Over the last few years, I’ve come to appreciate James L. Mays’ commentary on the Psalms. Here’s an instructive paragraph from the introduction of this commentary:
“Because of their character and content, the psalms have always played a special role in reflection and thought on the Christian faith. The Book of Psalms is composed of the poetry of praise, prayer, and instruction in piety, the fundamental elements of religion in which authentic faith comes to expression. Religion is essentially composed of the praise of God and prayer to God and the practice of a life of trust and obedience before God. Reflection on the Christian religion must turn on the pivots of these psalmic functions.”
“The foci of the psalms are God and the human being – human beings in their individual and historical existence under God. The psalms speak of God’s work of creation, judgment, and salvation. They speak of the glory, mystery, and misery of the human condition. They proclaim the sovereignty of Israel’s God, the LORD, as the eternal, all-encompassing one central truth of reality. Because they deal with the principle functions of religion and basic tenets of God’s way with us, the psalms are crucial texts for theological work.
That last clause is worth repeating: “[T]he psalms are crucial texts for theological work.”