Who Do You Find in the Psalms?

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I have been teaching the psalms over the last two months with our 20s & 30s class. After the first three weeks I noticed something that had never occurred to me before. It hit me that a lot of the ways people approach the psalms have a lot to do with finding ourselves in the text. We have psalms for all seasons: lament when times are tough and praise psalms for when times are good. Walter Brueggemann took this approach in his books The Message of the Psalms & The Spirituality of the Psalms when he divided the psalms into three categories: Psalms of Orientation (all is well), Disorientation (things are tough) and Psalms of New Orientation (things were tough but now things are back right again). He noticed that the psalms seemed to go through these moves pretty regularly. I have to say that I love that way of dividing the psalms. I am not being critical of it and I think it is a good tool for studying the psalms. The weakness of this approach is that it has us trying to find ourselves in the psalms again. That isn’t a hugely bad thing. I think God wants us to find ourselves in the text, relate to it, let it speak to us, etc.

However, there is more to find in the psalms than ourselves. If we go there and just find ourselves and nothing more than we are to be pitied because we have no hope. Our hope comes from the Lord. He is who we find in the psalms over and above ourselves. The psalmist is not looking to find himself in these psalms. In all types of psalms the psalmists are looking for God. They already know where they are and if things are good or bad. If the psalms are only a mirror of our own condition with no offer of hope or change to be brought about from God on high then we are in trouble! In any and all circumstances of life, God is to be sought out, either to cry out for help or to praise with music and song. So I have adjusted my approach to not try to solely find myself in the psalms (while that can be helpful) but to first and foremost find God there and let Him work on me.

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