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Psalms of Orientation

Psalms: A Hymn Book of Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:54
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Did you sort the Psalms?
We are looking at further breakdown of the Book of Psalms and application for your life.

Orientation - Disorientation - New Orientation

Not talking about sexual orientation.
Orientation = the determination of the relative position of something or someone (especially oneself).
In particular we are talking about how one looks at the world.
Orientation where you are
Disorientation is that Changing period
New Orientation what becomes normal
I have been reading a book by Barbara Singerman, a friend of mine. The book is about her journey from western culture into being a missionary in West Africa. As I read this I see her life being one about Orientation, Disorientation, and New Orientation.
I find Phil 2:5-11 helpful example of this movement
Philippians 2:5–11 LEB
Think this in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider being equal with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a slave, by becoming in the likeness of people. And being found in appearance like a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, that is, death on a cross. Therefore also God exalted him and graciously granted him the name above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and of those on earth and of those under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Orientation: “Though he was in the form of God.…”
Disorientation: “[He] emptied himself.”
New Orientation: “Therefore God has highly exalted him.…”
This movement between orientations is the life of the church. See Baptism as we move from one orientation, to death, and raised to walk in a new life.
And as I said last week the Psalms are about life. and Life is about movement. A journey where we are at seasons of well-being that evoke gratitude for the constancy of blessing. Human life consists in anguished seasons of hurt, alienation, suffering, and death. These evoke rage, resentment, self-pity, and hatred. uman life consists in turns of surprise when we are overwhelmed with the new gifts of God, when joy breaks through the despair.
We may chart our way of relating the form of the Psalms to the realities of human experience:


The psalms of orientation were created, transmitted, valued, and relied upon by a community of faithful people. To these people, their faith was both important and satisfying.
This is where you are right now maybe. Satisfied with your life. You feel a good equilibrium in your life.
I am going to list 5 types of Psalms that would fall under the heading of Orientation Psalms. All of these psalms affirm that the world is a well-ordered, reliable, and life-giving system. There is a trust in God and Gratitude.
So these Orientation Psalms function to praise and thank God, but also to remind the community of its life free from anxiety. Chaos which God brought order to in creation has no place in God’s well ordered world.
The Psalms bespeak a healthy, oriented life that is anticipated, even if not yet experienced.
There moves in these psalms a deep conviction that God’s purpose for the world is resilient. That purpose will not yield until creation is brought to fullness

Songs of Creation

The most foundational experience of orientation is the daily experience of life’s regularities, which are experienced as reliable, equitable, and generous. The psalmic community readily affirmed that this experience is ordained and sustained by God. A proper response is one of gratitude. The world is God’s way of bestowing blessing upon us. Our times are ordered by God according to the seasons of the year, according to the seasons of life, according to the needs of the day. In all of these processes, we find ourselves to be safe and free; we know that out of no great religious insight, but because that is the way life comes to us.

Songs of Torah

When the creation is celebrated, it is acknowledged to be a well-ordered world. That order depends solely on God’s power, faithfulness, and graciousness. That is why, in the face of the creation, Israel can only yield in praise. But there is more to it.
The good order of creation is concretely experienced in Israel as the torah.
The torah is understood not simply as Israelite moral values, but as God’s will and purpose, ordained in the very structure of life. While the creation is sustained by God’s faithfulness, it is also coherent and peaceable because of Israel’s obedient attention to the way God has ordered life.
Thus creation and torah are understood together, the torah articulating God’s intention for Israel in the creation. That linking of creation and torah is particularly evident in Psalm 19, which consists of two parts: verses 1–6 as a celebration of the joy and wonder of creation, and verses 7–14 as an affirmation of the life-giving power of the torah.

Wisdom Psalms

Another expression of a well-ordered, reliable world is in the wisdom psalms. These tend to be didactic in tone and relatively amorphous in shape. They are best identified by their subject matter. You can identify them because you could easily place them in the book of Proverbs instead of Psalms.

Songs of Retribution

Perhaps these should not be treated as a separate category, but rather grouped with the torah or wisdom psalms. But Psalms 111 and 112 are treated separately because they have a slightly different accent, an unqualified statement that the world is ruled by God with moral symmetry. That symmetry in the world is reflected in the disciplined acrostic structure of these two psalms. The world works so that persons receive the consequences of their actions (Gal. 6:7); this statement entertains no doubt about it.
Gods retribution, morality is a very heart of who God is.

Occasions of Well-Being

All of the various psalms of orientation we have discussed thus far reflect a “peaceable kingdom.” In all its parts, the “system” works, and the “system” refers to God’s created order over which God presides in equity and faithfulness. The “system” also refers to a network of social relations, values, and expectations. On the basis of convincing firsthand experience the speaker in these psalms dares to postulate a correspondence between the way God orders the creation and the way in which society manages its choices.
Everything is ordered and reliable. While the Psalms make that point theologically about God’s governance in heaven, they also represent and reflect an earthly experience of the same order and reliability.

Next Steps

Place of orientation. Sing thanks to God
As you read this week Notice Psalms of Orientation.
Psalm 1 a Psalm of Torah a Psalm of Orientation
Psalm 1 LEB
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the advice of the wicked; nor does he stand in the way of sinners; nor does he sit in the assembly of mockers. Instead, in the law of Yahweh is his delight, and on his law he meditates day and night. And so, he is like a tree planted by streams of water that gives its fruit in its season; its leaf also does not wither. Therefore all that he does prospers. Not so the wicked. Instead, they are like the chaff that the wind scatters. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for Yahweh knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann. The Social Construction of Reality. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1966.
Brueggamann, Walter. “Psalms and the Life of Faith: A Suggested Typology of Function,” JSOT 17 (1980):3–32.
Harris, W. Hall, III, Elliot Ritzema, Rick Brannan, Douglas Mangum, John Dunham, Jeffrey A. Reimer, and Micah Wierenga, eds. The Lexham English Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012.
Singerman, Barbara, Beyond Surrender. Hannibal Books, 2003
George Benson. Then Joy Breaks Through. New York: Seabury Press, 1972.
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