We all sense that the Psalms are a rich resource for our faith. But they’re not always easy to know how to read. They never mention Jesus, for obvious reasons. They’re full of stuff we feel we could pray, but also full of stuff we feel uncomfortable praying. How do we connect with these extraordinary songs from God’s ancient people?
I’ve been thinking about an approach that might help. It involves grappling with the layered nature of the psalms. Even those psalms that were written early, got worked over and re-interpreted later in a different historical setting. In particular Israel in exile found new and corporate meanings in many of the pre-exilic psalms. And then Jesus identified with them also, as if they were talking about his life experience.
All of this suggests reading the psalms in a layered way. It could go something like this:
1. Read the psalm as being about the original guy (David or whoever)
2. Read it as being about Jesus’ own experience
3. Read it as being about the church (incl. you) now. At this point try reading LORD as Lord Jesus. See how much of it you feel you can sensibly pray now that you belong to Christ and share his story.
I just tried this out on Psalm 9, it was pretty good.
Down side: three readings, it took me a whole 12 MINUTES!
Ideally there would be a fourth layer for many of the psalms, reading them as being about Israel.
But four readings takes longer. 🙂