So, we find ourselves in a new teaching series. I originally planned to teach through Genesis at this point. I was taking an online course on the Pentateuch from Maranatha to gear up for that. But then my appendix ruptured and I ended up missing 2 of the 8 weeks of that class and had to drop it.
Now, I could have still taught Genesis without completing that course. But as I was recovering and praying about what to do next in Sunday School, I started thinking about the Psalms. In fact, in the hospital, a few of the Psalms gave me some real comfort at the moment it was needed. So – I thought – maybe we should study the Psalms.
But teaching biblical poetry — which Psalms is — isn’t like teaching biblical stories or narratives. You know – books like Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Joshua, Judges, and Ruth.
With biblical stories you’re looking for the setting, the characters, and the plot. It’s kind of easy in some ways. And stories are fun to tell and hear. Those of us who have children or teach children probably find ourselves telling stories to them. They love stories. We all do. Stories are universally beloved. Even if you don’t know how to articulate and analyze the setting, characters, and plot of a story you can still love it and learn life-changing lessons from it.
But then there’s poetry. When’s the last time any of us just sat down and spontaneously wrote a poem? When has your child come to you and said “Daddy, recite a poem to me!”
Do you look at the book of Job and just can’t understand how Job, his three friends, and even that Elihu fellow all spin poetry on the fly?
I’m certain that the extent of poetry that most of us has achieved starts off like this – “Roses are red, Violets are blue…”
So, my point is that poetry is less familiar to us than stories are. And so we might be inclined to avoid poetry.
Lots of Poetry in the Bible
And yet, the Bible is filled with poetry. The book of Job is mostly poetic. The Song of Solomon certainly is poetic. There is poetry in Proverbs. And of course, the book of Psalms is all poetry.
What is Biblical Poetry?
Now, when we talk about biblical poetry, we’re not really talking about rhyming and meter. That’s more characteristic of English poetry.
When you think of biblical poetry, think of imagery. “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Is God really your shepherd? Are you literally a sheep? Some of you are wearing wool today, but none of you look like a sheep, I’m sorry to say. So, when the Psalmist says that the Lord is his shepherd he’s using imagery. And it’s up to us to recognize that image and to interpret what it really means.
Another part of biblical poetry is parallelism. The Psalmist will state one thing in a line and then state something in the second line. Sometimes the second line repeats what was just said. Sometimes it contrasts what the first line said. And sometimes it completes the thought of the first line. This is parallelism. And it’s another characteristic part of biblical poetry.
So, we’ll be studying through the Psalms. Let’s start with Psalm 3…