What happens to the Gospel when idolatry themes are not grasped? “God loves you” typically becomes a tool to meet a need for self-esteem in people who feel like failures.
Scripture: Psalm 48.9-10
We have thought on your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple. As your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with righteousness.
Reflection: The Problem with the Psalms
The Park Forum
As a general rule the psalms take more time to access than other sections of scripture, like the pastoral epistles. Take the excerpt above as an example. Each sentence holds a sermon’s worth of theology.
The psalmist opens by saying, “We have thought on your steadfast love.” When was the last time we thought on God’s unrelenting love in community? Or when have we confessed our sins to one another and celebrated God’s grace together—so that in the revelation of our brokenness and God’s faithfulness we discover a vivid and glorious image of God’s love?
It is rare in modern Christianity to hear the psalms used in corporate prayer, worship, or teaching. This could be due in part to modern individualism’s befuddlement with public lament, corporate rejoicing, and communal singing. It may also be due to changes in the written word, as C. Richard Wells and Ray Van Neste explore in their book Forgotten Songs: Reclaiming The Psalms for Christian Worship:
There are special reasons for neglect of the psalms… The language of poetry doesn’t easily connect in a sound-byte culture. The psalms call for time, not tweets—time to read, ponder, pray, digest. It’s easy to be too busy for the psalms.
Perhaps the real reason doesn’t have as much to do with fads in technology as it does with the reality of sin in our hearts. The primary reason the psalms have fallen out of preaching, prayer, and singing, Wells and Van Neste conclude, is that, “We are fascinated with ourselves; the psalms are fascinated with God.”
The answer to this problem isn’t self-loathing—which is another form of self-obsession—but to use the psalms as a guidebook for our prayers, songs, and understanding of God. When we think on God’s steadfast love together we rediscover our lives in light of the glorious grace of our Savior.
Prayer: The Request for Presence
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name. —Psalm 86.11
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.