Rev. David McAllister
Rev. David McAllister

Reflections on the Psalms


August 10  -  The Psalms were a source of wisdom for ancient Israel, and they continue to touch our lives in this world of today.  “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” is how the 23rd Psalm begins.  Although we don’t see many shepherds today, what does this image impart to you?


For me, as for perhaps many people, I learned this Psalm in Sunday school.  Although I probably had no idea back then of what a shepherd really did, I have grown through the years to appreciate the image more and more.  As I have learned about Bedouins, and shepherds in general, and have seen how the sheep truly are dependent upon the shepherds for their day-to-day life, I celebrate that God is with me in the same way, walking beside me, yes, day by day, and with every step on the way.



August 14  -  Psalm 9 begins, “I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”  What thanks will you offer to God today?


For me, I love these opening words, because the first phrase centers us where our first thoughts ought to be, but then the second phrase is addressed directly to God, telling God that we will, in one way or another, share with others how wonderful God is.  This is not just a general recitation of thanksgivings, but they are spoken to God in a very personal way.  For me, today, I am grateful for the work that is before me, that has been entrusted to me.



August 16  -  “You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.’”  These verses come to us from the beginning of the 91st Psalm.  In what ways is God a refuge for you?  Or do you respond more to other phrases in these verses?


For me, God is indeed a refuge, a “place” where I can go in times of stress or trouble, but also where I can go for quiet and peaceful moments.  I do certainly trust God, and know that I am always welcome in God’s heart.  And I love that God's heart is so huge that there is room for every soul on this great earth that God created.     



August 18  -  Psalm 133 begins: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”  How does Unity figure in your life?


For me, I love that my Disciples of Christ tradition is to welcome all viewpoints and to be open to all interpretations of things, something that I learned long ago and try to always live today.         



August 21  -  Psalms 113 to 118 are a collection that are used during Jewish festivals, including Passover.  Psalm 113 begins, “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 on and forevermore.  From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”  How, in your daily living, do you praise the Lord?


For me, part of that praise is in giving thanks for the gifts with which I have been blessed by God.  I hope I also praise God by slowing down a little, and showing care for the creation, and through showing love and respect to others.



August 29  -  Psalm 114 begins: “When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.”  This in essence is saying that God took up dwelling within the people of Israel.  It parallels other writings that speak of our being a temple wherein God lives and moves.  In what ways is God living within you?  How do you go about welcoming God?


For me, when I am at my best, I feel God moving within my thoughts and actions.  Even when I don’t feel God dwelling within me, I still feel God’s presence accompanying me every day.  The more I pray, the more I get attuned to God’s ways, the more of a welcome I offer to God.      



September 1  -  A portion of the 115th Psalm says: “O Israel, trust in the Lord!  God is your help and your shield.”  In what ways do you trust God, and how is God a source of protection for you?


For me, I trust God in all things, but sometimes I have my own agenda and don’t listen to God as carefully as I should.  Yet, even in those times, God watches over me and cares for me.  And maybe God whispers a little louder so that I might just stop and listen a little better.      



September 11  -  The 116th Psalm begins with these words:  “I love the Lord because he has heard my voice and my supplications.  Because God inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.”  How do you relate with God through prayer?


For me, I could argue with the wording of this Psalm, which seems to say that the Psalmist will love God because God responded to his pleas.  I think we are to love God even when it doesn't seem like our prayers were heard because things aren't happening just the way we had wanted them to.  But, I will take it in a better fashion, reading it to mean that God has assured me that we are in relationship with one another, and thus I will continue to bring both my cares and my praises to God.  Oh, and let us remember that we are to do the same with each other, for we are to love one another even when things don't always go perfectly.



September 13  -  “Praise the Lord, all you nations!  Extol him, all you peoples!  For great is God's steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.  Praise the Lord!”  That is the entire text of Psalm 117.  How do you experience God’s steadfast love?


For me, that steadfastness, that faithfulness on God’s part is an amazing blessing.  While I try to live as God would have me do, I fail in ways small and great at times, yet always know that God will not abandon me, indeed God will continue to show me the pathway that leads to greater joy through living in God's ways.



September 16  -  In the midst of the 118th Psalm we hear these words:  “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  How can you rejoice in this day, and in the next one?


For me, there are certainly days filled with rejoicing, and others when I question whether I should have even gotten out of bed.  Yet, if I take these words seriously, if I rejoice in each day because God has brought it into being, then it helps to improve my view of things, especially knowing that God not only made the day but walks through it with me, no matter what happens.  Yes, indeed, joy can be found in every day.     



September 18  -  The 62nd Psalm begins with these words:  “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.  God alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.”  How difficult is it for you to wait for God to respond to your prayers?


