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Exploring the Psalms
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Why Are They Unique?
How Should We Use Them?
The Power of the Paraphrase
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Going Deeper
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 Exploring the Psalms (cont'd)

Why are they unique?

In addition to being prayers in the form of poetry, the Psalms have several other qualities that make them unique in the scriptures. 

They are personal
Although the Psalter became the hymnbook of the nation of Israel, it wasn’t written by a hymnal committee! Each psalm was first of all the individual heart cry of a worshipper of Yahweh. Some are the overflow of a life gripped by fears, dangers and trials. Some express a hunger to know and worship God more deeply, others the crushing burden of guilt over past sins. Many psalms contain a combination of these emotions along with others. We see honest expressions of elation, depression, joys, doubts and fears - in other words, the full range of human emotions.

They are mirrors
Because they are so personal, they are also mirrors of our own feelings. John Calvin wrote of the Psalms, “This book I am wont to style an anatomy of all parts of the soul; for no one will discover in himself a single feeling whereof the image is not reflected in this mirror.” God meant for me to be able to see my reflection in the mirror of the Psalms, and know that I am safe in facing who I am, openly and honestly, before Him.
 

They are adaptable
Although some of the Psalms dwell on specific circumstances that produced the cry for help or spontaneous praise, most often we find more general expressions of need and praise. We find phrases such as “You have been my stronghold, a refuge in the day of my distress” (Ps. 59:16) and “You have delivered my soul from death and my feet from stumbling” (Ps. 56:13). I can easily apply those thoughts to a variety of circumstances that I might be facing.

The universal purpose of the Psalms is also indicated by the nature of their poetry. Unlike poetry relying on meter or rhyme, the Hebrew poetic form is called parallelism, where a given thought is followed and reinforced by a similar or contrasting thought. Although it does not strike us as being poetry, the impact of the parallel thoughts is an effective way to reinforce the truths being presented. This form carries its impact into any language, both as poetry and as God’s truth. Regardless of whether the reader receives them in English, Russian or Swahili, the Psalms speak just as powerfully, both in their words and in poetic form.

They are models
As we have already seen, there are several reasons to title the entire collection of Psalms “Prayers,” so it is not surprising that we can think of the book as a collection of model prayers. The fact that most psalms aren’t more specific allows them to easily become patterns for us as we struggle with how to express to God the way we feel.

They are windows
If, as mentioned above, the Psalms can be considered mirrors, showing us the truth about ourselves, they are as well windows allowing us clear view of the glory of our God. Look, for example, at Psalm 66:1-4.

 

How Should We Use Them?

 

 

   
   
   
   
   
 

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