Should 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