O sole god, like whom there is no other!
Thou didst create the world according to thy desire, Whilst thou were alone: All men, cattle, and wild beasts, Whatever is on earth, going upon its feet, And what is on high, flying with its wings. The second is an Egyptian hymn, sung to their sun god, Aton. In form, both of these hymns are strikingly similar to the Psalms of our Bible.
Why, then, are the Psalms of the Bible so widely used in worship, while the others remain only the works of antiquity, studied for their archaeological value, rather than their religious contribution to men and women today? The answer to this question is found by considering the significance of the Psalms, both in biblical times and in the history of the church through the centuries.
Depending upon which scholar you consult, Psalms is one of the two Old Testament books most frequently quoted in the New. Our Lord saw Himself as the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies and types of the Psalms. In his debate with the Pharisees He cited Psalm Matt. The Savior also uttered the beginning words of Psalm 22 from the cross Matt. In their preaching and writing, the apostles often quoted from the Psalms as biblical proof of the fact that Jesus was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.
Peter quoted Psalm as proof that Jesus must be raised from the dead Acts Acts Any book so prominent in the minds of the New Testament writers should also be important to us. From 1 Corinthians , Ephesians and Colossians we can safely infer that the singing of the Psalms was a vital part of the corporate worship experience of the church.
Not only did the church continue to sing the Psalms, the early fathers often chose to write commentaries on the Book of Psalms.
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Among these fathers were Chrysostom and Augustine. In the Anglican church the Psalms are repeated once a month. The Psalms have provided inspiration for many hymnists. There are several reasons why the Psalms have meant so much to the saints over the years.
Let us take a few moments to consider these in order to stimulate our own desire to study the Psalms. We cannot read very far in the Psalms without drawing the conclusion that the psalmist seems to have been reading our mail. How is it that after centuries have passed we find a man who lived in a different time and culture expressing our innermost feelings, fears, and hopes? The answer, of course, is that we are reading the Scriptures, divinely inspired, infallible and inerrant, so as to be a word from God to us cf.
Recognizing this, it was Luther who centuries ago said,. The Psalter is the favorite book of all the saints. In the Psalms the history of Israel is not only condensed e. Bernhard Anderson suggests another reason why the Psalms speak to us. Christians today live under similar circumstances.
Interpreting The Psalms For Teaching And Preaching
Our Lord expressed His grief at being separated from His Father on the cross by repeating the words of Psalm We know from Romans that the Spirit of God speaks those things for us which are unutterable. Is it not possible that some of our unutterable feelings and desires may have been spoken by the psalmists under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? I find that the psalmist has often put his finger on a problem I have grappled with and penned what I have not been able to put into words. Consequently, the Psalms not only speak to us, but for us.
We can therefore sometimes pray in the words of the Psalms more effectively than in our own words. Frankly, I always felt that these were of little, if any, value. If there is any time when men have turned to the Book of Psalms it is in their hour of deep despair and adversity. No wonder the church fathers of the early centuries turned to the Psalms. And the Reformers did likewise. In the preface to his book, Bernhard Anderson reminds his readers that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazi regime, was a man deeply influenced by the Psalms.
I know them and love them more than any other book in the Bible. It was another Russian prison camp in the same war which produced yet another student of the Psalms. During his confinement he turned his attention to the Psalms and his writings 20 have benefited many students of these precious Scriptures.
This, incidentally, explains much of the reason why the Psalms are so neglected in preaching and worship in most American congregations. The truth is that we have had it too easy. We, like the Laodicean church of the Book of Revelation, have found Christianity comfortable and we have become complacent. It is when we are suffering and God seems strangely absent that our attention turns to this precious book. I pray that it will not take tragedy and trouble to motivate our study. I might also add that it is noteworthy that virtually every Psalm which is attributed to David is a Psalm of lament.
Most, if not all, of the Psalms of David were written in the days when he was fleeing from Saul, not when he was sitting on the throne of the nation. Jonah Much of the value of the Psalms is that they speak to and for us. I believe this helps explain why Paul instructed the churches of the New Testament times regarding the sharing of psalms 1 Cor. If I understand the Psalms correctly they provide the saints with a pattern for participation in worship, as well as with a prayer book the Old Testament psalms, which are read or repeated.
Four keys to reading (and teaching) the Psalms — Southern Equip
In fact, the psalms of the Bible are not even confined to the Book of Psalms. The worship of individuals and of congregations often employed psalms. Deborah composed a song of praise after God rescued His people Jud. Hannah sang a psalm of praise to God for the gift of her son, Samuel 1 Sam. Not all the psalms of the Old Testament were psalms of praise and thanksgiving.
Many were psalms of lament. There are psalms of lament in the Book of Job e. The books of Jeremiah e. This leads me to the conclusion that the Psalms provide us not only with a passage to ponder and to pray, but also with a pattern for our prayer and worship. The number of moods which are expressed here, joy and suffering, hope and care, make it possible for every Christian to find himself in it, and to pray with the psalms.
My friend, if God were enthroned upon your praises, how glorious would that throne be? If God were to be seen enthroned upon the praises of our church, how glorious would He appear to men? I am coming to the conclusion that not only is worship more important than evangelism, fellowship, edification, discipleship or church planting, but it is really the means to these things.
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The word Selah , found seventy-one times, is most likely a musical notation added by worship leaders after the Israelites incorporated the psalm into public worship. Scholars do not know the meaning of maskil , found in thirteen psalms. Occasionally, a psalm appears with instructions for the song leader. These and others can refer to melodies used with the given psalm or perhaps to suggestions for liturgical use.
The book of Psalms expresses worship. Throughout its many pages, Psalms encourages its readers to praise God for who He is and what He has done. The Psalms illuminate the greatness of our God, affirm His faithfulness to us in times of trouble, and remind us of the absolute centrality of His Word.
The portrayal of worship in the Psalms offers us glimpse after glimpse of hearts devoted to God, individuals repentant before Him, and lives changed through encounters with Him. Read Psalm 1, then Psalm Thank God for allowing you to express your deepest emotions to Him. If you are hurting, use Psalm 13 as a guide and write your own lament to God.
If you are rejoicing, meditate on Psalm 30 and echo the praise found there. No matter your circumstance, the psalms contain a corresponding word that will help you share your heart with the Lord. View Chuck Swindoll's chart of Psalms , which divides the book into major sections and highlights themes and key verses. Who wrote the book? Why is Psalms so important? What's the big idea? How do I apply this? Thomas L. Constable, "Notes on Psalms," ed. Psalms Overview Chart View Chuck Swindoll's chart of Psalms , which divides the book into major sections and highlights themes and key verses.
Related Interpreting the Psalms for Teaching and Preaching
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