“The promise God gave for a thousand generations.” (105:8)
A thousand generations is approximately 20,000 years, four times longer than recorded human history. In essence, then, God’s promise is eternal. In contrast, our word is often easily broken. Sometimes we go back on promises because of circumstances outside of our control, sometimes they become too inconvenient or expensive, and sometimes we simply forget. The Psalmist is giving us a high bar to live up to — the idea that we can be better at only making promises when we can deliver, that we should consider our words, once uttered, to have the longevity of all human history.
“Happy is the people who know the festive shout.” (89:16)
Some of my most powerful and positive Jewish memories are those that take place at summer camp and involve “music.” The word “music” is in quotation marks because the sounds being produces might also be fairly described as noise — yelling, the sound of a jet engine taking off, or an elephant’s mating call. However, there is no doubting the enthusiasm in the voices and the joy on the faces of the young campers producing the cacophony of sound. It is pure energy and rises straight up to heaven where we can be sure that it rocks God’s throne!
“I will pay You my vows that my lips spoke.” (66:13-14)
A person’s reputation depends largely on his or her ability keep their word. The best test of character happens when the cost for keeping our word is higher than unexpected. Do we look for a loophole to get out of our commitment? Do we look for a scapegoat to blame for being unable to keep the promise? Or do we accept the hardship and follow through? It is precisely at the difficult moments when our reputation is tested that we can show ourselves to be most worthy of trust.
“Their tongue shall be their downfall.” (64:9)
Sir Walter Scott wrote, “O what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” One lie builds on the next and on the next. Eventually, the whole ungainly pile falls down under its own weight.
Sometime in the first half of the 19th century, a Reverend Mr. Stuart, advised three questions to be put to ourselves before speaking evil of any person: “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” Whether it is the tongue or the fingers we are exercising, we would be wise to heed Mr. Stuart’s advice.
“The mouth of liars will be stopped up.” (63:12)
We first tell a lie to avoid making ourselves look bad and then to make ourselves look better. A successful lie is an ego boost, causing the spotlight of adoration to swing our way. Lying becomes habitual when we feed our ego a series of little lies. The now overfed ego can no longer survive on a normal humble diet, but demands constant stroking and feeding. At this point, bending the truth is a way of life and we no longer notice whether people believe us or not, we thrive on the volume of their attention. The solution — close up the mouth, turn off the lies, and starve the ego into submission.