Old Testament

Why re-read the Psalms?

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This month we returned to regularly reading through the Psalms together on a Sunday. For some people this might seem like a strange practice. Aren’t the psalms a little bit random and archaic, and isn’t it confusing to be reading parts of the bible that we’re not then going on to explain?

Well, here are some brief thoughts of mine to help us understand why we’re doing this, and to help us engage with the Psalms. 

Firstly, there’s the general principle that it is good for us to have plenty of bible in our gatherings

We believe that the bible is the word of God, the Father’s testimony about and through his Son, breathed by the Spirit. Therefore our Sunday gatherings should be saturated in the bible. Moreover, it would be odd if our services gave the overall impression that our words spoken to God are more important than his words to us. Or that the only time the bible can be read is when someone is going to preach from it. This is one of the reasons we try to have scripture read, taught and sung at various points throughout our gatherings. 

But why the Psalms in particular? Here are three of the many reasons:

The Psalms are significant for piecing the bible together

In some ways the Psalms is like a poetic reflection on the history, laws and wisdom of the rest of the OT. It’s no surprise that Psalms is one of the most-quoted books in the New Testament. Jesus and the apostles clearly saw them as fundamental to understanding Jesus’s identity, life and mission. 

The Psalms are a help to us in the reality of life

The 150 songs and prayers in the Psalms cover an incredibly broad range of circumstances and emotions. This makes them of immense value pastorally, helping us work through anger, loss, fear, doubt, joy, sickness, all within covenant relationship with God our Father.

The Psalms are important for prayer and worship

(Almost) unique amongst the whole of the bible, the Psalms aren’t simply God’s words to us, many of them are also words given to us by God for us to say back to him. As such the Psalms are the prayer or song book of the bible – the place where God teaches us how to speak with him. It is no surprise that for centuries the Psalms have been pretty crucial to the corporate worship of God’s people. 

The Bible Project has a helpful video giving an overview of the content and message of the Psalms...

... and we did a short series on Psalms 1 & 2 which can be found here.

Honour your father and mother

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The fifth commandment is in Exodus 20v12 and it says

Honour your father and your mother…

Which means we must respect, love and (if we’re a child living in their house) obey our Mum and Dad. But why does God want us to do this? 

It’s not just because if we don’t we’ll get in trouble.

It’s not because parents always get things right (they don’t).

It’s because God has given Mums and Dads the job of bringing us up, and especially bringing us up to know him. That’s why the command is accompanied with a promise:

…that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

The message of God’s love and promises for his people was to be passed down to the next generation through the teaching, example, discipline of your father and mother. So that if children were to ignore them, they would be ignoring Him. 

This has some big implications for parents - for what they teach, how they discipline, what they want for their children, and how they organise life in their household. This is something the bible goes into in more detail elsewhere (Deuteronomy 6v4-9 for example). But this commandment emphasises the responsibility children have in all of this. 

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Remember the Sabbath day

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Which of these have you heard, or said, in the last week?

‘I mustn’t waste time’

‘If only I had more time I could…’

‘The time has flown by!’

How God’s people spend their time is at the heart of the 4th commandment:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.
— Exodus 20v8-10

Sabbath means ‘to rest’ or ‘cease.’ This pattern of working 6 days and having 1 day off was unheard of in the ancient world, and reflected the goodness of Israel’s God. All they had known was slavery in Egypt, now God commanded them to have one day off a week, as well as festivals!

What does the Sabbath mean for Christians today?                                                              

The New Testament suggests some Christians continued to observe the Sabbath as a special day, while others regarded every day as the same (Romans 14v5). It seems for some Christians the Sabbath was a cause of tension and division. Colossians 2.16-17 states:

Therefore let no one pass judgment… with regard to the Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
— Colossians 2v16-17

If we want to know what Sabbath rest from work is all about, we have to look away from the shadow and to the substance, or reality. Christians are to look to Jesus. He has finished our work of salvation, and is sat down at the right hand of God our Father. From there he invites us to ‘come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11v28).

Christ is the end of working for salvation. Christ is the end of justifying our existence by what we do. Christ is the end of slavishly living for the approval of our peers or bosses. It is easy to overwork and idolise our jobs, trying to find in them our identity, worth, and satisfaction. It is easy to live for the weekend, the next holiday, or ‘me time’ without the pressures of work and family. But Christ offers us the life we were always made for. Our Creator and Redeemer invites us to come to him and find ‘rest for our souls.’

In our work and rest, may we discover more of what St. Augustine discovered so long ago: ‘You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until it rests in you.’

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So what is Judges all about?

Annie Juckes, a member of Christ Church Walkley and one of our administrators shares some helpful background to Judges (which we will be studying together on Sundays) - 

If you're anything like me you might know some of the stories from the book of Judges but have never studied it in any detail. At first glance it's pretty gruesome and bloody and very confusing. Having studied it on a Tuesday morning at our ladies bible study, I'm looking forward to getting to study it again, in a different way, on Sundays.

Here is a useful video from The Bible Project that gives a quick run-through of the book, breaking down it's literary design and flow of thought. The general idea is that the Israelites turn away from God and then face the consequences. God raises up judges in cycles: rebellion, repentance and restoration. 

There is also a blogpost on Judges by them here and you can catch up on all our Judges sermons here.

 

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