July 8, 2014
Psalms and The Wisdom of God
We’ve talked about the Psalms before in The One Year Book of Psalms, a daily devotional from Tyndale, highly recommended for individual use. Recently, Crossway sent me review copies of the Psalms: A 12-Week Study and also The Wisdom of God, a 10-week study which includes 5 weeks on the Psalms. Whether for personal use or group study, I highly recommend both books.
As previously mentioned, studying psalms and wisdom books of the Bible gives an excellent foundation for prayer, poetry, and biblical insights into the people of God, who have turned to these books over the centuries for guidance. More importantly, both books from Crossway show how Psalms provide insight into the mind of Christ as they repeatedly point to Him, prophetically and poetically.
From Crossway’s Knowing the Bible series, Psalms: A 12-Week Study coordinates somewhat with the ESV Study Bible, but any translation you or your Bible study group chooses will, of course, be fine as you proceed numerically through the Psalms.
Beginning with the “Week 1: Overview,” the text offers a helpful outline of the five “books” within the book of Psalms. For instance, Book 1 includes Psalm 1-41, many of which were written by King David where “Prayers issuing from a situation of distress dominate” and are “punctuated by statements of confidence in the God who alone can save.”
In Book 2, Psalms 42-72 present the Korah collection where “Once again, lament and distress dominate the content of these prayers, which now also include a communal voice.” In Book 3, the “tone darkens” as it brings “most of the psalms of Asaph (Psalms 73-83), as well as another set or Korah psalms (Psalm 84-85; 87-88).” However, Book 4 (Psalms 90-106) “may be seen as the first response to the problems raised by the third book.” Then Book 5 (Psalms 107-150) “declares that God does answer prayer (Psalm 107) and concludes with five Hallelujah psalms….”
In addition, a footnote in this Overview tells us “the basic type of psalms can be summarized as laments (presenting a trouble situation to the Lord), hymns of praise (calling believers to admire God’s attributes) and hymns of thanksgiving (thanking God for an answered prayer). There are also hymns celebrating God’s law…, wisdom psalms…, songs of confidence…, historical psalms…, and prophetic hymns (echoing themes found in the Prophets, especially calling God’s people to covenant faithfulness).”
Throughout the study guide, a consistent format considers the setting, glimpses of the Gospel, theological terms, and personal implications with ample room for writing responses in “Reflection and Discussion.” Besides the high quality of information provided, Bible students and discussion groups will appreciate the high quality of the paper, cover, and print in this well-done series.
In the Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament series, previously included in a review of Bible Study Resources, Nancy Guthrie gives us insight in studying The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Books.
As a 10-week study that also includes the books of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon, five of those weeks focus on the Psalms. Instead of a sequential study, however, the author groups the psalms, not by book, but by divisions of “Psalms: The Songs of Jesus,” “Blessing and Perishing in the Psalms,” “The Royal Psalms,” “Repentance in the Psalms,” and “The Suffering and Glory of Messiah in the Psalms.” The wise insights and personable writing style make you feel as though you’re having a deep conversation with Nancy about the scriptures, but this series works well in group study too.
If you’re as interested in the psalms and wisdom books of the Bible as I am, you might decide to do what I did: Soak up both of these excellent resources from Crossway.
© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a lifelong lover of the Bible, writer in all genres, and poet-author of the Bible-based book of poetry Outside Eden
Psalms: A 12-Week Study from the Knowing the Bible series, paperback
The Wisdom of God (A 10-week Bible Study): Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Book, paperback