Dwelling in the Psalms: An Introduction

Tim Smith » Books of the Bible

Church-kid syndrome...

Growing up as a total church kid I remember having a “bible promise book”. It was a small, hardback book filled with various situations and bible verses to address each one. If you were depressed it took you to something like Psalm 10 which begins, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?” If you were struck by the beauty of creation it would cite Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God...” If you found yourself impressed by the music of Arcade Fire go to Psalm 150, “Praise the Lord... with... trumpet... lute... harp.. tambourine... strings... pipes... cymbals!”

Not Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul

I think that many of us approach the book of Psalms in a very similar way. In many ways we use the book as a sort of “Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul” as we look for a Psalm to comfort or validate what we are feeling at any point in time. There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach at first glance. Certainly it is not wrong to seek solace and comfort in the scripture. However, if we look at the Psalms exclusively from this narrow perspective, we sacrifice two very important truths; without which we may just loose the meaning of the entire book.

The sum is greater than the parts...

When we look at the Psalms one at a time to validate or console our emotions, we miss the message of the Psalms as a whole. The Psalms engage with the entire human condition and they do it all to the glory of God. From Psalms of lament, sorrow, abandonment and betrayal to Psalms of praise, thanksgiving, joy and celebration; the Psalms cover it all. Across the entire book there is a movement from lament to praise. You see the theme of lament in the opening 20 or so Psalms, culminating in Psalm 22 which Jesus quoted in his moment of ultimate loneliness, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We also see songs of joyful praise gathered at the end of the book in Psalms 145-150 with the final verse of the book resounding, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” In the middle we have Psalms of confession (Ps. 51), Psalms of righteous anger and a desire for justice (Ps. 3:7 and many more), Psalms beholding the glory of creation (Ps. 19, 104), as well as Psalms of thanksgiving, celebration, deliverance and hope. In all these expressions, from “praise the Lord” to “break the teeth of the wicked” we believe that every word is inspired by God Himself and they are all for his glory. Therefore, anyone seeking God’s glory in their life must take the whole book of Psalms into account. When we take the book as a whole we are forced to wrestle with things we would otherwise avoid. Tim Smith's Facebook Page

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