The Psalms for Today
If you were a Benedictine monk, you would recite ten of the psalms every single day, the remaining 140 every single week. By the time you had been a monk for a few years, you’d know them all by heart.
I’m assuming that most of you reading this are not Benedictine monks, but that you do have an interest in the biblical psalms. This devotional series will help us understand more about the psalms so they can bring enrichment to our lives, our worship, and our prayers.
Sources and insights
The psalms are, essentially, poetic prayers which were, at some point, set to music and then compiled into an early psalter or hymnbook. Most of the words in the Bible are God’s message to humans or a record of God’s activities on earth. We see this in the writings of the prophets, apostles, and the Bible’s historians. The psalms are different – they are humans’ prayers to God, sometime praising him, sometimes asking for help, at other times wondering why he is isn’t responding. The psalms represent the cries of the heart in all areas of life.
Because we know from other Scripture that God works in and through the minds of humans, we can trust that these prayers and songs are, in fact, inspired by God himself, and that they reveal his character and his workings as well as the joys and frustrations of being human.
As to authors, 73 of the 150 psalms are attributed to David, written over his life from shepherd boy, to refugee, to king of Israel. Others were written by priests and worship leaders, and at least one by Moses.
Psalms for today
Because the psalms reveal so much about our need for, desire for, and dependence upon God, they are vital to our Christian lives. Here are a few practical ways to use the psalms today:
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16).
Paul, in writing to the churches at Colossae and Ephesus (Ephesians 5:19), cited the psalms as one way of sharing wisdom and of singing to God. There are current musicians and groups who make a point of setting the psalms to music – so we can carry them with us all day as we maintain musical connection with our Creator.
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” – Joshua 1:8
There are promises that come with meditating on God’s Word. In Joshua’s time he had only the Book of the Law. This verse is a clear command to meditate and I believe that command now applies to all the Bible and not just the books of Moses. The psalms are great grist for meditation!
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” – Psalm 119:11
In this case, the psalmist memorized scripture in order to keep his heart and actions pure - a good motivation for us all. Because the psalms are poetry, they are easy to memorize, so we can recall them for guidance, comfort, and insight as we go about our days.
Do you ever feel that your prayer life needs some stimulation? Here’s an idea that works for me every time: Choose a psalm and go through it line by line, thinking about it and then praying it back to God.
Let’s take the last verses of Psalm 23 as an example:
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
Pray: Thank you, Lord, for inviting me to your banquet. For giving me a place of calm in the middle of the chaos of my life.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Pray: Thank you for your anointing in my life, for setting me apart for service to you in unique ways, for welcoming me to your table with graciousness and love. My cup truly overflows! I am grateful to you for . . . (fill in blessings from your life).
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
Pray: As I look back on my life, I see how good and loving you have been to me (remember and cite some examples) and, because of all you have done for me already, I trust that your goodness and love will continue all my life as long as I remain faithful to you. Help me, Lord, to finish well.
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Pray: Thank you, Lord, for the promise of heaven, of eternal life with you, forever at your feet praising your name!
In Scripture we read about God and his purposes. Praying those understandings back to him sometimes opens new thoughts about people or situations in our lives we need to pray about.
So, join us on this journey over the next weeks as we look at samples of the various types of psalms, finding spiritual nourishment a we go!
“The reason we come away so cold from reading the word is, because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.” – Thomas Watson