The Psalms are a long treasured book of our bible. Even Christians who struggle to faithfully read their bibles find the Psalms accessible and endearing. I don’t wish to encourage elevating one part of scripture above another, because I firmly stand with the claim of Paul that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)”, but I do understand. The Psalms are undeniably theological, but it is theology seen through the lens of gripping human experience. In tone and content we get the vast range of the human condition including: thanksgiving and lament, celebration and loss, triumph and tragedy, despair and hope. In spite of the “human-ness” of the Psalms, they remain an incredibly rich theological resource, so much so that Luther referred to the book as a “little bible”.
Yet as beloved as the Psalms are, it is easy to read them for less than they are worth. It is too easy to see them as 150 individual pieces, a random collection of Israel’s ‘Billboard 150’ worship hits. With a little guidance, a little bit of careful study, and the Lord’s help, we can see God’s story of redemption unfold before our eyes, all within this beautiful book. If we are looking for it, we can see the general movement from lament to praise. We see the ups and downs of David’s history, but also the anticipation for a future faithful King, who is God himself (as in Psalm 110). Undeniably, while each Psalm can stand on its own and is profitable in its own right, it also stands within a larger story.
Something to See:
To read the Psalms for all their worth it is important to read them canonically, which simply means to recognize that God has given us this book as a whole within the whole of scripture. Its content and order, as presented, is put together as part of God’s testimony to us – in other words the very opposite of random or accidental. If you missed it last summer, go back and catch Andrew’s TableTalk series on the Psalms as he unpacks some of these larger movements and themes.