First & Last Psalms: Life in Waves

First & Last Psalms: Life in Waves

Posted on August 01, 2019

BY MICHELLE WILLIAM, GRACE ATTENDER

Psalm 1
1 Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers.
2 But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.
4 But not the wicked!
    They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
5 They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
    Sinners will have no place among the godly.
6 For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
    but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.
 
Psalm 150
1 Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heaven!
2 Praise him for his mighty works;
    praise his unequaled greatness!
3 Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;
    praise him with the lyre and harp!
4 Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
    praise him with strings and flutes!
5 Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
    praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
6 Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
 
In looking at the first and last Psalms through the lens of emotion, I immediately noticed the contrast. The first Psalm seems like a very calm, almost unaffected, recitation of sound, logical advice. On the other hand, the last Psalm feels like joyous shouting that cannot be contained. The first feels like education and the last feels like experience. 

The more I contemplated these two Psalms, they came to represent the modes that correspond with the ebbs and flows of life. The excitement of Psalm 150 is wonderful, but it’s not the constant state for most of us. It tends to come in waves with ebbs in between. Sometimes these ebbs are just how I described Psalm 1—unaffected, calm. However, some ebbs produce the low points of life, bringing tragedy, turmoil, disorder, or distress. 

This is a familiar and regular cycle for me. When I’m caught up in the routine, daily grind, it might be all I can do to know and recite the truths of Psalm 1. And then another day, I feel inspired and in touch with the Holy Spirit—like a conduit for God’s energy. 

Because of the excitement that comes with life’s flows, I tend to feel a touch of disappointment in the ebbs. But then there are moments of clarity when I can step back and see from the top view that the ebbs and flows belong together. I can see that the highs and lows of life worked together almost like a planned process—even when the ebbs of life were painful or confusing, they birthed tremendous growth. In those moments of clarity, I feel awash in a mystical peace from understanding that life was meant to work this way.

We see these purposeful patterns repeated in Creation. The changing of seasons, growth and harvest, inhaling and exhaling, life and death, night and day. It all comes in cycles of highs and lows, in waves of ebbs and flows. Faith is built in the clarity of understanding that the ebbs and flows work together, and faith affords us the capacity to respect the ebbs of life.

Respecting the ebbs allows God to redeem them. Respecting the ebbs enables us to endure them more gracefully. Respecting the ebbs leads us to draw faith and growth from the whole cycle. We go from knowing that trees planted along the riverbank always prosper to becoming those trees. We go from knowing that God is with us to seeing Jesus right next to us—and that leads us to triumphant joy.

Action Steps

  • Make a list of the low points of your own life. Note any resulting growth of faith or sense of purpose stemming from those times.

  • Read Matthew 5:3-12, The Beatitudes. Contemplate how these statements from Jesus represent cycles of ebbs and flows.

  • Taking a Sabbath is a way to respect the ebbs of life. Write down what a Sabbath may look like for you. 

Questions for Reflection

  • In the cycle of life, are you currently in an ebb or a flow?

  • Do you remember the first time you experienced the difference between believing God was with you to seeing Jesus next to you?

  • Are there regular cycles of ebbs and flows that you recognize in your own life?