Week Twenty-Two Reading Assignment:
Psalms 6 - Psalms 28
"What must be said is that the Psalms are poems, and poems intended to be sung: not doctrinal treatises, nor even sermons. Those who talk of reading the Bible 'as literature' sometimes mean, I think, reading it without attending to the main thing it is about; like reading Burke with no interest in politics, or reading the Aeneid with no interest in Rome. That seems to me to be nonsense. But there is a saner sense in which the Bible, since it is after all literature, cannot properly be understood except as literature; and different parts of it as the different sots of literature they are. Most emphatically the Psalms must be read as poems; as lyrics, with all the licenses and all the formalities, the hyperboles, the emotional rather than logical connec-tions, which are proper to lyric poetry. They must be read as poems if they are to be understood."
(C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms)
(C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms)
This Week's Teaching Video: Learning to Pray from the Psalmist
Psalms to Hymns: by Isaac Watts
Isaac Watts does us a great favor with his treatment of Psalm 13, for this is the sort of poem that is largely missing from our hymnody. There are perhaps more prayers of lament or complaint than any other type in the Book of Psalms, yet we find that we have relatively few hymns that fall into that category. Yet the people of God need to have songs for every season of life, including those times when we want to shake our fists and cry out to the Lord, "How long?!"
In this particular case, Watts actually gives lengthier expression to the com-plaint than the Psalmist himself. Still, that is helpful to us, for he gives us words to express what we may some-times feel. But complaint is not all there is -- for the Psalmist, for Watts, or for us.
The reason to take our complaints to God is precisely because our hope is in God. He is, at once, the One who is able to see our troubles, the One who cares about us, the One who is just, and the One who is strong enough to deliver. And so the Psalm and song that begin with the tortured question end with songs of praise and rejoicing.
Good Book Review: A Book for All Seasons
With 150 chapters, the Book of Psalms is the longest single book in the Bible (including the longest single chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119). But the real significance — the beauty and the blessing — of this book is not in its length, but rather in its breadth and its depth.
The Book of Psalms is a compilation of prayers, hymns, laments, confessions, and pleas. It was written by perhaps dozens of people and over hundreds of years. And those Psalms reflect every kind of human experience and emotion.
The Psalmist prays to God in trouble and in celebration. He prays when he's afraid, when he’s happy, when he’s angry, and when he’s guilty. He prays in moments of both national and personal crisis, as well as both national and personal elation.
Best of all, the Psalmist is unafraid to be honest with God. This is a surprisingly uncommon virtue, and so the Psalmist is a role model for us at this point. He pro-tests his own innocence and righteous-ness, he prays for the defeat and humili-ation of his enemies, and he complains when he thinks God is unfair or too slow. What the Psalmist says is not always commendable, but the very fact that he always says it to God is exemplary.
The Psalms speak to God out of every season, situation, and emotion of life. We do well, therefore, to follow the Psalmist’s lead. And so, during these coming weeks of reading Psalms, this will be a deliberate part of our weekly endeavor: to learn how to pray from the Book of Psalms.
“Make the Psalms your own. Do not sing them as verses composed by another person. Let them be born in your own prayers. When they come from your lips, understand that they were not merely fulfilled temporarily when they were first written. They are being fulfilled now in your daily life.”