Today we’ll spend a little time talking about how to apply the Bible’s poetry. To apply biblical poetry properly, you have to cooperate with its purpose. Remember that biblical poetry focuses on the experiences and emotions of the writer. It presents doctrine through the life of the author.
To get a better idea of how to apply poetry, let’s take a look at a short Psalm and try to come up with an action plan for it.
“(1) Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. (2) O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah. (3) But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him. (4) Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. (5) Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD. (6) There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. (7) Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. (8) I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.” (Psa. 4)
What is the Psalmist’s situation? As was often the case, the writer is obviously in trouble. God’s earlier answers to prayer have encouraged the Psalmist to look to God for help again. At the same time, there were people who tried to make him ashamed of his trust in God. David was confident that, despite their opposition, God would hear him.
Like biblical history, the Bible’s poetry encourages you to look for common ground between yourself and the writer. Unlike biblical history, you’ll often make this connection emotionally, rather than factually. You’ll find yourself saying, “I’ve felt just like that.” Maybe the people around you make fun of you for trusting in God. You get tired of it and want to know when they’ll stop. You know you’ve done right, and now you’re just waiting for God to come through for you. You come away feeling that you’re not alone – that someone else has had the same trouble and the same trust in God.
The Psalm continues by addressing the reader and offering some application. The Psalmist encourages you to stand in awe of God and not sin when you face trouble. You can rest in the knowledge that will work in your behalf. Because of that, you should do right and trust God.
Then the Psalmist returns to his pesronal experience. Many tried to discourage David from believing God, but David was determined to look to God for His help anyway. God made David glad and calmed his heart. As a result, David could sleep peacefully.
David doesn’t turn around and talk to you directly again at the end of the Psalm, but you can still apply what he has said. Like him, you can expect some folks to try to discourage you from trusting God. You need to purpose in your heart to trust Him despite the discouragements. The emotional impact of trusting God is gladness and peace. You can see here that the Psalm doesn’t just present dry theological facts; it presents experience based, emotional truth.
Read More About It
Read Psalm 7 and look for the common threads between the Psalmist’s life and your own. Then find the doctrinal and emotional truths the writer presents and apply them to your life.