When we read our preferred news source, or a email from a friend, or our favorite song lyrics, we treat those kinds of writing a little differently. They differ in purpose, and so we read them with different eyes.
The whole bible is true and helpful, and yet the books of the Bible are no different. The different genres are to be read differently and with different considerations
So then…what are the Psalms?
The Psalms were poems to be sung in community. The weren’t sermons or theological treatises but they are incredibly helpful in our understanding of God and how God’s people saw Him in the Old Testament.
We can gain fabulous insight into our everyday discipleship by paying attention to them. The pilgrimage psalms in particular (Psalms 120-134) are some of my favorites because I see my own journey with Christ in these words.
These 15 poems were sung in community three times a year during the three festivals that happened for the Jews up in Jerusalem. Each festival required that everyone make the haul from their homes up the hill to the city. Scholars tell us that the three festivals, Passover, Pentecost, and Day of Atonement, had different customs and procedures, but all three meant a road trip for the Jews and that meant these songs were pulled out. It was a significant journey because Jerusalem sits above the neighboring regions, thus an uphill climb from most directions.
Jesus’ parents made these trips (Luke 2:41)
Jesus himself would have made these trips.
The parallels for God’s people then, and you and I today are easy and obvious. We too find ourselves on the road. Perhaps a bit cliche, but our lives are a journey. We’re all hurling through time and space and heading somewhere. Between creation and recreation. Between the Garden as it was and the garden as it will be.
We, too, and moving towards the Heavenly city. We too, are heading toward a time when all of God’s family will be gathered as one. Regardless of what you think about God, or whether you even think he is real, your life is a journey.
I love the Psalms because there’s so much heart in them; not just heady facts about God, but an invitation to find God himself. I need the Psalms because they remind me that GOD sees everything in my chest. And that includes the hard and heavy stuff.
The psalms say over and over and over again, that God sees all of it, He sees us, and He is with us in the midst of those honest prayers. I need the Psalms. And I suspect you do too.