Exploring the Psalms
Why Are They Unique?
How Should We Use Them?
The Power of the Paraphrase
More About Getting Started
Coupling With Prayer
More Going Deeper
More Going Deeper II
the Psalms (cont'd)
More About Getting started
If you actively keep a journal,
you already know the value of coming back to what you have written at a
later date to see how God has worked and to be able to evaluate the ways
in which you may or may not have grown in certain areas. The personal
paraphrase is not a journal, although it includes some aspects of that
activity. But it is a record of your reaction to His truth at that point
in your life, and you will look at it later with interest as your life has
entered a new phase. In the process you will undoubtedly find new reason
to thank and praise God for the ways He has worked and moved in your
When we have properly prepared our hearts for His truth, we are ready to
interact with the words themselves. Rarely will one or even two readings
begin to enable me to see beyond the surface. But how can one keep reading
the same text over and over without it just numbing the mind? A good part
of it is identifying with the author, as described below. Part, also, is
searching out the movement of the text. What is the flow of thought, as
the psalm progresses? Is there movement from pain and struggle to praise?
If so, what were the elements that indicated that progression of thought?
What other development of thought or theme is occurring in these verses?
Are there words or phrases that are used more than once? If so, are they
used for emphasis or contrast? These are the kind of questions that help
you to get into the meaning of the text.
In a sense we have to use our minds in
reading the Psalms as we do other literature we are seeking to understand.
When we read the personal expression of another personís heart, we
instinctively know that to understand the full meaning of what they have
written, we need to read with the express intent of putting ourselves in
the writerís position, inasmuch as that is possible. What were the
emotions of the writer that are expressed, to be sure, but what additional
tinges of anguish or joy are merely hinted at until I have entered into
his thinking and followed his thoughts to the end? What background on the
psalmist helps me to make better sense of what he is saying and why? What
is the particular struggle or trial he was facing that caused him to pen
these words? For example, eight of the Psalms came from the hand of David
while he was fleeing from murderous Saul (34, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 63, and
142). Recognizing this fact brings us into his feelings and thoughts and
can help to bring out additional meaning from the words. When you feel
lost and abandoned, surrounded on every side by problems with no help or
relief in sight, these Psalms can be vehicles to bring those needs to a
God Who will deal bountifully with you (142:7). Some rich treasures are
waiting to be uncovered as we allow the Spirit to carry us into the
experience being expressed by the words we are reading.
Your first reaction to the idea of paraphrasing may be that you simply
donít have the time. I would suggest not to reject it on that basis, but
to look for a period Ė perhaps once a week Ė when you can spend more
undistracted time (30 minutes or so) to explore the treasures Godís Word
has for you. Once you have started paraphrasing a Psalm, you may find that
you can continue it using shorter periods during the week, and still be
able to glean truths you can carry into your day. The entire idea of
paraphrasing may seem foreign and difficult to you, so give yourself at
least a month to get used to the process. Donít get discouraged if you
donít seem to quickly feel you are reaching the treasures placed in the
Psalms for you.
Finding the Psalm
for your Need
In addition to delving into the Psalms as a part your normal time of Bible
study, you may also come to this portion of Godís Word with an acute need,
seeking what the Sovereign of the universe would say to you, or the words
to use in placing your petition before Him. For those times, the Psalms
have been categorized according to a number of felt needs, and placed
here. Of course, many psalms address a number of needs and concerns, but I
have tried to place each in a category that defines the major thrust of
the psalm. You may want to add your favorite Psalms in additional
categories that have spoken strongly to you.
Coupling the Psalms With Prayer