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Introduction: Appreciating the Psalms

Introduction

Most of us have captured in our memory good times we would love to freeze and keep forever. Plans were made, life was good, circumstances were pleasant, the road ahead looked smooth. We were comfortable with “water-colored memories of the way we were.”

Then, suddenly, without warning, something or someone disrupts our comfort and we tumble about in a swirl of emotions, confused by the sudden and often tragic turn of events. We don’t understand; we are confused and often angry.

Introduction

Most of us have captured in our memory good times we would love to freeze and keep forever. Plans were made, life was good, circumstances were pleasant, the road ahead looked smooth. We were comfortable with “water-colored memories of the way we were.”

Then, suddenly, without warning, something or someone disrupts our comfort and we tumble about in a swirl of emotions, confused by the sudden and often tragic turn of events. We don’t understand; we are confused and often angry.

How we traverse these unexpected and tumultuous seasons often reveals what our hearts and minds truly understand about God. If we hold in our memory banks truth about the unchanging character and goodness of our creator, we have a lifeline to grasp as the storm rages about us. If we do not, we are in danger of getting stuck in the turmoil, sucked down, and seeking other ways to avoid the pain of reality. There is a real danger in the way we respond.

However, for those who know of God’s goodness and choose to focus on that truth, slowly and gradually life unfolds and we move into a new awareness of peace and comfort, a new discovery about life, about people, about God and, surprisingly, about ourselves.

The psalmists have written in rich and evocative language describing these changing seasons on the journey of life. With honesty and forthrightness mingled with hope, they focus our thoughts during each of life’s seasons: times of comfort, times of difficulty, and times of resolution.

The Psalms are perhaps the most comforting passages God has provided to support us in each of these three seasons. I call them Psalms for the Comfort Zone, Psalms for the Danger Zone, and Psalms for the Discovery Zone. Our study will introduce all the Psalter and delve into examples of each type of Psalm.

The honest and emotional expression of the Psalms has made them a favorite of faith communities through the centuries. They teach us how to pray, how to think and to live wisely on life’s journey, even in the midst of trouble.

Just as popular songs today often put words and music around our life experience, so the Psalms are “songs for the soul.” Psalms are poems intended to be sung. Psalms are music without the notes. The tunes are lost to us, but God has preserved the lyrics, perhaps in His own purposes, so that all generations and all cultures can set them to their own music. Sing their own songs. We’re glad you’ve chosen to join our chorus for this study.

The Book of Psalms is wisdom literature that utilizes Hebrew poetic language and structure in expression, has been classified by thematic repetition in content, and has been celebrated on behalf of many generations for its unique characteristics.

Unique Characteristics of the Psalms

The Psalms were written by numerous authors (seven authors are specifically identified; 48 Psalms are anonymous) and compiled over almost 1,000 years.

  • The book of Psalms is the longest book in the Bible
  • The book of Psalms is the most frequently quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament (over 400 times)
  • Ps 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible, and the middle chapter in the Bible (which contains a total of 1,189 chapters)
  • Ps 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible
  • Ps 118:8 is the central verse in the Bible, reflecting the theme of the Word of God:

"It is better to trust in the LORD
Than to put confidence in man."

There are 150 individual Psalms. By reading five Psalms per day, the entire book can easily be completed in one month. Read the Psalms slowly, notice the poetic parallelism and language, enjoy the range of emotional thanksgiving, praise, sorrow, and joy, treasure His Word in your heart, and let these expressions of the Psalms become the personal songs of your soul to your loving heavenly Father and sovereign omnipotent LORD.

Related Topics: Curriculum