Journeying through the Psalms

This weekend I planned some teaching on The Book of Psalms for a staff and postgraduate Christian fellowship lunchtime meeting at the University of Surrey—this is my place of work. I have realised that the handout I have prepared is self-contained enough to be useful for a wider audience and so have lightly adapted it below.

Getting Started
What role do the Psalms play in your church?

What role do the Psalms play in your life?

The Psalms and the Last One Hundred Years’ of Scholarship
Scholarship on the Psalms in the twentieth century was a complex journey through very different approaches. A German scholar, Hermann Gunkel, initiated a literary approach which still informs scholarship today. His approach was valuable in exploring the various types of psalm found in the Psalter. It was inadvertently unhelpful for the Church in that its focus on individual psalms undermined The Book of Psalms. A Norwegian scholar, Sigmund Mowinckel, built on Gunkel’s work and sought to understand the use of the psalms in Ancient Israel. This sounds promising but the result was built on a historical hypothesis with scant support from the Old Testament.

More recently, scholars have recognised the limits of placing the psalms firmly in the past. Since around 1980 a large number of scholars have explored what many Christians have known for two millennia that the Psalter is a book (Judaism has recognised this for even longer of course). If the Psalter is a book, rather than a disordered anthology of songs and poems, then we might well expect (i) an introduction, (ii) evidence of structure, (iii) a conclusion. We will briefly consider these three things.

The Psalter’s Opening: Psalms 1 and 2
Scholars like Gunkel and Mowinckel largely ignored Psalm 1 because it is unusual and did not fit either a literary form or pattern of worship that interested them.[1] Psalm 1 is a call to study Yahweh’s torah, or instruction. We should ensure we do not make the mistake of seeing this as a call to legalism. Surprisingly, given their very different forms, there are links between Psalms 1 and 2. In Figure 1 their parallel usage of some Hebrew words is shown.

Psalms 1 and 2 comparison

Figure 1 Some of the more obvious literary links between Psalms 1 and 2.

Anyone unconvinced by the suggested literary links between these two psalms should note that there are two other reasons for seeing these two psalms as a pair. Firstly, they are unusual in that they both lack a heading. Secondly, there is a Jewish tradition that links these two verses as a single psalm.[2] If these two psalms are in some sense an intentional introduction to the Book of Psalms, this has some implications:

  • Perhaps the Psalms are meant to be a source of instruction.
  • The idea of ‘the way’, or a journey, might be a key concern.
  • The king/Yahweh’s anointed (= messiah) might be central to the book.

 

The Structure of the Psalms
There are many different features within the Psalter that can be viewed as evidence of structure. Many of them raise puzzling questions. Here we just scratch the surface. One obvious feature is the fivefold structure of the Psalter—the psalms are broken into five books:

Book I: Psalms 1–41

Book II: Psalms 42–72

Book III: Psalms 73–89

Book IV: Psalms 90–106

Book V: Psalms 107–150

It has been suggested that this fivefold structure deliberately echoes the Pentateuch (the five books of the torah). If this is the case Psalm 1’s call to meditation on the torah/law might point to the Book of Psalms as much as the Law of Moses.

Each of the five books in the Psalter ends in what is called a doxology or a call to praise:

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,

From everlasting to everlasting,

Amen and amen. (41:13)

 

Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel,

Who alone does wondrous deeds.

Blessed be his glorious name forever;

May his glory fill all the earth.

Amen and amen. (72:18-19)

 

Blessed be the Lord forever.

Amen and amen. (89:52)

 

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,

From everlasting to everlasting.

And let all the people say, “Amen.”

Praise the Lord. (106:48)

 

Let every breathing thing praise the Lord!

Hallelujah! (150:6)

 

The attentive reader will also note that the psalms that close and open the five books tend to be especially important in terms of the wider theological issues they address and/or the role of the king.

Perhaps the Psalter’s structure encapsulates a journey that mirrors the journey of so many of the pilgrims and disciples who have found sustenance and encouragement there? Anyone who reads through the Psalter, psalm-by-psalm, will perceive a journey. There is a decisive development through the Book of Psalms. Some have described this as a journey from ‘Plea to Praise’ and others as a journey from ‘Duty to Delight’.

