- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: January 20 2017 January 20 2017
As we enter into 2017, the year of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, our Sunday morning Adult Bible Class will be studying some of the books of the Bible and other documents that were important to the rediscovery and reclaiming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As a young professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg, Martin Luther began to lecture on the Psalms sometime in 1513. Not only did Luther begin his academic carrier lecturing on the Psalms, but it remained one of his most cherished and loved books of the Bible.
Luther considered the Psalter a gem, a treasure within the treasure book itself. He believed that the entire message of the Bible was summarized in this one little book. In his “Preface to Psalter,” Luther writes, “The Psalter ought to be a precious and beloved book, if for no other reason that this: it promises Christ’s death and resurrection so clearly—and pictures His kingdom and the condition and nature of all Christendom—that it might well be called a little Bible. In it is comprehended most beautifully and briefly everything that is in the entire Bible.” 1
The “sweet fragrance” of this “little Bible” gives us insight into the lives of the saints, “how they spoke with God and prayed … in great earnestness and on the most important matters.” 2 The Psalter lays before us the very words, deeds, hearts and souls of the saints; how they acted and responded when in danger, distress, or need. The book is “replete with evidences of the human situation with all its complexities.” 3 Wherever we are in life, we can find ourselves in this book.
“A human heart is like a ship on a wild sea, driven by the storm winds from the four corners of the world. Here it is stuck with fear and worry about impending disaster; there comes grief and sadness because of present evil. Here breathes a breeze of hope and of anticipated happiness; there blows security and joy in present blessings. These storm winds teach us to speak with earnestness, to open the heart and pour out what lies at the bottom of it.” 4 The Psalms speak amidst every kind of storm wind; they give us the words of joy, praise, thanksgiving, sorrow, lament that flow from the bottom of the heart to God in prayer.
The Psalms are not then simply prayers of the saints gone before us, but a prayer book for all the saints. For “everyone, in whatever situation he may be, finds in that situation psalms and words that fit his case, that suit him as if they were put there just for his sake, so that he could not put it better himself.” 5
This in and of itself makes the Psalter unique and valuable. However, the Psalms are more than a mirror of the soul and a guide to prayer, they also point us to their fulfillment in Christ. The Psalms proclaim Christ and His work for us! This little gem of the Bible gives us every aspect of the Christian life and Christ Himself. As Luther concluded, “in a word, if you would see the holy Christian Church painted in living color and shape, comprehended in one little picture, then take up the Psalter. There you have a fine, bright, pure mirror that will show you what Christendom is.” 6
Join us on Sunday mornings as we dig into this little gem of the Bible!
- Martin Luther, “Preface to the Psalter (1545)” in Luther’s Works, Vol. 35 (Muhlenberg Press, 1960), 254.
- Ibid., 254–255.
- C. Hassel Bullock, Encountering The Book of Psalms (Baker Academic, 2001), 15.
- Luther, 255.
- Ibid., 256.
- Ibid., 256–266.
Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at nettleton@StJohnsFC.org or at 970-305-2420.