A mixed reaction

The first wave of exiles from Judah left Jerusalem in 597 B.C. when “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it” (2 Kings 24:11). At that time, Nebuchadnezzar “carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land” (2 Kings 24:14). Even though Nebuchadnezzar took away what could be considered the heart and soul of Jerusalem in 597 B.C., the city remained in tact for another 11 years while king Zedekiah reigned. Zedekiah was what might be called a puppet king. Zedekiah was placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar and was expected to follow his commands, but eventually, Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and was also taken into captivity (2 Kings 24:7) along with the remainder of his kingdom (2 Kings 25:11). It is believed that on August 14, 586 B.C., Judah’s 70 years of captivity officially began.

A final wave of exiles was taken from Jerusalem in 581 B.C. that consisted of people who had returned or migrated back to the city after Nebuchanezzar’s conquest in 586 B.C. After that, the city lay desolate, completely empty, until Ezra returned with 42,360 people in 538 B.C. to rebuild God’s temple (Ezra 2:65). Some of the people that came back with Ezra had actually been taken from Jerusalem, had survived their period of captivity, and were there to see the temple structure rebuilt. It says in Ezra 3:12, “but many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy.” Their mixed reaction to completing the laying of the foundation of the second temple may have been due to these older mens’ memory of their former life. No doubt some of them suffered from a type of post-traumatic stress syndrome that brought flashbacks to them of the violence they suffered when the temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army.

“The people of Israel were accustomed to showing their emotions in visible and audible ways” (Note on Ezra 3:13). The psalms of David are filled with heartfelt pleas and agonizing cries for mercy that were sung to God for many generations after David died. While they were in exile, it appears that God’s people continued to praise him and were at times even forced to sing the songs that meant so much to them. Psalm 137 is believed to be “A plaintive song of the exile – of one who has recently returned from Babylon but in whose soul there lingers the bitter memory of the years in a foreign land and of the cruel events that led to that enforced stay” (Note on Psalm 137). Contained within Psalm 137’s nine verses are: the remembered sorrow and torment (vv. 1-3), an oath of total commitment to Jerusalem (vv. 4-6), and a call for retribution on Edom and Babylon (vv. 7-9). The notable first verse of the Psalm recalls, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.”

Among the men that returned to Jerusalem were descendants of the king of Judah, Jehoiachin, who was taken into captivity in 597 B.C. at the age of 18 (2 Kings 24:12). Jehoiachin, his son Shealtiel, and grandson Zerubbabel are listed in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:12). Although Zerubbabel never sat on the throne as king of Judah, he played a prominent role in the reestablishment of the city of Jerusalem and was present at the dedication of the altar. It says of Zerubbabel and his counterpart Jeshua, son of the high priest Jozadak in Ezra 3:2-3, “Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priest, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, too offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. And they set the altar upon his bases, for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD, even burnt offerings morning and evening.”


Psalm 135 begins with the statement, “Praise ye the LORD” (Psalm 135:1). The Hebrew word translated praise in this verse is halal. In its simplest active form, the word halal means to boast” (1984). Everyone knows how to boast and most people do it on a regular basis, and yet, boasting about God is not something that happens naturally. The reason we are told to praise the LORD is because “the LORD is good” (Psalm 135:3).

Goodness is not a measure of quality, but a characteristic or attribute of a thing or person. When he was referred to as “Good Master,” Jesus responded, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:16-17). What Jesus was saying was, it is impossible for a human to be or become good. The best we can do is live by God’s standard and give him the credit for the result.

Thank you

A phrase that is sometimes used in business communication is “thank you in advance.” Expressing gratitude for something that has not yet happened is supposed to be a way of encouraging the person to actually do it. God does not need to be encouraged to bless his children. It says in Psalm 149:4, “For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.” The word translated salvation, yeshuwah (yesh – oo´ – ah) means something saved (3444) and it is derived from the word yeshuwa which means “he will save” (3442). The personal name Jesus contains a Greek form of the word yeshu’ah (3444).

