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I have found a few things helpful when studying the Psalms. One is to recognize that the Psalms come to us from God to help us express ourselves to God. God gives us words to speak. In that sense, He is really like a father or a mother with young children who need to learn vocabulary. When you read through the Gospels, one of the wonderful things you realize is the extent to which Jesus’ thinking about His relationship to God, His own life, His affections, and His emotions are all impressed with the language of the Psalms.

We look to the Psalms to enable us to express ourselves to God, and therefore we want to be aware that the Psalms fit into different kinds of affective categories. Some of them are psalms of praise. Some of them are laments. Some of them are struggles. Some of them are pathways from deep depression to some sense of stability. We can look out for that and ask ourselves, “What is the mood of this psalm?”

Another important thing is to remember that the Psalms point to our Lord Jesus. They point to Christ in different ways, so not every psalm points to Christ in exactly the same way. But I think it’s wonderfully helpful to ask ourselves: How would Jesus have read this psalm? What would He have made of this psalm? We know exactly what He made of some of them because He quoted them, but you can ask that question with every single psalm. Some of them you will see very clearly: this psalm is David pointing forward to Christ; this psalm is David experiencing a reflection of what Jesus Christ would experience; this psalm is telling us about what Jesus Christ will do; this psalm is giving expression to the emotions that Jesus would have. So yes, they are all about the experience of God’s people. They are all about my experience. But they are also, in a very special way, pointers to Christ.

When we see how the Psalms point to Jesus, just as I was saying earlier about the Gospels, we learn to appreciate the Lord, especially in His humanity, more and more. And the more we appreciate what it meant for Him to take our humanity, the more we’re going to love Him and trust Him.

This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Sinclair Ferguson and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.