From “The Psalms as Scripture” in the introductory material about the Psalms in the ESV Study Bible:
“Their primary function has already been mentioned: the Psalter is the songbook of the people of God in their gathered worship. These songs cover a wide range of experiences and emotions, and give God’s people the words to express these emotions and to bring these experiences before God. At the same time, the psalms do not simply express emotions: when sung in faith, they actually shape the emotions of the godly. The emotions are therefore not a problem to be solved but are part of the raw material of now-fallen humanity that can be shaped to good and noble ends. The psalms, as songs, act deeply on the emotions, for the good of God’s people. It is not “natural” to trust God in hardship, and yet the Psalms provide a way of doing just that, and enable the singers to trust better as a result of singing them. A person staring at the night sky might not know quite what to do with the mixed fear and wonder he finds in himself, and singing Psalm 8 will enrich his ability to respond.”
The purpose of the psalms, then, is not just to express the way we already feel; it teaches our hearts how they ought to feel, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, shapes our hearts so they do feel as they ought to. This is the purpose behind all Christian worship, which we should keep in mind as we gather together from week to week. Are we purposefully shaping our people into the right kinds of worshipers, and are we ourselves being so shaped? We should have a deeper grasp of our sinfulness and God’s mercy after six months of corporate worship than we did before. We should be more quick to forgive, more patient in suffering, more grateful in abundance, more hopeful for the future in our every day lives as a result of steady participation in corporate worship. May it be so.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The Formative Role of the Psalms
Eric Smith has posted today a great quote from Jack Collins’ notes on the Psalms in the ESV Study Bible and his own contemplation. I agree heartily. We need these inspired songs and prayers to teach us to worship appropriately.