Sometimes we can drift through life, just going through the motions. We are passive more than active. Distracted—waiting to be entertained—instead of engaged and proactive. Jaded and not alive to the spiritual possibilities in front of us. We can feel like the functioning depressed.
I noticed this recently when I was reading Scripture. I was in the early chapters of Acts, which are some of the most exciting stories ever, but I was just. . . going through the motions. As a way to take a small stand against such passive reading, I decided to be more active with two psalms—approach them as spiritual exercise and work up a sweat over them. I wrote them out as they were intended—with Jesus appearing everywhere—with the aim of making them a part of me.
Psalm 23 is worth the effort because we know it too well; Psalm 110 because we don’t know it well enough.
Jesus is my shepherd (Psalm 23)
Jesus, I want more of you. Only you can satisfy the desires of my heart. The world was never intended to carry my hopes. Only you can fill my soul, and you want to fill it to the brim. You are the one who says, “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it” (Ps 81:10).
You lead me in the way that is good—good in the very best sense—even when I think it is not.
You never leave me. I can always trust you, especially during times when I feel as if you are not there. You are God himself, and, for some reason, you have compassion for me.
You, Jesus, are preparing a banquet table, by invitation only, and you have put me on the list. When I come—and here again is something I will never understand—you treat me with honor.
Without a doubt, your Spirit will be certain to push me toward you. Your Spirit drives me along and surrounds me. He is making sure that I will find my home in you, Jesus.
The next psalm is among the most frequently cited psalms in the New Testament, and it is the inspiration behind the entire book of Hebrews. The added pleasure is that you overhear the words of the Father to the Son.
Jesus: Eternal King, Eternal Priest (Psalm 110)
The Father said to Jesus, his risen Son, “take your eternal throne, right next to me, until your rule covers every square inch of earth. Power, my Son, is yours.”
“Your people—your army—will not be conscripts or slaves. They will volunteer to serve you because you have loved them beyond what their imaginations can conceive. You will dress them in the beauty of your holiness, and they will have the vigor of youth.
The Father said to Jesus, his risen Son, “take your place as the eternal, compassionate high priest, who has joined humanity to us. You have brought them into this house.”
“Battles continue. Satan is still fierce and dedicated to the ways of death. But death will be his crown, as it will be for all who stand with him. Meanwhile, you, Jesus, will refresh your volunteers, even as they battle. And you, Eternal Priest, Eternal King, will be lifted high, and those who know your name will be caught up in the train of your royal robe, wrapped with the joy and honor that is yours.”
Not every psalm can be nudged toward its full potential as a New Testament psalm. For example, “blot out my transgressions” (Ps 51) would still be about us more than Jesus, though the full redemption found in Jesus could be inserted after each verse as, “The steadfast, forgiving love of Jesus endures forever.” Otherwise, be sure to replace all temple and Jerusalem references with Jesus, who is the temple and the city all the nations will stream to (Isa 2:2; 66:20).
I don’t anticipate taking a psalm each day and raising it toward its true zenith in Jesus—there is just so much sweating over a psalm that one person can take. But I recommend a small step. The next time you read a psalm, look for Jesus in it and make his presence more explicit.