Psalm 150:2 refers to the mighty acts and excellent greatness of the LORD. The word translated mighty in this verse is gebuwrah. “The primary meaning of gebuwrah is power and strength” which is associated with the Messiah’s special role (1369). The term praise has various meanings. In psalms 149 and 150, the Hebrew word halal is used. Halal means “to boast” (1984). The fact that the Israelites were expected to praise the LORD for acts not yet completed indicates an element of faith was at work in their worship of the LORD.

In Psalm 149:1, the worshipper is instructed to “sing unto the LORD a new song.” The Hebrew word translated new, châdâsh (khaw – dawsh´) “means ‘new’ both in the sense of recent or fresh and in the sense of something not previously existing” (2319). The choice to believe God and praise or thank him in advance for what he will do is an act of faith. To a certain extent, it does encourage him because he wants us to act on our beliefs, therefore he often responds in a way that reinforces and builds our faith.

It is a privilege to receive God’s special favor, but there is more to our relationship with Christ than having our sins forgiven. After we are saved, God begins a process of sanctification that enables us to be like him and to receive honor as he does. This means that we are assured of victory over our enemies and can “shine” (1984) like he does (Psalm 149:5-9). Praise ye the LORD can simple be translated as, give God credit. We can do that by thanking him in advance.

God is working

The Bible makes it clear that God is not sitting idle in Heaven, but is working on behalf of his people. It says in Psalm 111, “The works of the LORD are great…His work is honorable and glorious…He hath shewed his people the power of his works…the works of his hands are verity and judgment” (Psalm 111:2-3,6-7). The word translated verity, ’emeth (eh´ – meth) means stability (571). Emeth is contracted from the word ’âman (aw – man´) which means “to build up or support; to foster as a parent or nurse” (539).

God’s works are often described as wonderful. It says in Psalm 111:4, “He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered.” The word translated wonderful, pâlâ’ “is used primarily with God as the subject, expressing actions that are beyond the bounds of human powers or expectations” (6381). God is able to do what appears to be impossible to man. That is why faith is necessary for us to be blessed by him. It says in Psalm 112:1, “Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD.” The word translated feareth, yârê (yaw – ray´) means to stand in awe. “This is not simple fear, but reverence, whereby an individual recognizes the power and position of the individual revered and renders him proper respect” (3372).

One of the ways that we can show respect to God is to kneel before him. In ancient times, kings demanded that their subjects kneel before them. One of the best examples of this is king Nebuchadnezzar who made a gold image of himself and demanded that it be worshipped. It says in Daniel 3:5, “that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar hath set up.”

God does not demand that we fall down and worship him, but is blessed or happy when we kneel before him as an act of adoration (1288). God works on our behalf so that we will praise him. We are told in Psalm 113 that we are to “praise ye the LORD. Praise, O ye, servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD” (Psalm 113:1). The word translated praise, hâlal (haw – lal´) means to make a show, to boast, to be foolish, or to rave. “The word halal is the source of ‘hallelujah’ a Hebrew expression of ‘praise’ to God which has been taken over into virtually every language of mankind” (1984).

Words that describe God’s work; great, honorable, glorious, and wonderful, indicate why they are intended to be remembered. God does things that we can’t forget. They are seared into our memory when they occur like a snapshot of a wedding or our favorite family photo. Imagine if you had seen the Red Sea parted or the walls of Jericho fall down. There is no way you could ever stop talking about it.


“Offer unto God thanksgiving…whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright, will I shew the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:14,23). In these verses, the same word is translated as thanksgiving and praise. The Hebrew word tôwdâh (to – daw´) is properly translated as “an extension of the hand” and is usually associated with adoration (8462). When a person is offering praise to God, he is lifting his hands toward heaven in an expression of adoration.

