I began teaching a class covering some of the Psalms last Friday. I sense that the men are a little apprehensive, which means one of my goals is to raise their appreciation and understanding of biblical poetry which comprises the bible’s hymnal.
When Martin Luther began teaching at Wittenberg University as a freshly minted professor, he started with the Psalms in August 1513 and finished in 1515. His view of the psalms echoed that of the early church fathers, “It might be called a little bible. Everyone, whatever his situation may be, finds in the psalms words that fit his situation and apply to his case put in a way that seems only for him.”
When Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples, they sang psalms 113-114 before the meal and 115-118 after eating. Mark tells us, “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mt of Olives.” (The Greek word for hymn is “umnos.”) Soon Judas and his agents showed up and arrested Jesus. We know that ended on the cross from which Jesus called out in the words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” That afternoon darkness ended with Jesus voicing Psalm 31:5, “Into your hand I commit my spirit.” But as anyone around the cross who was well versed in the Psalms knew, that verse ends with a note of gospel, “You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful Lord.” Jesus was not giving up his life to no good end. God would be faithful and rescue him from death and in doing so would also redeem our life and death with new life.