There are three ways of reading a Psalm, particularly a Messianic psalm like Psalm 41: (1) you can read it in it’s historical Old Testament context, (i.e., the author’s perspective); (2) you can read it through the lens of the New Testament authors (i.e., Christ’s perspective in a Messianic psalm); or (3) you can read it from a personal perspective—like God is speaking directly to you, or you are praying this psalm to God. A good study of any psalm will apply all three of these perspectives together, as I have tried to do so far in our study of the Psalms. However, we are using Psalm 41 as an example of the three different perspectives one can have when reading the Psalm.
We began on Friday by looking at Psalm 41 from David’s Perspective. Yesterday, we then read it through the lens of the New Testament perspective, particularly as it applies to Jesus Christ. These two perspectives are frankly far easier than today’s lesson. I struggle to even know where to begin writing about reading a psalm from a personal perspective, because a personal perspective is just that—personal! Depending on your current situation, you will be able to apply this psalm to a thousand different contexts, to only a few of which I can relate!
When you read the psalms from a personal perspective, you do so as a part of your prayer time. There are some psalms that you can read verbatim as a personal prayer. You simply apply all the personal pronouns to yourself. For instance, if you are currently experiencing others gossiping behind your back, you could read verses 6-7 of this psalm as a prayer for your situation. Though David writes “me” to apply to himself, and Jesus used “me” to apply to Himself, you can use “me” to apply to yourself.
There are other times when you read the psalm not as a prayer from you to God, but as a message from God to you. For instance, when you read verses 1-3, you can think, “God is reminding me that I should try to help the poor.” We live in a slightly different context than David did when He wrote this psalm. Instead of helping the poor so that God will protect us, bless us, sustain us, etc., we help the poor because God is already protecting us, blessing, sustaining us, etc. We can read these verses as a prayer, and allow God to speak to us through them.
This reminds us that reading the Psalms from a personal perspective can be dangerous if you haven’t first read them from a historical perspective. You can twist the words of God, take them out of context, and make them mean something that they don’t mean. But, if you have already studied the Psalm in context, as we have with Psalm 41, then you can read it as a prayer, knowing what the prayer means in context. You can then apply that prayer to numerous situations that you may be facing:
Has a co-worker taken credit for some of the work you did?
Has another student been spreading gossip about you?
Did your teammate refuse to pass you the ball when you were open, and took the shot himself?
Did the bank fail to give you credit when someone stole your identity?
Did you pass a homeless man begging for food on your way home from work?
Did someone write a harsh reply to your social media post?
Has someone stolen your package off the porch?
To these and countless other situations, you could read Psalm 41 as a prayer, and listen as God speaks to you through that prayer. That’s reading the psalm from a personal perspective.
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