One of the great privileges of my life was to go on a spiritual retreat with one of the leading spirituality instructors in America-Dallas Willard. Willard is a Philosophy professor at the University of Southern California, but his real love is teaching and writing books about spirituality. The retreat took place in a catholic retreat center nestled against a mountain just outside of Los Angeles. We were given daily Bible reading assignments as part of the class and one particular assignment was to read Psalms 148-150 ecstatically.
Dr. Willard explained that our understanding of these particular Psalms would be best understood if they were read out loud in a place where we were completely alone. He encouraged us to read it as loud as we could with as much excitement as we could.
If you are like me the thought of reading something in that way brings out my inherent shyness. I wasn’t sure that even by myself I would be able to bring myself to reading these passages in such a seemingly ridiculous way.
The next morning I still had not done my assignment and I had gone out for a jog. There were hundreds of private places on the campus of the retreat center to be alone and I thought I was jogging alone until I heard a distant voice shouting from the middle of one of the flower gardens. The voice was coming from one of the Korean students in my class who was reading with gusto these Psalms. “Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above. 2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. 3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. 4 Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.” On and on he read these three chapters.
It’s hard for me to describe the spiritual experience I had that morning on my jog. To hear these passages read as the Psalmist must have originally penned them as ecstatic utterances of praise, had a profound impact on me. I was running through tears of joy thinking of the greatness of our God. Later in the day, the experience strengthened as I found a private place on campus and read them with as much energy as I could muster. You can’t understand these kinds of Psalms simply by studying their words. They are meant to be ecstatic utterances of praise.
Today I challenge you to do the same. Find a quiet place. If you are in the house alone, you can do it there. If you need to go out to the woods, these Psalms are wonderful to read in the beauty of God’s creation. Don’t just read this devotional. Find a private place and read Psalm 148-150 ecstatically and report back what you discover. I think you will understand these passages in a whole new way.