The Book Of Psalms has been a source of both comfort and confusion throughout my life. As the struggles of life have at times overwhelmed me, the Book Of Psalms was always there to comfort. Even during the darkest days when I couldn’t think clearly enough to read any other passage of scripture, the Psalms were there for me. Yet, as much as they have provided comfort, they have also provide a measure of confusion. David’s desires for God to strike his enemies seems at odds with Christ’s teachings in the gospels. The psalms can often seem brutal and judgmental. Some psalms seem contradictory, while others seem irrelevant.
Over time, I have arrived at the place where I see the Psalms as part of the story of history. We are part of Christ’s redemptive story as it plays through history, and the Psalms reflect a specific time and place in that history. The Psalms reflect the author’s stories (especially David’s story) as well as the story of Israel. To study each Psalm we must take into account the Israelite world of the time. Especially, we must take into account how Israelites of the time conceived of the concept of the Kingdom of God and compare it to Christ’s teaching on the Kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount and His parables.
Not only do the Psalms reflect a specific point history, they also reflect raw emotion. In our sometimes sanitized and modern view of emotions, we are often taken aback by the raw emotion conveyed by the writers. I am constantly struck by the raw truthfulness of the emotions portrayed in the Psalms, and I am comforted when I find myself expressing raw anger and despair to God. In my own life, the Psalms provide the emotional connection I need to the Christian life.
The psalms must not only be seen as an end, but as a beginning. Throughout history, Christian writers have continued to write Psalms as the story of Christianity continues to develop. It is important not only to read the Psalms, but to participate in the story of Christ’s redemptive work, perhaps even writing our own Psalms that reflect Christ’s redemptive work in our own lives. My hope for this class is that each of us will recognize our place in Christ’s redemptive story by connecting our hopes, our struggles, and our emotions to the wonderful stories of the Psalms.