Posts in the category “Psalms.”

July, 2008

Theological Introduction to the Psalms

Posted Saturday, July 19, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
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McCann Jr., J. Clinton. A Theological Introduction to the Book of Psalms. Nashville: Abingdon, 1993.


This is an excellent introduction to the Psalms as a book for today. McCann wrote this book in order to “assist readers to hear the book of Psalms itself” (9). While mentioning critical views and questions about Psalms, he spends the majority of his time determining how the Psalms are relevant for us today.


The book is easy to read, which makes sense since it written by a professor with extensive pastoral experience. It is also fairly short, making it a relatively quick read (I actually read the entire book on a plane ride from Chicago to Seattle). The chapters are filled with illustrations and applications like a good sermon rather than an academic work. But this is no fluffy devotional work: McCann knows what he is talking about and presents solid insight into the Psalms. The intended audience seems to be a student, a pastor, or a lay person, although a scholar could derive much of value from this book as well. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the Psalms. Follow the link for a summary and critique of the book.

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August, 2008

Emotion in the Psalms

Posted Thursday, August 07, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
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The point of reading the Psalm is not to discover a new truth (such as the fact that God reigns over the whole world), although that is a process which can be done and which I do below. The point of reading the psalms is to read the psalms to express and to change one’s emotion. The Psalms help to us to truly understand our emotional situation. But the Psalms also help us to speak to ourselves emotionally and to challenge us to different emotions and different feelings. The Psalms help us to put into reality what was not present before. For example, the phrase “Yahweh is king” in the Psalms is not simply make a proposition about reality, it is to help the reader recognize that Yahweh truly is king in their life.1Some of the psalms (42-43, for example) advocate talking to yourself: reminding yourself of truth when the truth is not felt as true.


The psalms also helps us express our emotions to God when we are not sure they are appropriate. “On the other hand, Israel’s prayer is at the same time a guard and guarantee against an overpolite idolatry. Such an idolatry imagines that God is fragile, delicate, and easily offended. In much of fraudulent piety, God is too nice and so our prayers must be censored. The outcome of such deference, of course, is that there is never serious and effective address.”2 When we have strong feelings, we should talk to God about them. It is not as if we could hide them successfully anyway.


1. Walter Brueggemann, The Psalms & the Life of Faith, ed. Patrick D. Miller (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), 3-32.


2. Brueggemann, The Psalms & the Life of Faith, 58.





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The Importance of Psalm 1 and 2

Posted Sunday, August 10, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
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  1. Psalms are to be understood as Torah

Psalm 1 is a different type of psalm than what is usual in the rest of the book. It is often called a wisdom psalm, using similar terminology to wisdom literature. Its location as the first psalm is intentional: it instructs the reader how to read the Psalms. They are not just emotional rants from unbalanced people, but they are to be viewed as Torah, as the divine word from God. We are blessed if we follow the Psalms. We are happy and blessed not because we do not have problems, but because we have a solid foundation. Psalm 19 and 119 also reflect this emphasis.

  1. God Reigns!

The second psalm is also placed intentionally. It speaks of the reign of the Lord even in the face of many nations rising against him. One of the main themes of the Psalms is that God is sovereign. Even when the people rage against God, God is still God.


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Confession, Vengeance, and Provision in the Psalms

Posted Wednesday, August 13, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
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  1. Confession of sin

Another topic in many psalms is confession of sin (especially 51 and 32). While 51 is very individual, the last few verses of the chapter give it a communal aspect. The reference to the Holy Spirit in 51 is not to salvation, but to the calling to be king: David does not want to stop being king. Psalm 32 illustrates the importance of being forgiven rather than being perfect.

  1. Vengeance

A disturbing type of psalm for us today are the imprecatory psalms, the psalms in which the psalmist asks for destruction of enemies (137 and 109). These psalms are based on the Mosaic covenant, which promise destruction to those who oppose God’s people. However, some measure of use of these psalms today can be helpful in limited ways.

  1. Provision and presence

The psalmist trusts God for daily provision, which is the topic of Psalm 23. Green pastures is not a life of leisure, but the food necessary for life. God is also present in all places and all times.

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Psalms as a Book

Posted Wednesday, August 27, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
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  1. Reading the Psalms as a whole

While it does not appear that there was much consideration into how the psalms were organized into a book, one trend seems to be noticeable. The first book contains a large number of laments, while the last book, and especially the last five chapters is full of praise. The trend seems to be one from lament to praise, similar to the lament psalms themselves. The last psalm ends with a universal call to praise God: not just Israel, but all the world is to praise him.


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