How much of Psalm 110 did Jesus have in mind when he quoted the first verse?
Psalm 110 proclaims three edicts from heaven that reconfigure authority on earth. Jesus quoted the first, and that was enough to silence his opponents (Matthew 22:41-46). The second would have put them in an unenviable position. And the third would have been too frightening to face.
Continue reading “Three decrees that gave Christ authority (Psalm 110)”
Gordon Wenham’s excellent book “The Psalter Reclaimed: Praying and Praising with the Psalms” is free this month (Nov 2021).
Gordon Wenham’s ebook, The Psalter Reclaimed: Praying and Praising with the Psalms is free this month (November 2021).
I’ve learned heaps from Wenham about understanding the Old Testament in context. Particularly, his commentaries on Genesis (2 volumes, WBC) and Leviticus (NICOT) and Numbers (TCOT) are so insightful, and Story as Torah: Reading Old Testament Narrative Ethically (T&T Clark, 2000) makes sense of difficult passages.
In this book, he guides us to the Psalms, showing us how to:
- celebrate the God revealed in the Psalms
- present our needs to him
- read Psalms in the context of the whole story of Scripture
- understand Psalms in light of the Messiah
- apply the ethics of the Psalms
- handle the imprecatory Psalms
He then pulls it all together with a specific example from Psalm 103, before the final chapter on how the other nations fit with the Psalms.
Do you treat the Psalms as stand-alone songs? Or were they assembled in a meaningful way, so that one Psalm relates to the others around it? How do you read them in context?
Chapter 7 shows how. From Psalm 103: The Song of Steadfast Love:
Continue reading “Wenham shows us how to approach the Psalms (free book)”
Should we find Christ in the Psalms, or read them as Israel’s story?
Should we see Jesus in the Psalms?
The church fathers saw Jesus everywhere, but modern commentators focus on authorial intent — the meaning the author intended to convey. The Psalms were written to celebrate the reign of Israel’s God and to lament their struggles as his people. The authors didn’t intend to write about Jesus, so can the Psalms be about Jesus?
And yet, the New Testament writers do apply the Psalms to Jesus. Psalm 8 is applied to Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:27 and Hebrews 2:6-8, and even by Jesus himself in Matthew 21:16. Authorial intent matters, but it’s too limited a view. There’s a bigger story playing out across the canon of Scripture.
Continue reading “Jesus in the Psalms? (Psalm 8)”
Little voices make a world of difference.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1 ESV)
The Psalms proclaim heaven’s sovereignty over the earth. In effusive joy and struggling lament, they declare the reality of God’s reign over us all.
The more we recognize God’s regal authority, the more it develops us. Witness the word of praise expanding as ripples on a pond:
Continue reading “How majestic! (Psalm 8)”
Honest prayer lifts us to the one who can help.
There was a time when people turned to God in disasters. “How can God allow this?” they asked, sometimes in anger. Now technology lets us recognize the wave before it hits, so people place their trust in medicine and governments to save us. Technology is useful, but it isn’t our security.
Let’s encourage each other to look higher: Continue reading “Lament and hope: when life feels patchy”
If you’ve known rejection, you’ll appreciate this.
If you’ve felt abandoned, discarded by family and friends, you may understand this:
Mark 15 34 At three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachdthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)
What was Jesus saying? Continue reading “Why have you forsaken me?”
Do the Psalms tell us about Jesus? Are these verses about Christ?
Psalm 22 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? … 16 They have pierced my hands and feet.
Psalms 118 22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
The New Testament writers thought so. So did the church fathers. Were they right? Or were they bending texts to fit their beliefs? What did David intend? Does authorial intent define the meaning? Or is meaning in the ear of the hearer, whatever the reader wants it to mean?
When the church fathers used the Psalms this way, the Jewish leaders were mortified. They pointed out that no one read the Psalms like this until after Jesus died, so the Christians were merely imposing their own meaning on Jewish literature.
Should we be seeing the Messiah in the Psalms? Everywhere? Nowhere? In a few cases? What do you think?
Continue reading “Are the Psalms messianic?”
This post is longer than normal. It walks you through how to process the Psalms, with Psalm 3 as the example.
Open Psalm 3.
How do you read Psalms? We love the first one: a fruitful tree by the stream. Psalm 2 is more confronting, but we like to read about God’s anointed Son. Then Psalm 3 is about facing enemies. What do you do with that?
If you don’t have enemies, perhaps you skip it and try to find something more joyful? Or perhaps there is someone who’s making your life difficult, so you read on … until you reach verse 7. Are you really supposed to pray, “God smack them in the face and smash their teeth in?”
If you ever end up in court for punching someone, please don’t offer as your defence, “The Bible told me to.”
There is a better way to read the Psalms. They aren’t about “me and God.” You won’t get far if you approach them with the attitude, “What’s in it for me?” You need to ask, “What has this meant for God’s people before me?”
Who is the me in Psalm 3? No, it’s not you, the twenty-first century reader. Who poured out this graphic lament about the enemies arrayed against him? Any ideas?
Continue reading “How to read Psalms”
Should I be seeing Christ when I read the Psalms?
The Psalms are powerful, enduring songs from ancient Israel that still inspire us today. They praise the character of our heavenly sovereign, giving thanks for what he has done. They lament when things aren’t working out as they should under God’s reign. That’s the power of the Psalms: in joy and injustice, they refocus us on the one who rules. The heart of the Psalms is the refrain, The Lord reigns!
When Christians read the Psalms, we’re faced with a puzzle: Should I see Jesus in Israel’s ancient songs? Or should I read them as Israel understood them before Jesus’ time? Are the Psalms intended to be prophetic, about the one who was to come? Continue reading “Jesus in the Psalms?”
If you ever struggle to grasp the Bible narrative as a whole, do yourself a favour and check out the free animated videos from The Bible Project.
Today they released a doozy on the Book of Psalms. How do you even explain how 150 Psalms fit together, let alone do it in 5 minutes?
Check it out. These masterful guys might even help you to see the Bible as the story of the Kingdom of God. And don’t miss the details, such as the image of the tree in Psalm 1.
You have people in your care? See yourself as an under-shepherd.
Open Psalm 23.
If you like mysteries, how about the clue above verse 1 in Psalm 23? The compilers who arranged the Psalms after the exile added some clues about how the Psalm was used or understood. Some of these headings are musical instructions. Some provide a historical setting. Almost half the Psalms are labelled “Of David.” What does that mean?
Continue reading “Voice of an under-shepherd (Psalm 23)”
Tom Wright’s message, “Entering the Advent Season Celebrating the Arrival of the King”
Open Psalm 72.
Tom Wright recently delivered a message describing this season as “celebrating the arrival of the king.” Great perspective!
Here it is, reblogged: Continue reading “Celebrating the arrival of the King (Psalm 72)”