From  the  book----


Through Poetry, Song, and Lament

The books of poetry. Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon make up the Bible's books of poetry. Sometimes these are also called the "wisdom writings." All demonstrate Israel's need to commune with God through prayer and worship. Though they were supremely blessed, the Hebrews suffered through many difficulties and often called out to God for mercy. Their prayers were answered and they would then praise God for his faithfulness.

Hebrew poetry is picturesque and vivid. The rhythm or cadence to Hebrew poetry is lost to some degree in the translation, but it is filled with concrete images and deep emotion. These five books of poetry aren't just a change in style from previous books; the subject matter shifts as well. Wisdom takes center stage with these five books, therefore they are called the "wisdom literature" of the Bible.

Job is a book of both lament and praise. Whenever the troubling question of "Why do bad things happen to good people?" comes up, Job is the first to come to mind. Satan uses Job to try and prove a point to God that without God's protective covering over his people, they would fall away. Satan ultimately failed in his efforts. Though many ills happened to Job, he did not curse God or turn from the difficulties. As he states in Job 2:10, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"

Job is never identified as a Jew, and he wasn't a king, but his book fits with the poetic books of both King David and King Solomon. Job is thought to have lived in the Arabian Desert somewhere between Babylon and the Holy Land during the years of exile. So the Book of Job might fit more easily near Exodus!

God valued Job's faithfulness greatly, and though the heavenly Father did give Satan permission to harm what belonged to Job and eventually to harm his very person, he did not give Satan everything. Job's eternal life was already signed and sealed—God said, "There is no one on earth like [Job]; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil" (Job 1:8). It can be difficult to resolve why God would put one of his children into such a predicament, and, like us, Job had the same questions.

Why did God allow Satan such opportunity? Satan accused God of being foolish; the great deceiver claimed that Job was only righteous and "faithful" because it helped him receive great blessing. In essence, Satan undermined the godliness of a redeemed man. If Satan could prove that Job's godliness was truthfully a self-serving sin, then redemption would be an impossibility. Satan wanted to show that this was indeed the case, and that ultimately, God's system is flawed. God allowed Satan to trouble Job because it was necessary in order to silence Satan. However, God is in control—he puts limits on how far Satan may go.

Job remained faithful to God. Job's friends told him that his sin was causing the problems, that God would not allow such suffering if he had been faithful. His wife told him to curse God and die. Job was left alone with his thoughts but would not turn his back on God. He cried out because he felt alienated from God, chided God for being unjust, and cursed the day of his birth, but he would not curse God. What pained Job most was God's apparent alienation from him—a sign that it is not earthly pain or misery we should fear, but the spiritual pain of separation from our heavenly Father.

Job won an audience with God. It is truly magnificent what God has to say to his child in chapters 38-42. God's sovereignty is firmly established, as is his faithfulness. Job's friends are chastised for their lack of faith, Job and God's relationship is completely restored, and Job is blessed even more in the second part of his life than he had been in the first.

Psalms. While Jews and Christians share the entire Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament, Psalms is the most emotionally and intensely shared book of Hebrew Scripture. Jews know many of the Psalms and individual verses by heart. Jesus often quoted or referred to the Psalms. Martin Luther called the Book of Psalms "a Bible in miniature." The 150 "rosaries" later instituted by the Roman Catholic Church are in honor of the 150 Psalms.

The Psalms chronicle both the joys and sorrows of God's people. They are timeless and demonstrate even today what it is to be a child of God: "Sing to the Lord, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning" (Ps. 30:4-5).

David was more than a great warrior. He was a musician who played the eight-stringed harplike instrument known as the lyre. He was also a great poet who composed about half of the Psalms. David used many descriptions of animals, birds, and plant life in the Psalms to portray poetic images. His songs were full of lament as well as praise. They were his prayers to the Lord.

"Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest." David, weighed down by his duties, must have wished he could take flight from his tasks. He might have selected almost any bird to express this wish in Psalm 5 5, yet he chose the dove for a particular reason. The former shepherd knew that while most birds can fly, only doves can take off with a sudden burst of speed and sustain their powerful flight for a long distance.

The shortest psalm (117) has just two verses, and the longest psalm is just two chapters later (119). It is also the longest chapter in the Bible, and longer than some whole Bible books—such as Obadiah, Philemon, and Jude.

The Book of Psalms is really five different books of songs and poems, all connecting our relationship to God.

Book 1

Psalms 1-41

Book 2

Psalms 42-72

Book 3

Psalms 73-89

Book 4

Psalms 90-106

Book 5

Psalms 107-150

It appears that this collection was begun as something of a hymnbook for temple worship in Jerusalem. Words such as selah, maskil, and miktam are found throughout the book to give direction to those who would speak or chant these psalms in public worship.

