bits from bob....

Understanding the Psalms

by Robert J. Young
©, 2002, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

The Psalms are strange literature. Despite their lack of obscurity, technical questions, and complicated backgrounds, their study generally remains superficial, partial, and incomplete. Most studies of the Psalms are inadequate. One reason for this lack of depth is that the goal in studying the Psalms is not to know all that may be known about the Psalms. The goal is to encourage, to probe, touch and handle the Psalms more regularly in a personal walk with God.

Walter Brueggeman in The Message of the Psalms works through the Psalms from a framework of "orientation, disorientation, and new orientation." If the Psalms speak to humanity most poignantly in the midst of loss and darkness, when it seems God is absent but he is found to be surprisingly present, the Psalms have a unique ability to reorient the people of God. If the power of Christianity is in weakness and not strength, in the ignoble and not in nobility, in crucifixion and a cross more than in crass conquest, the Psalms bring us face to face with the reality of a Christian life that turns the value systems of the world upside down.

I. Orientation
At times in the Psalms one sees the fulness of human life with its God-given potential. The coherence of the creation and the reliability of the God who redeems are obvious in "seasons of well-being" where one experiences joy and goodness, delighting in God's will and way, appreciating the God who creates and sustains. But while this is a part of human experience, it is not permanent.

II. Disorientation
More often than we would like, our lives are filled with hurt and anguish. We live in a society that knows its share of alienation, impersonality, coldness. We feel the separation; we too, even as children of God, suffer. Nor is our experience unique. Some of the most well-known Psalms reflect those times when the Psalmist is enraged in his resentment, self-pity, and hatred. Life is at times in ragged disarray. Others disappoint us, we disappoint ourselves. Supremely, we disappoint God.

III. Reorientation
What can one feel but surprise when joy breaks through amidst despair? When light appears where it seemed only darkness was possible? If God would intrude among his people 3000 years ago to bring newness, we can find refreshment for tired spiritual bones in knowing that he will continue to bring newness through Jesus Christ. Certainly, this is the message of the royal Messianic Psalms. Perhaps people then did not totally understand. You and I can understand. May God help us to find purpose and meaning in Jesus.

May God bless you in your desire to walk more closely with Him!

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Last updated January 7, 2002.