Few books have had a more personal or profound impact on the worship of the church than the Psalms. And for the next two months our church is going to meditate on their message. But what is there message? And how do we find it? Is it possible to read the Psalms as one unified book? Or must we only see them as a hymnbook with various authors, genres, and themes?
Starting in this introductory on Psalms 1 and 2, I argued we should read the Psalms as one unified message that begins with the David of history and leads to the Son of David, Jesus Christ. As the weeks go on we will look at each book of the Psalms, and how they develop a message of wisdom, kingship, and salvation.
You can listen to the sermon online or read the sermon notes. Discussion questions and resources for further reading and viewing are below. If time is short, be sure to watch the Bible Project video about the Psalms.
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
- How have you read the Psalms before? Have you used them for prayer? Counseling? Doctrine?
- Have you ever noticed the five books of the Psalms? If so, have you ever taken time to consider what they’re therefore? If not, why not? What is it about our modern way of reading (think: hyper-literal, non-poetic, social media, etc.) that inhibit our reading of poetic books like the Psalms?
- What are the evidences of arrangement in the Psalms? Read Twelve Reasons for Reading the Psalms as a Unified Canon That Leads to Christ.
- What role does Psalm 1–2 play in the Psalms? How can we tell? How Psalms 1–2 unified?
- What are three themes we find in Psalms 1–2? How do we see those themes? From what you know of the Psalms, where else do you see those themes in the Psalter?
- How does reading the Psalms as a unity help us read each Psalm individually? For instance, how might this approach help us with imprecatory psalms like Psalm 137? Or despairing psalms of lament like Psalm 88?
- What is one thing you want to grow in as you read the Psalms? Would you consider reading all 150 Psalms in the next month?
For Further Study
- Twelve Reasons for Reading the Psalms as a Unified Canon That Leads to Christ — The evidence for arrangement in the Psalter is manifold; here are twelve leading reasons to see order and arrangement in the Psalms.
- A Brief History of and Apologetic for Reading the Psalms Canonically — Reading the Bible as a whole did not arise out of a vacuum. This blogpost helps trace some major steps in the process.
- What do the Psalms Do? by John Piper — A brief treatment on the way the Psalms teach and train our emotions, not just our doctrine.
- Psalms: A Cantata about the David Covenant by John Walton — Developing Gerald Wilson’s approach to the Psalms, Walton attempts to show how the books of the Psalms follow the history of Israel, especially the life and covenant of David.
- The Redactional Agenda of the Book of Psalms by John Crutchfield — A thorough survey of recent approaches to the Psalms.
Popular Books on the Psalms
- O. Palmer Robertson, The Flow of the Psalms: Discovering Their Structure and Theology — This is the book to buy if you want an introduction into studying the Psalms canonically.
- Mark Futato, Interpreting the Psalms — A good overall treatment of how to read the Psalms, with an extended chapter on reading the Psalms as one literary unity, i.e., reading the Psalms canonically.
Technical Books for Psalms 1–2
- Gerald Wilson, The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter
- Robert Cole, Psalms 1–2: Gateway to the Psalter. See a helpful book review here.
- Susan Gillingham, A Journey of Two Psalms: The Reception of Psalms 1 and 2 in Jewish and Christian Tradition
The Bible Project: Psalms
A Conversation about the Psalms between Bono and Eugene Peterson
Soli Deo Gloria, ds