The Psalter and Its Purposes

With the resurgence of the psalms in many evangelicals circles, I thought I’d re-state some basic themes of the psalms and a couple of thoughts on how they can be used. As a general introduction, the Psalter offers its rich application to us in two central ways:
a) It is all Christological. As Augustine wrote, the psalms speak of the totus Christus. In this sense, it is the most profound way in which the Psalms are applicable. They all speak of Jesus. They all have Jesus as the center of the narrative. Just as Jesus endured human trial and suffered in death and abandonment, so too, the Psalter (though David and others) speak to these experiences. Nothing the Psalmist underwent is outside the general experiences we go through daily and in our lifetimes. Since we all suffer, since we all are called to endure the journey, therefore God provides a means of expressing ourselves. Notice also that the Psalms are not feel-good songs for the comfortable; many are psalms of lament; prayers for us to pray when we do not believe God is answering us as we would like.
b) The Psalms are personalized narratives. They are not meant to be abstract or passionate-less  Psalm 55-57, for example, speak to the suffering and the honesty of the Psalmist towards God. God wants us to cry to him as children and He treats us as His own. This is precisely why I advocate specific prayers, rather than generic ones. Rather than looking at these Psalms as distant and foreign songs, we are to personalize them and apply them to our own experiences: “O God, why do you not answer me when I am in despair. For your sake, answer me Lord according to your steadfast love.” The Psalms are prayers for us to use when we do not have words to say. When are mouths are shut due to the pain, the Psalms are songs (prayers) that instruct and provide an outline for us to pray.
So, where to begin?
At the beginning. Take a new translation and choose a particular psalm to meditate on for a while.
Read through Psalm seven as an example for 30 days. Make its verses a part of your daily song.
The Psalter belongs to the church, because they were written for the church to sing. The Old Covenant church (the Jewish church) instead of making it only a matter for the mind actually embodied and lived by the psalter. When a loved one died they sang a psalm, when they were persecuted and feeling like there was no where to go they sang a psalm. This is why the saints who have called upon me in their deathbed knew that Psalm 23 would be appropriate for them minutes before death. They knew, though not in a sophisticated way, that God was their Shepherd and they were the sheep of His pasture.
You cannot understand or even begin to sense the profound nature and power of the psalms until they become a part of who you are; your daily liturgy, and this one thing I guarantee: once they become familiar songs to you the questions you pose will begin to be answered and also shape your view of the world.
God is my shield,
saving those whose hearts are true and right.
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About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
This entry was posted in Psalms and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Psalter and Its Purposes

  1. Pingback: Questions for Reflection – Psalm 124 – 127 | This Day With God

  2. Pingback: Day 155: Psalms 8-14; Lots of Lamenting | Overisel Reformed Church

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