This is the second of three posts, in which I poke most churches and most of my friends in the eye. I am throwing down some ways in which the psalms broaden the soul of the church.
The psalms speak in discomfitingly glowing terms of God’s law. There may not be an ultimate theological tension between God’s grace and his call to obedience, but there is certainly a practical experiential one. Most Protestants smooth this out by basically ignoring God’s law. But Jesus did not, and Paul did not: “the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” The psalms and their admiration for God’s self-revelation in the law do not balance out the New Testament: they explain it. God’s righteous character, and perfect demands are set forth. If taken seriously these lead us inexorably to our need for a law-keeper who can take our place, and a sacrifice to make atonement for our sins. But the law is practical for us as well, just as it was for ancient Israel: though many applications of the law change, it shows us how to live.
The psalms teach us what justice looks like. “…. [L]ift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is Yah; exult before him! Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.” The righteous king is one who “delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper … has pity on the weak and the needy … From oppression and violence he redeems their live, and precious is their blood in his sight.” God’s justice is not merely procedural but substantial as well. And his justice becomes the model for our justice. We are not to show partiality, because he does not. We are not to simply go with the crowd in their “judgment” because each of us (and communities as a whole) will stand before the tribunal of God, who is “angry [with sin] every day.”