A journey through the Psalter reaches a puzzle when Psalm 53 is reached because it appears to be so close to Psalm 14 as to be the same. The main difference between these two psalms is the words they use to refer to God. This is part of a wider puzzle in the Psalter shown in Figure 2.

Elohistic

Figure 2 The number of occurrences of the words Yahweh and Elohim in two groups of psalms.

Psalm 119, which occupies such a massive place in Book V and within the Book as a whole, makes frequent reference to a journey motif as can be seen by the frequency of some related words in the Table below.

Table 1 Occurrence of words (NRSV) related to a journey motif in Psalm 119.

WORD VERSE/S

 

Way/s 1, 14, 15, 26, 29, 33, 37, 59, 104, 128, 168
Path 35, 105
Walk 1, 3, 45
Astray/stray 10, 67, 176
Wander 21
Steps 128, 133
Feet 59, 101, 105
(journey’s) End 33, 87, 112

The Psalter also has a number of psalms that are best understood as psalms of pilgrimage—most obviously Psalm 84 and the Psalms of Ascents (120-134). They, along with others, are likely to have been used during pilgrimages to Jerusalem during the various Jewish festivals.

In the time of the Jewish diaspora, when the Psalms were finally edited to make the Psalter, pilgrimage was no longer an option. The Psalter was edited to take on some aspects of the dynamic of pilgrimage. In the same way, for us today, the Psalter can be seen to take on a special place in the Life of Faith.

The Conclusion of the Psalms: Psalms 146–150
Psalms 146-150 have more common features with each other than any other five consecutive psalms in the Psalter. They each have no heading, unlike the eight previous psalms. They all start with the refrain Hallelujah, i.e. ‘Praise the Lord’. They all end with this same refrain. In this way, each is encapsulated in an inclusio which defines exactly what they are, songs with a single purpose of praise. There is no trace here of the complex ups and downs of individual and corporate experience. There is only cause for praise and its execution. Therefore, in this way they are all apiece when it comes to form and content. Indeed they are so similar that if we had read these five compositions in a poet’s notebook we might have thought she was drafting and redrafting, shaping and perfecting, a single song. Yet, despite their similarity, each brings something to this final party and set together they unite synergistically into something bigger than the five parts. They are a most fitting end to the Psalter.

What better way to end a book of songs and poems than with a crescendo of praise? If we have prayed through the Psalms, the cycle of Hallelujahs is the only way it could close. If the Psalter is symbolic of the life of faith, how else should it end—but with an end echoed by David in Cohen’s Hallelujah: ‘and even though it all went wrong I’ll stand before the Lord of song with nothing on my lips but Hallelujah’. For those that use the Psalter repeatedly in a cycle from beginning to end, there is a foretaste of closure, ahead of the start of a fresh journey of troughs and peaks.

Conclusion
Through its incorporation of pilgrimage psalms, the prominence of the Psalms of Ascents, the on-going language incorporating a journey motif and its carefully crafted journey from, obedience and petition, to the final crescendo of praise, we have a book to carry with us on the Life of Faith. Over two millennia Christians have used the Psalter ‘on the road’ in diverse ways. I would not want to be prescriptive about exactly how we use it. The general point is, however, clear, we must ensure that we are intentional about our use of this gift that God has given us for the Way.

More on the Psalms
If you have found some value in our journey through the Psalms you might like to read some short posts from my blog. Please see PsalterMark.com and in particular the post titled The Journey Motif in Life, Art and Scripture. You can also find me on Twitter as @PsalterMark in what is usually a daily attempt to promote The Book of Psalms.

If you want to know more about the recent rediscovery that the biblical psalms are a book see the following:

Nancy deClaissé-Walford (1997), Reading from the Beginning: The Shaping of the Hebrew Psalter, Macon: Mercer University Press.

Palmer Robertson (2015), The Flow of the Psalms: Discovering Their Structure and Theology, Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing.

[1] Gunkel went so far as to suggest its piety was deficient.

