I did a talk a recently at a Men’s Breakfast on the book of Psalms. By one, single, basic point was:
Read the Psalms like you read the rest of the Bible.
which I broke down into two constituent parts:
- Every Psalm has a context, just like every other passage of Scripture.
- Every Psalm points to Christ, just like every other passage of Scripture.
My overall aim was to combat the bad habits that many Christians have when they read the Psalms. Most people will do two things.
Firstly, they will open the Psalms randomly and are happy to read a random psalm without any regard for its context. We (I hope) would never do such a thing with, for example, Romans or Joshua. Rather, we recognise that Romans and Joshua and every other book has a flow, a progression, a context which we need to consider in order to properly understand whichever passage we are reading. I suggest that the same is true for the Psalms. We need to spend a lot more time considering the context that any particular psalm comes in – rather than divorcing it from its context and trying to interpret it on its own.There are plenty of indications (I won’t details them now) that the book if Psalms is not just haphazardly thrown together, but is very carefully and meticulously arranged. We must respect this in our reading of it.
The second thing most people will do with a Psalm is read it, and then apply it directly to themselves. So pretty much any “I” or “me” in a psalm relate immediately to me and my situation. Once again, this is not how we read the rest of the bible – so why is that ok for the Psalms. When we approach any other book of the bible we have (I hope) in the back of our minds verses like Luke 24:44 which remind us that all of Scripture is about Jesus. But we seem happy to ignore that completely when it comes to Psalms and we assume that: ‘while all of Scripture is about Jesus, all of Psalm is about me.’
During my prep, I found this post by the ProcTrust especially helpful: Understanding the Psalms
In another post, I’ll explain how I think these two points apply to Psalm 3…