Helping the Christian Church to understand and use the Psalms.
Can you really get the feel of a state by just passing through on an interstate highway?
So, this past week I learned that you can drive through the each of the contiguous 48 states in just under 124 hours. While that might get some people calling friends and renting a bus, it left me thinking about past road trips … and the Psalms.
Can you really get the feel of a state by just passing through on an interstate highway? I’ve lived in 4 cities in the US and visited many others and I have found that I don’t really know a place until I’ve had a while to look around. Looking at the ambitious route to get through all 48 states that fast, you get really short changed on some states. You’d get 3.5 miles through Florida. Or 0.75 miles through Rhode Island. Or, get this, 0.02 miles through Oklahoma. And I think it was my mother who told me that the interstate highway system has made it possible to drive across the entire continent sea to sea and not see anything! But, what does that have to do with the Psalms?
As I have been studying and singing through the Psalter in recent years I’ve begun to see the Book of Psalms as a vast continent. There are some Psalms that we’ve “lived in” and they’re familiar, full of personal memories and places we love to go. There are other Psalms that are highway for us; we think of those Psalms not so much because of what they say in themselves but in where they bring us emotionally and in our frame of mind. There are Psalms as high as Mount Everest and other ones as deep as the Grand Canyon (and frequently in the book of Psalms the two are adjacent). The Psalms are as diverse, engaging, and awe striking as the New World was to Christopher Columbus or the west was to Lewis and Clark.
On the other hand, the Psalms aren’t virgin territory either. The people of God have been singing them for 3000 years! And yet, despite their use, they’re still fresh. The Psalms are living and active and sharper than any two edged sword.
Flying through the US at high speed would be a neat way to experience America, but you’d also miss something. There would still be landmarks, attractions, cities, scenic drives you’ve missed. Likewise, there are Psalms that we haven’t spent much time in except en route to somewhere else and still others that we’re just plainly not familiar with. We have limited, whether intentionally or not, to only part of the Psalms. And in doing so, I think we’ve missed something. There’s a beauty to each and every part. The laments touch us deeply because we live our lives in a fallen and cursed world. The cries for judgment are the most straightforward expression of faith that God is judge. And as I have spent more times in some of the less familiar parts of the Psalter, I’ve realized that there were parts of me that I wasn’t aware were there. As I have heard it said, “the Psalter is not imbalanced, it is we who are imbalanced.” We need the whole Psalter, including its parts that seem foreign, if only to set the parts we love in greater relief. One of the ways to again see the majesty of the mountains of Colorado is to spend a month in the plains of Kansas.
So, if you’ve not spent some time in the Psalms or if you haven’t spent time in the whole of the Psalms, I encourage you to do so. If you’re in a rut in your personal devotions, see if the Psalms lead you through and out of it. And, don’t just get through to get through. Take time to sight-see. Explore. And rejoice in the gift that God has given in His Book of Psalms.
It is our conviction that the whole Book of Psalms is, with the rest of the Old and New Testament, the infallible and inerrant Word of God. The Psalms are to be understood as the Word of Christ and all the Psalms speak of Him and those united to Him by faith. The Psalms are meant for use by Christians when they sing, praise, read, hear, memorize, pray, teach, rebuke, correct, train, and preach. It is our hope that this blog will be used by God to exalt Christ, our anointed mediator, that the Christian Church might know better the blessing for all who trust in Him.