[2] The relationship between these two Psalms is explored in Mark J. Whiting (2013), Psalms 1 and 2 as a Hermeneutical Lens for Reading the Psalter, Evangelical Quarterly, 85, 246 and in Robert L. Cole (2013), ‘Psalms 1 and 2: The Psalter’s Introduction’ in The Psalms: Language for All Seasons of the Soul, Andrew J. Schmutzer and David M. Howard (editors), Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Isaiah Tweets: 37 to 66

This is the final collection of Isaiah tweets. I have found journeying through Isaiah day-by-day, tweeting a chapter a day, a refreshing and illuminating experience. I would strongly others to try this as a modern spiritual discipline. As with tweeting the Psalms it remains a challenge to work within the 140 character limit. Yet, in a way this limit is so constraining, it constantly reminds the author that the tweet is a fleeting engagement with a permanent text. The tweets vary in style and include attempts at summary, thematic pointers, prayers or simply key verses or part verses.

Isaiah 37:
Idolatry is a major theme of Isaiah.
What are our modern equivalents?
What distracts us from Yahweh?

Isaiah 38:
The Lord will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the Lord.

Isaiah 39:
The book hinges on this chapter.
A heady mishmash of exile, return and future hope now follow.

Isaiah 40:
Tidings of comfort and joy.

Isaiah 41:
No matter how much effort we put into bolstering our idols they are still made by us and prone to topple over.

Isaiah 42:
The Servant of The Lord is a beautifully polyvalent poetic truth.
Judah, Jesus, Church and disciple.

Isaiah 43:
I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; don’t you perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
& streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 44:
Humankind, all too often, turn creation into idols.
A day approaches when humanity and all creation acknowledge the Creator.

Isaiah 45:
Gather together and come;
assemble, you fugitives from the nations.
#Ecclesiology

Isaiah 46:
Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.

Isaiah 47:
With literal Babylon long gone, but metaphorical Babylon all around, let’s learn how to sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land.

Isaiah 48:
Lord, as we walk in the desert, sustain us with your river of peace;
irrigate our communities with streams of life-giving water.

Isaiah 49:
Yahweh has our name engraved on the psalms of his hands.
Where is his name visible in our lives?

Isaiah 50:
Servanthood and discipleship are characterised by taking up a cross.

Isaiah 51:
The New Heaven and Earth will make the wonder that was Eden look like an allotment.

Isaiah 52:
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news.

Isaiah 53:
This chapter was the subject of the very first Bible Study I attended.
#PersonalParadigmShift

Isaiah 54:
Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide,
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes.

Isaiah 55:
Hungry we eat God’s Word.
Thirsty we imbibe God’s Spirit.
Hallelujah for sweet honey and living water.

Isaiah 56:
Though we were foreigners you welcomed us into covenant.
Hallelujah.

Isaiah 57:
Some of today’s idols are as dangerous and unpleasant as those described here.
Lord, grant us wise eyes we pray.

Isaiah 58:
Lord, help us cultivate rich spiritual disciplines that deepen our care for the poor and marginalised.

Isaiah 59:
Collective wrongs and identification with unjust world-views can both distance a nation from the living God.

Isaiah 60:
Gates that are never closed – now that’s God’s vision.

Isaiah 61:
We join Isaiah and Jesus in continuing the announcement of the year of the Lord’s favour.

Isaiah 62:
Prepare the way for the people.
Build up, build up the highway!
Remove the stones.
Raise a banner for the nations.

Isaiah 63:
Mighty to save and robed in crimson.
Judgement and mercy established by the Father and the servant.
#intertextuality

Isaiah 64:
Our Father in heaven,
we are the clay,
you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 65:
The wolf & the lamb will feed together,
& the lion will eat straw like the ox,
& dust will be the serpent’s food.

Isaiah 66:
Each pilgrim builds for God – home, church, a life and community.
Each is a foretaste of Isaiah’s ultimate vision.

On Tweeting Isaiah

My church, New Life Baptist Church (Guildford), is looking at Isaiah 40-55 on Sunday mornings during January to March this year. Alongside this we are encouraging the whole church to work through the book of Isaiah as part of their daily devotions. The collective reading and reflection helps make our small groups function more effectively as we share insights and challenges.

