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The Power and the Beauty of the Psalms in History

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds

(Ps 77:11-12).

From their exile, the community of God’s people used the psalms for prayer . . . for liturgical worship . . . for remembrance.

In troubled times, they remembered the deeds of God in their history. And hope was fueled to praise and perseverance. Because remembering exercises faith and fuels hope.

The gathered people of God retold the history of Israel in poetic form. The historical psalms (ex: Ps 78, 105, 106, 135, 136) recall the saving acts of God—and the people responded with thanksgiving and praise. They recall their sin, rebellion, and folly—and made opportunity for confession and repentance.

Their common identity and shared historical experience united them . . . in worship.

The psalms were sung communally. They were prayed in community . . . for community.

The people of God remembered their history with God. Because when they forgot, they rebelled (Ps 106:7).

We, too, have quite a significant and rich history with God. Not just Israel can state that claim—but Christians as well. They are not necessarily distinct. For their history, the history of Israel as God’s community, melds into . . . expands . . . and continues.

We (a collective we) can, and should, also remember our history.

The collective Body of Christ can also remember the active dealings of the Trinity throughout the history of the Church. A vibrant history which includes the empowering of the apostles, the spread of the gospel, and explosive growth of the kingdom. It includes the grafting of Gentile and Jew. It includes the mission of the Lord being accomplished through oppression, persecution, and martyrdom—across the globe, over centuries . . . and centuries.

The collective Body of Christ remembers together what Jesus did, and continues to do, with every Lord’s Supper.

And when we remember, we tell the next generation (Ps 78:4).

I love the times (like anniversary celebrations) when our congregation retells the history of God forming our family unit. When we remember how God planted us, helped us to grow, and used us to bless the surrounding community across the decades. It is God-honoring to do so.

We can remember our own personal stories of God’s deliverance and sanctification. That is a worthy thing to do. But to do so as the Body, leads us to worship with the powerful, exuberant praise of the psalms. As Eugene Peterson penned in Answering God, “If we confine ourselves to one-generational knowledge here, or even worse, to our own conversion-experience, we are impoverished beyond reason.”

Remember, praying these same psalms has united the hearts of the exiled Israelites, the apostles and early disciples, founding church fathers, other Christians across the globe . . . . with Jesus. And they help us remember the history of God’s people—to praise Him all the more.

Thank You, loving Father, that You have given us the psalms for individual prayer. But, as intended, they are so much more powerful in community. Unite us in praise and remembrance of You.

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