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…
Ok, imagine the situation, you have just started reading the Psalm in your quiet times…Or perhaps your church has just started a weekly sermon/homegroup/bible study series in the Psalms. What kind of book would you want to help you get to grip with the Psalter? You’d probably want some features like these:
- a brief, simple but comprehensive introduction to the Psalms, the different types of Psalms, the overall structure of the book
- a simple, one-page overview of each Psalm with a one-sentence summary, and an explanation of any unusual or tricky words or phrases
- a jumping-off point to guide your application and continued reflection on that Psalm
- simple and clear explanations of some of those tricky words that occur in the headings
- quick and easy tables to help you locate different types of psalms and to help you find Psalms that will help you in your particular situation
All these things, and more, are brilliantly provided in The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms. This is not a dry boring technical commentary, neither is it a namby-panby devotional experience. Rather it is “key insights for reading God’s Word” and “What you need to know, when you need to know it”. It’s clear from the outset that the authors (Brian L Webster and David R Beach) have worked extremely hard to produce an excellent, clear, reliable and concise guide to help you read and profit from the Psalms.
This is straying slightly from the categories of Hebrew and Greek grammar, but it is interesting, and quite pertinent to next years’ hebrew class. Here’s the question: what is parallelism?