The book of Psalms can feel impenetrable at times, being so full of such strong emotions and coming from settings and cultures so far removed from our own.
Yet these are God’s words to us written to become our words to him, appropriated by each generation of his people to express and shape our affections as we bring our hearts before him.
Much more than merely inform our affections and become our prayers, the Psalms also help shape our understanding of God’s character.
And the Psalms don’t just teach us about God’s character in the abstract, removed from our experiences in life. Instead they cover the breadth of human experience and help us see how our great God connects with us in the depths and heights of it all.
There are many different ways we could engage with the book of Psalms, but on this occasion we’re spending six weeks looking at six different themes of our life circumstance and sampling the psalms that relate most closely to these themes:
- Psalms for any time
- Psalms for when you’re under attack
- Psalms for after I’ve sinned
- Psalms for the good times
- Psalms for when I’m alone and afraid
- Psalms for life ‘in transit’
Over these six weeks in Psalms let’s keep it simple. Each week we’ll use the same five questions to help us engage with five Psalms that cluster around the theme of the sermon that Sunday.
Groups and individuals can work out how they want to use this, but at the very least this will form a great basis for daily readings in the Psalms to see how God invites us to approach him during such seasons and circumstances.
Each week one of the Psalms has been identified to provide particular focus for group discussion, though it will also be really worthwhile for groups to reflect more broadly on the other psalms and the sermon content as well.
J I Packer, ‘Knowing God’ (1973)
CS Lewis, ‘Reflections on the Psalms’ (1958)
Tim Challies, ‘The Disciplines of Spiritual Discernment’ (2007)
Matthew Jacoby, ‘Deeper Places: Experiencing God in the Psalms’ (2013)
Five questions to help you engage with each Psalm
- Name the emotions in this Psalm. How do they change or progress through the course of the Psalm?
- What do you find hard to connect with in this Psalm? If it’s not quite reflecting where you are at the moment, who else could you pray for in light of this strong emotion or challenging situation?
- What does this Psalm remind us about God’s character and his reign?
- In what sense does this point to Jesus (is it describing him, or best spoken by him, or find its expectations fulfilled in him, etc.)?
- How does seeing God better through this Psalm affect the way you live today?