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What Luther Says

5 Types of Psalms

Did you know there are 5 types of Psalms? Me neither.

Here's Martin Luther's commentary on that fact in Reading The Psalms With Luther: The Psalter For Individual & Family Devotions With Introductions By Martin Luther...

The entire Psalter may be treated in a five-fold fashion, that is, we may divide it into five groups.

FIRST, some Psalms prophesy. They speak, for example, of Christ and the Church or what will happen to the saints. This class includes all the psalms that contain promises and warnings -- promises for the godly and warnings for the ungodly.

SECOND, there are psalms of instruction, which teach us what we should do and what we should avoid, in accordance with the Law of God. This class includes all the psalms that condemn human doctrines and praise the Word of God.

THIRD, there are psalms of comfort, which strengthen and comfort the saints in their troubles and sorrows but rebuke and terrify the tyrants. This class includes all the psalms that comfort, exhort, stimulate endurance, or rebuke the tyrants.

FOURTH, are the psalms of prayer, in which we call on God, praying in all kinds of distress. To this class belong all the psalms that lament or mourn or cry out against our foes.

FIFTH, are the psalms of thanks, in which God is praised and glorified for all His blessings and help. This class includes all the psalms that praise God for His works. These are the psalms of the first rank, and for their sake the Psalter was created; therefore it is called in Hebrew Sefer Tehillim, that is, a praise book or book of thanksgiving.

We should understand that the psalms, with all their verses, cannot always be classified so precisely and exactly into these groups. At times one psalm might contain two, three, or even all five classifications, so that one psalm may belong in all five divisions, with prophecy, instruction, comfort, prayer, and thanksgiving lying next to one another. However, it is the intention that the reader may understand that the Psalter deals with these five topics. The classifications are a help, so that we might more easily understand the Psalter, become adapted to it, and also be able to learn and keep it.

What a refreshing perspective particularly when I've been so used to reading the Psalms as a "To Do List" or as "A Prescription For Godly Living" -- which, in a sense, they certainly are -- except I was always removing Christ from the picture completely for some reason and making them all about me.

Now, please don't misunderstand me, as mentioned, it is sort of "A Prescription For Godly Living" as Luther's commentary clearly suggests, but not in the ways so commonly believed, taught, and confessed by many within contemporary Christianity today.

I like to think of it in the way that I heard Pastor Wolfmueller once describe it: For instance, any time we come across the word "righteousness" in the psalms, we need to immediately think of it from a Gospel perspective (as in believing and confessing what Christ did and does for us) and never from a moralistic, works righteousness perspective (as in what we have done and can do for ourselves) as so many often want to.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, I'm thrilled to have gotten my hands on this little book to help me start reading the psalms properly from now on.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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