Summary: Understanding the Psalms use in worship

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His Love Endures Forever!

Psalm 136

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we are taking our break from Acts a little early. Chapter 15 offers a natural break point in the story. So we will take a breather, incase you find the focus being a little stressful.

So for a few weeks we will be looking at the Psalms.

Let’s start with a few points of basic overview.

Within the book of Psalms there are 150 chapters which come from a variety of authors and are related to different events and situations. A large number are attributed to David and Solomon and some they say to Moses. But the only way we can connect them to the people are the editor’s notes which appeared Centuries ago. The Book of psalms is a collection of poems or songs separated into 5 sections.

Ok, poetry. Quick show of hands, how many enjoy poetry?

How many can write poetry?

Personally, I have trouble with understanding most poetry. I had to read a lot a couple of years ago in a literature class. The teacher would ask what it meant.

I normally could only explain what it said. I have difficulty in understand what the author was trying to communicate. I recall a poem about The Fall of Icarus. He wanted to fly so that he could reach the Gods. So he built a set of wings with feathers he collected and attached together with wax. It says, in the poem that he flew high enough that the wax melted and the wings fell apart and he fell to his death. The poem is based on an ancient myth.

It was hard to read as a poem, the language of the 1500’s and I thought it was good just to figure out the story.

I was often amazed when the Teacher would branch off into a long discussion about the human condition, how we all wish to fly in one way or another and more often than not come crashing to the ground. That this poem was a bout hubris….I did not know the meaning of the word. It wasn’t in the poem. Basically, pride, and what happens to people that are too prideful.

Poetry is a form of communication that expresses more than just the basic information. It communicates emotion, and point of view. It often uses word pictures that give meaning more than actual facts.

This morning we are talking about the Psalms and their usefulness to us in devotion and worship.

The Psalms are Hebrew poetry which is probably a big mystery to most of us. The biggest reason is because we expect poetry to have rhyming words and rhythm.

We understand great literary works like:

Mary had a little lamb,

little lamb, little lamb,

Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow.

And everywhere that Mary went,

Mary went, Mary went,

and everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.

It followed her to school one day

school one day, school one day,

It followed her to school one day, which was against the rules.

It made the children laugh and play,

laugh and play, laugh and play,

it made the children laugh and play to see a lamb at school.

And so the teacher turned it out,

turned it out, turned it out,

And so the teacher turned it out, but still it lingered near,

And waited patiently about,

patiently about, patiently about,

And waited patiently about till Mary did appear.

"Why does the lamb love Mary so?"

Love Mary so? Love Mary so?

"Why does the lamb love Mary so," the eager children cry.

"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know."

The lamb, you know, the lamb, you know,

"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know," the teacher did reply.

But when we read the Bible, the Psalms, we don’t hear the rhymes; we can’t even seem to find a rhythm.

CS Lewis, a Christian writer from the 1940’s, describes the importance of the Psalms like this:

What must be said … is that the Psalms are poems, and poems intended to be sung: not doctrinal treatises, nor even sermons. … Most emphatically the Psalms must be read as poems; as lyrics, with all the licenses and all the formalities, the hyperboles, the emotional rather than logical connections, which are proper to lyric poetry. They must be read as poems if they are to be understood; no less than French must be read as French or English as English. Otherwise we shall miss what is in them and think we see what is not.

To start with, it is normally very difficult to get rhyme and rhythm out of a poem that is translated from one language to another.

The words that that author used were specifically created for the language it was written in. When Hebrew was translated to Greek and later into English, how much rhyme and rhythm do you think could survive?

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