Studying (and singing) the Psalms

How shall we appreciate the Psalms appropriately? Barth wrote that “theology follows the talk of the Church to the extent that in its question as to the correctness of its utterance it does not measure it by an alien standard but by its own source and object.” (I/1, p. 4, emphasis mine) The subject matter determines how we shall approach it. In the case of the Psalms, might not be it more appropriate if we learn to sing and pray the Psalms rather than simply studying it as a text, as the Psalms, indeed, are a collection of songs and prayers of the people of God? What is the appropriate place for Psalms study then? Of course, learning to sing a song requires our knowledge about the song as well. Many have pointed that the opening lyric of Katy Perry’s Firework, “Do you ever feel//like a plastic bag//drifting to the wind//wanting to start again?” refers to a scene in American Beauty. Without noticing that reference, many others have perhaps dismissed the sing unfairly. Thus, a proper study is indeed needed. But it is not the end in itself. The end of the study of Psalms shall be to sing and pray them, as what the Israelites did with them. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord; praise the Lord!

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