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The Psalms

26 Dec 2016Other Essays

Introduction

For the most part of the Bible, the Book of Psalms offers the most variety of topics ranging from advices, prayers, songs, encouragement, promises, worship celebrations, laments, complaints and many others which anyone can relate t its context. As Elizabeth Huwiler puts it, “because they are part of the Biblical canon, they can allow us to speak to God in ways that seem daring, and in situations in which we do not know what to say.”(Huwiler)

Why so many people are attracted to the Psalms and what makes them so interesting? According to Alan Palmer and Debra Reid, there are three main reasons that contribute to the Psalms enduring popularity: (Palmer and Reid)

The Psalms reveal a God who has a heart for the arts. Palmer and Reid said that “Psalms are alive and attractive because they are so full of music.”(p.22) No one can deny the importance and influence of music to anyone. As some people would say, music is the soul of the heart. Music occupies space in one’s emotion and heart.

The Psalms reveal a God with a passion for poetry. The Psalms are simply poetry set to music according to Palmer and Reid, the explanation for this is that, “poetry is the best medium with which to communicate our feelings.”(p.22)
The Psalms reveal a God who has provided Psalms for all seasons. This means that the context of the book relates to all people from generation after generation as Saint Augustine commented on Psalms, said, “here we can see ourselves and our situation, there is nothing we can experience which is not reflected in the writing of the Psalmist.

Some verses that are famous among Christians are Psalms 37:4 which say, “Delight yourself also in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” This verse provides inspiration and in most quoted by those who are seeking to achieve something in their lives. Psalms 119:105 is also a favorite verse, it says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”(KJV) This verse offers comfort to those who are facing dark moments in their lives. Thus, the Psalms find special place in the heart not only of the Christians but anyone who believe in the Bible and in God.

Analysis of the Topic in Biblical Interpretation

Carl S. Lewis explained that the Book of Psalms is not doctrinal but merely poems of human experiences that lived and experienced God. He said (as cited in BobDeffinbaugh, Th.M. paper)

The Psalms are poems and poems intended to be sung: not doctrinal treatises, nor even sermons. … Most emphatically the Psalms must be read as poems; as lyrics, with all the licenses and all the formalities, the hyperboles, the emotional rather than logical connections, which are proper to lyric poetry.

The foreword to Warren Wiersbe’s book ‘Prayer, Praise and Promises,’ Woodrow Kroll said that “the Psalms have always held a special place in the affection of Israel. The people of God rejoiced and lamented together by singing the Psalms.” (Wiersbe) The Book of Psalms as he described is more than just a poetical expression of faith of God’s people. It is indeed an expression of the reality of their situation. It is more than just a song, more than just a prayer or an inspiration. It is a real encounter with their God, a deeper relationship and intimacy that had been developed, because God Himself had become real in their lives. Their faith in God proves to be their only but most reliable source of strength.

Dr. Huwiler said that the Psalms focus on God, using a magnificent variety of expressions and images.” Thus, when one approach God in the manner of the Psalms, he or she will “find God as shield, deliverer, listener, destroyer, teacher, refuge, healer, savior, judge, sovereign, king, stronghold, gracious one, who remembers the oppressed, shepherd, rock, eagle and on and on.”

With regards to the authorship of the Book, David, acknowledged as the dominant author. Scholars however suggested at least five inpiduals who wrote the book including David. They were spiritual men chosen by God to do specific tasks. They were Moses, Asaph, Solomon, and the sons of Korah. Dr. Huwiler noted that some Psalms are “spoken by an inpidual (I), while others had corporate speakers (we). But even in the most personal Psalms, the “tone shifted from an intimate conversation between the speaker and God to a call or witness to the whole community.” The book was a ‘collection of different kinds of poetry spanning many centuries of history. But, it reached its present form in 300 B.C.

According to John Wesley, there are four basic collections within the book: (1) The Davidic Psalms (chapters 3-41, 51-70, 108-110, 138-145); (2) The Asaph Psalms (chapters 73-83); (3) The Korah Psalms (chapters 42. 44-49, 84-85, 87-88; and, (4) Songs of Ascents (chapters 120-134) Although, the compilation process is not known. “The Psalter grew out of the life of a community of faith as the people used their songs and poetry to worship God.”(Bratcher) Thus, though, David is traditionally seen as the dominant author, yet it is better to understand Psalms not in terms of inpidual authorship but “as the product of this community of faith who composed, collected and passed on their prayers, hymns, songs and liturgy as a witness to their experience as the people of God.”(Bratcher)

The importance therefore is not on the persons who wrote them but in the message about what God reveals of Himself to His people and the people’s response to Him. In general, the content of the book was pided in three categories: the lament Psalms, the Thanksgiving Psalms and the Hymns.

