At this week’s FEB Central Regional Conference, Mike Bullmore gave an exposition of the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119. His teaching did what all good teaching should do: move me to look closer at the Bible. The result was four questions to help get more out of Bible reading. Reading the Bible is not only one of the most important things a Christian can do to grow, it’s also for many one of the most difficult things to do. Psalm 119 provides some help.
Psalms is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament book. Obviously, it has much to offer. Have you ever thought about how it’s put together? With 150 psalms, you could be forgiven for not being aware of the structure of the book. Have you ever noticed, for example, that the Book of Psalms is actually made up of five books (Psalms 1-41; 42-72; 73-89; 90-106; 107-150) that most scholars believe are related to the five book of Moses? So just as we have five books of Moses to read, we have five books of Psalms to pray and sing. This is minor, though. Missing the forest for the trees in the Psalms is far more problematic in other ways because it teaches some crucial lessons about how to approach life and what to expect from it.
Many people love to read the psalms. They say that the psalms are their favourite part of the Bible. I couldn’t relate. I was someone who avoided the psalms. I couldn’t figure out what to do with them. They don’t contain great stories like the narrative parts of the Bible. They don’t contain many commands, principles or warnings like Paul’s letters, for example. And there’s lots of repetition and emotion that feels like it gets in the way while you’re reading. Because of that, I was intrigued when I first read an old Christianity Today article entitled, “How I Learned to Stop Hating and Start Loving the Psalms.” It got me started on that journey but it would take several more books to actually get me there. Now I can say that I love the psalms. Let me share three things that helped me along the way.