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Rightly Understanding God’s Word: Context of Genre, Part 2, by Craig S. Keener

The psalms provide ways for us to express anguish, sorrow, hope, despair, and joy in prayer to God.

This approach to the psalms is not a way to get around texts uncomfortable for those of us conditioned differently by Jesus’ teaching. We are trying to read the psalms according to their intention, thus according to their rhetorical function. Thus some psalms sound as if God always grants blessing to the righteous, whereas others note the frequent distresses of the righteous. Yet both psalms are in the same psalter, because those who first wrote and sang the psalms saw no contradiction; they used the psalms to express their hearts before God, and God inspired their worship and was pleased with it.

Levite musicians prophesied to the people as they led them in worship.

Psalms thus can include summons to worship, building to a crescendo of emotion. It would be good to note that “Hallelujah,” meaning “Praise the Lord!” is literally a command to praise the Lord rather than a word of praise itself. Levite musicians prophesied to the people as they led them in worship—1 Chron 25:1-2. Other psalms can be inspired laments, providing acceptable models for us expressing our grief. Others are prayers for vindication. Although we are to pray kind things for our enemies (Lk 6:28), prayers for vindication continue in the New Testament era (Rev 6:10; cf. 2 Tim 4:14), as we have noted.

Psalms are mainly meant to be prayed, but we can also preach and teach from them provided we recognize that we are teaching models for various kinds of prayer.

Psalms are mainly meant to be prayed, but we can also preach and teach from them provided we recognize that we are teaching models for various kinds of prayer. For instance, Psalm 150 tells us where to praise God—both in his sanctuary and in heaven, i.e., everywhere (150:1; Hebrew often summarized the whole by contrasting opposite parts); why we should praise God—both for what he has done and for who he is (150:2); how we should praise God—with dancing and all available instruments (150:3-5); and finally, who should praise God—anyone with breath (150:6). The Psalms also can provide other encouragement. For example, Psalm 2 predicts the victory of Israel’s king over the nations who mock him. This reminds us that ultimately it is not people in our society or other societies that wield power over us. God is in control, and he will reveal that. no human empire that rebels against him has ever endured and none ever will.

 

Proverbs

Hebrew often summarized the whole by contrasting opposite parts.

Wisdom teachers, or sages, often taught in easily memorize-able sayings called proverbs. Most cultures have some familiarity with this genre; Americans have sayings like, “Haste makes waste,” and traditional African societies have made much more abundant use of proverbs.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Summer 2005

About the Author: Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books, including Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Baker Academic, 2011), the bestselling IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today, and commentaries on Acts, Matthew, John, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, and Revelation. In addition to having written more than seventy academic articles, several booklets and more than 150 popular-level articles, Craig is is the New Testament editor (and author of most New Testament notes) for the The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. He is married to Dr. Médine Moussounga Keener, who is from the Republic of Congo, and together they have worked for ethnic reconciliation in North America and Africa. Craig and Médine wrote Impossible Love: The True Story of an African Civil War, Miracles and Hope against All Odds (Chosen, 2016) to share their story. sites.google.com/site/drckeener. Twitter: @keener_craig

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