The Lament Psalms is the most numerous and usually a “cry to God from distress, pain or sorrow, either fro the inpidual or the community, and often begins with why and ending in an affirmation of their faith in God.

The Thanksgiving Psalms are praises and thanksgiving expressed to God in response to God’s faithfulness, blessings, protection and love that have been experienced.

The Hymns are usually praises to God for who He is, as they experienced God’s wonderful and mighty power.

What the Book of Psalms Contribute to the Life and Mission of the Church

Alan Palmer and Debra Reid in their book ‘Discovered Psalms’ said, “Ambrose of Milan considered the Psalms the height of spirituality, viewing them as a kind of medicine for the salvation of the soul.” They said that “Psalms are alive and attractive because they are so full of music.” The original Greek word Psalmoi, indicated a striking or twitching of the fingers on string. This later came to mean a sacred song accompanied by instruments.

Today, the Psalms has become part of the life of the church all over the world in the context of Praise of Worship. The later part of the 20th century saw both the Protestants and Catholic Charismatic church benefited much from the Psalms because of the joyful songs from the Psalms. Choruses such as I will sing of the mercies of the Lord, Great is the Lord, and From the Rising of the Sun, were all beautiful songs literally taken from the Psalms.

Palmer and Reid call these joyful songs as Davidic Worship Songs which brought a new dimension of church growth in 20th century.

The joyful character of the songs revives one’s spirit and brings spiritual filling to one’s soul. Traditionally, the early church uses hymnals during worship. Hymnals are good because each hymn was composed out of experience that has served a moral and spiritual lessons or blessings to the composer. They were spiritually inspired to compose the hymns. But, today’s generation has quite little if none at all, interest in the hymnal especially young people. They enjoy joyful songs which the Psalms offers.

In the research by David Fischer and was lectured by Jon Eyman, they said that “the worship and Praise instituted in the Tabernacle of David reappeared in every Old Testament Revival.”(Eyman, p.94-95) But the Davidic Worship was not only confined in the Old Testament. The Apostle James declared that the “New Testament Church was the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the restoration of David’s Temple.” (Eyman, p.96) The Psalms therefore, reappeared at once in the life of the church inspired by the Psalms in the form of spiritual music during the Praise and Worship.

Today, David’s music continues to provide inspiration and revival in the life of the church. The Psalms represents “the will of God concerning the worship of His people of all ages, culminating in the worship of the New Covenant people which now embraces all nations.”(Eyman, 99) The tabernacle worship of David was “marked by singing, rejoicing in the dance, clapping for joy, shouting, worshipping with instruments and prophesying new songs of the Lord.”(Eyman, p99) This continues to bring more spiritual blessings and joy to the church until the return of Jesus Christ on earth for His church.

Conclusion

The Psalms are truly great source of inspiration and spiritual strength if one believes the Bible as the Word of God. It is full of words and praise of God’s promises, assurance, protection, comfort, deliverance, etc.

In fact, it is worth-making our daily devotional as in the work of A.C. Gabelin, “a Psalm a day keeps worry away.”(Wiersbe, preface)

Of course, every book of the Bible is equally inspired by God, but one can find that it is quite easy to relate our situation to the Psalms because the experiences of the writers are common and is not far from our own experience. It is indeed a realistic cry of expression of pain brought by the difficulty maybe economically and politically. The songs and promises offer comfort to any who will seriously believe God. The following texts from Psalm 91 offer assurance of God’s comfort and protection. Herewith is the first two and the last three verses of Psalms 91:

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; in Him will I trust. Because He hath set His love upon me, therefore I will deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Work Cited

  • Deffinbaugh, Th.M. What is Psalm? Bible.Org http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=513
  • Dugan’s Topical Reference Bible (1985) Gordonsville, Tennessee: Dugan Publisher, Inc.
  • Huwiler, Elizabeth. Psalms and Christian Prayer The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia http://www.holytrinitynewrochelle.org/yourti17389.html
  • Palmer, Alan and Reid, Debra. (1998) Discovering Psalms. Cambridge, Great Britain: Crossway Books Leicester
  • Wesley, John. “Introducing the Psalms” Biblical and Theological Resources for Growing Christians. http://www.crivoice.org/psalmsintro.html
  • Wiersbe, Warren. (1992) Prayer, Praise & Worship. Lincoln, Nebraska: Back to the Bible
  • Worship Symposium Manual. International Worship Symposium Ministry (1993)

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