Over this period I have decided to Tweet daily, chapter by chapter, through the book of Isaiah. This is not a naive attempt to distill some new found wisdom from the book! It is simply another way of ensuring engagement with the biblical text – a spiritual discipline if you like. The tweets can function in various ways. They: (i) can attempt to summarise, by way of a propositional statement, (ii) can reflect on a poetic device in the chapter, (iii) can quote a key verse from the chapter, (iv) can make intertextual connections, (v) can appropriate the text in some personal way, such as a sort prayer.

140 characters, or less, cannot hope to do justice to each chapter. It is, rather, the attempt that is valuable. With similar Tweets on the Psalms I have also found it interesting to see how other people tackle this simple idea. To illustrate the idea I have collected the first few below.

Isaiah 1:
My people why are you deaf?
Your choices have broken the Promised Land.
Come, obey your Yahweh and be my Faithful City again.

Isaiah 2:
Jacob, you shall be a gateway for all nations;
a stream in the desert ahead of the flood.
All will make plowshares from swords.

Isaiah 3:
In that day I will take away the grapes in your vineyards as you are so devoted to crushing your own people.

Isaiah 4:
The branch of The Lord redefines glory.
In Him we find shelter and sojourn to glory.

Isaiah 5:
O Yahweh, what have we done to your vineyard?
Your chosen vines have borne an abundance yes, but only of bad grapes.

Isaiah 6:
Open eyes, to the extent of your glory.
Cleanse hearts, that we might speak of your glory.
Loose feet, that we might walk with you.

Isaiah 7:
If you do not stand firm in faith,
you shall not stand at all.

Isaiah 8:
He will be a holy place;
for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble &
a rock that makes them fall.

Isaiah 9:
Unto Galilee, of all places, the Son of God is given – a child born of a carpenter’s household; Son of Mary.

Isaiah 10:
Your people, O Yahweh, in your mercy are numbered like grains of sand.
Your kingdom come.

Isaiah 11:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him.

Isaiah 12:
On this day we say:
“Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.”

Isaiah 13:
Fallen is Babylon.

Isaiah 14:
Hallelujah, I am a foreigner grafted into the descendants of Jacob.

Isaiah 15:
My heart cries out at the brittleness of the nations.

Isaiah 16:
Why do the rulers of the nations see the trampling of ‘the other’ as leadership and justice?

Isaiah 17:
In that day people will look to their Maker and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 18:
All people of the world;
who live on Earth,
when a banner is raised on the mountains, see it;
when the trumpet sounds, hear it.

 

Psalmtweets: Psalms 61-70

This post continues the summary of recent psalmtweets. These psalmtweets are part of a set attempting to say something simultaneously about a specific psalm and the whole Psalter. This is working out with varying degrees of success.

Psalm 61:
The picture of eternal life in the Psalms is one of dwelling with Yahweh and worshiping Him.

Psalm 62:
The Psalms teach us that our frailty and our dependence on God are both quite normal.

Psalm 63:
We would do well to cultivate an imagination of faith which perceives God in his sanctuary.

Psalm 64:
Like the Psalter this is a journey from a place of threat and trembling to a new place of refuge and rejoicing.

Psalm 65:
Creation is full of immense bounty. Thank Yahweh.

Psalm 66:
Creation and Redemption celebrated together.

Psalm 67:
Like Jacob we can ask for Yahweh’s blessing.
Shine Yahweh shine!

Psalm 68:
As Christians we read the Psalms with new glasses;
Re-reading with 20/20 vision in Christ.

Psalm 69:
In the Psalms there are verses that yield fitting words for the nation of Israel in judgement and/or for Jesus Christ in ministry.

Psalm 70:
The Psalms instruct my prayer for those who delight in my harm.
Come Yahweh. Hasten Lord Jesus.

 

Psalmtweets: Psalms 51-60

This is a continuation of my latest series of psalmtweets which is an attempt to see how each psalm contributes to the whole. This is part of a broader experiment in using psalmtweets as a daily spiritual discipline.

