Learning to Love the Psalms

PSALMS: Broader Structures In The Psalter by W. Robert Godfrey

October 17, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms Within the Psalter, certain groups of psalms have long been identified.  Psalms 146–150 are concluding psalms of praise, each beginning and ending with the same Hebrew word: Hallelujah.  Psalms 113–118 have been known as the Egyptian Hallel, the psalms used to celebrate Israel’s deliverance from Egypt at the feast of the Passover.  As we study the Psalter, we may see other groups of psalms emerging.  For example, in Book One, Psalms 19–26 seem to form a special group prophetic of the redemptive work of Christ. Still other groups of psalms are united by certain words or ideas that are repeated from one psalm to another.  These links are complex, and we will only scratch the surface of them [...]

PSALMS: Poetic Forms Of The Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey

October 10, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms The meaning of any kind of poetry is tied to the form of the poem.  The essence of poetry is the artful variation of words and images in forms different from ordinary prose communication.  Think of Shakespeare’s brief poetic lines in Richard II: I wasted time, and now doth time waste me. In these poetic lines, Shakespeare’s reversal of word order is both memorable and arresting.  The form draws us into reflecting on the meaning of the words.  The same is true with the meaning of the psalms. To understand the psalms, we need to understand something of the literary forms of Hebrew poetry.  The forms of Hebrew poetry, however, are different from those of English poetry and therefore require [...]

PSALMS: Speakers In The Psalms? by W. Robert Godfrey

October 4, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms One of the most important complexities that we must address as we seek to appreciate the psalms can be expressed as a question: Who speaks in the psalms?  One psalm speaks in the third person: “Blessed is the man….” (Psalm 1:1)  Another speaks in the first person singular: “Answer me when I call….” (Psalm 4:1)  Still another speaks in the first person plural: “O God, we have heard with our ears….” (Psalm 44:1)  So, who is speaking in the psalms? David the King In answering this question, we must say in the first place that often David is speaking.  In the titles of seventy-three psalms, David is named as the author.  Some scholars have debated whether these [...]

PSALMS: Recurring Themes In The Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey

September 26, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms A great aid to our study of the psalms is recognizing the major themes that occur over and over again in the psalms.  Certain basic themes unite the psalms and underscore essential truths about God and his care for his people.  In addition to these great truths about God, we will also see that the Psalter voices specific responses from God’s people to those truths.  The combination of objective truths and subjective responses are the recurring rhythm of the Psalter. One great theme dominates the Psalter.  What is that theme?  John Calvin in his five-volume commentary on the Book of Psalms suggested that the great theme of the Psalter is the providence of God, specifically God’s preservation [...]

PSALMS: The Difficulty With The Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey

September 12, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms If the psalms are so rich, why is it that many of us today do not treasure and appreciate them as the church did in the past? There are several reasons.  The first is the diminished use of the King James Version of the Bible.  The movement away from the King James Version has meant that the familiar poetic expressions of that version which had been passed down through many generations have largely been forgotten.  With no one Bible translation replacing the King James Version, that poetry has not been effectively replaced for many contemporary Christians. The second is the failure of many Christians in our time to study and use the psalms.  Few Christians sing the psalms anymore.  Even if a songbook [...]

PSALMS: A Well-Loved Psalm—Psalm 114 by W. Robert Godfrey

September 5, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms Let us look at a psalm as an illustration of how attractive and spiritually powerful the Psalter is.  Psalm 114 was especially loved by the French Huguenots and helps us to reflect on what they treasured in the psalms and to whet our appetite for more.  The French Huguenots sang this psalm often and gladly (even though the Genevan tune to which it was set strikes our contemporary ears as very strange and difficult).  It was also a psalm that was important to God’s people in Old Testament times for it was part of the “Egyptian Hallel,” Psalms 113–118, which was sung by the Jews at the Passover season. It is a psalm so brief and simple that it may not initially impress the reader.  The [...]

PSALMS: The Attraction Of The Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey

August 29, 2017

From Learning to Love the Psalms At a recent conference, I was asked what my favorite book of the Bible is.  My initial reaction was to wonder if that was a bad question.  Should we not like all of the Word of God equally?  Then I thought that I should cooperate, and I asked myself what book I most often turn to and enjoy.  I realized that the answer was easy.  In recent years, that book has been the book of Psalms. I was converted to Christ as a junior in high school through the ministry of a church that primarily sang the psalms.  So, for many years, I have lived in the psalms and have come to know some things about them.  But only in recent years have I found them profoundly engaging and fascinating.  These years have been a [...]