In this session, we look at the the book of Psalms.
Speaker: Ralph Cunnington
Ralph is the Senior Pastor of City Church Manchester. He is also on the Steering Group of City to City UK and is on the Board of UCCF.
The Book of Psalms
Discuss: What is unusual about the Book of Psalms when compared to other books in the Bible?
What is it?
When was it written?
Structure of the Book
Psalms 1 and 2 are the Introduction. Three markers of this:
i. They carry no superscription.
ii. Both end with a way that leads to destruction.
iii. Bracket of blessing
Two key themes:
i. God’s Law
ii. God’s chosen King
Psalms 146-150 – the Hallelujah chorus
The Five Books of the Psalter
Book 1 – Psalms 3-41
Book 4 – Psalms 90-106
Book 3 – Psalm 73-89
Book 2 – Psalms 42-72
Book 5 – Psalms 107-150
Discuss: What is the purpose of the Book of Psalms? Why has God included it in His inspired Word?
Praying the Psalms
“The proper purpose of singing the Psalms is that we learn to pray them” Christopher Ash
“By praying the Psalms back to God, we learn to pray on tune with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14
“Let the message of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit.” Colossians 3:16
“As a teacher will compose letters or little speeches for his pupils to write to their parents, so by this book He prepares both the language and the mood in which we should address the Heavenly Father.”
How praying the Psalms helps believers:
(i) They address the full range of human experience
“[The Psalms are] an Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul because there is not an emption which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or, rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to the life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.” John Calvin
(ii) They re-shape our disordered emotions and responses
“[T]hey will principally teach and train us to bear the cross … so that the afflictions which are the bitterest and most severe to our nature, become sweet to us, because they proceed from him”.
But can we really pray the Psalms?
Praying the Psalms in Christ
(i) The whole Bible is Christian
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,
correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may
be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them
what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Luke 24:27
(ii) Our fundamental identity is in Christ
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1”
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things
passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you
will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
3 tips for praying the Psalms as Christian Scripture:
1. David is a type of Jesus
“From a literary and historical point of view, we should understand that the human subject of the Psalms – whether it be the blessed man of Psalm 1, the one proclaiming Himself the son of God in Psalm 2, the suffering petitioner in Psalms 3-7, the son of man in Psalm 8 – is Jesus Christ.” Bruce Waltke
2. Jesus is fully human
3. The New Testament shows us that the Psalms are spoken by and fulfilled in Jesus
Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46
Psalm 35:9; John 15:25
Psalm 78:24-25; John 6:31
Psalm 16:8-11; Acts 2:25-32
Psalm 69:21; John 19:28-29
Christopher Ash, Teach Psalms (Christian Focus, 2017)
John Stott, Favourite Psalms (Candle, 1994)
Ernest Lucas, Exploring the Old Testament volume 3 The Psalms and Wisdom Literature (SPCK, 2003)
Donald Whitney, Praying the Bible (Crossway, 2015)