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Bible Reading Plan | Devotion for the week of March 28, 2021

March 31, 2021

Weekly reading: Mark 16; Luke 22-24; John 13; Psalm 3-4

I treated last week’s devotion as a bit of an intro to this year’s Bible Reading Plan and stressed the importance of getting a good study Bible. If you’ll humor me, I’d like to continue that introductory nature with this week’s devotional. This year we’ll be reading quite a few Psalms, and I want to make sure we have some good background info as we get started.

And just a note before we begin: starting next week, these devotionals will be actual devotionals. Ones that are connected to the weekly reading, that you hopefully find encouraging, challenging, and personal, and that are written by a variety of individuals: staff, elders, members of the congregation, men & women, young & old, etc.

Now, let’s get to know the book of Psalms. Here’s some general info to get us started:

Number of psalms:150

Definition of a psalm: a sacred song or poem used in worship
     Especially: one of the biblical hymns collected in the Book of Psalms

Authors:
David – 73 psalms
Asaph – 12 psalms
Sons of Korah – 11 psalms
Heman & Ethan – 2 psalms
Solomon & Moses – 3 psalms
Anonymous – 49 psalms

Organization of the collection:
Book 1 – Psalms 1-41
Book 2 – Psalms 42-72
Book 3 – Psalms 73-89
Book 4 – Psalms 90-106
Book 5 – Psalms 107-150

Main styles of psalms: lament & praise

Psalms of lament = prayers of pain, confusion, and anger

These psalms draw attention to what’s wrong in the world and ask God to do something about it. They show us that lament is an appropriate response to the evil and injustice we see in our world and that acknowledging our pain can be a healthy and healing experience.
They dominate Books 1-3.

Psalms of praise = prayers of joy & celebration

These psalms draw attention to what is good in the world. They retell stories of what God has done in our lives and thank and praise Him.
They dominate Books 4-5.

Since the Psalms are poems and songs, we shouldn’t approach them in the same way we do prose and the narratives and letters we find in other books of the Bible. When we read the Psalms, we should expect to find vivid imagery, lots of emotions, and figures of speech like similes and metaphors.

In The Case for the Psalms N.T. Wright says, “The Psalms are among the oldest poems in the world, and they still rank with any poetry in any culture, ancient or modern, from anywhere in the world. They are full of power and passion, horrendous misery and unrestrained jubilation, tender sensitivity and powerful hope. Anyone at all whose heart is open to new dimensions of human experience, anyone who loves good writing, anyone who wants a window into the bright lights and dark corners of the human soul—anyone open to the beautiful expression of a larger vision of reality should react to these poems like someone who hasn’t had a good meal for a week or two. It’s all here.”

Throughout the next year, we will typically read two psalms a week, and we will most likely get through around 100 psalms. That will carry us through Books 1-3 and into Book 4, as explained above. Which means we will see more psalms of lament rather than praise. But maybe that’s a good thing considering the last year we’ve experienced.

I am excited about this year’s Bible Reading Plan, especially that we’ll slowly be working our way through the Psalms. I’m looking forward to the ways I’ll be encouraged, comforted, and challenged by these poems of lament and praise. And I hope you are as well. – Sarah Neel

Sources: The Bible Project: Psalms (https://bibleproject.com/learn/psalms/) & A Psalm for All Seasons: Studies in the Books of Psalms by Bob Deffinbaugh (https://bible.org/series/psalm-all-seasons-studies-book-psalms)

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