Confidence or assurance most often comes in degrees, which is another way of saying that I’m not as certain about some things as I am about others. I say this only to point out that few things are more settled and assured in my soul than the immeasurable value and life-changing power of the written Word of God.
There is a measure of satisfaction that comes from reading and deciphering a John le Carre spy novel or, for some (not me), tracking with J. K. Rowling and the many exploits of Harry Potter. But the Word of God is unparalleled and unsurpassed in its capacity to enthrall, empower, and enlighten the mind concerning those truths on which I have built my life and staked my eternal destiny.
The psalmists themselves undoubtedly concur. On numerous occasions they affirm without hesitation the priceless and incomparable value of God’s inspired Word. “In the way of your testimonies,” wrote David, “I delight as much as in all riches” (Psalm 119:14). If that language isn’t sufficiently exalted, he goes on to declare that “the law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (119:72), and again, “I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold” (119:127). The written rules and precepts of the Lord are more desirable “than gold, even much fine gold” (Psalm 19:10a). Or if you prefer an even more tangible image, David insists that God’s words are “sweeter . . . than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (19:10b).
This is perhaps the principal reason why, if you were to ask a typical group of Christians what their favorite book of the Bible is, I suspect more than half would say it is the Psalms. While happily confessing that all Scripture is inspired of God and profitable for our lives, there’s something special about the Psalter that makes it the fi rst among equals in the biblical canon.
Perhaps it’s the fact that no one struggles to find the Psalms relevant. There is something here for everyone in whatever walk of life, however old or young one may be, regardless of circumstance, whether in triumph or trial, joy or sadness. Rarely will you hear someone say, after reading the Psalter: “I just can’t identify with this. It doesn’t speak to me where I am in life right now.”
Among countless other characteristics of the Psalter, many would point to the fact that whereas most of Scripture speaks to us, the Psalms also speak for us. In the Psalms we find inspired examples of what we can and should and must say to God. They are a perpetual reminder that God welcomes our deepest desires, our most unnerving of fears, our anxiety and adoration, our celebration and our confusion.
Some point to the passion of the psalmists, or their praise, or their brutal and sometimes painful honesty as they wrestle through the confusion and loss and disappointment that life so often casts our way. As Don Williams put it, “the full range of human emotions is displayed in these living prayers, without the hypocrisy and pretense so often characteristic of the modern church.”
The Psalter is also undeniably God-centered. When I asked my wife, Ann, what impressed her most about the Psalms, and how she might put this in one simple statement, she replied: “Woe is me! Wow is Thee!” I couldn’t agree more. Human beings in all their weakness, misery and sin are here confronted with the wonder and mercy and splendor of God.
Concerning the Psalms, I encourage you to first read the biblical text itself, slowly meditate upon it, and perhaps even memorize portions of it. I trust that in doing so you, too, will find God’s words to be more precious than gold and sweeter than honey.
- Sam Storms