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The Soundtrack of Salvation (pt. 1): Walking the Hills and Valley of Psalms 1

The Psalms

The Psalters is comprised of 150 Psalms, divided into five books. Is this incidental? Or should we seek to discern the message of the Psalms by examining the five books?

Last week, we started our journey through the Psalms, as we considered the way Psalms 1–2 introduce the whole book. This week, we looked at the first 41 Psalms. In particular we traced what I called three hills and a valley. You can see the arrangement in this PDF. I argued that each grouping of Psalms can be observed by careful attention to the literary structure and that each hill or valley has a unique message related to the overarching theme(s) of the book

You can listen to the sermon online or read the sermon notes. Discussion questions are below, as well as a few sources I consulted to help ‘see’ the shape of Book 1. 

Discussions Questions

  1. How many of you read poetry? How does that reading of poetry help you read the poetry of the Psalms? How does *not* reading poetry impact the way you read the Psalms? (Or: What happens when we read the psalms of David like letter of Paul?)
  2. What makes reading the Psalms different from every other part of Scripture?
  3. Personally, why do you read the Psalms? What are they for? What are you missing if you don’t read the Psalms?
  4. When you read Book 1 of the Psalter (Psalms 1–41), what do you find? What are some of the main themes?
  5. From the sermon, what are the four groups of Psalms in Book 1? How does seeing the structure help you understand these psalms? What questions remain about reading Psalm 1-41 as one book, or as three hills and one valley? (Please see Bruce Waltke’s article for an explanation of how the Psalms were arranged).
  6. What is most encouraging to you as you read Psalms 1-41? Consider:
    1. How does David handle his enemies? And how does God respond?
    2. How should we read the royal Psalms? Are they verses affirming our kingdoms? Or do they lift our eyes to a greater king?
    3. What hope do we find for our sins? How do the petitions about sin in Psalm 25 get resolved? See Psalms 29-32.
    4. What does Pslam 38 teach the Christian who falls into sin? Where does our help come from? See Psalm 40.
  7. What else stands out as an encouragement or enigma from Psalms 1-41?

For Further Study

This list may be a little more academic, but it reveals many of the conversation partners I had as I worked on this message.

Jim M. Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 276–90. Hamilton appeals to Jamie Grant’s outline for Book 1, which is very close to what I argued.

O. Palmer Robertson, The Flow of the Psalms: Discovering their Structure and Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2015), . Robertson takes a very different approach to Book 1. He doesn’t see the chiastic structure of the subgroups. But I think he’s wrong ;-) His chapter is still worthwhile.

Nancy L. DeClaissé-Walford, “The Meta-Narrative of the Psalms” in Oxford Handbook to the Psalms (New York: OUP, 2014), 363–76. I have found that DeClaissé-Walford’s work on the Psalms structures are very enlightening. This article, plus her introduction to the Psalms in The Book of Psalmsco-authored with Rolf-Jacobson and Beth LaNeel Tanner in the NICOT series are very helpful. She also has a stand alone volume, Introduction to the PsalmsI look forward to reading.

Bruce K. Waltke, “A Canonical Process Approach to the Psalms” in Tradition and Testament: Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg (ed. John and Paul Feinberg; Chicago: Moody, 1981), 3–18. Waltke, better than anyone I’ve read, explains how the Psalms written across time, by various psalmists, arrived in their final form.

Terrence Randall Wardlaw, Elohim within the Psalms (New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015), 42ff. In conversation with German Psalm scholars (Zenger and Hossfield), Wardlaw shows the structure that was, to me, the most convincing. You can see some of this argument online.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds