Tune My Heart to Sing Thy Grace
Why we preach from Psalms
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If I were preaching onPsalm 91, that fortress of promised safety, I would help people see the structure and understand the more obscure word pictures. But more importantly, I would talk about the scores of times I've read this psalm in hospital rooms. (It is always my first choice.) I would show verbal snapshots of these places where sickness seems to be in charge, and where the future is especially murky. I would try to convey how this psalm, read again and again in crisis situations, has taken on a deeper meaning than we can acquire from a sermon or occasional devotional reading. The deeper meaning is a more settled assurance that even relentless pain and desperate diagnoses cannot assail the heart that rests in "the shadow of the Almighty" and his refuge of promises. The point: psalms mean moremean deeperwhen we've owned them in our own experience.
In preaching the psalms, the goal is not only to lay bare the truth of the text but also to show why it was meant to be sung or prayed, not merely said. The sin-sick lament of Psalm 51, the shepherd's walk of Psalm 23, the marching-to-Zion psalms of ascent speak of God and godliness more truly because they are poetry, and even more when they're the soul's own song. Preaching helps people hear the music in their heads and hearts, urges them to make the song their own, and helps people see how to pray this way.
Another task of the preacher is tuning hearts to the psalm's pitch. Many psalms trace a soul's progress in some circumstance of life. Psalm 4, for instance, begins, "Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress." It ends, "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety." The psalm traces David's journey from distress to peace.
Imagine that this psalm is a perfectly tuned, six-stringed guitar. (It is, after all, a perfectly tuned soul song.) Our people come to church each carrying their own guitar, out of pitch from a week of rough treatment and disuse. The preacher's job is to tune their heart-guitars to David's heart-guitar.
So we help them tune to v.1. The preacher might ask, "Have you ever felt like you're calling God, and he doesn't pick up? Like you keep getting his answering machine? 'Come on, God,' you say, 'pick up! I know you're there.'" In saying that, the preacher is tuning the hearts of his people to v.1.
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