At the age of 18 I began to read the Bible for the first time in my life. My young friend at the time noticed a change happening in my life and she remarked, “Reading that book is affecting you!” She was absolutely right and reading “that book” turned my life upside down – in a very positive way!
Over 45 years the Word of God has continued to have this affect in my life and I get the feeling that my in-depth study of the Psalms is doing the same thing. But considering what the author of Hebrews said, that “the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12), then no wonder!
Thomas Watson, a seventeenth century English Puritan pastor, understood the need for reading the Bible with both our heads and our hearts. He said, ‘keep reading your Bibles until your hearts are warmed…read the Word not only as history, but allow it to affect you deeply. Let the Word of God not only inform you but also inflame you.’
Let me share just a few things that people have said about the Psalms:
It has been said that, “the whole gamut of human experience is expressed in the Psalter…the Psalms speak to all seasons of our souls…our intellect is informed, our emotions are refined and our wills are directed.” (Tremper Longman 111 How to Read the Psalms Intervarsity Press 1988)
Of course, the Psalms are most recognised for their use in worship and praise of God, both personally and corporately. Brueggeman states that “Praise is the duty and delight, the ultimate vocation of the human community; indeed, of all creation. Yes, all of life is aimed toward God and finally exists for the sake of God…We have a resilient hunger to move beyond self, to return our energy and worth to the One from whom it has been granted. In our return to that One, we find our deepest joy.” There is no doubt the Psalmists understood this truth.
He continues, “When we become specific about praise of God in the biblical tradition, we arrive quickly at the Book of Psalms, which is the central resource for praise in the Bible.” (Walter Brueggemann Israel’s Praise. Doxology against Idolatry and Ideology Fortress Press 1988)
But there is much more to the Psalms than praise and we will look at some of these things later.