A Reflection on the Psalms

I haven’t used this blog in too long of a time. I have also failed to faithfully read my bible in too long of a time.

You don’t realize how much you miss something and how much returning to it fires you up, until you actually go back to it. So let’s fix both issues in one fell-swoop, shall we?

Today it’ll be on the Psalms, God only knows (literally) what tomorrow will be about.

But let’s start with the latter half of my first statement. I’ve been trying for years to find the perfect way to read my bible. Yes, I mean, “the perfect way.” I’m a perfectionist and killing those habits is just as hard as telling myself not to breathe. This has created a barrier between myself and God. One that God looks at, sighs, and shrugs saying, “He’ll figure it out at some point.” So here’s my attempt at taking down the first brick in that wall. I love writing and I love, love, love reading scripture.

Those two revelations have lead me to the conclusion that I can’t just read and meditate, I have to share. It’s just how I digest scripture. I don’t know how not to share. I know that’s a double-negative but it’s completely true. I lack the knowledge of how not to share what I’m feeling or thinking. Maybe it’s arrogance that what I’m thinking is worthy of being shared but I am what I am and no amount of self-reflection will change that.

So what in the world do I feel is so important that I had to blog about it? Well, the beauty and simplicity of the Psalms.

I am a college graduate of a Christian University so one thing I definitely know how to do is read scripture. Trust me, I did well in my Biblical Studies courses (my major, by the way). Now, I’m not saying I’m the most brilliant theologian there ever was, no, absolutely not. In fact, if there is one thing that school taught me it’s that I know very, very little. However, after four years, you have a few things drilled into you. I learned those practices very well but I also picked up one very bad habit, a habit that I deal with in every other area of my life: I overcomplicate scripture.

Reading scripture reminds me of renovating a house: you can do it very simply or you can go crazy and completely redo everything down to the foundation. Scripture allows us to do something very similar. You can cross-reference one passage for months and months and never leave that one passage. I have, for the longest time, taken that to mean every time I read scripture it’s supposed to be like “Moses and the burning bush” revelatory experience. That’s just not the case. Not every conversation with your family or spouse are deep, mind-blowing experiences. Sometimes it’s as simple as “how was your day? Good? I love you” and that’s it. It’s just the experience of enjoying one another’s company.

That’s the Psalms.

It’s a combination of worship of an amazing, powerful, holy God and just saying hi to your Papa. It’s bowing down in awestruck wonder and coming to Him as a child. A child doesn’t know that their parent is the President of the United States or the CEO of Microsoft. They know that person as “Mom” or “Dad.” Now, as a child matures they begin to understand but they still see that person so differently than the rest of the world.

This is why I love the Psalms because they simplify everything in my mind. Because they were written as songs of praise and worship they aren’t trying to make big, theological points (even though they absolutely can and do it well). The purpose of the Psalms is “I’m focusing on YOU, Lord. I’m coming humble and fully aware of just how unworthy I am.” I was reading Psalm 8 and verse 4 is so powerful, “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Anyone else hear the author’s gratitude and understanding of his lowly position in front of God?

The Psalms do such a great job of reminding us that we should be so, so grateful that God has chosen to love us and save us. God is not to blame for sickness, violence, and every kind of sin. We are. It sucks to say but God would be perfectly just in condemning us all to Hell. God isn’t JUST love. He is mercy, justice, and righteousness to name a few. We can’t forget that there are Psalms where David asks God to “break the arm of the wicked.” God doesn’t mess around with sin and injustice. It’s the part of God’s character we love to minimize in our churches now. We want to “love people into Heaven” which can be amazing and a perfect approach to a situation. You shouldn’t beat people over the head with your bible but you shouldn’t minimize a portion of God’s character in hopes that “you will love them into Heaven.” There is a very good reason why Jesus spoke more on Hell than Heaven. Jesus didn’t mince words or water down the gospel in hopes that it would save one more person.

The Psalms don’t attempt to be politically correct or just be about love. They talk about depression, feelings of inadequacy, and the injustice in the world, but, above all, they talk about the character of God. They talk about His attributes: His glory, His strength, and His majesty. They talk from a place of honesty and humility. I love the verbs that the author in Psalms 8 uses. He uses verbs like “have given,” “have made,” and “have put.” You might be asking “……. and????” well each of those verbs is preceded by the noun “You” in reference to God. It’s not “because I’m awesome God did this.” Every time the author talks about an action of God, it is ALWAYS at God’s prerogative. God decides what God wants to do.

My final thought on the Psalms for today is God is not just one attribute. He is not just love. He is not just wrath. Too often in our churches we see something in our world we don’t like about other Christians and we change our theology because of it. Please don’t do that. Look first to the scriptures and study to see if a change is needed. The Psalmist didn’t look at his world and think, “Well, people are mean and violent, I don’t want my readers to think God is that way. I won’t talk about His wrath.” He also didn’t think, “Man, people are too wishy-washy, I can’t tell if my fellow believers are true belivers or not. I’m going to focus just on His wrath and hate for sin.” Psalms 9 contains both aspects of God in one chapter. Verse 1 “I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” Verse 5 “You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish; you have blotted out their name forever and ever.” God is both loving and just.

Never look at scripture and say, “Well, I don’t like this version of God so I’m going to explain it away.” Scripture is messy and ugly and sometimes hard to swallow. There is nothing wrong with struggling and searching for answers but don’t let your emotions decide what God you will serve. He is who He is. He doesn’t change and doesn’t hide who He is because our culture isn’t a fan of His. Realize where your pitfalls are going to be and give them to God. And the perfect place to do that is the Psalms. I would encourage you to read them in a new light, not just as a song of praise but as a holy conversation between you and your Papa.