Learning to Lament: Ten Things About Psalm 13

10 things

In preparation for Sunday’s sermon on the need for lament in biblical worship, here are ten observations from Psalm 13, an individual lament of David.

1. Psalm 13 is an individual psalm that was recorded for public use.

Psalm 13 begins with the superscription (ss), “To the Choirmaster. A Psalm of David.” From this inspired introduction, we learn the source of this Psalm (David) and how it was to be used (in the corporate assembly, as led by the choirmaster). This use of first-person pronouns (I, me, my) in corporate worship is interesting, because it causes the corporate gathering to speak of personal pain. This teaches us something about our own singing today and the use of pronouns, but it also shows us how these Psalms were used. Clearly, they are meant to be used by all the saints, even as they come from the personal life of David.

2. Psalm 13 is prototypical psalm of lament. 

In the Bible we find individual laments (Pss. 6, 13, 22, 35, 28, 42–43, 88, 102, 109, 142; Jer. 20:7–11) and corporate laments (Pss. 44, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 89; cf. Lam. 5; Jer. 14; Isa. 63:7–64:12; Hab. 1). These psalms typically express a sense of divine loss and longing for God’s return. While each lament is different, they follow a typical pattern:

  • Invocation / Address to God 
  • Complaint 
  • Petition(s)
  • Expression of Trust
  • Vow of Praise

Psalm 13 follows this pattern as David cries out to God, unburdens his soul, makes his petitions, and finishes with a vow of praise. Continue reading

Resources for Reading the Psalms Canonically

libraryOver the summer, I preached a series of messages on the Psalms. I argued that they are one unified book telling the story of salvation. In their midst the reader finds a movement from lament to praise and a series of peaks and valleys that follow the course of redemptive history from David (in Books 1 and 2) to the exile of David and Israel (in Book 3) to the establishment of Yahweh’s kingdom (in Book 4) to the coming kingdom of a New David (in Book 5).

As I preached this series, I was greatly helped by a number of resources. I’ve included many of them below. If you are interested in understanding the Psalms as one, unified and intentionally-arranged book, these articles, chapters, and books are a great start. If you have other key resources not listed here, please share them in the comments. I’d love to see how others are understanding the Psalms and their glorious message of grace.

In what follows you will find:

  1. Sermons
  2. Articles
  3. Academic Articles
  4. Book Chapters (with annotated notes)
  5. Books (with annotated notes)
  6. Commentaries (with annotated notes)
  7. Videos and Infographics

I pray these resources are helpful and that they increase your passion for the Psalms.  Continue reading

The “Arranging of the Psalms Was an Exegetical Act”: Further Biblical Evidence for Seeing Arrangement in the Psalms

puzzzleIf I were to put forward one article in defense of reading the Psalms as an intentionally arranged and ordered book, it might be this one by Yair Zakovitch, “On the Ordering of Psalms as Demonstrated by Psalms 136–150,” in The Oxford Handbook to the Psalms (New York: OUP, 2014), 214–227. In it, he shows how the Psalms are not a collection of songs. They are instead songs with hooks and refrains that fit together like puzzle pieces.

In fact, in his chapter Zakovitch provides exegetical evidence for the ordering of the Psalms by excavating the words of Psalms 136–150. Due to space, he only focuses on these fifteen psalms, but his exegetical work provides proof from every one of these fifteen psalms, that their arrangement is not accidental. In fact, just the opposite: careful attention to the Psalms shows how meticulous they are in demonstrating order—something that we should observe as we read and interpret the Psalms.

On this point he writes in his introduction,

The writing of the 150 psalms that constitute the book of Psalms was a long and protracted process, and their arrangement and redaction into five books occurred in stages over many years. The order of the individual psalms within the Psalter did not happen by chance but is evidence of deliberate design. This order may even reveal something of the early development and growth of the Psalter. Similarly, the act of arranging the psalms was an exegetical act: The meaning of a single, isolated psalm differs from the meaning it draws from its context, from our reading it in light of the psalms that precede and follow it.

Form critics, disciples of Hermann Gunkel, were not inclined to question the ordering of the psalms since their interest lay in revealing the poems’ preliterary Sitze im Leben, the sociological contexts in which they were composed and in which they functioned before being put in writing. Interest in the arrangement of the individual psalms grew with the development of redaction criticism and the various aspects of inner-biblical interpretation.

Continue reading

Redemption in the Key of D(avid): A One-Page Guide To Reading the Psalms Canonically

Yesterday I taught through the Psalms.  150 Psalms in about an hour.  It was a fast-paced survey of how the Psalter moves…

from the suffering and glory of the historical David in Psalms 1-72
to fall of David’s house and Israel’s exile because of their covenant breaking in
Psalms 73-89
to a YHWH-centered interlude in
Psalms 90-106 which promises redemption and recovery of God’s people because of God’s covenant faithfulness and steadfast love…
to finally the messianic hope of another greater David to come in
Psalms 107-150.

Overall, reading the Psalter as one glorious story of redemption– “Redemption in the Key of D(avid),” you might say– is an illuminating and I would argue the most biblical way to read the Psalms.

It is evident that the Psalms are more than the ancient Israelites equivalent to a WOW Worship CD.  It is not a random compilation of the best hits from the Temple.  The (chrono)logical arrangement of the Psalter is impressive. As Old Testament scholars are helping us see, the content of the Psalms tells us the story of redemptive history, looking back to the David of history and anticipating the eschatological David to come who is God himself (Psalm 110:1; cf Psalm 45:6,).  In other words, while each Psalm is captivating in its own right, set in its own historical, put together,  it becomes evident that a larger story is being told.

To help my church and anyone else who is interested, I have put my notes online, which include a one page outline of the Psalter according to its canonical arrangement.  If it can serve you as a helpful ‘bookmark’ or ‘roadmap,’ please print it out and stick in your Bible to help see how the Psalms fit together to point us to Christ.

It is amazing to see Christ in all of Scripture, and anything that pastor-teachers can do to show how all the Bible leads to Christ will always encourage the faith of our people.  Here are the notes:

Psalms: Redemption in the Key of D(avid)
A Canonical Reading of the Psalter
.

For more on this subject see, John Walton’s JETS article (1991), “Psalms: A Cantata About the Davidic Covenant,”Paul House’s chapter on the Psalms in his Old Testament Theology, and Stephen Dempster’s section on the Psalms in Dominion and Dynasty. I bet Jim Hamilton will also have a great chapter on this when his book, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment comes out this Fall.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss