Psalms

What Is the Book of Psalms About?

Time: 7 Minutes

Hey Friend!

Our editorial team wrote this book introduction for you. We hope it helps you find your bearings in the Bible story, and inspires you to open this book of the Bible!

Have you ever been at a loss for words?

It happens to all of us. Maybe you’re in a conversation and someone says something that you don’t know how to respond to. Or you see something like the Grand Canyon and it leaves you speechless. Maybe someone showed you such kindness that you said something like, “I don’t know what to say.” Maybe you’ve had had experiences so tragic that all words seem too shallow and hollow to capture your feelings.

In God’s kindness, the Bible has a book that helps us communicate our emotions to God. In other words, this book gives us words to express our experiences of joy, grief, anxiety, fear, gratitude, or anticipation. It’s called the book of Psalms.

This book is a compiled list of 150 songs written by Israelites like King David, Moses, Solomon, or Asaph (1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:17; 16:5; 2 Chronicles 5:12). These songs give voice to the deepest human emotions and experience. But unlike a cry in the dark, scream therapy, or an artful expression the Psalms lead us to a person. They implicitly train us to approach God in any state we find ourselves in, and to process the workings of our soul with him in a way that honors him. For, not all self-expression is honoring to the Lord. He welcomes us to “vent” to him, but also gives us a sort of “breathing lesson” through the Psalms so that we don’t just blow sinful steam, but grow in a righteous and loving relationship with him in heartfelt prayer.

John Calvin refers to this book as an “Anatomy of All Parts of the Soul.” In the same way that the cardiologists study ventricles, atriums, or the aorta, Christians study the soul—the most essential part of life that we cannot see. And the Psalms are a window God has given to us through which can see our own souls, but they are also like a counselor who helps us express our hearts to God.

Have you ever felt envious towards others? Asaph has. He writes, “God is indeed good to Israel, to the pure in heart. But as for me, my feet almost slipped . . . For I envied the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:1-3 CSB).

Have you ever been afraid? “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4 CSB).

Have you ever felt so burdened by your sin that you felt even God couldn’t redeem you? “He forgives all your iniquity; he heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the Pit; he crowns you with faithful love and compassion. He satisfies you with good things; your youth is renewed like the eagle” (Psalm 103:3-5 CSB).

More than simply teaching us how to express our feelings towards God, the Psalms also teach us what healthy emotions towards God look like. When we come to the Psalms we should be encouraged to reflect on our own feelings and challenged to bring our own hearts and minds in line with the that of the Psalmist. This book is a wonderful reminder that God cares about our emotions because he cares about us (1 Peter 5:7).

However, the book of Psalms is not only about our emotional life. Most importantly, the Psalms reveal God’s character to us and train us to praise him.

Psalms welcomes us to sing, to cry, to pray to the God of Israel, our God, the God, whether in pain or times of prosperity.

This book celebrates God’s past faithfulness (Psalm 78). It warms our hearts to God’s compassion as we hear the songs of lament spoken out of great darkness (Psalm 13). It welcomes us to join in shouts of praise as it sings about the unchanging character of God (Psalm 92). This book invites the readers into the story of Scripture—his past faithfulness, his present help, and future promises—not as a passive onlooker, but as a participant. Psalms welcomes us to sing, to cry, to pray to the God of Israel, our God, the God, whether in pain or times of prosperity.

We know looking back that the deliverance, steadfast love, and triumph that the psalmists put their hope in came to us fully in Jesus Christ. He is the promised one who would rescue Israel from sin and death and open the way for us to love and worship God as his people, no matter what nation we come from (John 14:6). The Psalms speak prophetically about Jesus’ coming and his triumph on behalf of God’s people all throughout.

Open the book of Psalms. It won’t just give you something to say, when you’re at a loss for how to speak to God. It will fill your soul with praise, and train you to cry out to the King of kings and loving Lord in every situation. And it will clarify your vision of God as you discover what the God of Israel is really like.

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