The Israelite thanksgiving offering was a type of peace offering that was made when a person was delivered from trouble or distress. A situation that causes us distress is one that involves psychological or spiritual pain. In a sense, it can be like torture because it is outside our control and affects us deeply within our soul.

The nightmares I experienced after I was raped are an example of distress that God has delivered me from. Sometimes I didn’t want to fall asleep because of the terror I experienced in my dreams. I would wake up afterwards in a state of panic and sometimes feel the presence of demonic beings.

I think the reason the thanksgiving offering was linked with peace was because being delivered from distress results in peace and it produces a great deal of appreciation, and likewise adoration of God. I believe the key to understanding thanksgiving is first hand experience with the feelings associated with distress and knowing what trouble is really about.

The word translated trouble, tsârâh (tsar – raw´) means tight (6869) and is derived from the word tsar (tsawr) which means a tight place (6862). The idea behind both of these words is that of being stuck or unable to escape. “Tsar is a general designation for ‘enemy'” (6862), so the word implies being trapped by an enemy and unable to escape. Although there is clearly an enemy involved in the act of rape, the feeling of being trapped usually occurs afterward when the memory of what happened gets stuck in your brain and causes you psychological pain many years later.

Deliverance is typically something that only God can do. In essence, an act of deliverance is a miracle because it is an impossible situation that is turned around or made right. In order to truly deliver someone from distress, you have to eliminate the psychological and spiritual pain she is experiencing, which usually involves the elimination of memory.

There are many ways that God’s salvation can be manifested. In the same way that he is able to remove our sin and make it as if it never happened, God can remove memories and make it as if certain events or experiences have never happened. If you have received his salvation, then thank God, and praise him with your hands lifted high this Thanksgiving.

Praise Him

The primary reason we are able to have a relationship with God is because he has a voice. If God did not have an audible voice that could be heard by man, it would have been impossible for us to know that he was communicating with us. The voice is therefore, a key characteristic that is shared between God and man and it is one of the things that enables us to understand each other on a personal level.

Some people that have claimed to hear the voice of God are actually crazy and have made hearing God’s voice suspect to insanity, but prophets in the Old Testament of the Bible were considered to be God’s mouthpiece and the words they spoke a direct message from God.

There have not been any prophets since Jesus because when he was born it says in John 1:14, “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” I believe that Jesus speaks to believers in what could be considered an audible voice. John said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1,3).

God’s voice is powerful (Psalm 29:4). It has the ability to make things happen and all of creation is subject to his command. When God speaks to us, I believe it has an affect on us and our transformation into the image of Christ is the end result. When we respond to God’s voice, it establishes a relationship that makes it possible for us to know what is going on in the spiritual realm and when we talk to him, God can hear us.

David made it a practice to sing and play music to the LORD. David said, “Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous, for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song: play skillfully with a loud noise” (Psalm 33:1-3).

In addition to singing to the LORD, David had many personal conversations with God. From his psalms, we can see that David talked to God about pretty much everything that was going on in his life. I think what David was trying to say in Psalm 33:1-3 was that singing and making music was his way of acting like his Father, the creative power of his voice was being used to affect God in the same way David was affected by God’s word.

Although God does not change, his emotions do. I believe that God can fall in love and that he was in love with David. David is described as being a man after God’s own heart. He did many things that pleased God and I think his music was especially pleasing to God. God loves us unconditionally, but his favor toward us is not. David did everything he could to please his LORD, including singing him love songs.

It’s all about attitude

David is unique among the individuals whose lives are portrayed in the Bible because through his psalms he revealed the inner workings of his heart. In the same way that a surgeon is able to determine the condition of a heart through open heart surgery, we are able to see David’s motives, feelings, affections, and desires in his psalms and therefore, able to determine his attitude toward God.

Psalms 123 – 125 focus on three key aspects of David’s attitude toward God: 1) He is David’s superior, 2) He is on David’s side, and 3) He will always keep David safe. David lived a dangerous life. He was given the privilege of being king of Israel, but along with the privilege came a tremendous amount of responsibility and a life filled with trials and tribulations. It is no wonder David felt the need to pour his heart out and put to music the feelings that often overwhelmed him.

