A Reflection on the Psalms

Excursus 4: Canonical Connections Between the Psalms
There is, what one would call, a canonical connection between Psalm 4 and Psalm 5. What does canonical mean? Well, I’m glad you asked. The term “canon” refers to the collection of sacred books that the church in history has deemed, through careful procedures of acceptability, certain books to be viewed officially accepted as genuine. The canon is the Bible we have now. This process of canonization is not limited to the church only, but it is a process that has been done by early rabbinical Judaism of the early sacred traditions and Scriptures of ancient Israel. So, canon means looking at the whole collection of sacred books set before us. Therefore, reading canonically (or viewing one book in light of the rest of the books in the canon) is a form of reading a specific book, or chapter, or verse within the framework of how it fits, or relates, with the rest of the book(s) of the canon. Essentially, the question refers to the “text as it currently is”; how this final form of a text in our current Bible works with the rest of the final forms of texts throughout the rest of our current Bible.
All that being said, a canonical view of individual psalms in relation to the rest of the Psalter is helpful. In fact, it is through this lens of interrelatedness between individual psalms that the Psalter was probably edited and organized. These connections could have been for many reasons such as textual connections, connections of ideas that each psalm conveys, etc. For example, Psalm 4, for the sake of the temple traditions, was probably used for evening liturgy, while Psalm 5, which follows Psalm 4, was probably used the following day for morning liturgy. Therefore, not only do individual psalms convey theology, but the relationship between psalms conveys theology also. As we saw above, the psalmist can lay down and sleep in peace because of his confidence of trust in the LORD (Psalm 4.8). And in a like manner, the psalmist can relay his requests in the morning with the same confidence of trust in the LORD (Psalm 5.3). This connection between two individual psalms builds a theology that the LORD can be trusted in all aspects of our lives; whether we lay down to sleep He has us, and when we awake and take on the rest of the day He has us. This theology could not be made unless a canonical connection was made between the two psalms.
It is important for our purposes of this study to keep this canonical connection between the individual psalms of the whole Psalter in mind as we move forward because, in a sense, the Psalter is telling a story. The Psalter tells the story of a God interacting with and caring deeply for His people as they move from lament to praise. Every psalm is individual and telling something special of the divine-human relationship, but they are ultimately telling us that this relationship, when we stay on the path of righteousness that God lays before us (Psalm 1), will always end in praise (Psalm 150). When we trust fully in God with our whole lives – whether we lay down to sleep (Psalm 4.8) or wake up ready to take on a new day (Psalm 5.3) – we will be held and heard by God at every moment and we will be blessed. We can learn to sing songs of praises even in our cries of despair. When we are reviled and attacked by the evil one (fill in the blank for “one”), we can have confidence in our trust in the LORD to ultimately deliver us. We can trust in His faithful ear to hear us. And He ultimately will be praised. All glory goes to God and this glory shines forth through our ultimate good. The Psalter is telling us a story; we have to be faithful in our hearing this whole story so that our lives can reflect this story.

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