Sunday, January 14, 2007

Teenage Sunday School Starts the Psalms

Bible: Information or Life-Line?
Start by mentioning to the class that there are different ways to read the Bible and different reasons to read the Bible, and that we're going to talk about a couple of those today. Divide the board into two sections; title the left side "Information" and the right side "Life-line".

Call out the following examples and ask the class whether each uses the Bible for information or as a life-line.
  1. You want to find out how old Melchizedek lived to be. What kind of use of the Bible is that? Information.
  2. Everything has been going really horribly in your life lately and you want to know if there is any reason to hope. What kind of use of the Bible is that? Lifeline
  3. You want to know the names of the tribes of Israel. Information
  4. You've done something awful and you can't believe you've done it. You aren't sure if God can ever forgive you, or whether things can ever be right again. Lifeline

Basic Introduction to Psalms
Psalms is more of a life-line book, not an information book. It has prayers for all kinds of occasions and situations.

Psalms is one of the easiest books in the Bible to find. If you open your Bible to the exact middle, you'll usually open it to Psalms. Everyone tries it. Most get Psalms on the first try, everyone had it by the second try.

The books of Psalms was like our hymnals or song-books. Have various people open to the following Psalms and read not the Psalm itself but the note below the title.
  • Psalm 5: For the director of music. For flutes. A psalm of David.
  • Psalm 22: For the director of music. To the tune of "The Doe of the Morning." A psalm of David.
  • Psalm 30: A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.
  • Psalm 45: For the director of music. To the tune of "Lilies." Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil. A wedding song.
  • Psalm 56: For the director of music. To the tune of "A Dove on Distant Oaks." Of David. A miktam. When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.
  • Psalm 57: For the director of music. To the tune of "Do Not Destroy." Of David. A miktam. When he had fled from Saul into the cave.

Questions from the class:

Do we know the tunes? No, the tunes have been lost. Some of these are 3,000 years old; the tunes have been forgotten. All we have left are the words.
Did they rhyme? No, the Hebrews weren't into rhyming poetry. They liked parallelism and imagery as their main poetic devices.

Overview of some more poetic devices
  • Turn to Psalm 136. This one has a line repeated over and over. That's called a ... Refrain
  • Ask if their teachers in school have ever given them assignments where they have to write sentences or poems where the first line starts with A, the next line starts with B, the next with C, and so forth through the alphabet. They had all had assignments like that. That kind of poem is called an "acrostic", where there's a special pattern in the first letter. Have them turn to Psalm 119. Point out the sections labeled Aleph, Beth, Gimel, and so forth. These are the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Originally this psalm was an acrostic, the first letter of each section was each letter of the Hebrew alphabet in turn.

First Sample Psalm
I know most of the students are probably tired of Psalm 23 by now, so I want to start them with something good that they haven't heard before. Turn to Psalm 19 and split up the verses so the class takes turns reading it.

We'll go into some of the other well-known psalms next week.

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