Psalm 51:
The Psalms speak of the need for a broken spirit and a willing spirit, all enabled by the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 52:
Sticking to the Way ensures we flourish like a healthy sapling.
The detours threaten our very roots.

Psalm 53:
The Psalter presents a sobering picture of humanity’s inability to pursue justice, truth, community and well-being.

Psalm 54:
The Psalms show a single-minded confidence in Yahweh;
a God who has acted, is acting and will act.

Psalm 55:
There is nothing new about discord among God’s people.
Though flight is tempting, we instead need to run to Yahweh.

Psalm 56:
Trust defines the life of faith.
Dependence on Yahweh is key on the path.

Psalm 57:
The eyes of faith perceive a God of loving-kindness amidst the pain of the journey.

Psalm 58:
The Psalms help us pray against false Gods, whether ancient near-eastern deities or the trappings of Western culture.

Psalm 59:
The Psalms have an organic relationship with the Law, the Prophets and the other Writings.

Psalm 60:
The journey of communities of faith is oft times touched by pain and trial.

Psalmtweets: Psalms 41-50

Our journey continues with these 10 psalms. We continue our effort to use individual psalms to define the Psalter.

Psalm 41:
The Psalms celebrate the faithful’s care for the helpless and the poor.

Psalm 42:
Thirsting for God is a normal part of the life of faith according to the Psalter.

Psalm 43:
The Psalms know nothing of an abstract God; Yahweh is the God of Jacob and of Jesus Christ.
He is our God.

Psalm 44:
Yahweh planted Israel and the Church.
God’s people are blessed by God and yet opposed by many.

Psalm 45:
The Psalms inspire creativity in worship;
Poetry, song, prose, music, art and even tweets.

Psalm 46:
We don’t journey for long on the life of faith before being grateful that Yahweh is a very present help in trouble.

Psalm 47:
The Book of Praises exhorts us to praise without ceasing.

Psalm 48:
The Psalms describe the city of our God and guide us on the path to it.

Psalm 49:
The Psalms are for everyone, rich and poor alike. But who will listen?

Psalm 50:
The Psalms, like the Law and Prophets, show that social justice and society’s cohesiveness are God’s priority.

Psalmtweets 31-40

This is the 4th post of my latest round of Psalmtweets.

Psalm 31:
The Psalms show that suffering and illness are part of the life of faith.
But trust, hope & faith are the greater part.

Psalm 32:
The Psalms teach us about The Way.
Yahweh’s instruction is more than just knowledge.

Psalm 33:
The Psalter teaches us to sing new songs;
this is more about renewal than new words.

Psalm 34:
The Psalms tell us that the life of faith is an experience of God-tasting, God perceiving, feeling and God-talk.

Psalm 35:
The Psalms teach us, perhaps surprisingly, about the armour of God.

Psalm 36:
The Psalms map the loving-kindness of Yahweh.

Psalm 37:
The Psalms help us rest in God.
Resting in Yahweh is key, whatever is happening in our lives.

Psalm 38:
The life of faith is a challenge.
We can call upon the Lord to make haste to help us on the path.

Psalm 39:
The Psalms enable us, as creatures, to understand our frailty before our Creator.

Psalm 40:
The Psalter shows us that the right response to deliverance is the singing of new songs.

Psalmtweets 21-30

The third of the new psalmtweets posts. These tweets are part of a set of 150 which aim to define the Psalter with a contribution from each psalm.

Psalm 21:
The Psalms often speak of the King.
These words have taken on new significance in Christ.

Psalm 22:
The Psalms show how desperate need should be turned into desperate prayer.

Psalm 23:
The Psalms are elastic; their words become Word in diverse situations.

Psalm 24:
The Psalms are a prequel to the Gospel; let Jesus the King of glory in.

Psalm 25:
The Psalms tell us that though we walk with God we also have to wait on Him.

Psalm 26:
The Psalms show us the centrality of gathered community worship in the life of faith.

Psalm 27:
The Psalms emphasise that we can dwell with the living God, our sanctuary.