The Penitential Psalms is the title given to seven psalms that express deep repentance over sin: Psalms 7, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. All but two are attributed to King David—most notably Psalm 51, which is his lament over committing adultery with Bathsheba.

The Messianic Psalms are Old Testament psalms that relate information about the coming Messiah, and were generally quoted by the Lord Jesus or the New Testament writers in reference to him. These include Psalms 22, 40, 41, 45, 69, 72, and 118.

The Psalms of Ascent were sung by Jewish pilgrims as they traveled upward from the surrounding areas of Palestine to the city of Jerusalem for festivals. The songs tell of looking up to the hills, seeing the walls of Jerusalem, and observing the many people gathering together to worship, and they end with a joyous shout of praise as the pilgrims finally arrive at the gates of the temple.

Acrostic poems are found throughout Jewish literature. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is an acrostic poem— every new stanza begins with the successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Psalm 112 is similar, each line beginning with the next letter of the alphabet. This was not only poetic, but aided in the memorization of the psalm.

Knowing it all. Solomon spoke over three thousand proverbs and wrote more than a thousand songs, some of which come down to us in the Books of Proverbs and the Song of Solomon. This son of David found favor with God and was given great wisdom, yet he too fell away from God. Different stages of his personal walk can be seen throughout his writings.

Proverbs. Some proverbs are strung together in a meaningful sequence, while others are independent of each other and need to be "unpacked" by the reader. The opening chapters of Proverbs contain extended proverbs progressing with each verse. Shorter bits of wisdom form chapters 10 and following. Proverbs leaves no ambiguity over the contrast between the righteous and the wicked.

The call of wisdom is made throughout the first ten chapters of Proverbs. Solomon, who was given great wisdom from God, says in Proverbs 8:22 that wisdom was the first creation of God. Solomon always refers to wisdom in the feminine sense: "She calls out..."

Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived; he was "wiser than all men" (1 Kings 4:31). God had asked him what he wanted more than anything, and Solomon asked for wisdom in order to better rule the people of Israel. His wisdom was unsurpassed, and the people lived very well under his rule. A beautiful temple was even built, but sadly, many of the Israelites, including Solomon, eventually began sacrificing to other gods. God raised up armies to fight against him and his people, but he made a decision not to take the nation from Solomon's rule. He would spare Solomon for his father, David's, sake. Instead Israel would be lost during the reign of Solomon's son, Rehoboam.

Ecclesiastes. If Job reads like a play, and Psalms like poetry, and Proverbs like a book of maxims, then Ecclesiastes reads like an essay or the musings of an old man. Its subject is the vanity of life. The book approaches Job's question from the opposite side: If this universe is governed by a moral God, why doesn't everything make sense?

It is believed that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes. Solomon's struggle through this book to understand the purpose behind everything comes to a very strong conclusion. Essentially, God has ordered life for his own purpose, not man's. As a result, the worry and desire that cause people to constantly seek more in life—money, peace, happiness—are best served by turning to God. God controls everything, and man should know his limitations.

To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God" (Eccles. 2:26). Striving after things is not where meaning is to be found, concludes Solomon. He calls it "a chasing after the wind."

Ecclesiastes's conclusion? "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (Eccles. 12:13). We should enjoy what God has given us, live in the Word, work hard and well, strive for righteousness, and enjoy God and the relationship we have with him!

Song of Solomon. Plain and simple, this book is an erotic love poem. The writing resembles Egyptian love poetry and Arabic wedding songs that praise the charm and beauty of the bride. The traditional interpretation, in both Judaism and Christianity, is that these love poems represent Yahweh's love for Israel as well as establishing God's high regard for male-female love and sexuality.

Some of the images are so mature that Jewish boys were not allowed to read Song of Solomon until they attained adulthood. Many people have questioned its place in Scripture, but Jewish leaders decided in ancient times that the book is allegorical—the man chasing a woman is a depiction of God pursuing sinful Israel. In medieval times, Christian scholars suggested that the book also represented Christ pursuing the church.

"Song of Songs" means "the greatest of songs" and is about the "God of gods and Lord of lords." It is believed Solomon wrote this book; however, others maintain that there were multiple authors for this unique book of Scripture.

Though it is a relatively short book, Song of Songs is a full and complete book. The voice of the beloved character (the one who is loved, such as Israel) is the one most heard from throughout. Through five meetings with the beloved, the lover is asked for first a kiss and ultimately for complete intimacy.