It’s been said that “an apple a day will keep the doctor away.” I wonder if we could say similar things of the Psalms: A Psalm a day will keep the devil away … A Psalm a day will keep discouragement away … A Psalm a day will keep despair away …
It’s no guarantee that apples will automatically keep you healthy, and it’s no guarantee that the Psalms will immunize your faith from discouragement and other hurts. However, I’m convinced that God’s Spirit does work powerfully through His Word, and I’m further convinced that He works in wonderful ways through this unique book called the “Psalms” or the “Psalter.”
The Psalms have been my main devotional resource for the past several months. For whatever reason, I chose to begin reading them this time at Psalm 150 and work my way back to the beginning. I’m not necessarily recommending that for you, but it’s been a good method for me. I will tell you this: the more you read the Psalms, the more powerful they can become for your faith! Verse after verse connects our real lives to the true God from whom all blessings flow: His grace, protection, forgiveness, strength, and so much more! If you haven’t done so lately, open up the Psalms and “be still before the Lord” (Psalm 37:7).
The Psalms are the hymns and songs of the Old Testament Israelites. King David was a musician and composed many of them himself. The language of the Psalms is referenced frequently by the writers of the New Testament. Early Christians treated the Psalms as their songbook, just as the Israelites had been doing for centuries. The Psalms became the basis for much of the content of Christian orders of worship, and they still are today. You’ll hear the language of the Psalms both in ancient Chri liturgies and hymns and in the lyrics of today’s Christian musicians.
Within the Psalter, there is a tremendous variety of topics, styles, and expressions. Best of all is the fact that the Psalms encapsulate the entire human experience in their 150 chapters. You’ll find it all in the Psalms: joy, relief, excitement, and also lament, doubt, and pain.
The Psalms teach us that it’s okay to share all of these experiences with the Lord. And not only is it okay, but it’s the best way to live! The Psalmists pour out their souls to God – the good, the bad, and the ugly things in their lives. They teach us to talk openly with Him, even if it means complaining to God! (I love the lyric from I Know that My Redeemer Lives: “He lives to hear my soul’s complaint” …) Usually these Psalms of lament/complaint also go on to reveal the trust of the composer, even in the midst of life’s difficult days: God has delivered us before and we await His deliverance once again.
Another topic that comes up frequently in the Psalms is that of enemies. I used to find this emphasis irrelevant until a pastor opened my eyes to the fact that we are beset by enemies all the time! While David and other Psalmists dealt with “flesh and blood” enemies, from family members to foreign powers, that may or may not be the case for you. There are times in which you face human enemies – from family members or friends who intentionally hurt you, to terrorists who could target you. Thankfully, life isn’t a constant battle against these enemies. You may live the majority of your life not feeling like you have many human enemies. But when you do go through those times, turn to the Psalms!
However, don’t wait until you can see your enemies to open the Psalms! “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). In other words, your greatest enemies aren’t people! Your greatest enemies are “the spiritual forces of evil” – Satan, the demonic, and the temptations that come both from within and from the world around you.
So when you come across a verse like Psalm 31:8, “You have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a broad place“, stop and consider this in terms of the spiritual enemies against which the Lord is safeguarding you! Pray for His continued protection and deliverance from these forces of evil, whether or not you can see or feel their influence.
Finally, I’d like to think about how Jesus related to the Psalms. As we read about the final hours of Jesus’ life, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all share a great amount of detail. Matthew 26:30 tells us that on Jesus’ final night with His disciples (often called “Maundy Thursday”), He instituted the Lord’s Supper after the Passover meal. Do you remember what happened next? “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” The hymn sung at the the Passover meal was Psalms 113-118. Despite the fact that Jesus was moments away from being betrayed and arrested, He still took the time to sing the Psalms with the disciples.
The next day, Good Friday, Jesus spoke seven final times from the cross. In two of these seven statements, Jesus quoted the Psalms!
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46)
“Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” (Psalm 31:5; Luke 23:46)
The Psalms are the words of Jesus. Jesus Himself teaches us to make the prayers and the praises and the pleas of the Psalms our own!
I’ll close by sharing a historic prayer that asks for God’s help as we hear and read and “inwardly digest” the Scriptures. May we do so every day!
Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that, by patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.