If Proverbs is the biblical version of “Twitter”, as Pastor Andrew wrote last week, then the Book of Psalms is the bible’s hymnal and prayer book. It is a long-cherished book by Christians. The bible is about God, inspired by God’s Spirit, and written to us: in other words, God’s self-revelation to us. It reveals his attributes, records his actions toward man, and in return man’s response to God through history. It is not only the final authority for all of life and doctrine, but the authority and revelation of man’s experience of faith. This, I believe, is why the Psalms are so cherished in the hearts of God’s children. The early church father Athanasius wrote:
“I believe that a man can find nothing more glorious than these Psalms; for they embrace the whole life of man, the affections of his mind, and the motions of his soul. To praise and glorify God, he can select a psalm suited to every occasion, and thus will find that they were written for him.”
It is not just everyday Christians and old theologians that find great comfort within the Psalms, for it is the Old Testament book most often quoted by New Testament authors. If we are to follow Paul’s exhortation to: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)”, then it stands to reason we should purpose to regularly feed upon the Psalms. Therein we find many references to the excellencies of Christ. Firstly, we find Christ implicitly or explicitly in such Psalms as 2,16, 18, 22, 45, 89, 102, 118, and 132. We find descriptions of his throne, kingdom, and rule. He is the majestic messianic ruler, eternal priest, and righteous judge; but also the suffering servant. Peter affirms the resurrection by quoting Psalm 16. Jesus even uses the Psalms as self-understanding and self-identification quoting, for example, from Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”, and Psalm 118, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”
Perhaps more importantly, the psalms open to us the depths of Christ’s soul, and his practice of prayerful communion with the Father through the Psalms. As Jesus describes his betrayer Judas as “one who is dipping bread into the dish with me” for “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him” surely he had in mind Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” In John’s crucifixion account he moves from the outward actions of soldiers casting lots for Christ’s tunic to the inward emotions of the Man of Sorrows, quoting from Psalm 22: “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” In addition to Ps. 22, Christ quotes from Ps. 31 with his final words: “Into your hands I commit my spirit. (see Luke 23:46)” This psalm grants us insight to our suffering servant’s grief: “I hear the whispering of many – terror on every side! – as they scheme against me, as they plot to take my life”; but also his trust in God’s promise and care: “My times are in your hand.”
If the Psalms were not only of Christ, but for Christ, how much more are they for you and me!