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Meeting God in the Psalms

As we get back into the beauty of the Psalms this Summer, I wanted to give you my favorite resource for intentionally working your way through the rich meaning of these beloved songs. If you would like further explanation you can download the full article here. And if that just begins to whett your whistle, then you can purchase Dr. Longman's book here. AND... if you would like more than that, feel free to send me an email for additional resources:


The following is an adaptation from a longer article that originally appeared in Discipleship Journal in the 1997 May/June edition.

How to Read the Psalms

9 Principles to Enrich Your Understanding

by Tremper Longman III

Christians love to read the psalms and rightly so. But while Psalms may be the most popular book of the Bible, the psalms are often misunderstood and misinterpreted. Many of us choose a few favorites and ignore other psalms that strike us as bizarre or even cruel. Yet all the psalms were written for our benefit. To understand and appreciate the whole collection, we need solid principles of interpretation that will guide us to a proper reading and application of this riveting book.

There are nine principles that we should keep in mind as we read the psalms. Not only will they help us understand God's message in the psalms, but these principles will also allow us to see them in all their richness. As we meditate on the psalms we will think, feel, imagine, and choose in increasingly godly ways.

1: Read a psalm in its context.

2: Determine the genre of the psalm you are reading.

  • Hymns, laments, thanksgiving, remembrance, wisdom, kingship, confidence

3: Meditate on the parallelism of the psalm.

  • It is not A (the first line) equals B, but A, and what's more B.

4: Unpack the imagery of the psalm.

5: Read the psalm in light of the title.

  • Authorship, worship setting, musical terms, historical situation, etc. [DAVID’S PSALM]

6: Glean the theological teaching of the psalm.

  • What does it tell us about God?

7: Ask how the psalm anticipates Jesus Christ.

  • We can pray them as prayers to Jesus and prayers of Jesus. The whole Old Testament, the psalms included, anticipate Christ. Ask yourself how the psalm you are reading leads you to Christ. [JESUS’ PSALM]

8: Consider the psalm a mirror of your soul.

  • Let it reveal your own soul. [MY PSALM]

9: Let the psalm guide your life.

  • The psalms do more than teach us about God by stimulating our imagination. They do more than guide our emotional lives. They lead us to godly actions and attitudes. Preeminently, the psalms, as the hymnbook of ancient Israel, tell us how to worship. They encourage us to sing, praise, clap our hands, pray, fall on our knees. They invite us to an enthusiastic adoration of our God in good times and in difficult times.

These principles can help us as we seek to understand and apply the psalms to our lives. They are not a magical formula, however. We must approach the psalms with the understanding that we will meet our God there.


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