Bono & Eugene Peterson on the Psalms

Bono & Eugene Peterson on the Psalms

Eugene Peterson describes reading the psalms as a 12-year-old boy and being utterly perplexed by the language. But through the psalms he was introduced to the power of metaphor, and ultimately, the psalms “showed me that imagination was a way to get inside the truth.” Pairing that imagination with biblical scholarship, eventually Peterson rephrased the psalms—and then the rest of the Bible—into modern language in The Message translation.

The Message translation deeply moved Bono and U2 in the early 2000s, and when Peterson found out about this, his first response was, “Who’s Bono?”

 

Tells the story of how the two eventually corresponded, developed a friendship, and finally met. Recently Bono paid a visit to the Petersons’ home in Montana. David Taylor, Fuller’s director of the Brehm Center at our Texas campus, chats with both in a rare and intimate interview.

They talk of raw emotion, cussing, Scripture, and violence. They wonder together what it looks like to respond to the real world authentically before God. Bono asserts, “The only way we can approach God is if we’re honest—through metaphor, through symbol.” Peterson follows, “Praying isn’t being nice before God . . . The psalms are not pretty; they’re not nice.”

This authenticity about life and about prayer has fueled U2’s music across three and a half decades. Often what draws young people to music is its openness to releasing the full emotion of life. Or as Bono explains, “The truth can blow things apart.” We found in our own research with young people that a vast majority of Christian teenagers have significant questions and doubts about God, but precious few talk to anyone about them. That’s tragic, because it’s not doubt that is toxic to faith, but silence.

One of the best things we can offer to young people when they struggle is a relationship where they can be honest, raw, and lay everything on the table. A lot like the psalms. We’re grateful for these two leaders who help all of us open the potential of the psalms for young people.

Talk on Psalm 84

Psalms

Tonight as part of our Psalms, Pudding and Prayer series, for our 11-18 year olds, I spoke on Psalm 84 – you can download the powerpoint here:

You might know the words of this Psalm from the Matt Redman song that we sing at Soul Survivor. The Psalm is the musing of one unnamed pilgrim as he makes his way up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. He’s longing to get to God’s house – he has this intense desire for the House of God. He longs to be with God’s people, worshipping. We read about it in vv1-2.

 

This traveller is even jealous of birds! The Temple courtyards were open to the sky, and the great eaves provided a place for good nesting, so there were always these birds in and around the Temple.

 

Do you have a love like this – a longing for God’s house?

 

As we read through the Psalm I think there are four key things to reflect on. Firstly:

 

  1. Look to God alone for your strength

How many have found that the Christian life is impossible without God’s strength? Yet so often our greatest battle is about learning to trust Him instead of doing it on our own steam. That’s human nature.

 

We do not have enough resources in ourselves to make the whole journey. Christians burn out because they strive in their own strength. And you know, you can get so far, but you’ll never finish without God’s strength.

 

At some points there has to be refuelling. Refilling. It’s why it’s so important to stop each day to read the bible and pray – to live daily in God’s strength.

 

2. Put your heart into the journey

Put your whole heart into the journey. We shouldn’t be people who are just letting life pass us by – being dictated to by our circumstances – “waiting out” our time until Jesus comes – we must have our eyes on the finish line, but our energies, our heart, our hands and feet, ought to be occupied with making the journey count – living for Jesus – Paul wrote: “For me to live is Christ”.

 

3. See the opportunity in every trial

Trials are on nearly every page of the Bible. The Bible talks about them a lot, because they are common to every person on the face of the earth. And if some well-meaning person has suggested to you that Christians aren’t supposed to have trials – that we’re never supposed to ever have a cold, that we won’t ever experience sadness or loss, that we shouldn’t ever feel a financial difficulty – then I think you should go back to that well-meaning person and invite them to read their Bible through again.

 

The 3rd key is not to pretend trials don’t exist but rather to see trials as opportunities. “The Valley of Baca” is literally: “The Valley of Weeping”. Haven’t we all passed through some Valleys of Baca? Some Valleys of Weeping. But here it says that, if the Lord is your Strength, and if your heart is set on the journey, you can see the Valley of Weeping become a spring. What to others is a place of bitterness can to you become a place of blessing. A place of growth.

 

It might not always be apparent, but the opportunity for growth and blessing is always right there in the middle of the trial. It’s not always easy, but with God’s help, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, we can use trials as opportunities.

 

We all love the “mountain top” experiences; times of blessing and sunshine – but where does the fruit grow? You won’t find many orchards on mountain tops – oh, the view is nice up there, but the fruit grows in the valleys. And it’s those trials in our lives that God can use best to bring us on “from glory to glory” by His Spirit.

 

And this leads us into the fourth, and final, key:

 

4. Remember that God is in control

He’s always in sovereign control. He will never surrender His position on the throne to any person or any thing. He cannot be defied. God is in control!

 

Let’s read together verse 6 of this great 84th Psalm … [Read]. Here is the promise of God. If I am (1) looking to God alone for my strength, and (2) if I’ve put my heart into the journey, and (3) I’m looking to see what opportunity God might have in every trial, then the sovereign God will do two things for me:

a)     He will direct my steps in strength, and

b)    He will bring me right through to my eternal destination

 

He will direct their steps in strength: When you allow the Holy Spirit free reign in your life, you will go from strength to strength, until you bear the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. Oh, let God do that in your life! Submit to Him, I urge you today.

 

He will bring them through to their destination: This pilgrim is just longing to get to Jerusalem – to the House of the Lord. And here is the assurance – God will bring him through, safe all the way.

 

Can you be sure that you’re going to make it all the way to Heaven? Can you really know? ABSOLUTELY. He IS the Author and the Finisher of our faith!

 

Conclusion

I don’t want to just limp through life – by the grace of God I want to go from strength to strength! With faith in God I believe I can outgrow my difficulties. I believe YOU can outgrow YOUR difficulties.

 

Here again are the 4 keys to a successful passage through life, as we see them in Psalm 84:

 

  1. Look to God alone for your strength
  2. Put your heart into the journey
  3. See the opportunity in every trial
  4. Remember that God is in control

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