The Role of the Psalms in the Life of an Academic

The Case for the Psalms

(Here’s a break from academic writing to reflect on an Academic [Wright] and his piety)

The Psalms, a remarkable treasure trove of theological riches, play an unceasing role of emotional and theological encouragement. What is it about the Psalms that make them so rich? The historical trajectory of God’s faithfulness? The faithfulness and struggles bound up in the sufferer? The imaginative responses from its poetic guise?

I predominately spend my time in the New Testament and language study. One negative aspects to academic study is the frequency of debates entering your mind. You read a verse of Scripture and think, “Yeah, I know the sides of this discussion.” What ends up happening is a failure to allow the text to mold and shape you.

The Psalms are not so. Each time I read them, I can’t help but find myself personified as David, or as Moses, or as the Auctor. The emotions and internal turmoil capture my affections as if I penned it.

I rarely desire to place a Wright book in the hands of the laity, but this one will be easy (The Case for the Psalms). Wright reflects on the structure, role and piety found within the Psalms and its simple prose makes for fast and enjoyable reading for the laity. His chapter, “My Life with the Psalms”, is worth the price of the book! This book demonstrates that even the most academic thinker, even a critical thinker, ought to have spiritual reflection on the Scriptures.

Consider this quote (pg. 6–7),

As with all thoughtful Christian worship, there is a humility about this approach. Good liturgy, whether formal or informal, ought never to be simply a corporate emoting session, however “Christian,” but a fresh and awed attempt to inhabit the great unceasing liturgy that is going on all the time in the heavenly realms. The Psalms offer us a way of joining in a chorus of praise and prayer that has been going on for millennia and across all cultures.

In particular, I propose in this book that the regular praying and singing of the Psalms is transformative. It changes the way we understand some of the deepest elements of who we are, or rather, who, where, when, and what we are: we are creatures of space, time, and matter, and though we take our normal understandings of these for granted, it is my suggestion that the Psalms will gently but firmly transform our understanding of all of them. They do this in order that we may be changed, transformed, so that we look at the world, one another, and ourselves in a radically different way, which we believe to be God’s way.

The Psalms will continue to shape the Christian church and others in years to follow!

Psalm 73:23–28

23  Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand. 

24  You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory. 

25  Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 

26  My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

27  For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. 

28  But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works

 

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