Why Read the Psalms?

by: Katie Davidson

 “The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express that same delight in God which made David dance.”

Reflections on the Psalms | C. S. Lewis 

This quote from C. S. Lewis stops me in my tracks each time I read it. I feel joy and conviction bubble up within me. I know that this sort of joy is exactly what my soul craves, yet the harsh reality is that I don’t always feel delighted enough to dance before the Lord. Life can feel tragic and unexpected, busy and chaotic. Sometimes we may struggle to even take the next step, let alone dance. However, when I am tempted to wallow in self-pity, the Psalms remind me that I can rejoice in my Savior on my best and worst days.

This quote references David’s worship in 2 Samuel 6:13–14. The Israelites are thriving under King David, and the Ark of the Covenant has finally returned to Jerusalem. The ark represented what set the Israelites apart from any other nation—their relationship with Yahweh, the Great I AM. The ark was so holy, so rich with God’s presence, that it could not be touched by human hands. Instead, it had to be carried by poles. As the ark made its way into the city, David danced in joy. The ark’s presence in Jerusalem meant that God was blessing David and the kingdom of Israel. David understood the value of God’s presence among the people. In gratitude and jubilee, the city celebrated. This story depicts the importance of Psalms. God’s presence is worthy of our fullest praise. In a hurried and chaotic world, the structure and the beauty of Psalms call us to pause, reflect, and consider God in new ways. God’s presence was the strength of Israel, and it is our strength today. 

What are the Psalms?

Psalms is the largest book in the Old Testament and is a beautiful collection of hymns and poems that prompt remembrance and reflection upon God and His character. The Psalms has several authors like King David, King Solomon, Asaph, sons of Korah, and Moses. David is attributed to writing at least 73 of the psalms, while many other psalms’ authors are unknown. Psalms covers the entire span of Israel’s history and reminds us that God does not change throughout the generations. He is always faithful and always worthy of our praise. Common themes throughout Psalms are creation, redemption, worship, the human experience, and God’s Word. 

The Psalms and Our Struggles

Though not every psalm is joyful, every psalm is worship-filled. Even David, the stellar king of Israel, felt fear, longing, and shame. Even David felt forgotten by God (Psalm 13). The Psalms cover the breadth of our human emotions and remind us that we can bring even our fleeting feelings before God’s throne. Why do I feel alone (Psalm 25)? How do I make it through another day? (Psalm 42)? God, why do I feel ignored by You? (Psalm 22)?These are just a few of the aching questions that the psalmists ask the Lord. 

These songs are often called the “Psalms of Lament.” Lament is a prayer of the suffering believer. “Psalms of Lament” give us language to pray when we are too hurt to find words. These psalms acknowledge our pain and ask God big questions, yet always honor the Lord’s authority and character. Through “Psalms of Lament,” we are reminded that we can carry our biggest burdens and deepest qualms to God.  

The Psalms and Jesus

We find several Messianic prophecies sprinkled throughout Psalms, foretelling of a coming Savior who will finally redeem Israel to its former glory (Psalms 2, 89, and 110 are just some of the psalms with Messianic prophecies). In fact, the loose structure of the psalms reflects God’s plan to redeem a world marred by the Fall (Genesis 3). The first half of the Psalms focuses primarily on the effects of sin among God’s people, and the latter half looks forward to the coming Christ and His kingdom. In seasons of exile and oppression, these psalms of hope anchored the faith of the Israelites to the truth of God’s character and His unwavering promises. 

Psalm 89:24–29 provides a great example of a Messianic prophecy: 

“My faithfulness and love will be with him,

and through my name

his horn will be exalted.

I will extend his power to the sea

and his right hand to the rivers.

He will call to me, ‘You are my Father,

my God, the rock of my salvation.’

I will also make him my firstborn,

greatest of the kings of the earth.

I will always preserve my faithful love for him,

and my covenant with him will endure.

I will establish his line forever,

his throne as long as heaven lasts.”

By studying psalms like the one above, we see how the hope of Jesus was present in the Old Testament, and this hope can still encourage us today.

Joy in the Lord

What does joy in the Lord really look like? The psalms give us a great idea. However, the joy that the psalms exude is not temporary happiness, but instead reflects a heart secured in God’s character. Psalms is a gift to us, moving our eyes away from the trials of the world and toward the light of Christ. On this side of the cross, we can worship God for providing a Savior, just like He said He would. Though we may not always physically frolic before His presence, the psalms invigorate our hearts with an unshakable truth: God is faithful. 

Looking to learn more about Psalms? Check out these resources below!

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