Yesterday we looked at how God’s mercy is seen in the Bible before we ever get to what it actually says. We see this in the simple fact that God gave us the Bible in the first place, and in the way the Bible is written. That is, instead of simply inspiring the Bible to be written all in narrative form or law form, the Bible is written in a variety of literary genres that help us balance out our worship and obedience to God.
Today, I want to look at God’s mercy in the way the Psalms are written. God’s mercy is plain in the way he had the Psalms written because they are expressive in nature. Meaning, the writers of the Psalms are often recording their heart responses to God in the midst of the various situations he places them in, ranging from the trenches to the mountaintops of life. These heart responses are at times heart-wrenching: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever (13:1)?” And at other times, passionately ecstatic: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name (103:1)!” This literary genre allows people to see themselves in the Psalms with great ease.
When I was in seminary, at the beginning of each semester I would sometimes have a professor or two that would ask each student in the class to stand up, tell the class their name, and then their favorite book of the Bible. Psalms was always one of the books that was mentioned most. My theory for this is that people find comfort and solace in the expressive nature of the Psalms which exposes the human heart in all its ugliness and then reveals how God’s truth and grace reign it in and redirect it for his glory. It helps believers to know that they don’t need to be perfect to worship God and be helped by him.
Because of the expressive way in which the Psalms are written, we see struggle in the Psalms. Walk through Psalms like 42 and 73 and you’ll find that you have a front row seat to a believer’s inward battle to believe God instead of his deceitful heart. The Psalms show us that the Christian life is not all neat and clean (i.e. – as long as you read your Bible, pray before bed, and go to church on Sundays, then everything will fall into place). The Psalms show us that if we’re going to be faithful to God then it’s going to require pleading desperately for his grace, preaching truth to our doubts, telling ourselves to do what’s right when we don’t feel like it, and seeking God when it doesn’t seem like he is there.
This reality makes the Psalms a breath of fresh air in a world where sin is still embedded in our hearts and Satan prowls around seeking to devour those who trust in Jesus. But my point in bringing this up is to help us see that this reality is there for us in the Bible because of the way in which God chose to have the Psalms written. Praise God with me, Church! He has so saturated the Bible with his mercy that it is seen even in the way he chooses convey his truth!