the hands of the virus? This psalm is for you too: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life; You stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfil His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of Your hands” (vv. 7-8).

Psalm 141*

Yet another psalm of deliverance, Psalm 141 has one of my favourite verses, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before You, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (v. 2). This verse is why I love having incense during the Divine Service. Not only is it pleasing to the olfactory senses, but it also informs my faith. As the incense ascends, I remember this psalm that likens my prayers to incense. 99% of the time, we call upon God to hear our prayers. Yet here, God “smells” our prayers. Not that He literally smells them, but that they are pleasing to Him just as incense is pleasing to us. The Lord “breathes in” the scent of our prayers, in a sense, because they are pleasing to Him.

Psalm 142

Psalm 142 is a very vocal psalm. That the psalms are prayed allowed makes all of them vocal, but this psalm is more vocal in the sense of its verb usage and prepositional repetition. “With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before Him; I tell my trouble before Him… I cry to You, O LORD… Attend to my cry” (vv. 1-2, 5-6). Thus, this psalm invites us to cry out to God with a loud voice. Are you angry? Pour out your complaint! Are you distressed? Plead for mercy! Tell Him of your troubles!

Yet even as we do so, we close our prayer with God’s promise, “The righteous will surround me, for You will deal bountifully with me” (v. 7b).

Psalm 143*

This is a psalm of deliverance that pleads for God’s mercy according to His faithfulness (v. 1). Like many of the other similar psalms, Psalm 143 ends with expectant deliverance, “And in Your steadfast love You will cut off my enemies, and You will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am Your servant” (v. 12).

Psalm 145

The end of the psalm summarises its entirety: “My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless His holy name forever and ever” (v. 21). I have many songs of praise in this list because these must overshadow our prayers of complaint, lest we forget who God is.

Psalm 146

During a pandemic, it is too easy to put our trust entirely in people, especially our “princes,” that is, our leaders in authority whom we expect to lead us toward a cure. Yet this psalm flies in the face of such trust. “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish” (vv. 3-4). Rather, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever” (vv. 5-6).

It’s not that we cannot place some trust in our leaders to lead us toward a cure, but we must “fear, love, and trust in God above all things” (Luther’s explanation to the 1st Commandment). Trust not in these leaders alone, but trust that God is using those whom He has placed in authority to guide us back to health. For these leaders are only human; like us, they return to dust and as soon as they die, all their plans and ideas perish with them. Yet the Lord Christ has conquered death. He has all life—especially the lives of His saints—in His gracious hands (John 10:27-30).

Psalm 148

Psalm 148 calls all creation to praise God in an earthly and heavenly symphony (vv. 1-4). More than all these things, the psalm reminds us God is specially with His people, “He has raised up a horn for His people, praise for all His saints, for the people of Israel who are near to Him. Praise the LORD!” (v. 14).

Psalm 150

Finally, the last psalm in the Psalter and the last psalm in this long list, that this final psalm is a song of praise is appropriate. After all the psalms in the Psalter and this list varying between praise, complaint, lament, and deliverance, Psalm 150 is the finale to it all. Virtually every line begins with the imperative, “Praise Him!”

The Psalter and our list ends like a giant concert. Musicians and artists gather to, “Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe! Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” (vv. 3-6).

Why should we praise the Lord? The psalmist’s reasoning is, “Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness!” (v. 2). We have meditated on God’s mighty deeds and His majesty many times already throughout these psalms. Therefore, let us praise Him for who He is and what He’s done one last time to echo throughout all eternity—a fermata over this pandemic.

Bibliography

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 73-150. Kidner Classic Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1975.

 

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