Psalm 28:
The Psalms reveal that Yahweh is a rock, but that He is not silent.
#PsalmMetaphors

Psalm 29:
The Psalms instruct us about God’s word and its power.

Psalm 30:
The Psalms show us that continual thankfulness is a central plank of the life of faith.

Psalmtweets

Around one year ago I decided to tweet once a day on the Psalms. The idea was to work through the Psalms, one-by-one, starting with psalm 1 and working through them in canonical order. The main reason I decided to do this was to give me a focus each day for engaging with Scripture as a spiritual discipline. I have missed eight days, one day in sympathy with a twitter boycott and seven days as a mark of respect after the sudden death of a close friend.

Having done the whole Psalter almost two and a half times, I am still fascinated by the task of capturing a psalm in a tweet. What criteria does one go for? There are a number of possibilities and questions behind the enterprise:

1. Do you try and capture the whole psalm in the tweet?
2. Do you home in on a key aspect which many readers will be familiar with?
3. Might you focus on something more obscure in the psalm? Perhaps to ensure your reader goes to the psalm?
4. Could you use captivating and inspiring poetic language?
5. Do you use some key words, or even actual text, from the psalm?
6. Might you just choose a representative verse?
7. Perhaps you should just give a title to the psalm?
8. Should the tweet offer a challenge or ask a question?

Of course none of these are right or wrong, they have different value for different people in the twitter-sphere.

One of the great things is that there are a number of people who are doing this. Many of them adopt #psalmtweets to make their tweets easy to find. Below I have cited some examples to illustrate what can be done with a psalmtweets.

Ben Myers@FaithTheology:
Psalm 1: The bad life is a busy life, full of bluster and bustle; the good life is a reading life, full of the joy of Torah #psalmtweets

This tweet captures much of the point of psalm 1 and what makes it special is that its language echoes that of the original. The bluster and bustle connects with the wind blown chaff of the original, and the ‘reading’ parallels the static rootedness of the tree in psalm 1. If there was a prize for bringing poetic life to psalmtweets @FaithTheology would receive it.

Mark Wagner@DrMarkWagner:
Where’s God when life’s tough?
Bad guys get out of jail free?
Seems so. But God sees.

#haiku #Psalm10
#GodsLoveChats

How to make the enterprise really tricky, write your tweet as a haiku. @DrMarkWagner’s tweets tend to capture the heart of the psalm with clarity and verve.

Patrick Hoffmann@HoffmaNomad4:
I lift my voice–in songs of praise and songs of lament. My voice breaks with the effort, passion, and emotion. Until… Silence. #psalm28

This is a great example of a thought provoking tweet when read in conjunction with the original psalm. The tweet ends were the psalmist in psalm 28 has asked not to be, but the silence of the tweet is not the consequence of a deaf deity.

Steven Robertson@OtisRobertson:
Psalm 45: The Warrior-King reigns and rejoices in majesty; He welcomes His glorious Bride into His joy. #psalmtweets

This simple tweet captures what is a tricky psalm with wonderful conciseness, to the point of being a commentary for the confused. It even preserves the two strophes of the original text!

Ben Myers@FaithTheology:
Psalm 56 (for Philip Seymour Hoffman). You seek me in my wanderings. You have counted all my tears; You keep them in a bottle #psalmtweets

They can also be timely; here reflecting on the tragic death of a great actor and a wonderful man. He was in my favourite film Magnolia (not all Christians will be comfortable with this film, but it is ultimately profoundly theological).

Marc La Porte@mlaporte74:
Psalm 21: Look back: celebrate past victories. Look ahead: anticipate future victories. Look up: exalt the LORD of victories #psalmtweets

This tweet recasts the whole psalm in a new and memorable light. This is a good reason for psalm tweeting, a good one can make a psalm memorable.

Robert W Moore@robmoore0330:
Psalm 105 “Seek the Lord and his strength: seek his face continually.” Entering the #Easter season, let’s cling to him daily. #eveningprayer

These psalmtweets can be, not only timely, but can also be an exhortation to prayer. This is sensible as surely the whole point of the Psalms is to help us pray.

