While most of our congregations are doing a sermon series on the book of 2 Peter at the moment, we at Church In the Bank are doing something different. Last Sunday and for the next two, we are looking at the book of Psalms. We’ve been thinking about: what the Psalms are, whom they are about and what they mean for us.
What have we seen so far? We’ve seen that for God’s Old Testament people, Israel, the Psalms were words and poems put to music. You can see at the beginning of lots of the Psalms that there’s a “superscription” that tells us who the Psalm is about and how it’s to be used. E.g. Psalm 42 is for the choir director, it’s a maskil (probably a certain kind of song), and it’s of the sons of Korah, who were a family of priests who served in the temple. So we can see that the psalms were songs – songs to be sung when Israel gathered together at the temple in Jerusalem. They were songs for Israel to encourage, teach and remind one another of God; songs that express all kinds of prayer to God and praise to him for who is he is and what he’s done.
But to focus our time of looking at the Psalms over these three weeks, we are concentrating on the fact that the Psalms are about honesty before God. They’re about being honest to God about all the circumstances of life; about all the thoughts and emotions that we go through. In the Psalms we see a picture of raw, even brutal honesty, as the writers reflect out loud on God and the circumstance of their lives.
John Calvin, the famous church reformer, called the Psalms “An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul”. Why? Because……
...there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.
In the Psalms every human emotion, every longing of the soul, is clearly and powerfully depicted.
Calvin is right isn’t he? Listen to sadness of Psalm 6:
I am weary from my groaning;
with my tears I dampen my pillow
and drench my bed every night.
My eyes are swollen from grief;
Or listen to the anger of Psalm 139:
Lord, don’t I hate those who hate You,
and detest those who rebel against You?
I hate them with extreme hatred;
I consider them my enemies.
Or listen to the joy of Psalm 92:
For You have made me rejoice, Lord,
by what You have done;
I will shout for joy
because of the works of Your hands.
Calvin is right isn’t he? The psalms really are an anatomy of all the parts of the soul. He goes on and says:
the Holy Spirit has here (in the Psalms) drawn to the life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated…
The Psalms are a picture of raw and brutal honesty before God; of being real and honest to God about all the joys and sorrows of life. The Psalms show us that joy and sadness, anger and longing are normal human experiences, and that God wants us to share those experiences with him – to be honest and open to him about our inner thoughts and emotions, like a father who wants to hear how his kid is going.
And that’s why Calvin concludes by saying:
In a word, whatever may serve to encourage us when we are about to pray to God, is taught us in this book.
The psalms, “An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul”, teach us to be honest to God – honest in sadness, honest in fear, honest in joy, honest in all of our thoughts and emotions. So let’s make use of them! Let’s read them and let them teach us how to pray honestly to God.