A Brief History of and Apologetic for Reading the Psalms Canonically

psalmsShould we read the Psalms as 150 individual hymns of praise, thanksgiving, and lament? Or should we read it as one unified hymnbook, written with purposeful arrangement? Or both?

Throughout the history of the church, the Psalter has played a central role in shaping the church at worship. Publicly and privately, these inspired words have fueled faith, directed praise, and expressed lament. Some have used the Psalms as the sole hymnbook for their song services. Others have employed them for counseling and meditation and theological devotion. All who swim in their waters find a glorious taste for God, expressed with the deepest emotions of the human soul. Therefore, like honey, its sweetness is self-evident.

Yet, the question remains: how should we read the Psalms?

Importantly, the answer to that question has shifted over the last one hundred years. And it is worth learning a little bit about the history of Psalm studies to understand why most Christians—of various stripes—read each psalm in isolation for the others. And why that kind of reading should be complemented by an approach that reads the Psalms as one, Spirit-inspired soundtrack to redemptive history.

But to do that, we need to go over oceans and back to the 19th Century. Continue reading

Looking for the Kingdom of God in the Book of Ezekiel

When was the last time you preached Ezekiel?  Not from Ezekiel, but Ezekiel.  Not Ezekiel 16 and God’s graphic castigation of Israel’s spiritual whoredom; not Ezekiel 36 and the promise of a renewed heart and a clean spirit; not Ezekiel 37 and the valley of dry bones; I mean Ezekiel, the whole thing? 

If you did decide to preach Ezekiel, where would you try it out?  Would it be a trial run in a Sunday School class?  Would it be at youth lock-in–you’ve got to be there all night anyways?  Would it be to a group of eager seminarians?  Or would it be at one of the largest churches in the Southern Baptist Convention?

This weekend, a good friend of mine, Grant Gaines, had the opportunity to preach to Bellevue Baptist Church (Memphis, TN), and he delivered an outstanding message. Challenging BBC to see the kingdom of God, he preached the whole book of  entitled: “Looking for the Kingdom: The Message of Ezekiel.”

His three points were: There is Sin to be Punished, chapters 1-24; There is an Enemy to be Defeated, chapters 25-32; and There is a Kingdom to be Established, chapters 33-48.  His faithful message exemplifies canonical preaching, biblical theology, and a Christocentric hermeneutic.  I encourage you to listen to it yourself, to consider his example, and to look for the kingdom–and if you have the chance: Preach Ezekiel! 

For more examples of preaching the Bible book-by-book, see Mark Dever’s The Message of the Old Teastament: Promises Made and The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept .

May we all be unashamed to preach Christ from every verse, chapter, and book of God’s inspired Word.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss