Spiritual Listening: Meditating on and Teaching the Psalms

Augustine is quoted as saying about the book of Psalms "what is there that may not be learned in the Psalms?".  Martin Luther said of this precious book "the Psalter is a little Bible, and the summary of the Old Testament.  One verse of the Psalms is sufficient for the meditation of a day; and he who at the end of the day finds himself fully possessed of its sense and spirit, may consider his time well spent". (Plumer, p.7)  It is a cherished book that provides us glimpses of praise, hope, grief, abandonment, love, and wonder in the lives of it's authors and in the history of Israel.  It's an ancient hymn book that still has meaning and application for us today.  It provides us a full theology of God and prophecies of His coming Messiah.

As rich as they are, they can be a challenge to study and teach.  Pastor Dr. Mike Miller of  FBC Dickson, in his study A Heart for God's Word: Walking Slowly Through  Psalms,  says it is important to read and study the book of Psalms with 4 purposes in mind. I believe that if you study with these purposes in mind it will help you better prepare to teach the wonderful words of this book, as many of you who use Explore the Bible will be doing over the next 12-13 weeks.

1. Listen

Dr. Miller says the first step in studying a Psalm is to "listen with your eyes, clearly hearing His message and truth".  He calls this purpose "spiritual listening".  As you read a Psalm, what is God saying?  What are you hearing? Is there a main theme, truth, or message that is being communicated.  The first step to understanding a psalm, or any passage for that matter, is to listen to the instruction of God's Spirit as He teaches you.  So slowly read the psalm and listen

2. Observe

The second purpose, according to Dr. Miller, is to "observe how words connect through repetition, example, or explanation".  Since Psalms is poetry, it is important to observe the patterns and repetitions.  For example, in Psalm 56 the phrase "in God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" appears twice.  First it is in verse 4 and it is repeated again in verse 9.  The theme of this psalm is a call to God for protection.  The repetition teaches us where protection really lies.

3. Obey

Dr. Miller says the third purpose is to "obey what it teaches, instructs, and commands".  This is true of any passage.  The purpose of God's word is ultimately for us to obey it.  So as you study, listen, and observe it is important to take note of this question:  What is God asking me to do?  Determine this application and teach that to your class.

4. Pray

"Pray its truths, promises, and heart-felt pleas".  Psalms is largely a book of prayers and pleas to God.  They offer for us a great model for prayer.  Pray the psalm to God as you study it.  Pray it out loud to your class as you teach them from it.  Part of teaching a psalm is helping your people experience it.  Praying the Psalms is a wonderful way to do this.

So listen, observe, obey, and pray.  I challenge you to take these steps as you teach the book of Psalms, and you should challenge your people to do this as well.  By your class observing these 4 steps during the week, it would add much more discussion and enthusiasm to the class on Sundays.  God's word is active and alive, and faithfully teaching the Psalms to your people will help them experience this reality in their lives.

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Sources:

Miller, Mike.  (2016).  A Heart for God's Word: Walking Slowly Through Psalms. Dickson, TN: First Baptist Dickson

Plumer, W.S.  (2016 ed.).  Psalms: A Geneva Series of Commentaries.  Chelsea, MI: Sheridan Books.  The Banner of Truth Trust. p.7

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