When I study the Bible I read it cover to cover, starting in Genesis 1 and end in Revelation 22:21. The Bible is a Story, and there are many stories within the Story that compile the larger message(s) on trying to learn and understand what it means to live a life loving Christ—more to come on this later on a post I will do about Scot McKnight’s book, The Blue Parakeet, which has been extremely influential to me.
Anyway, I hit the Book of Psalms. I love biblical historical context. I love reading historical commentaries and books that help me read the Bible so I can better understand the culture it was not only written in, but also the audience in that culture that it was meant to communicate through. All of this to say that whenever I arrive at a new book in the Bible I take out all of my other commentary books and read all of their introductions to the corresponding book in the Bible I’m at, so I’ll be in the right mind frame to read that particular book.
One of my favorite commentary books is the New Bible Dictionary (Third Edition) by InterVarsity Press. Here is part of what it said about Psalms. I hope this blesses you as much as it blessed me—a not so subtle reminder of who God is and why we work so diligently for His Kingdom:
“The marrow of the religious life of the psalmists was undoubtedly their knowledge of God. They never tire of singing his majesty in creation. In all his works in the heavens, the earth and the sea he has made himself known as the all-powerful, the all-knowing, the everywhere-present God. He is also the God of all history who guides everything towards the final goal which he has purposed to fulfill. But this Ruler of the world, this King of kings, is also Lawgiver and Judge, the Vindicator of all who are oppressed and their Savior. He is therefore merciful and faithful, just and righteous, the Holy One whom men and angels adore. But the God of the psalmists is also, and uniquely, the God of Israel. The God who revealed himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who through Moses delivered Israel from Egypt, entered into covenant with them and gave them the promised land, is the God of Israel still, the Lord and Defender of the chosen people.
With such a high conception of God it is not surprising that the psalmists found their chief delight and privilege in prayer to God. There is a directness, a spontaneity and an immediacy in the prayers of the psalmists that convince us of the reality of prayer for them. The believe in his providence, trust in his presence, rejoice in his righteousness, rest in his faithfulness, confide in this nearness. In their prayers they praise, petition and commune with their God, and find refuge from sickness, want, pestilence and slander, and humble themselves under his might hand. In the progressive life of the community their behavior is marked by fidelity to God, reverent obedience to the law, kindness to the oppressed and joy in the worship of God’s people (pp. 983-984).”