I almost didn’t write this blog for one reason… It’s different.
It’s different than what I normally write. It’s different in style, different in content. And when I write different, I find that people tend to like it less, which means they share it less, which means the blog reaches less, and (honest moment of self-reflection and inevitable depravity) deep down inside I want people to read what I write.
Even though I shouldn’t desire it as much as I do, I subconsciously slip into the trap of measuring success the way the world does – Numbers! Hits! Clicks! Mentions! Likes! Followers! Viral!
In the past, I’ve actually trashed topics I’ve sensed God wanted me to write because I knew they were just different enough not to take off. And that’s wrong. So I just decided this time that can’t be the case. I decided to blog this anyways, despite how I predict people will respond (or how people won’t respond), because I believe God has really been speaking to me.
Seriously… over the past few months, God has been speaking to me.
Quick point of clarification: when I say God has been speaking to me, I don’t literally mean he spoke. That would probably be scary. Like, really scary. Like, “bring-back-the-plastic-sheets-mommy” and “don’t-melt-my-face-God” kind of scary. So no, he didn’t show up in a burning sedan and say, “TYLER! Do not be afraid! Take off your shoes, this ground is holy…” And thank God for that. Actually, never before has God audibly spoke to me. Maybe he has to you, but not me.
When I say God spoke to me, I mean he convicted me.
In my attempts to be aware of him throughout the day (in what I read, think, sense, and who I encounter and trust), God revealed to me truth. And as a follower of Jesus, when I discover truth, I respond. That’s just what we do. We discover and respond. Then we discover more, and respond. And then we discover more about our discovery, and we respond to that too. And over the past few months, God has just made something abundantly clear to me – I don’t know the Psalms, and that needs to change.
Yea, yea. Psalm 23. “The Lord is my Shepherd…” “I lift my eyes to the hills…” “Be still and know…” “How lovely is your dwelling place…” I get it. I know sound bites, just like you (thanks mostly to Christian worship tunes, not personal study). But in terms of really knowing the psalms – how to read them, what they’re trying to say, what I should do with them, what my church should do with them – I just didn’t have much of a clue. And neither do many others in Christian leadership.
(IF YOU’RE A CHRISIAN ARTIST, SONG WRITER, WORSHIP MINISTER, OR SOME SIMILAR STRANGE BREED, KEEP READING.)
And, as I’ve come to find out, that’s a shame. That’s a shame because the Psalms, though among the oldest poetry known to man, rank among the best poetry known to man.
It’s a shame because the psalms have transcended language and culture to shake souls across time.
It’s a shame because the Psalms have long been the inspired hymn book of the people of God.
It’s a shame because the Psalms are some of the most human words in all of scripture. They’re outlets for all the emotional highs and lows of life. They present faithful people venting real feelings of frustration, despair, guilt, pain, joy, victory, righteous indignation, and hope with God. Go to the psalms if you need an honest moment with God.
Perhaps the most accomplished Bible scholar of our generation, N.T. Wright, wrote this:
“[The Psalms] express all the emotions we are ever likely to feel, lay them raw and open to God, like a gold retriever bringing to its master’s feet every strange object it finds in the field. ‘Look!’ says the Psalmist, ‘This is what I’ve found today. Isn’t it extraordinary? What are you going to do with it?'” #NailedIt #BlogHashtags #DontHateMe #ContinuingOn
It’s a shame because Jesus himself knew the Psalms. Paul prayed and sung the Psalms. Really, any good Jew of Jesus’ day would’ve had them etched into their hearts. Jesus, Paul, and other early Christian leaders prove their familiarity every time they open their mouths. The verbiage and theology of the psalms just pour out of them subconsciously in the New Testament like the stories, songs, and ditties we learned as kids in Sunday School pour out of us.
(“Father Abraham. Had many sons. Had many sons had father Abraham…” “The wise man built his house upon the rock. And the rain came tumbling down… Oh, the rain came down, and the floods came up.” …I could go on)
The people of God have long seen their identity and purpose through psalm-shaded lenses, and God has just been telling me to reconnect with the heart of the heroes that have gone before me. If the psalms are my spiritual roots, then why would I allow myself to go hungry?
In a recent work on this topic, Wright pens:
“The Psalms represent the Bible’s own spiritual root system for the great tree we call Christianity. You don’t have to be a horticultural genius to know what will happen to the fruit on the tree if the roots are not in good condition.”
What if we allowed the psalms to be what they really are? The living, breathing, inspired voice of a painfully human community struggling to understand God through the centuries. And what if we unleashed their message afresh on the world today?
I’m calling for a revival… of the Psalms. The worldview of the modern West rejects the worldview of the Psalms. The Psalms see God’s intimate involvement and interest in everything. But contemporary thinking sees God (if they believe in him at all), at best, as a distant, disinterested, deity apart from the self-developing and self-destructing cosmos.
We must resurrect the biblical worldview and bring back this God. This God who reigns, creates, thunders, judges, listens, cares, watches, protects, loves, and is always here. What I think we’ll find is this worldview is far more ancient but ironically far more up-to-date than what’s contemporary.
JOIN ME IN SOMETHING SMALL. For the past several weeks, I’ve been reading the psalms daily. And as I’ve gone through them, I’ve begun to tweet out various bits that move or challenge me. I’ve used the hashtag #psalms to set them apart.
It’s been pretty fun to watch people engage, and it’s been even more edifying to receive thanks from others for a timely word from God. So would you join me in doing this for the next week? That’s it, one week. I’ll probably keep doing it for a while, but I’m asking of you seven days (I just had flashbacks of the movie “The Ring”).
STEP ONE – Read one psalm a day for the next week. (My favorites after two recent reads are Ps. 18, 32, 51, 73, 90, 104, 124.)
STEP TWO – Identify a moving or powerful bit.
STEP THREE – Tweet it, hashtag #psalms. And invite others to join in.
I don’t suppose anyone will actually do this, because I’m really not sure I have an ounce of influence inside (or outside) this simple blog. Nor am I sure that you have “The Twitter.” But for some reason I feel compelled to throw this out there. So join the party. Or don’t. But you’ll be glad you did. If you do.
If you like this post, share it with your people. Or get all Cross-Shaped blogs via e-mail by clicking the “FOLLOW” button at the bottom of your screen. Or if you don’t like it, ridicule it in the comment section below. And don’t forget, #psalms.