We’ve been studying through the Psalms this summer in Student Ministries and I have been constantly reminded of how much I LOVE the Psalms!!!! Songs are found all over the Scriptures. They are in the Old and New Testaments and there is a song for pretty much every occasion. Moses sings a song of victory in Exodus 15 after the Lord defeated the Egyptians. Hannah sings a song of thanksgiving in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 after Samuel is born. Mary sings a song of exaltation in Luke 1:46-55 after Jesus’ birth is foretold. There’s even a song that is sung by Deborah and Barak after slaughtering a bunch of people in Judges 5:1-31. Songs are everywhere and about pretty much everything in Scripture. But the Psalms are a unique collection of songs written by several different authors, not just David, though he did write the majority of them. Other authors include Solomon, Moses, Asaph, Sons of Korah, Ethan, etc. The book of Psalms is quoted elsewhere in the Bible more than any other book of the Bible. Isaiah comes up in second place, but a distant second as the book of Psalms is quoted 15% more often than Isaiah.
Because the book of Psalms is a collection of songs, we would expect to find that the songs rhyme, and they do, but not in the way that we are used to songs rhyming. We are used to songs rhyming phonetically, as in “I saw the DOG jump on the LOG deep in the BOG.” But the Psalms seldom rhyme phonetically, and for good reason. If the genius of the rhyme scheme was dependent on the language, then the rhyme scheme would be completely lost in translation when translated into any other language! But God wants every tribe, tongue, nation, and people group to hear and know His Word so He wrote His Word in a way that the genius of the rhyme scheme would transcend language and culture! God is SO SMART! (That’s the understatement of the century!)
Hebrew poetry rhymes not phonetically, but rather logically. We call that Hebrew parallelism. We see this all over the Psalms. Whether the structure is a chiastic structure, the A – B – B – A structure where there is a reversal of the order of words in the second of two parallel phrases (The Lord reigns in majesty, in splendor He rules as King) or the structure is simply a logical flow of thought (The wicked do this, the righteous do that, the wicked are judged because of this, the righteous are blessed because of that). Either way, the rhyme scheme is intended to help us remember and commit to memory the principles taught in the songs.
And that is why I LOVE the Psalms!!! Music is so EXPRESSIVE! We see this constantly in the Psalms. Psalm 42 is a Psalm expressing deep anguish and depression. Psalm 100 is expressing deep joy and gladness. Often I’ve heard people referring to their love for the Psalms because they express such human emotions with which we can so easily identify. And that is so true and it is so encouraging to read through a Psalm that is expressing the very emotions you are feeling as you read and sing that Psalm to the Lord, expressing what is on your heart to Him! What a privilege it is to be able to do this with God’s Word!
However, the Psalms are not exclusively expressive. They are also written to be impressive. They are written with logical rhyme schemes so that they remain in our minds and in our souls, impressing us with the Truth of Who God is, who we are, and how we should live in light of that! So when you come to a Psalm like Psalm 42 and you are not the least bit in sorrow or anguish, don’t dismiss the Psalm, thinking it does not accurately express how you feel or where you are at that given moment in life. Instead, let the Psalm inform and impress on your heart the Truth of how you should prepare your soul for being in the moment described in the Psalm. If you are in anguish and you are reading through Psalm 100, let the joy of the Psalter impress upon your heart that there is yet a reason to hope in God and to praise Him, though it might not feel that way in that moment.
Music is intended not only to be an EXPRESSION, but also an IMPRESSION!!! This is SO KEY! Yes, we can sing these to God and repeat these out of the overflow of our hearts! But they are also meant to be impressing our hearts with TRUTH! Therefore, as we read the Psalms, let our hearts express to God what we are reading and let God impress on our hearts the Truth by which He intends for us to be affected.