Why not join in tweeting the Psalms. Reflect on and retweet those that you find rewarding. Have a go at writing your own. It has to be blessing to meditate on the Psalms day and night.

150 Days of Psalms

For almost a year now I have, on a daily basis, Tweeted a psalm. In my personal devotions I have focused on that psalm for the day, which sometimes has led to other Tweets. The plan has been to work from psalm 1 to psalm 150. I have now done this twice. Some of the Tweets garner more interest than others from those on Twitter. Below I have gathered the top 14 from the last 150. My aim was to sum the most popular in one place, but additionally to pause and reflect on just what I have done in shortening a canonical psalm to a Tweet.

So here they are, along with some brief commentary on some of them.

Psalm 2:
The age to come, and the promise of a messiah at its heart, is a key lens through which to read the book of Psalms.

This Tweet picks up on my personal interest in Psalms 1 and 2 as a purposeful introduction to the Psalter.
Selah

Psalm 6:
Pray for those who can own these words.
Pray that we too will know such confidence in Yahweh during such days and nights.
#psalm6

Sometimes the words of a psalm simply don’t connect with our current situation and feelings. But, psalms of lament like this can help us pray for our brothers and sisters in trouble.
Selah

Psalm 38:
When life makes no sense the psalmist teaches us to plead with Yahweh:
“Do not forsake me my God;
do not be far from me.”

Selah

Psalm 44:
A collective complaint.
Communal lament was done in biblical Israel frequently.
It still has a place in the Church.

The large number of psalms that are laments is a helpful corrective to the false expectations about the ‘life of faith’. The modern church finds it difficult to use communal lament, but it’s a wonderful antidote to the problem of individualism and is a way of growing, and defining what it means to be, a community of God’s people.
Selah

Psalm 46:
Being still before Yahweh & knowing his lordship is more challenging than it sounds.
But in this way we find refuge & strength.

Selah

Psalm 51:
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity; cleanse me from my sin.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; renew a right spirit in me.

Sometimes words from a psalm seem the best way to capture its essence and sense.
Selah

Psalm 122:
For the sake of the house of Yahweh, our God, let me seek your shalom, O Yerushalayim.
#psalm122 #Psalter

The Psalms of Ascent are very popular. The brevity and strong imagery makes a powerful and memorable impact.
Selah

Psalm 123:
Yahweh, how your servants look to you in need.
We lift our eyes to you.
Grant us grace.
Lord, grant us grace.
#psalm123 #Psalter

This Tweet captures the key imagery of the psalm and mimics the repetitive lilt so often found in the Psalms of Ascent.
Selah

Psalm 126:
The Lord has done great things for us.
For our tears will turn to laughter.
We are children of the dream.
#psalm126 #Psalter

This psalm resonates for me as a promise of blessing for my own church.
Selah

Psalm 127:
Entrust your church to Yahweh in prayer and deed.
For unless the Lord builds the house, we labour in vain.

The longer I journey on the ‘life of faith’ the clearer this becomes to me.
Selah

Psalm 138:
Yahweh is a God to be praised:
He is high above all.
A God who notices His creatures.
Knowing Him completes us.
#psalm138

An attempt to capture the message of the psalm. Caution is needed of course because in the short space of a Tweet we have to miss as much as we capture!
Selah

Psalm 142:
When we feel alone & oppressed we can cling to the truth that one day we will be surrounded by the righteous.

Selah

Psalm 146:
Yahweh is . . .
Creator
Faithful
Just
Provider
Deliverer
Healer
Redeemer
Protector
Father
Judge
King
Eternal
Oh and praiseworthy!

I think this captures what this psalm is about. In the space of one poem/song we have a doctrine on God.
Selah

Psalm 148:
Everything that has breath should praise Yahweh.
Inanimate creation should praise the Lord.
This will happen on His Day.
#Psalter

This psalm has been by far my most popular Tweet. I am not exactly sure why. It’s an attempt to be faithful to the psalm, but it puts a very deliberate interpretation on the psalm.
Selah

Tweeting the psalms is fun, faith building and helpful. However, it can only ever be a pointer back to these canonical songs, poems and prayers.