This Sunday at St. Paul’s, Nobleton, we’re going to celebrate the Bible’s songbook by worshipping God through hearing, reading, and singing Psalms. Comprising a large part of the centre of the Bible, the 150 biblical Psalms show us much about how the ancient Hebrews engaged with God.
There are the familiar ones that can’t be missed by most believers:
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want… (23)
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? (27)
I lift my eyes to the hills; from where does my help come? (121)
These are among the most comforting words in Scripture. But the Psalter contains more than comfort, as important as that is for us in our walk with God.
One of the strangely comforting things about the Psalms is that they contain every human emotion. Some Psalm writers cry out to God in fear, in anguish, in destitution. Other Psalm writers cry out to God in praise, in jubilation, in exaltation. But did you know that some Psalm writers cry out to God in anger, too?
Yes, anger. People got mad – sometimes at God, sometimes at their enemies – and the compilers of the Bible decided to keep even the angry words in the sacred text. God inspired those words, after all, so they must be worthy of our attention.
Many of us grew up with the verbal or tacit instruction that we were not supposed to get angry. What has often resulted from this, for many people today, is that anger is the only emotion they manage to be able to demonstrate. If only we were taught that it’s okay to be angry, and to vent it appropriately.
Some of the Psalms that show a gentler kind of anger really are statements of faith and longing on the part of the Psalmists to let God know that they are crying out to him in trust, but really wishing that they would be granted the justice they deserve.
Consider Psalm 5, which we’ll also hear on Sunday (chanted, even!). David calls out to God in faith, and bears his heart about his feelings toward his enemies: “My enemies cannot speak a truthful word. Their deepest desire is to destroy others. Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. O God, declare them guilty. Let them be caught in their own traps” (Psalm 5.9-10a, NLT). It might seem exceedingly gentle on paper (or on screen), but picture King David – emotional guy that he was – singing this to God! Feel his anguish, his frustration.
There are people who say it’s wrong to be angry with God, but I would sooner see someone shake a fist at God in furious faith than to sit on the real feelings, because if we’re taught to hide them from God long enough, we’ll learn to think that God doesn’t care about our feelings.
God does care about our feelings – he created us to be emotional beings. So don’t be afraid to share every feeling with God. He cares, and wants to bring us comfort and flood our hearts with love, no matter how we feel.
It’s an ancient custom of Christ-followers all around the world to read, meditate on, and sing the Psalms. We can even pray the Psalms, letting these inspired words inspire our words – or sometimes even be our words, when other words will not come forth. The divine songbook is a gift to the church. Receive, and emote in faith.