Summary: This is the introduction to a series of studies on selected Psalms, developed from a series of classes. This sermon does not examine a particular psalm, but makes observations about psalms in general.
For Sermon Central researchers: Over the next few days I will be posting a series of sermons on Psalms as time permits. In my personal studies I have found psalms to be richer and more thought-provoking than I had ever realized. Too often I have swept swiftly through psalms without slowing down to inquire as thoroughly as I should into the depths of meaning and feeling that are expressed by the psalmists. Upon deeper examination and reflection, I find the psalms to be highly relevant to Christians in every age. My most recent foray into the psalms led me to conduct a series of studies in the Psalms recently.
The studies were held in a class environment suitable for pauses for questions and comments, and to discuss “thought questions” where the meanings are not readily apparent, as is often the case in poetry. My notes include suggested points for such pauses. However, I developed the material with the view in mind that the series may be well used as sermons. There is an introductory sermon that describes what psalms are (whether they are in the 150-chapter book or elsewhere) and explains the approach. In brief, I only presented selected psalms that I believe to be representative of the collection in the book of Psalms. The selected psalms were presented in no particular order in the series of classes; however, I suggest that anyone using this material as a series begin with the Introductory sermon and follow it with Psalms 1 and 2 in that order, as the first two operate as a pair. Beyond that, the selected psalms may be presented in any order.
We will not look at every psalm, or every verse of the ones we do.
To get as much enjoyment as we can from our study, I will do some of the reading from the KJV, which I believe is the most beautiful of the English bible translations. For clarity we will also use other versions, mainly ESV, which I have used for several years and the one I have come to prefer.
INTRODUCTION TO PSALMS
A psalm is simply a poem that is - or can be - set to music.
Why study the psalms?
• Because they’re relevant to Christians.
• That is borne out in the fact that the psalms are the source of many songs we sing - far more than one might realize until we undertake a detailed study of psalms.
• There was not one Christian when the last psalm was written, but they contain things we who are already Christians relate to and need to know.
• Psalmists had some of the same types of needs, challenges, heartaches, disappointments, and failures Christians experience.
• Psalms is the Old Testament book quoted most often in the New Testament. In A. F. Kirkpartrick’s book The Book of Psalms, he shows 91 times where psalms are quoted or fulfilled in the New Testament.
• Psalms is the Old Testament book most often quoted by Jesus (11 times).
• The psalms have a lot to do with Christ (as he himself pointed out).
• The psalms help us know what can be known of what God is like. The psalmists saw God as a rock, refuge, fortress, and recognized him as holy (no small thing).
• The psalms contain unrestrained and uninhibited expressions of love and adoration of God.
• I believe the psalms will help you in your relationship with God.
In old England the book of Psalms (called the Psalter) was sometimes printed as a separate volume, apart from the rest of the bible.
Affections and reverence for the psalms has continued down to our present time.
In my youth almost every New Testament printed separately from the Old Testament was followed by the Psalms.
Of course the book of Psalms is not part of the New Testament, but it was (and still is, in many cases) considered by bible publishers important enough to package along with the New Testament.
1. Poetry (set to music)
The Psalms are written entirely as poetry, suitable for singing.
In fact many – if not all – of the psalms were sung.
Why is so much of the bible written in verse?
I see two reasons:
• It is to be sung.
• Poetry lends itself to memorization.
Poetry in the bible
Mark Wenger (professor Columbia International University in South Carolina) wrote a paper on poetry in the bible. He wrote:
Over 8,600 of the verses of the Bible are poetry – nearly 27% of all the verses in scripture. Only seven books of the Bible have no clear poetry within them. One book in the Old Testament lacks poetry. Esther is a narrative without poetry, unusual in ancient literature. In the OT, more than 8200 verses of the Old Testament’s 23,000+ verses are, quite plainly, poetry (slightly more than 35%).