Steroids For Your Soul—Really!

Hello weekend readers! I have been watching Dr. Sandra L. Richter’s book, The Epic of Eden Book of Psalms, which is available as a video study. Psalms is one of my favorite books of the Bible and yet one of the least I have really studied—wow, have I missed a lot!! For instance, did you know the book of Psalms is the Old Testament book most often quoted in the New Testament? And quotations from the Psalms can be found in global literature, everywhere from poetry to television scripts to government speeches—wow you say and so did I when I read those statistics.

In Richter’s writings, she reminds us that the heart of the matter has always been the same: to give people back their Bibles and the Psalms do just that. They have praise and lament, wisdom and knowledge, and they are both educational and emotional. For me, the Psalms are like a hymnal, which is a collection of prayers, praise and worship. For decades, the Psalms were the only praise-songs used! And, as a life-long musician, I can tell you that the Psalms are still the bedrock of worship songs including today’s contemporary praise songs.

Why are the Psalms so powerful to so many? Here are the words of Dr. Richter which gives us some answers.

“A great question but not always with obvious answers…most would argue that the first century Jewish community was looking to the Psalms to answer the biggest question of their day: “Is Messiah coming? And if so, who will he be?” This begs the question, “Why would the first century Jews think that the book of Psalms—their hymnbook—should contain that information? That answer is easy, because the book of Psalms was referred to as “David’s book” and also that Israel’s Messiah must be a son of David. Also, it seems that our first century believers were “searching the Scriptures” to find their Messiah, and they were specifically using David’s book to find David’s heir. As a result, the Psalms are all over the New Testament. In fact, there are two Psalms that are super strategic—they mark the beginning and the end of Jesus’ ministry—Psalm 2 and Psalm 22. One rehearses his pronouncement as king; the second chronicles his passion and death. The great 4th century church father Athanasius said it best: “The Psalms have a unique place in the Bible because [whereas] most of Scripture speaks to us, the Psalms speak for us.” This is the ONLY book in the Bible that’s intended for IMMEDIATE application to the reader. No filter. This is the one book you can flip open and start praying whatever you see and you haven’t violated any interpretive guideline….the reason is because the book was designed that way! The Palms definitely have cultural and historical distance, but there’s no barrier between an ancient broken heart and a modern one; no barrier between the God of Israel and the God of the New Covenant. Indeed, the Psalms pray for us. What a true and powerful word. Here the ancients remind us of who God is, who we are, and why we’re going to make it through whatever it is we’re dealing with this week. In this book we hear the voices of the “great cloud of witnesses” who are pulling back the veil on their own experiences to encourage us. Sometimes these voices are celebrating, sometimes angry, sometimes afraid, sometimes despairing. But the raw reality of their pain, their praise, and their faith makes us strong. There is no other book of the Bible that draws us in and accepts our emotions and then sends us out with strength and a new understanding of the God who loves us so much.”

OK, now I just feel liberated because my go-to is always the Psalms because they bring my “heart home to the heart of God.” As an adopted kid, I claim Psalm 139 for my heart, soul, body and mind, and now I’m a “senior” so Psalm 71 is there to remind me that as I grow old, God will never leave my side.

The Psalms are there for us from birth to death…who hasn’t heard Psalm 23 at a funeral? The imagery of God walking us right through the valley of death to the splendor of heaven is so calming and assuring, no wonder it is often called the “funeral Psalm.” No matter what Psalm you read, you have instant wisdom, says Dr. Richter and she is right. They are there for us at all times and assist us right on the spot. Just think of the decades of people whose lives have been changed because of a verse or two from the Psalms? How about you—what Psalms are your go-to in living life here on this crazy planet? Psalm 139:7-12 says it all. [The Message]

Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit, to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there!

If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

In closing, here are a few ways to daily use the Psalms from Dr. Richter. I urge you to read or listen to her study on the Psalms, it is worth it for your body, soul, heart and mind!

  1. Use the Psalms to cultivate a godly prayer life.
  2. Use the Psalms to cultivate a life of worship at home and in church.
  3. Use the Psalms to cultivate a deep hunger for God.
  4. Use the Psalms to cultivate a godly emotional life.
  5. Use the Psalms to cultivate a thankful heart and a deeper understanding of faith.
  6. Use the Psalms to behold the Christ, our Savior.