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For the next 8 weeks we will be reading Psalms, the ancient songs of God's people in the Old Testament. The Book of Psalms is a unique part of the bible, and it requires its own unique way of reading and interpreting. This bible study will walk us through a couple of helpful frameworks.

To begin, watch this 5 minute explainer video from The Bible Project, and discuss the questions which follow:

  • What did you learn from the video?

  • How does understanding the book of psalms as a 'virtual temple' help us to interpret them for our own Spiritual walk?

  • What did you think about the final sentence of the video: "They’re poems for exiles, who are learning to live by God’s wisdom and to seek God’s justice in the world as they hope for the coming Messiah and the Kingdom of God."

    • How should we use the psalms as Christians?

    • And how is that different to how they were originally used by the Jewish people in the Old Testament?

Each psalm needs to be read as a whole work of art, and there are some key questions we can ask no matter what psalm we're reading: pay attention to the attitude, images, teaching, and anticipation found in the psalm, as well as your own heart response [1].

For the next 15 minutes or so, in pairs or 3s, read one of these three psalms, and answer the 5 questions that follow...

Psalm 8

Psalm 61

Psalm 86

  1. What is the overall attitude of the psalm? (There are many types of psalms. Would you say this one is a song of praise, thanksgiving or lament? Is it focused on expressing faith and trust? Is the psalmist remembering history or past experiences? Is it for teaching, proclaiming or prophesying?) How does noticing this 'forest' (the overall attitude of the Psalm) help you to interpret the 'trees' (the individual verses or lines)?

  2. What images do you see in this psalm? What is the overall effect of these images on you as you imagine them?

  3. What does this psalm teach us about God and human beings, and our relationship to Him?

  4. How does this psalm anticipate the coming of Jesus and His Kingdom? Has Jesus already fulfilled this, or is it yet to come?

  5. What is your response to this psalm? What would you like to pray or do now that you've meditated on this psalm?

Now read your psalm aloud to the group, and share your answers to the questions for each psalm one at a time. Before you move on to the next psalm, pray for one another in line with your answers to question 5.

[1] These questions are loosely based on Tremper Longman III's How To Read The Psalms, which can be found here. His nine principles are a helpful framework with which to read any Psalm.


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