A God Who Comes Near
Reflections on the Psalms
Rhoda A. Carpenter
If you want to really know God, read the psalms. Painted in timeless poetic word and image is a picture of his deep love. The psalms reveal the heartbeat of a people longing for hope in a broken world. The psalmist gives voice to authentic hope found in God’s very nature. He is a God who so loves he comes near--a God who hears and answers the cries of his people.
This book is written to reawaken awareness of both the beauty of the psalms and their ability to speak with relevance to our contemporary culture--a generation in danger of losing the psalmist’s voice. It is written for those who may have felt marginalized by church or society, whether from loss, tragedy, illness, or misuse of power. May this generation hear the voice of the psalmist pointing them to a God who desires honest expression, who comes close to listen to their cries, and points them to a deeper understanding of who he is and how he loves. May the words of the psalmist lead them out of isolation and into authentic community.
The author’s approach to the psalms begins with recognition of the intertwining of imagery with the literary structure of the poetry found in the psalms. The imagery in the psalms comes from an earthy connection of the psalmist with the land of scripture. Understanding the imagery allows the reader to “see” the psalms and receive the message. It deepens the relevance of the psalms to speak into the myriad contexts in our present day multi-cultural world. Recognition of the religious and social dynamics of ancient Israelite life--such as kingship, Zion as a place of God’s presence, and the covenant relationship of a people with their God--provide further clues to understanding the message of the psalms.
Along with the rich imagery present in the psalms, this book explores the literary structure of the poetry in the psalms. Recognition of key characteristics of Hebrew poetry allows the words to “sing.” In every psalm a vivid echo of ancient voices resounds, building century upon century of expression, reaching into the present. If one reads carefully, the melodies and message can be heard. The music of the psalms breathe with life and relevance.
Psalms are filled with movement to hope and praise. Yet, they address the reality that life at times hurts. The psalmist gives honest voice to pain and affirms God’s presence in the darkest moments of life. This book explores the importance of lament both individually and in community as a vehicle to healing and a deeper understanding of God’s care.
The book closes with an examination of five select psalms that are representative of different types of psalms found in the psalter. They were chosen because of personal relevance. Through imagery, structure, and voice the psalms convey movement from honest expression to hope. Hope leads to thanksgiving. Praise resounds because of who God is and how he cares.