It is hard to find a book of the Bible people love more deeply and run to more often than the Psalms. We love the book of Psalms because it resonates so intimately with who we are. It is raw and real while at the same time perceptive and comforting. We love the Psalms because they reflect true worship of God, and God fashioned us as creatures of worship. We receive the greatest satisfaction in life, perceive our highest calling, and feel our greatest sense of purpose when we recognize God for who he is and respond with heartfelt worship. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t noticed the squirrels in my front lawn reading their Bibles. None of them even own a Bible (that I am aware of!). They don’t pray before they gather their nuts. Sure, they are creatures, but they are not creatures like us. They cannot respond to God in worship like we do. Why?
The Personhood of God
True Christian worship focuses on the person of God. Unlike the rest of creation, we fully understand and appreciate God’s character because we are image-bearers, created in the likeness of our God. We, too, are people. And the book of Psalms, more than any other book of the Bible, reveals to us the intimate cry of a heart in personal relationship to God.
We should be careful to avoid talk about God that subtly attacks his personal nature. This kind of attitude and rhetoric is dangerous because it is difficult to identify and articulate. We may not know why it bothers us, but we still feel as if something is missing. Whether you or I mean to or not, we damage our own Christian faith, and the faith of others, when we depersonalize God. Do I make God out to be an aloof, unconcerned cosmic being to be feared but not loved? Or do I fashion him to my own liking, making his character and traits conform comfortably and conveniently to my preferences? Do I make him into a god with a little “g” who gives me what I want when I want it—a god to be loved (because I can control him) but not feared? Both responses miss the mark. Worship climaxes when we respond with an appropriate fear of and love for God that is rooted in his personal self-revelation.
The Complexity of Relationships
That kind of response to God may sound complicated. As with all personal relationships, our relationship with God is complicated. Don’t let that fact stop you from drawing near to God. It only makes sense that an infinite God would reveal to us many deep and wonderful truths about himself. The following blogs attempt to make simple what seems complicated about the Psalms. Instead of studying the Psalms chapter-by-chapter, we will delve into the Psalms topic-by-topic. For a long time I had wished I could do just that by creating a book theology of the Psalms. A book theology simply draws out key theological themes found within a book of the Bible and organizes them together in a logical, understandable way. Then the opportunity came for me to teach the Psalms for a Sunday school class in my church. These blogs are the fruit of that labor.
The Psalms Made Simple
Already, perhaps without you realizing it, I have given you a mini book theology of the Psalms. The entire book of Psalms hangs on two simple truths:
- God reveals himself.
- God deserves our worship.
For example, Psalm 118:1 says:
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Revelation and response—it really is that simple.
Starting with the next blog, we will dig into several passages and start to see how this all works together. I plan on referencing every verse in the book of Psalms at least once, if not multiple times. I’ll even give you a comprehensive outline to follow if you want to see the entire structure laid out visually. To be sure, my organizational scheme of the Psalms is not divinely inspired, but my prayer is that the Spirit of God would use this unique approach to grow you in your relationship with Christ. I hope these words can be both clear and deep, helping you to see the rich treasure buried in the field of wealth we call the Psalms.