Why I Love the Psalms by guest blogger, Anita Gordon, Alberta, Canada
"And what do you have that you did not receive..." 1 Corinthians 4:7b
I love the psalms. I just love them. I sing them. I reference them. I pray them. I love its songs of pain, its songs of joy, its songs of fear, faith and praise. There is not an emotion that a human being can experience that is not expressed in one of the psalms.
Any church that has released their hold of the psalms in corporate worship has done their congregation an enormous disfavor. Sure, it's trendy now to adopt the more modern praise songs. In fact, most churches have made that shift. Praise, praise praise! While praise is important, the Christian life is not about riding the mountain tops. What about the Christian who enters the sanctuary sorely depressed? He cannot see the bright countenance of His God's favour. In fact, he wonders if God exists at all. He's not looking to sing praises. In fact, as the rest of the congregation is giddy with joy during song, he wonders if he's a Christian at all.
Or, what of the one who's conscience weighs heavily upon him? Guilt is eating at him as his past transgressions come to haunt him yet again. He remembers the lives he's destroyed. He senses the burning displeasure of God and it crushes him. He doesn't feel much like praising either.
Think of any congregation. There are depressed people in the pews. There are fearful people, abused people, persecuted people, thankful people, convicted people, joyful people, delivered people. That's a huge range of life situations! And the psalms speak to each and every one of them in their differing circumstances. That is the strength and beauty of the psalms. They cover such a beautiful array of human emotion in worship.
John Calvin called the Psalms “an Anatomy of all Parts of the Soul”. As he explained: “There is not an emotion of which anyone can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.”
The psalms teach us that there is no shame to sing in utter despondency. Look at psalm 88. The psalms teach that there is a day of reckoning for the wicked. Look at Psalm 73. The psalms teach us that God created everything good. Look at Psalm 8 or 104. The psalms teach repentance. Look at Psalm 51. And of course the psalms promote praise. Look at Psalm 95 or 100. Yes, the psalms is where rich theological truths masterfully and beautifully entwine with human hearts and experiences.
When we find ourselves in various life circumstances--times where we do not even have the words to speak or to pray, the Lord in his infinite wisdom and tender compassion has given His bride a book of songs so that we may lay our hearts open to Him. He gives us the words that so clearly reflect the raw and unbridled emotion of our hearts. And He makes the words our own by making every pronoun singular possessive...'I, me, my.' As a result, these psalms, these words become intensely personal.
But best of all, Christ is portrayed in the psalms. There are psalms that exalt Christ. They tell of His work and of His sufferings. They tell of His exultation and His kingship. You know, when Christ was on earth He sang the psalms Himself in the synagogue. Christ also quoted the psalms while He preached and taught. Think of when our Lord hung on His cross. What did He say? Psalm 22 is the perfect picture of our Lord's saddest hours--it is the record of His dying words.
When I sing the psalms I'm singing the very words of Christ. I am worshiping as Christ worshiped. I am sharing, even in just a small way, in His sufferings, in His praise, His laments and in His exultations.
The psalms never leave us to wallow in our own flawed thought processes. They always, always, always draw the eyes heavenward. They allow us to express ourselves articulately and then beautifully directs our gaze to God's wonderful, condescending goodness to us--which ultimately is seen in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Oh precious psalms! How good God is to have inspired and preserved such a book for His people. What a gift for His saints.
Rev. Steve Bloem B.A. M.M.