So, is it really true that the Psalms and particularly the Lament Psalms have been basically neglected by us, the Christians of the 20th – 21st Century and that this to our detriment? I obviously do not have any such evidence, but it is certainly very interesting that many scholars writing on the Psalms suggest that this is the case.
For example, I recently picked up the book “The Case for the Psalms – Why They Are Essential” by N.T. Wright published in 2013 and he expresses this concern. He suggests that despite the fact that the Psalms have been “the daily lifeblood of Christians and of course the Jewish people, from the earliest time. Yet in many Christian circles today, the Psalms are not used. And in places where they are still used, whether said or sung, they are often reduced to a few verses to be recited as “filler” between other parts of the liturgy or worship services.”
His desire in writing his book is to hopefully “reverse these trends” and speaks of the Psalms as ‘full of power and passion, horrendous misery and unrestrained jubilation, tender sensitivity and powerful hope.” He suggests that, “Anyone at all whose heart is open to new dimensions of human experience, anyone who loves good writing, anyone who wants a window into the bright lights and dark corners of the human soul – anyone open to the beautiful expression of a larger vision of reality should react to these poems like someone who hasn’t had a good meal for a week or two. It’s all here.”
He then goes on to say that “there is all that and much, much more. That makes it all the more frustrating that the Psalms are so often neglected today or used at best in a perfunctory [indifferent] and shallow way.” (see references # 25)
Another author, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, speaks of the “great value of the Book of Psalms” in his book on Psalm 73, and suggests “that in it we have godly men stating their experience, and giving us an account of things that have happened to them in their spiritual life and warfare…[and what is a key feature is] the remarkable honesty with which these men do not hesitate to tell the truth about themselves…Throughout history the Book of Psalms has, therefore, been a book of great value for God’s people. Again and again it provides them with the kind of comfort and teaching they need, and which they can find nowhere else…Its special value lies in the fact that it helps us by putting its teaching in the form of the recital of experiences. We have exactly the same teaching in the New Testament, only there it is given in a more didactic [instructive, informative] fashion…people that feel that life has dealt cruelly with them have gone – battered and beaten by the waves and billows of life – to the Psalms. They have read the experiences of some of these men, and found that they, too, have been through something very similar. And somehow that fact, in and of itself, helps and strengthens them. They feel that they are not alone, and that what is happening to them is not unusual…The Book of Psalms is of inestimable value in this respect, and we find people turning constantly to it.” (see references # 26)
If these characteristics of the Psalms that are described by Wright and Lloyd-Jones are true, and I believe they are, then it certainly is a sad fact if we in the church are moving away from keeping them as an integral part of our daily personal and communal devotions and worship.