What Are the Psalms Designed to Do?

I answer that question in a portion of my sermon last Sunday on Psalm 47 titled, “God Is King of All the Earth.”

Let me start by saying the psalms are not primarily meant to teach us theology. They do that, of course. The theology of the psalms is deep, it’s robust. Theology literally means “a word about God.” The psalms are dripping with words about God, and we certainly learn theology from the psalms—the whole Bible is theological. The picture you get of God in the psalms is full-orbed and multi-faceted. They give our finite brains explosive theological insight into an infinite God.

Nevertheless, the psalms are not a textbook. They’re a hymnbook. This is what Israel used when they gathered to worship and sing to God. So, the theology in psalms is theology with a purpose. It’s not academic or ivory tower theology solely for purposes of debate. The psalms are designed, primarily, to give shape to the corporate worship and spiritual story of Israel. In other words, the Israelites knew that the psalms weren’t meant purely to be studied, but to be sung. They weren’t meant merely for reading, but for spiritual formation. The psalms gave Israel an experiential dimension to their theology to keep them from cold-hearted intellectualism.

And for us today, the book of Psalms serves the same purpose. Israel’s history is our history. In the psalms, we see their story intersect with our stories. Think about how often a particular psalm has resonated with you–perhaps more than Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy–and for good reason. Therefore, if the theology in the psalms does not make you want to sing, then you severely misunderstand them. In fact, I would argue that if the psalms never make us want to sing, our hearts might be a bit out of tune.

Listen to the whole message.

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