The Psalms: Good for the Soul

written by Jonathan Waggett, Worship Pastor (April 4, 2023)

As a worship leader, I love pulling verses of praise and thanksgiving from the book of Psalms to be read during our times of corporate worship. The Psalms are a book of songs - the hymnal for the public worship of God - so this is fitting. However, there is so much more in the psalms than declarations of praise and thanksgiving.

As a Christmas gift from my wife, I received The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms. Spending each morning in the psalms has been encouraging and instructive, growing my walk with the Lord. As I said before, the psalms are more than declarations of praise and thanksgiving - although, the reading of God's Word should lead you to respond in worship. There is much to gain from the reading of the psalms.

The book of Psalms takes the main themes of Old Testament theology and turns them into song. Music often penetrates the minds and hearts of people in ways that reading does not. Through these ancient songs, we learn about God's holiness and perfect attributes. We learn more about ourselves in light of creation and the fall. We also see God's loving heart through His plan for redemption and restoration. He is a covenant-keeping God. And while Jesus had yet to appear as the Word made flesh, the book of Psalms (along with the entirety of the Old Testament) also points us to Jesus and salvation through Him. 

I've found that reading the psalms through - slowly and with intentionality - rightly sets my heart and attention on God and my desperate need for Him. He is the only God, my Maker, and the Ruler of all. The Lord proves His goodness and works out justice in His own time. He is pure, powerful, faithful, and wise. His unconditional love abounds and never fails. God is gracious during our (many) times of need and is Healer of all that is broken. 

Yet. In our humanity, we often fail to set our gaze above our circumstances.

The full range of human need and emotion is also on display within the psalms, which is why comfort and instruction can be found for anyone in any season of life. Below are types of psalms:


Psalms of Lament

This category is the largest by far. Up to a third of the book of Psalms are songs of lament. We see the psalmist, primarily David, lay their troubled situation before the Lord, pleading for divine intervention. Praise God, He hears. And He responds.


Psalms of Thanksgiving + Praise

This is the category of psalms that I often turn to when choosing scripture to read during corporate worship gatherings as I invite God's people to sing joyfully to the Lord. These psalms call people to worship God because of who He is and what He has done.


Psalms Celebrating God’s Law

The longest psalm AND the longest book in the Bible is Psalm 119. This psalm refers to God's written revelation, His Word, in almost every verse! This is a posture we should hold as believers - that we would love, rejoice in, cling to, and stand on God's Word.


Wisdom + Prophetic Psalms

While we often turn to the book of Proverbs for wisdom, some psalms (such as Psalm 1 and 37) reflect themes from the wisdom literature (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon). Similarly, there are psalms which echo the Prophets, calling God's people to covenant faithfulness (such as Psalm 81).


Royal Psalms

These psalms present David's rule as king as the vehicle of blessing for God’s people. Some are prayers (Psalm 20), some offer thanksgiving (Psalm 21). All point to the future Messiah, the ultimate heir of David, our Savior and King, Jesus.


I encourage you to dive into the book of Psalms sometime soon. If you're struggling in your daily Bible reading, this is a great place to start! Then keep reading beyond Psalms. But come back periodically. It will do your soul good. Earlier, I mentioned the devotional book that I use - The Songs of Jesus. Not only does the book of Psalms point to Jesus, but this was the hymnbook of Jesus when He walked on earth. Jesus sang the Great Hallel (Psalms 113-118) at Passover. He quoted Psalms more than any other book of the Bible during His earthly ministry. The psalms are indeed the songs of Jesus. May they also be yours.