By Jamin Roller
The book of Psalms is a collection of psalms (hymns, songs, or prayers). The Psalter (another name for the book of Psalms) is one large book made up of five smaller books. In total, it consists of 150 psalms composed by individuals or groups from the time of Moses (fifteenth century BC) to a time following the exile (sixth century BC or later). These different psalms were collected, curated, and arranged by editors after the Babylonian exile. The editors divided these psalms into five books, or subdivisions, to tell a cohesive story that reflects the history of Israel.
The personal nature of the psalms in Book I demonstrates that all those who place their hope and trust in the Lord, aligning their lives with His kingdom, can rest in His deliverance.
“Could you tell me what you love about each other?”
That is the question I typically ask when meeting with an engaged couple. They have asked me to officiate their wedding and I ask if we could get together a few times so I can get to know them. We sit down together in my office, and early in the conversation I want to hear each of them tell me what they love about the other person. Almost always, they look at each other, smile like engaged couples do, and the girl volunteers the guy to go first.
As each of them name their list of things they love, there are two things present. First, they share what they believe to be true about the other person. It would be strange if they said something that was not true. “I love her brown hair” if her hair is actually red it would make things awkward. It’s important that what they say is true.
However, it’s not just truth that is present, but truth spoken with affection and adoration. As they talk, the signs of love are visible on their face and audible in their words. It would be strange if they named what is true about the other person, but did so with no emotion or affection. It’s important that they say what is true in a way that reveals their affectionate response to those truths.
The Psalms model that kind of speech about God. It puts poetic words to profound truths about God and pairs those words with the corresponding response. Often in the Psalms, we see that as a pairing of doctrine and delight.
Consider this in the passages we just read, where each psalmist names several truths about God:
The Lord knows the way of the righteous (Psalm 1:6). Salvation belongs to Him (Psalm 3:8). He makes known the path of life (Psalm 16:11).
Surrounding these are hopeful, affectionate statements of delight in God because of these truths. The psalmists delight in the law of the Lord, rejoice in serving Him, and bless Him for His counsel (Psalm 1:2, 2:11, 16:7). In Psalm 16, David writes that “my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices” (Psalm 16:9).
The beauty of the psalms is not simply that it models this kind of speech about God, but it invites us to make these words our words. For centuries the people of God have made these poems, prayers, and songs our own and have been taught by them to speak what is true about God and respond to those truths with delight and affection.
As we begin this study in the Psalms, consider going back through the psalms we read this week. Pause every time each psalmist rejoices, hopes, or delights in God, and make that response your own.