For me, I suppose it depends upon the prayer.  When I pray for others, with the knowledge that life is a process, I can just turn things over to God with the assurance that God knows what is best for them, and will make sure the best is what happens.  When I pray for things in my life, sometimes I can truly be patient, and sometimes I get anxious and have a more difficult time in the waiting.  It is then that I have to remind myself, that God knows what is best for me too.  So, it is then that I say, "okay, okay, into your   hands. . ."      



September 21  -  Psalm 119 is the longest of the psalms with 176 verses.  On the surface it is a meditation on God’s law.  But it is also a composition that is an alphabetical acrostic, which means that each stanza consists of eight lines all beginning with the same Hebrew letter (which of course we don’t see in English).  The twenty-two stanzas use all the letters in order.  So, in some ways, this is both a way to celebrate the law and a tool for learning the alphabet.  The alphabet is something basic that we learn early in life.  What about God did you learn early in your life? 


For me, I started learning about God when I started going to church at age seven.  I was encouraged to feel that each day God walks with me wherever I go.  And I learned that God is a much better navigator than I am.   And, with God’s presence, and God’s loving grace, I am daily filled with hope and joy.  I am grateful for those beginning years, and thankful for the beautiful souls who helped me get started down this pathway of my life.



September 23  -  Psalm 98 begins with these words: “O sing to the LORD a new song, for He has done marvelous things.”  How do the actions of God in your life, lead you to pray in fresh ways?


For me, I experience God as a constant presence in my life, and yet always as One coming to me in new ways, touching me with new insights and appreciations for life.  When I pray in thanks, I try to make sure that my words of yesterday are not just repeated today, but that they celebrate the new day with God by my side.     



September 28  -  The 150th Psalm encourages us to celebrate God in many ways, even ways in which we might not know we could celebrate.  It speaks of praising God, and using one instrument after another:  “Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp!  Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe!...Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!”  In what ways do you praise God with all of your being?


For me, I love that the Psalm says to use all types of musical instruments, each bringing its own gift of sound.  In the same way, we come together from all different cultures, with different talents, different gifts, and together we create beautiful music that makes God smile.           



October 13  -  We read these words at the beginning of the 84th Psalm: “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!  My soul longs, indeed it faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.”  What does it mean to you to be with God?


For me, while this psalm has the dual understanding of a desire to be with God in the Temple in Jerusalem and in the heavenly dwelling place of God, I celebrate instead that God’s dwelling place is with us, and that we are never far from God’s presence nor from the joy that God’s presence brings to us.  



October 15  -  Psalm 128 begins, “Happy is everyone who loves the LORD, who walks in God’s ways.”  What is it about walking in God’s ways that brings you happiness?


For me, when I walk along the pathway that God shows me, then I know that I am doing the right things, acting in ways that offer compassion and love, and I can feel the joy in doing so.  If everyone did this, it would indeed be an incredible world.



October 17  -  Psalm 15 begins with these words: “O LORD, who may abide in Your tent?  Who may dwell on Your holy hill?”  How would you answer the psalmist’s questions?


For me, while I would hope that people would indeed engage in the upright and caring behaviors that the psalmist provides in answer to his own questions, I also trust that God, through forgiveness and grace, does indeed welcome all who wish to come to be with God.  While loving, caring, compassionate actions are of benefit to all of us, God understands the human fallibility of each of us, and I am grateful for God’s forgiveness and welcome even in those times when I fall short of what God would have me do and who He wants me to be. 



October 23  -  Psalm 88 begins with the words: “O LORD, God of my salvation, when, at night, I cry out in Your presence, let my prayer come before You; incline Your ear to my cry.”  During the night, when many are asleep, and we are alone with our thoughts and prayers, it can be lonely.  What do you pray for in such times?


For me, when I am awake at night, my prayers may be ones for help if I don’t feel well, or prayers for guidance if I am pondering a challenging situation, or prayers for peace that I might move into sleep.  And then I think of the beauty of the sunrise yet to bless my eyes, and I start thanking God for the many, many, many blessings I am gifted with each day, and night. 



October 26  -  “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;  I will sing and make melody,” are the words that begin the 108th Psalm.  How do you “make melody” before God and others?


For me, I celebrate God’s presence with me, proclaim that to others, dwell in faith and share that faith as well.  I also think that the use of the word “steadfast” means that I will trust and walk with God no matter the circumstances that each day brings.  And in doing that, I am truly blessed.        



October 30  -  Psalm 25 begins, “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.  O my God, in you I trust.”  What does it mean for you to lift up your soul to God?


For me, this is the offerings of both my thanks and praise, and the prayers of petition for God’s help, all given into God’s hands.  I do indeed trust God, and rest in God’s love and care daily.









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Copyright, David McAllister, 2015-2023.