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How Do I Find the Main Point of a Psalm? - Ask Pastor John

Video from Desiring God

How Do I Find the Main Point of a Psalm? - Ask Pastor John

"Audio Transcript

How do I decode the point of a whole chapter of the Bible? How do I summarize the main point of a whole psalm? Welcome back to the podcast. That’s the question we need answered today. And if you’re reading your Bible along with us, using the Navigators Bible Reading Plan, our reading schedule hits January 8 today. That means we’re reading Psalm 8 together. Psalm 8 is rather hard to make sense of, hard to summarize, so it’s a good time in our Bible reading to pause and ask Pastor John how he summarizes it and other whole chapters and whole psalms.

Philip asks this very question: “Dear Pastor John, I’ve really enjoyed the way you go through individual verses and explain them very clearly by breaking them down and explaining each part. I understand that meditating on small parts of Scripture can help us really suck all the nourishment from it, but sometimes my problem is in understanding entire chapters or larger sections of the Bible.

“I read something like Psalm 8, and although I can understand small parts of these texts, I really get lost and fail to follow the entire flow of argument or where the chapter is going. I’m often confused by a whole psalm. It seems disjointed to me, and I can’t follow how one line leads to the next. Could you help me to figure out ways to understand large sections of Scripture as a whole, rather than just small chunks disconnected from other parts? Thank you.”

Let me see if I can help, first with an analogy — namely, an analogy of a jigsaw puzzle — and then with an exhortation about the hard work of seeing a whole chapter. Then I’ll give an example from my own experience.

Scripture as a Puzzle

Think of a larger unit of Scripture, like a chapter or a few paragraphs or maybe several chapters — think of it as a jigsaw puzzle, a five-hundred-piece jigsaw puzzle. There are five hundred pieces laid in front of you, and as you look at them, they do not look at all like the painting on the front of the box. They are just one big jumble.

That’s how the words and phrases and clauses might look to you in a chapter in the Bible when you try to think of the chapter as a whole. They’re just lots and lots of words and phrases and clauses that might say some nice things, but my oh my, they don’t make one big picture.

How do you go about seeing the whole picture instead of five hundred scattered pieces? Of course, the Bible doesn’t have a picture on the top of the box. You’ll work a little harder here. How do you see a chapter as a whole, with a main point, with all the pieces fitting together to make that main point, instead of just seeing sixty or seventy scattered clauses and phrases? That’s the goal..." from the Transcript

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