By Lisa Harp Hinds
Do you enjoy reading the book of Psalms but wonder how it applies to your life? Does it continue to have significance?
There are three main theological themes in the Psalms which make them significant for Christians today. These are: salvation, faith, and wisdom. Even as new covenant believers, we can use the themes in this Old Testament book to teach us how to live and lead for Christ. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
SALVATION IN THE MESSIANIC PSALMS
Themes of salvation run throughout the messianic Psalms. In Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey, authors Arnold and Beyer state these Psalms reveal various characteristics of Christ as Messiah 1. For instance, “… the Messiah, the anointed one, would one day restore Israel and establish everlasting salvation.” Psalm 2:7b conveys the image of the king as the messiah, “He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’” The New Testament writers cite this Scripture to show that Jesus is God’s Son, the Messiah (309). Others like this are found in chapters 16, 22, 45, and 110. The messianic Psalms point to the salvation of the coming Christ, and through meditating on these scriptures, we understand that, even in Old Testament times, Jesus was destined to be our Messiah.
FAITH IN THE LAMENT PSALMS
One characteristic of the lament psalms is the writer’s trust in God’s salvation. That “somehow God will bring him through his trials” (Arnold and Beyer 311). David writes in Psalm 3:3, “But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.” After crying out to God about the number of his enemies, David remembers in verse 8 that the Lord is his salvation. In Psalm 4:8, David claims God as his salvation from evil, saying, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” David also cries out to the Lord in times of trouble. He ends Psalm 142 knowing that the Lord will save, or “deal bountifully with,” him. The lament Psalms direct Christians to the fact that God can save those who follow and trust in Him.
In addition to salvation, these laments exemplify a faith in God which we can apply to our own lives. Trials and tribulations continue to exist today. In whatever form they pertain to us, the lament Psalms give us excellent examples to follow, prayers to pray, and hymns to sing. I especially love singing songs that are passages from the Psalms put to music. I have also discovered that singing them helps me to memorize them.
Another theme that the Psalms depict is the theme of wisdom. These give us “general observations about life” (Arnold and Beyer 308). Several may be classified as wisdom psalms, including chapters 1, 36, 49, 73, 101, 119, and 139. The psalmists describe the way life should be, and presents one or more aspects of our relationship with God (308). Psalm 1 contrasts the behavior of the righteous and the wicked by pointing out that the righteous “does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night” (vv. 1-2). These wisdom Psalms teach us what kind of relationship we should have with God, and that by giving proper respect and authority to the Lord, we gain wisdom.
This is one area that I feel the need to constantly work on in my own life. I have grown up in a time and culture where informality is not only common but championed. Everybody is on the same level no matter position or age. The young are given a pass if they disrespect the old. Yet, I feel that we have lost something in being so informal. God is so much more awesome and holy and powerful than I currently comprehend. We should strive to grow in our knowledge of our Father, learning to respect Him as a child of God should.
PSALMS: INSIGHT FOR EVERYDAY CHRISTIAN LEADERS
Salvation, faith, and wisdom are three major themes found in the Psalms. These themes continue to teach us how to live our lives and influence others for Christ. They show us the importance of giving the proper respect to God, of believing in God’s power and salvation, and how to walk daily with our Lord. The message of the Psalms remains constant and useful for us today.
So, enjoy reading the Psalms! Memorize them! Put them into your hearts to teach you about the salvation offered to you. Let them show you how to pray. Let them teach you how to grow in faith and wisdom. Sing them out loud! Use them as a tool in leading others to encounter Jesus. Join me in applying the book of Psalms in our lives today.