Our daily reading plan takes us to the end of Kings this week and into Psalms. We have been in Kings and its prequels Judges and Samuel since mid-March. This means we’ve spent three months, that is, a quarter of a year, with the great Covenant King narrative that runs through these books.
But these books and that narrative is not all we’ve been reading during this time. We’ve also been stepping into two other books: Psalms and Proverbs. While most Bible reading plans take us through these books independently, our Scripture Storyline plan has us reading psalms and proverbs that correspond with the historical passages.
This has two side-effects. The first is that we do not go through Psalms and Proverbs from start to finish as we do with most other reading plans. Instead, we bounce around from section to section. The second is that Psalms and Proverbs are largely ignored by our blog. We (or I, to be more accurate) have been so taken up with our discussion of the historical books and their Covenant King narrative that we haven’t mentioned these books of poetry at all.
I thought I ought to rectify that before we move into Mark next week, so let me do that now with a quick word about both books.
The Treasury of David in Psalms
We’ll start with Psalms. Of the five books of poetry (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon), Psalms is undeniably the best-known and best-regarded. Most people just seem to like Psalms. In fact, it is not uncommon to find copies of the New Testament which include Psalms. It seems that there is a desire to hold on to Psalms even when we are letting go of the rest of the Old Testament.
And there are two words that are commonly associated with Psalms. The first is David. We typically imagine David to be the author of Psalms. This is only partially true, of course; we know some of the 150 psalms were written by Asaph or the sons of Korah, and a few were written by Solomon and Moses, and still others were written anonymously. Yet David did write a lot of them (some say 73, others 85). For that reason, we typically think of it as his book.
The other word is worship. We see the psalms in Psalms as worship songs. In fact, some have referred to it as the “hymnal” of the Old Testament church. I don’t know if this is “only partially true” or not. I do know not all of the psalms are praises. Some are laments and complaints. But I don’t know if that disqualifies them from being worship. It is quite likely it does not; it is quite likely those psalms simply represent a type of worship we aren’t familiar with.
In any case, David and worship are good ways to understand Psalms. In fact, I like to think about Psalms in the way C. H. Spurgeon described, as “The Treasury of David”, the glorious vault of David’s worship songs.
The Compendium of Solomon
Proverbs is similar to Psalms in some ways but different than others. Like Psalms, it is a well-known and -regarded book of poetry. In fact, some of those New Testaments I talked about earlier will include Proverbs along with Psalms.
There are also two words that are commonly associated with Proverbs. The first of those is Solomon, David’s son. Solomon is undeniably the author of at least most of Proverbs, and certainly the collector of anything in it he did not author. The book does tell us that “the men of Hezekiah” “compiled” some of Solomon’s proverbs (25:1), so there must have been some editing done after his death, but that would simply be a matter of arranging and preserving. The authorship is Solomon’s.
The other word is wisdom. The intent of Proverbs is to catalog and communicate “practical knowledge”, that is, knowledge about how to live. The opening of the book says it is for “gaining wisdom” (1:2). The proverbs themselves are simple statements of wisdom. By my count, the word wisdom is used some 50+ times. So wisdom is definitely both the theme and the content of the book.
That being the case, I like to call Proverbs a “compendium”. It is an informational, technical, serious compilation of the best and most important knowledge on the planet.
The Covenant King Truth in Psalms and Proverbs
Beyond the two words that characterize these books, though, there is another phrase that ought to be associated with them. That phrase is Covenant King. Though we might not notice it at first, what we really have in Psalms and Proverbs is the Covenant King truth communicated in another way. While Judges, Samuel, and Kings communicated this truth with narrative (that is, a series of historical events), Psalms and Proverbs communicate this truth with idea or image.
The idea/image of the Covenant King can’t help but be in these books, in fact. This is because the authors of these books were covenant kings themselves, prototypes of the great Covenant King to come from their lineage and take their throne forever. It’s hardwired in these books’ writers.
But the idea comes up in other ways in the books, too. Psalms predict the Covenant King in places like Psalm 2 and Psalm 22. Various aspects of the life and death and resurrection of the Covenant King are found here. Proverbs, though presenting itself as encouragement of wisdom, is actually encouraging the life of the Covenant King. After all, there is no wiser way of life than life with the Covenant King, and I personally can’t find myself living the life Proverbs encourages without the help of the Covenant King.
So these books, like the books we’ve been reading alongside them, are Covenant King books. The truth of the single great narrative of the Old Testament history books appears in these poetry books as well.
Two Similar Yet Different and Clearly Great Books
So we have two books that are very much alike: both are poetry, both are collections, both are written by kings of Israel and lovers of God, both are beloved. And we also have books that are very different: one is worship while the other is wisdom, one dance in the sunlight while the other instructs by candlelight, one invites us to sing with it while another encourages us to listen to it.
But on top of all that, we have books bringing us to the same truth the history books brought us to (and, spoiler alert, the same truth the prophetic books will bring us to). We have books bringing us through David and Solomon/treasury and compendium/worship and wisdom to the Covenant King.