Reading the Psalms with David Powlison

Published: October 04, 2012

The Psalms Are for You Now

The Psalms are often our go-to Scriptures because they are so immediately digestible in an “I…” format.

“The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want…
Even though I walk through the valley…
You are with me.” (Psalm 23:1, 4a)

A Psalm is exactly what we need in the moment. The Psalms are designed to be exactly what we need in the moment. Not only that, but the Psalms connect you to the sorrows and joys of saints in history, Christ’s own sufferings, and give us a way to approach the Father when we don’t have the energy or the words. The Psalms are for you, for today. That’s why we  will start a new series that features insights from David Powlison on the Psalms.

The Psalm’s Four Voices

As we begin this series, here are the “four voices” that you should be aware of whenever you read a psalm.

1. The first voice calls out the experience of the writer…

Each Psalm contains the words of a man who is faced with real-world troubles, sins, and joys that drive him to cry out to his Lord. We can hook into these experiences. The point is that they are common to us, and we can cry out to the Lord for the same things.

2. A second voice sounds the experience of the people of God through all ages.

You are part of a vast company who have made and are making this psalm their own…Your individual experience does not occur alone…You don’t have to work up faith all on your own. You are part of a choir, and sometimes others can carry the tune while you catch your breath.

3. The third voice registers Jesus’ experience.

Your Redeemer was among the afflicted, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Your individual experience is the subset of another’s experience, if you are in Christ.  Psalms are not meditative techniques for achieving mental equilibrium. It expresses the inner life and words of a Person whom [we] can grow to love.

4. Finally, you, the readers, weigh in with the fourth voice.

These words are meant to map onto your experience; your experience is meant to be expressed with these words. The Word of God—words of the psalmist, of believers, of Jesus—comes to change us.

We encourage you to join us as we walk through the book of Psalms together, guided by Powlison’s insights on how they intersect with the hardships and complexities of real life. We’ll start with Psalm 10 in days to come.

Excerpts from David Powlison, “Predator, Prey, and Protector: Helping Victims Think and Act from Psalm 10JBC 16:3 (Spring 1998), 27-28.