What are the psalms?
That is a question that has occupied the church for ages. Simply put the Psalms are a collection of the prayers and songs of Ancient Israel. They express both joys and longings and invite everyone who reads them into their vortex of feeling.
This, however, is an incomplete answer. They are so much more complex and yet we always do come back to the simplicity of prayer and praise.
I have often referred to the Psalms as the seed bed of the Bible. We find all the grand patterns and themes of the entire revelation of God in its pages. The psalms teach us powerful theological themes: creation, judgement, sin and its horrible effects, the nature of man, the nature of God, the coming of the Messiah and of his days, deliverance, the problem of evil, salvation, mercy, the primacy of the Word of God, prayer, praise, worship and righteousness. These being just a few of the items in a short list.
Without the Psalms, we wouldn’t have a New Testament. Within its poetry are vital prophecies of the Messiah and the church. The New Testament writers depended heavily on the Psalter to make their arguments and to consider what would one day be, in the final dispensation of the world.
Without the Psalms, we would have a difficult time understanding the themes and currents of the Law, writings and prophets. It opens a window of commentary and exposition on the two great commandments. It allows us an expanded view of creation, exodus, judgment and wonderful mercy.
It is more than prayer, and yet it can all be prayed. The Psalms contain the catechizing lessons of ancient faith in the LORD God. It contains complaints, history, remedies for sin, promises of prayer, oh, the wonderful vistas. It tells the truth about the condition of men, their cultures, societies, and great achievements and failures. It tells the truth and reveals the thoughts and intents of the heart.
It is not to be handled carelessly or studied half-heartedly. The Psalter is devotional in the fullest sense of that word. The soul that honestly examines the couplets, triplets and quatrains will be challenged, burdened, filled to the fullest with the greatness of God, and laid waste by His longsuffering in the face of the blackest corruption.
The Psalms must not be institutionalized into obscurity or diminished by an interpretation that limits it to a period of time or a dispensation of Israel. It must not be pigeon-holed into a single type of literature. It must not be minimized because it refuses to be categorized. It is not only for the monks to chant and the choirs to sing. It is for you. One thousand, five hundred and twenty-seven verses await the brave inquirer.
Will you join me on a four-year journey? Five minutes a day, five days a week, studying the Psalms verse by verse.