Welcome to Psalms
Our daily reading plan now takes us into the book of Psalms. Psalms is not as much a book as it is a collection. It collects 150 shorter pieces we call, naturally enough, psalms. These psalms are a unique song/poem/prayer/lesson hybrids. They are arranged as musical compositions complete with instructions about tune and mood and purpose.
But they also use techniques of Hebrew poetry like repetition and they express emotion. They often address God directly, petitioning Him for blessing and praising Him for His goodness. And they are also clearly trying to teach us something. When you consider all those qualities of these psalms, you will realize that there is nothing exactly like them anywhere but this book of the Bible.
The Familiar Lines In Psalms
Not only so, but as you read them you will discover lines you know. You may not know those lines originally came from Psalms. You may not even know you know them. But you do know them, and you will find them as you read. This is because Psalms is what we can call “an oft-quoted” book. It is often quoted in the New Testament. The New Testament authors quoted the Old Testament books in their writings, and they quoted Psalms more than any other. By my count, Psalms is quoted 56 times in more than 56 passages in the New Testament (some passages in the New Testament quote the same Psalms verses, giving us more than 56).
Psalms is also often quoted in modern songs. As we said, the psalms were songs in their own right and were often sung in the past exactly as they are, but in our time hymnists and songwriters have taken lines from the psalms and turned them into completely new songs. Beyond all that, Psalms is often quoted in the life of Jesus. The psalms predict several facts about Jesus, including facts about His passion, and those facts are quoted in the Gospels.
I wanted to share with you a few of the lines from each of these categories which I recognized during this reading Psalms.
Quoted in the New Testament:
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm 19:4, quoted in Romans 10:18)
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it… (Psalm 24:1, quoted in 1 Corinthians 10:26)
Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth. (Psalm 34:12-16, quoted in 1 Peter 3:10-12)
Quoted in Songs:
Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. (Psalm 36:5-6, quoted in “Your Love, O Lord” by Third Day)
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1, quoted in “How Majestic Is Your Name” by Michael W. Smith)
There’s a table that you’ve prepared for me in the presence of my enemies. (Psalm 23:5, quoted in “Surrounded” by Upper Room)
Quoted in the Life of Jesus:
He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. (Psalm 2:7, quoted in Acts 13:33 and Hebrews 1:5 & 5:5)
…what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet. (Psalm 8:4-6, quoted in Hebrews 2:6-8)
…for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me. (Psalm 69:9, quoted in John 2:17 and Romans 15:3)
Just a Sample
Now this is just a sampling of the lines I ran across and recognized in my reading so far. There are many more I recognized and probably will be many more I will recognize as we continue. Documenting them all isn’t what is important here. What is important is what the “oft-quotedness” of these lines is saying.
It is saying two things. The first is that there are certain truths that are foundational to our reality: truths about God, truths about Jesus, truths about how to live life with God and Jesus. The second is that these truths have become part of the fabric of our thinking and need to become even more a part of the fabric of our thinking. And by putting these truths into these quotable and memorable song/poem/prayer/lesson hybrids, God simultaneously put them into our hearts without our even knowing and invites us to put them more into our hearts with our full cooperation.
That is the invitation I sense as I keep finding these familiar lines. It is the invitation I hope to answer as I continue reading Psalms. And it is the invitation I hope you sense and will answer, too.