Scripture ministers to us on many levels. Perhaps, all too often we see it through the limited lens of propositional objective truth. Of course, propositional objective truth is vital, but if that’s all the Bible is concerned with it would have no need for narrative, poetry, prayers, personal reflections, lamentations, etc. Through these genres the scriptures reflect the coalface of day-to-day life – living with faith in a fallen world with all of its ups and downs. We are meant to enter into the experiential reality of scripture as a way of understanding our own experiences and in order to find expression in our experiences. The psalms are particularly given for this reason.
The psalms give us a context. They cover all facets of life – fear, sorrow, loss, discouragement, anguish, guilt, loneliness, depression……..forgiveness, deliverance, healing, restoration, joy, comfort, assurance, peace, rest – from one end of the spectrum to the other. This says to us that in our present circumstances we are not treading unknown territory. It is to be expected that we will feel the lowest of the low just as the psalmist did, and yet we can find the power of God’s presence to lift us up just as the psalmist did. As we read through the experiences of David and others, we are to see more than just them, we are to see ourselves. The psalms are not detached accounts of other people, their experiences are our experiences. The psalms meet us where we are at in the busyness of life, when our souls are barren, when our questions feel stronger than our faith. They speak into our needs and desires, into our guilt and brokenness, into our fears and anxieties.
The psalms give us a voice. Paul says in Rom 8:26 that the Spirit helps in our weakness and intercedes for us because we struggle to pray. The scriptures also help us in our weakness when we can’t find the words. This is particularly true of the psalms. Sometimes they will stimulate us to form our own prayers. On other occasions the psalms themselves will be our prayers. When the soul is dry, they enable us to express ourselves with words and sentiments divinely inspired. Reciting the psalms is a legitimate way to come before God. We articulate how we feel through the scriptures – praying God’s Word back to Him. In a sense the psalmist experienced what he did and expressed himself as he did on our behalf. By using his words as our words, we own them for ourselves. Some Christians do not like the idea of reciting the Bible as a form of prayer – and not without cause, but it can be very helpful and a great blessing. Recitation has been practiced within the church from the earliest of times. It is a good practice if it is done from the heart and not in a mechanical way, nor as a complete substitute for our own actual prayers.
The psalms give us a Saviour. God imparts His grace to us as we meditate upon the psalms. It’s not an abstract grace however, it’s a personal grace in that we meet with Christ. These heavenly poems are after all about Him – Luke 24:44, “Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” Every psalm in its own way is messianic – each one either reveals Him, points to Him, anticipates Him, describes Him. The psalms minister Christ to us in whom is found all the treasures of God. As our high priest He identifies with us in our struggles and He sympathizes. He intercedes on our behalf and He gives grace according to our needs (Heb 2:17-17; 4:14-16).
The psalms are your story – read, meditate, recite, memorise, cherish. You will be richer for it.