This article is part of the Why Study the Book? series.
Why Study the Psalms?
If the question above was, “Why read, sing, or pray the Psalms?” most Christians would have no trouble answering it. God’s people love God’s Psalter! But the question “Why study the Psalms?” is different.
Study usually arises out of duty or delight, or a mix of both. For example, you might learn Latin because you have to pass an exam in school, or you might learn Latin because you love learning new languages, even dead ones.
I want to suggest three reasons to study (out of delight more than duty) the Psalms.
God Loves Poetry, and So Should You
As seminarians learn the fundamentals of Hebrew and Greek, so every Christian should learn the basics of biblical poetry. This area of study is not optional.
It’s not optional because the Bible is filled with poems. The prophets, along with the books of Job and Ecclesiastes, are mainly poetic. The Song of Songs, Proverbs, Lamentations, and the Psalms are wholly poetic.
God’s prolific poetic artistry should prod us not only to value poetry but also to understand how to read and preach it. Studying the Psalms is a wonderful way to enter into the world of God’s inspired and inspiring poems!
Studying the Psalms is a wonderful way to enter into the world of God’s inspired and inspiring poems!
Teaching Us How to Talk to God
The Psalter has been the Christian church’s songbook since the apostolic age (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), but it also serves as our prayer book. Can we tell God that we love him? Can we share with him our deepest fears? Can we ask that he triumph over evil enemies? Can we thank him for the morning sunrise and the beauty of the Bible? The answer to all those questions is “yes.”
The Psalms cover the full range of human emotions, spilling out in praise, thanksgiving, and lament. And in this way, they model for us how to approach our transcendent but imminent God in prayer.
Pointing to Jesus
The Psalms are quoted in the New Testament more than any book in the Old Testament. This is not only because the Psalms are “a little Bible, and the summary of the Old Testament” (as Martin Luther put it), but also because they point to the salvation found in Jesus Christ (as Jesus himself put it, Luke 24:44). A careful Christological reading of the Psalms can “make [us] wise for salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15).
So pull up a chair. Turn off the noise around you. Open to the Psalms. Read, mark, and learn an inspired prayer a week, and in three years you’ll begin to be mastered by God’s poetry!