In my last post I talked about reading the Psalms in context, and reading them as being about Christ (rather than about me). When I was considering these points, it made me re-examine Psalm 3 which I think I have grievously misunderstood in the past.
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…
I’m preaching on Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” this Sunday (for “plain” read “level place”!).
I’m starting to get really annoyed by the lack of useful stuff in commentaries. The number of commentators and preachers who ignore the structure of the passage is not helping in my preparation!
I preached on Luke 5:33-6:16 on Sunday. It was one of the hardest sermons I’ve ever prepared. It took ages and I was mega-confused during most of my prep time.
One of the issues I came across was related to Jesus’ parable in Luke 5:36-39. It’s a famous passage about new/old clothes and new/old wine/wineskins.
I came to the conclusion that there is a lot of assumption done about this passage, without the necessary rigorous exegesis that it required. Every commentator (except one) that I read on those verse assumed that Jesus = new and Pharisees/Judaism = old. That is a very well loved interpretation of these verses.
However, I want to question the validity of that interpretation. During my prep, exegesis and research, I came to the conclusion that the text makes much more sense if we understand the parable to be working the other way round – that is, that Jesus is the old and the Pharisees are new.
Now, you might strongly disagree with my conclusion there – but the main point I want to raise is that there is nothing in the text itself which demands the parable be interpreted one way round or the others. The fact that almost every preacher and commentator takes Jesus as NEW is nothing more than an assumption which most, if not all, fail to address or defend.
In fact, the only time in these verses where any preference is expressed towards either old or new is in v39 where Jesus says “the old is better”. Most interpreters are required, by their presuppositions, to understand Jesus as making a negative comment about the Pharisees refusal to accept Jesus. The problem with that is that, once again, it is slightly forced onto the text. Not to mention the fact that most people recognise that old wine is better than new wine – so Jesus’ words make most sense if he is saying that the old is better, that He is the old and that the Pharisees are adding new rules which tear, spill and destroy the old.
I experienced an unusual disappointment as I read both the NIV (both 1984 and 2011) and the NLT this morning.
As I read Luke 4:29 (which is part of the passage I’m preaching on Sunday morning) I noticed that they both don’t translate a personal pronoun.