Finding Purpose in the Psalms

Am I the only one that has gone through a large portion of my life and not realized the purpose in the provision of the psalms in the bible?  Of course I have one or two psalms that I learned as a child that are special to me.   For example, Psalm 23 which is so comforting and it is also one that I still have memorized to this day.   I silently review it in my head on nights when I just can not sleep, though those nights are few.

I found that when I would make an effort to dig into more chapters to see what God has for me there, I would open my bible to the psalms and I would just get stuck every time!  I sometimes would try to put myself into the particular psalm but I just didn’t fit and it didn’t resonate with me.  I needed to resolve this issue, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that.  No one has ever talked with me about the psalms…..perhaps no one has talked to you about the psalms either??

I decided to search the internet for opinions on how to delve into the psalms. I asked friends and colleagues.  I precisely remember one friend telling me that she wouldn’t know what to do without the psalms.  Yet when I reached out to her, I really didn’t get any useful advice to help me along.  I did learn that initially it is not optimal to try to put yourself in the position of the psalmist.  First, it is better to try to understand who wrote the psalm and why, what was going on in their world at the time, what particular event may have caused them to put their thoughts down.  Then I ordered a book from Nancy Guthrie called “The Wisdom of God – Seeing Jesus in the Psalms & Wisdom Books”  It was so helpful.  After just a few chapters, I had a feeling that I have been missing out of the benefit and purpose of the psalms all my life.  And then just today I felt like I wanted to, no I needed to, read a psalm.  It was just a feeling that I had that things all around me seem to be in a state of chaos.   All that is going on around us in the world.  Politically, Religiously, Economically, Socially, and so on.  

Let me share with you just a few things that I learned from my study that make the entire book make sense to me now. In a nutshell, God inspired men to write the entire bible. God provided Psalms to us from a man’s (human) perspective. This book is different than many books you will find in the Old Testament. A large portion of the psalms are written by King David and some also by King Solomon and then a few others. King Solomon ask one thing of God which was to have the wisdom of God, which he was provisioned. So we need to realize that we are reading some of the writings of the wisest man that ever lived and also a man after God’s own heart. All as inspired by God! That’s pretty powerful, I would say!

Now there are different types of psalms, some of praise, laments (complaints, confession, protests of innocence), thanksgiving, remembrance, songs of trust and royal kinship. When the psalmist is going through trials and tribulations, he writes out how he is feeling. There is no one that shows their honest feelings like the psalmists do. This can be an example to us, that we too can pour out our struggles and our deepest and honest emotions before God. But it doesn’t stop there, read on…

When we read the psalms, God’s Word can actually change our outlook, change our feelings. I believe that this is one of the purposes God had in giving us the psalms. As we read, they are impressed upon our minds as the psalmist negative thoughts and feelings always lead to positive thoughts and feelings. “Doubt leads to trust; anger toward God turns to admiration for God; sadness gives way to joy”.   And we know that God does intend to change the way we feel through his inspired word. God intends not only to instruct us but to change us through changing our feelings. The power of God’s word renews our hearts and our minds and our thoughts, when we get into his Word!  How amazing is that?!?

I discovered in my study that many of the psalms follow a certain pattern and are categorized as a “lament”.   They go somewhat like this pattern:

  1. Crying out and addressing God as the psalmist turns for help
  2. The Complaint expressed with human feelings and emotions
  3. Trusting in God to keep his promises to us to protect, to sustain, to love us, to draw near to us
  4. Request for God’s deliverance or reason for God to act
  5. Assurance that God will hear the request and deliver (this is based on faith from all that the psalmist already knows and has experienced of God)
  6. Praise in the confidence and hope that God does and will deliver

This pattern takes us from our own feelings of despair, to fully vetting our complaint, to trusting in God for help, then as we remember who our God is as the Creator and Sustainer of all things, all powerful, all knowing, and that he lavishes his love on us, then our hearts turn to praise, and hope, and worship, and thanksgiving!   We can learn from this example.  

Regardless of where you are in the spectrum of alignment or misalignment in the happenings of the world today, I think this psalm will help to change your feelings. That you will know that we can trust in God to hear us and deliver us!

Psalm 3 “A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!”
“Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.””
“But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”
“I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain.”
“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.”
“I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.”
“Arise, LORD! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.”
“From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.”

Then there are also psalms of trust and praise. This is what I was seeking today:

Psalm 37 “Of David.

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong;”
“for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.”
“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.”
“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:”
“He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.”
“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”
“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil.”
“For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.”
“A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.”
“But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.”
“The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them;”
“but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.”
“The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.”
“But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.”
“Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked;”
“for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.”
“The blameless spend their days under the LORD’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever.”
“In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.”
“But the wicked will perish: Though the LORD’s enemies are like the flowers of the field, they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.”
“The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously;”
“those the LORD blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed.”
“The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;”
“though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.”
“I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
“They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.”
“Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever.”
“For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed; the offspring of the wicked will perish.”
“The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.”
“The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just.”
“The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip.”
“The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, intent on putting them to death;”
“but the LORD will not leave them in the power of the wicked or let them be condemned when brought to trial.”
“Hope in the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.”
“I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,”
“but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found.”
“Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace.”
“But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future for the wicked.”
“The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.”
“The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.”

My goal is to start seeking the psalms whenever I feel that I need God to help me change the way I am feeling. I highly recommend reading the book I mentioned above from Nancy Guthrie. She provides so much more details and knowledge about Psalms.  I trust that with a little bit of understanding, you also will reach into God’s Word and into the Psalms for a renewal and refreshing reminder of who our God is and how much he loves you and wants to come along side you and sustain you.  God Bless You!

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