The Psalms- there’s a bit of all of us in them
As we approach our final week of the Psalms, I hope you enjoyed our trip deep into the heart (literally) of the Bible. John Calvin says this about the Psalms.
“The varied and resplendent riches which are contained in this treasury it is not an easy matter to express in words; so much so, that I well know that whatever I shall be able to say will be far from approaching the excellence of the subject… I have been accustomed to call this book, I think not inappropriately,’ An Anatomy of all the parts of the soul.’; for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to the life all the grief’s, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.”
We can see the full range of human emotion expressed in the Psalms. At first it may not seem very “Christian” of the Psalmists to talk like they do to a holy God, but the truth is they recognize that God already sees their soul and longs for His people to come to him with their struggles. Amazingly, even of the Psalms that start off pretty rough, end in hope. How can that be? Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73, admits he was like a wild beast until he came into the presence of God where he understood the whole picture. (Psalm 73: 16-22). Many times, Seeing Eye to eye with God can lead us to walking hand in hand with Him.
The Psalms can be categorized according to their content. Here are some of the traditional categories.
Messianic Psalms: These are the Psalms of hope that speak prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. Remember Psalm 2 that pictured Christ.
Penitent Psalms: These are the Psalms of repentance. They speak to the brokenness of our spirit and turning away from sin. Remember last week’s reading - Psalm 38? It is a penitent Psalm.
Imprecation Psalms: These are Psalms expressing emotions like resentment toward evil. Imprecation really means asking God to deal with the evil instead of you taking it into your own hands. -Psalm 35 is an example of an imprecation Psalm.
Psalms of Lament: These Psalms cry out to God when the pain is overwhelming. The Jewish community knew that godly sorrow was a good thing. Expressing deep emotions before God is the way to intimate connection with Him. NEED EXAMPLE
The final category will we look at this week is the Wisdom Psalms. These Psalms are specifically written for those who want to be wise. The best way to do this is to meditate on Scripture. Psalm 49 that we will read this week is an example of a Wisdom Psalms. It reads “Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike; My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding.” (Vs. 1-3) I going to wet your whistle with these opening verses and you can read for yourself his words to gain wisdom.
Tips for Reading (Interpretation tip)
(Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It has been building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over past weeks to get the whole picture.
The Psalms can be a little hard to read if you read them all together in a row. There are a lot of them and there is not a narrative to follow. So here are a few very practical ways to read the Psalms:
Read one Psalm a day with other Bible reading that you are doing.
Pray the Psalms: Many Psalms are easily adapted into prayers of either praise or request for rescue. Considering reading them out loud as a prayer to God.
Re-title them: If you looked in my Bible you would see that I re-titled each Psalm so that I could easily locate a psalm that matched my specific emotion. This practice also makes sure that I understand and absorb what I read.
Look for Christ: underline references to the Messiah and see how they are fulfilled in the New Testament. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to do this- use your cross reference to discover the connections.
Make a topical list: Take a blank sheet of paper and every time you come across a Psalm that expresses an emotion, write down the emotion and the Biblical reference. At the end of this year you will have a list of emotions and a reference to a Psalm that deals with that emotion. Keep the list handy for you next emotional meltdown!
Notes from David's Journal
Some of you may remember in your traditional church hymnody the great hymn by Martin Luther, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God". Interestingly, he wrote the words to this hymn based primarily on Psalm 46, one of our readings this week. God is our God. He is a bulwark never failing! We are secure in Him. He cannot be moved! What wonderful promises from the Word of God about our God. Also, please note verse 10. There are times regularly, indeed even daily, when we need to stop, be still and know God is God. Our hurried lives don't always allow us this privilege. But a part of this daily Bible reading is to give us all a regular, daily time to pause, be still, read God's Word and know that God is God, still on His throne, ruling the world and our lives, even when it feels like it cannot be true. God is our fortress. He is impregnable. Let us find our rest today and always in Him and Him alone.