(this transcript has been lightly edited for readability)
Every year, with these Gospel: One Chapter at a Time Bible studies, we look at one portion of the Word of God, and we spend an entire year of study in that one portion. This year, we’re going to spend our time in the Psalms—one of the largest and most significant portions of the Word of God.
We want to begin with some introductions to the Psalms so you can wrap your brain around, “What is this portion of God’s Word about?”
The first thing I want to say is the Psalms provide for us the Bible’s hymnbook. I don’t know if you’ve thought about this or not, but God designed and created human beings to sing—we’re singing people. We sing when we’re happy; we sing when we’re sad; we sing when we’re celebrating; we sing political songs; we sing at birthdays; we sing at funerals; we sing at holidays. Old people sing; young people sing.
And so, it makes sense that God would dedicate a portion of his Word to singing, to songs. We’re told in the Scripture to sing unto the Lord, and there’s a way in which the songs you sing always reveal the content of your heart, always reveal what’s important to you, what you think about life. So in the Psalms, God not only teaches us to sing, but he teaches us how to sing and actually gives us songs to sing.
I think the greatest example of the Psalms as a hymnbook is found in Psalms 120 through 134—they’re the Songs of Ascent. These were songs that were written to be sung as the children of Israel walked up the hill to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. The Sons of Korah, who were sort of the Old Testament worship leaders, would lead them in these songs.
An example is Psalm 122; let me read this:
1 I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
2 Our feet have been standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem!
3 Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together,
4 to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
(Psalms 122:1-4, ESV)
I love this Psalm. You can feel the excitement that people have as they’re walking up to worship, and they’re singing of their joy to be invited to the temple. I like what it says in verse two: “Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!” It’s like, “I can’t believe that I have been invited into the presence of God.” Psalm 122 is a Psalm of joy as people are singing their way into the presence of God.
There are other Songs of Ascent that are cries for help, because people are in distress and as they’re walking to worship, they’re thinking about the presence of God, and they’re thinking about the power of God, and they’re thinking about God being their helper.
I love the Psalms. I love the songs of the Psalms. I love the fact that God has invited us to sing to him and he’s told us how to sing and he’s given content to sing. You and I would do well to pay attention to the songs of the Psalms. In fact, we would do well to sing the Psalms.
The song of Psalm 122 ends this way:
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
7 Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
8 For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.
Psalm 122 invites us to sing prayers to the Lord, prayers that he would make us secure and give us peace. I just want to say to you: sing the Psalms!
Questions for Personal Reflection or Group Discussion
1. What is one of your favorite Psalms, and why? What are the truths embedded in this favorite Psalm of yours, and how have they meant so much to you during a particular season of life?
2. If you were to write a few stanzas of a song that defined your life today, what would the lyrics be? They don’t have to rhyme, and they don’t need to be put to music, but take some time to think about what your “song” would reveal about your heart and what is most important to you.
Conversation Prompts to Use with Children
For Younger Children: Do you like to sing? How does singing make you feel? Did you know God created singing? Did you know that God loves to hear you sing? What songs can we sing today about God?
For Older Children: What is one of your favorite songs that you have been listening to recently? Let’s take some time to review the lyrics of that song. What are the values this song is promoting? What “truths” is this song encouraging you to follow?
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