As a church family, we’re taking the month of July to read through the Psalms together in our Bible reading plan, SOAP. If you haven’t tried SOAP before, it’s simply a method that we use at River Valley to read the Bible together. We encourage you to take a look at the plan on our site by clicking here.
While the Psalms are something that most followers of Jesus have read before, not all have a robust understanding of their context & literary form. While this isn’t required to glean insight, encouragement and revelation from them, it helps us to fully appreciate their beauty and intricacy, showcasing the amazing work that the Holy Spirit was doing in and through the writers of these ancient poems. These are works that were very carefully stitched together by masters of language, and so reading them isn’t always easy, but it is certainly rewarding.
The Psalms begin with an introduction: Psalms 1 & 2. It’s common for Hebrew literature including much of the Old Testament to have an introduction that is intentionally placed there to set a specific kind of stage. In the case of the Psalms, we can learn so much about why we’re reading this collection of poems by pondering the first two.
Psalm 1 describes someone who “delights in the law of the Lord,” letting us know that this person is “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water; which yields its fruit in its season.” It contrasts this person with the wicked, who are “like chaff which the wind drives away.” The author is painting an ideal for us: that those who are righteous meditate on His instruction.
Psalm 2 is a reflection on how the kings of the world often rebel against the Lord, but that God is establishing His king, a new type of king that His people can take refuge in. The author is talking about a hope for the future; a hope that God will deliver His people from the wicked by sending a messianic king that will do what kings before Him couldn’t do.
The introduction to the Psalms sets this stage for us: that this collection of poems & prayers is designed for those who want to listen carefully to God’s instruction and are eagerly awaiting God’s promised messiah. Obviously, for us as followers of Jesus, this promise has already been delivered upon. God has already sent His son to defeat sin & death on our behalf, doing something for us that we could never do for ourselves. Why, then, does this book matter for us today?
When we read the Psalms, we’re getting a window into the thinking of God’s righteous people. The authors of these poems aren’t perfect, but that isn’t the point: the point is that they’re God’s chosen people through whom He delivers His promise to the world. We see the ups, the downs, and sometimes the confusion of living righteously toward God & toward others.
As you read the Psalms, you’re going to notice a high level of emotion, struggle, & brokenness. Often, readers wrestle with the Psalms because they showcase so much human failure. That’s the point, though. Through humanity’s imperfection, God is still delivering on His promise. He loves His creation so much that he doesn’t just remove and replace us: He redeems us. That’s the complex story of God & human beings, and that’s the picture that the Psalms are trying to show us.