If you think about David’s attitude as his secret to success, then each of these three psalms, 123 – 125 provides insight into how you can develop the same successful attitude. Everyone has adversity in their lives and if you are a Believer, you will have trials and tribulations to get through. The attitude you develop toward God is completely within your control. Whether you have a good attitude or bad attitude depends on the perspective you take in viewing your situation.

More people than you might imagine have the attitude that God is their inferior. They think they can tell God what to do and their prayers are his to do list. David’s prayers were consistent with God’s character and did not dictate the how, only the what David was asking for. Included in David’s petitions were reasons or justification for the request and reverence toward the one he was addressing.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud. (Psalm 123:3-4)

In every battle there are at least two adversaries, and therefore, two sides that God can take in providing assistance. Many people go through life with the attitude that God is against them. They think every time they turn around, God is putting another stumbling block in their pathway, continually tripping them up, and making sure they get nowhere in life. David not only believed God was on his side, but every time he escaped from his enemy, he gave God credit for providing the escape route. David said in Psalm 124, “The snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:7-8).

When tragedy strikes, the easiest thing to do is blame God. Probably the most common question asked of him is, where were you…? David states in Psalm 125, “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever” (Psalm 125:2). David used the example of the mountains around Jerusalem to describe God’s protection because of the permanence of the natural structure. It is not God who moves, but us when separation occurs. Like a child that wanders off from his parent at the shopping mall, it is possible to be separated from our father, but David knew that it was he that did the wandering, not God.

God’s perspective

When David fled from Saul he was completely unprepared and initially made mistakes in his decision making. In spite of his youth and inexperience in dealing with adversity, David managed to safely escape and established a small army to handle the threat to his life.

In the psalms that David wrote during this period of his life, are what could be called his secrets to success. Many of David’s psalms open in a similar way to Psalm 34 in which David says, “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1). Many people might think that praise is something you are to do when you are happy to thank the LORD for his blessings, but praise can simply mean singing a song to the LORD.

When I was younger, I used to sing along to the songs I heard on the radio. I’ve noticed lately that I don’t sing very much. I have to make a conscious effort to let the words flow out of my mouth. David’s declaration that “his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1) was a commitment to sing to the LORD even when he didn’t feel like it because things were not always going to go David’s way.

The harsh cold reality of what Saul was capable of became evident to David when he found out that Saul was responsible for the slaughter of 85 priests because Ahimelech had assisted David in escaping. I’m sure David felt that Saul was out of control and there was no telling what he would do to capture and kill him. The hope that David held on to was that even if Saul killed him, David would go to Heaven and be with the LORD. Therefore, David said, “I  will praise thee for ever” (Psalm 52:9).

The word we use today to talk about eternity, forever is a compound word that has taken away some of the meaning of what the words for and ever were originally intended to describe. Looking at the word ever from both the Hebrew and Greek perspective, it is clear that it is not intended to describe eternity from a time perspective, but to differentiate between time and no time or being in a state where time exists and a state where time does not exist.

A characteristic of being human is that we are aware of time. Because we are aware of time, we use it to control our behavior and to predict when certain things will happen. One of the most difficult aspects of letting God control my life is I don’t know when things are going to happen. When I pray for God to do something, if it is his will, I have the assurance that he will do what I have asked him to, but I have no idea when he will do it.

When we are with the LORD, whether it is walking with him in this world or being with him in Heaven, time does not exist. We enter into a state of timelessness and live in the moment, meaning that we are no longer controlled by time. David’s statement in Psalm 52:9, “I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it.” is spoken out of time. Another way of saying it is , I know you are going to take care of this LORD, and from your perspective it is already completed, so I am going to praise you in this moment as a way of seeing things from your perspective.