So yesterday I shared some thoughts on preaching the prophets. How about another list on the Psalms? Why do I enjoy preaching them?
1. They are self-contained. A psalm is a complete unit of thought. It may be part of a short collection, so it is worth looking at those before and after. It may give a historical clue in its superscription, so it is worth looking at that and chasing the history if there is anything suggested. But essentially with a Psalm I know what I need to study and prepare . . . the psalm.
2. They are real and messy. Life isn’t all clean and simple. Life gets messy. Emotions soar and plummet. Situations overwhelm and resolution of tension can utterly delight. The Psalms don’t pretend we are unfeeling stoical creatures. We might, but the Psalms remind us to be real. Not only does this make for preaching that sounds real and not just some sort of religious talk, but it also connects because listeners are also living real rather than merely religious lives.
3. They are emotive and heart-felt. As a communicator I know the danger of adding emotional thrust to cold sterile content. It can be very manipulative. But I also know the danger of sterilizing powerful biblical texts into safe little life lessons. Oops. The Psalms are sitting up to be preached with a full heart to those who have a feeling heart – whether that be pain, or joy, sorrow, or delight.
4. They are full of imagery. I don’t have to look endlessly for imagery to add to a message when I’m preaching from the Psalms. It is usually right there. I need to spend that energy on the text and then on effective description and presentation, but then I can have confidence that the imagery choice was made by God’s Spirit rather than me.
5. They are always relevant. When people have lived the Christian life for a while, they typically end up appreciating the Psalms. The rugged rawness reflects their own personal experience. It tends to be the less mature who can’t get into the Psalms. So as I preach them, I can have confidence that nerves will be touched, hearts will be stirred, lives will be helped.
I haven’t even mentioned the messianic hopes, the glimpses into the godhead, etc. Ah well, I will stick with the five I put in the title. Just a nudge in case you’ve forgotten to preach from this great collection.