The purpose of our time is to understand each Psalm within 700 words or less. Holy cow what have we gotten ourselves into!? Not sure…but we’ll see how this goes! But before we dive into the book of Psalms, we really need to understand WHAT the book of Psalms is because in order to understand its importance and see its relevance we need to actually understand the book! And how can we do that if we just jump in without knowing the water first!?
The Book of Psalms is broken up into 5 different “books” each with its own “doxology” (think of a doxology as a praise…but it’s a praise that closes something – which is why we have a “doxology” at the end of a church service). So each section is a movement from one place, a place of praise, to a HIGHER place of praise. It’s also important for us to remember that these are poems written by people that are in a relationship with God already. And these poems are meant to be sung which is why so often we’ll see “Psalm ____” “for the director of music”. And as you read them you will begin to hear these “songs” sung out to God in all and every situation…which is why they’ve become so important to not only the Jews back in the day but Jews and Christians all around the world still today. And since it was written BY someone in a relationship with God the author ASSUMES that since you are reading these psalms that YOU TOO have a relationship with God…so there becomes this mutual understanding.
So why are the psalms so important and valuable to us? Not only because they are the written word of God, but because when you read them you feel pain, you feel heartache, you feel lament, you feel joy, you feel sorrow, you feel…life. Everything that they’ve experienced…we’ve been through, or are in the midst of right now. That “shadow of darkness” (Psalm 23)…yeah, we’ve been in dark places where we’ve felt lost and scared and unable to hear God. We’ve been to Christian concerts, camps, and even worship services where our souls are overjoyed and we clap our hands and shout to God with cries of joy (Psalm 47). Many of us have already experienced the death of a close friend or neighbor or loved one and we wonder why God has done this (Psalm 88). The joy of the Psalms is that BECAUSE we are in a relationship with God we can bring to him our heaviest of burdens, our deepest of wounds…even our anger and inability to understand what and why God is doing what he is doing. And BECAUSE of our relationship we know God is listening and responding. He is crying when we cry, rejoicing when we rejoice. No other relationship allows our carnival of emotions to be placed so heavily upon someone else. And no other relationship we have allows these authentic feelings to be said without affecting the relationship.
So we are going to read a psalm a week, reflect on it, hear the truth and understanding of it…and figure out how that works with us today. As with ALL of scripture, these become lessons and reminders that were food for the soul then and food for the soul today.