Salt Lake School of Theology – Review of the Psalms Exegesis Colloquium, April 30, 2021, with Dr. Jim Hamilton
On Friday, April 30, I drove the 214 miles directly south along Interstate 15 from Idaho Falls to Salt Lake City to join around 100 people on the campus of Gospel Grace Church for the opening event of the new Salt Lake School of Theology (SLST). The school hosted Dr. James M. Hamilton, Jr. as the guest professor for an inaugural teaching, a Psalms Exegesis Colloquium, 5:00 to 8:30 pm, that included a catered meal and three lecture sessions. During the evening, we were introduced to three founder architects of the school: Dr. Matt Emadi (Crossroads Church), Dr. Jared Jenkins (Risen Life Church), and Dr. Lukus Counterman (Gospel Grace Church).
Session #1 – Overview of the Psalter
Dr. Hamilton began with lyrics from the “Eye of the Tiger” and shared how our hearts must drum with the beat of the Psalter. We are to be people of the Book. We are to transport ourselves back 4,000 years ago to explore the Psalms in their own biblical culture. How are we to understand the history? Go to the historical sections in the Old Testament. The authors of the Psalms grinded their seeing lens upon this.
The Psalter is an intentional, organized book. The British Old Testament scholar, Gordon Wenham, describes the Psalter as “an anthology to be memorized for the inculturation of the youth.” It is mainly a collage on the life of David, where he wrote, others inserted, and then perhaps a scribe like Ezra brought the finishing touches.
There are two significant signposts within the Psalter to help us find our way around. First, it can be divided into five book sections, the number five as a possible pattern of the Pentateuch. Each book section ends with a doxology that can be summarized in five parts: 1) Blessed, 2) be, 3) YHWH, 4) forever, and 5) amen. The second signposts are the superscripts which we should absolutely read. All the ancient manuscripts possess them. They enable us to discover authorship of individual psalms and their historical context.
Our lecturer briefly introduced us to all five books within the Psalter, the changes from David to the Sons of Korah, and on to Asaph. We went from David’s anointing to his installation and on to the rest of his life. But ultimately, the Psalter is the cries of God’s people for the coming King on the white horse. We touched on the psalms in the Hallel (Psalms 113-118), the Song of Ascents (Psalms 120-134), the last Davidic psalms (Psalms 138-145), and the concluding explosion of praise (Psalms 146-150), which is nothing less than the salvation of the whole earth and the fulfilment of everything that God has promised.
Dr. Hamilton asked the audience, “Do you know the rhythms of the Psalter?”
Session #2 – Introduction to the Psalms in chapters 1-8
Psalms 1 and 2 set the tone for the Psalter. We can see a commonality of words and themes throughout the psalms that were introduced here at the beginning. We are blessed or fortunate as we would be nourished and fed with the law, the word of God. Think back to Joshua 1:8-9. The righteous contrast with the wicked, who have all the powerful standing in the world, but they are nothing more than chaff. We shall see this in the eschatological judgment at the end of all things. In chapter 2, David is speaking in the person of the future King. This King is going to be the new Adam and representative for all Israel. Obviously, David had access to the Pentateuch. In the rebellion of the snake, God sets the promise of life in Genesis 3:15. And as David read about the lives of Joseph and Moses, he knows the previous battles by the devil and his seed to kill the righteous Seed. But David is trusting that God prevails. YHWH made the world. Right out of the gate, there is a celebration of faith in God’s victory and an urging for the leaders of the world to submit. When Hamilton concluded the second session with Psalm 8, he noted that the text is right in keeping with Hebrews 2.
In the summary, Hamilton also explored the question—how does Peter through the words of Luke interpret the Psalms in Acts 2? David is talking about himself but pointing to the One to come. David is a type of the Seed of promise.
Session #3 – The exegetical flow of Psalm 42 through Psalm 48
By the time we entered session #3 in this colloquium, the speaker was obviously rushed for time. We decided to jump from session #2 to session #3 with no break. Of course, how do you pack an exegetical and theological study of 150 psalms in three hours? I discovered online that Dr. Hamilton has preached the whole Psalter to his church congregation, Kenwood Baptist Church, in 109 sermons. Also, his extensive prayer, prolonged study, and scholarly meditation in the Psalter have been recently published in two volumes, the Psalms: Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary.
The people have been removed from Jerusalem. There is sorrow and deep questions as to where God is. How does a faithful, Old Testament believer stay on the righteous way in Psalms 42-43? And what about the whole community (Psalm 44)? Parallels could be made to the Church today where they have intense feelings over what is faced in a hostile culture.
The answer to our discouragement is that God gives us the King in Psalm 45, taking us all the way back to Psalms 1-2. There is a future King, the seed of David, who will reign as God’s vice-regent. He is addressed as God. What is the resolution to being cast down? Contemplate the coming King!
Dr. Hamilton finished the evening with the illustration of a 13-year-old British girl at a boarding school weeping on some steps as she contemplated being “a non-entity.” And yet this young lady named Kate Middleton would end up being the wife of the Prince of England. Can you imagine?!
Our guest professor in Salt Lake City told us, “In a few years, all this glory will be yours!”
We ended the night at 8:40 pm.
Concluding remarks and application
I enjoyed the evening of food, teaching, singing, and fellowship. Led by worship pastor, Matt Damico, we sang several of the psalms throughout the night–Psalm 8, Psalm 25, Psalm 51, and Psalm 71 . Also, it was a blessing to briefly chat with Pastor Bryan Catherman (Redeeming Life Church) and Pastor Will Galkin (Gospel Grace Church). I gathered up my gifts of two books and a free Salt Lake School of Theology t-shirt and drove back home to Idaho Falls to hop in bed before midnight.
Here are some follow-up links on Dr. Jim Hamilton and the Psalms:
- The Gospel Coalition podcast with Nancy Guthrie – Jim Hamilton on typology in the Psalms (November 1, 2018)
- 9Marks – How (Not) to Preach the Psalms (March 31, 2020)
- EFCA Theology Podcast – The Psalms, Christ, and the Christian Scriptures (February 10, 2021)
In application, after considering what Jesus said on his day of resurrection in Luke 24:44, I felt compelled to teach a series this spring on “Christ our King in the Psalms.” The sermon series entailed five sermons: His Shepherding Care (Psalm 23), His Suffering Plea and the Hope of Resurrection (Psalm 22:1-21, Psalm 69:19-21; Psalm 16:10-11, 30:3, 49:15, 73:24, and 86:13), His Sovereign Rule (Psalm 118:22-26, Psalm 2), His Majestic Throne and Beauty (Psalm 45), and His Eternal High Priesthood (Psalm 110). Some of my questions for Eastern Idaho would be the following:
- Psalms is the biggest book in the Bible, and the most quoted book in the New Testament. Do we see the Psalter as the most important and inspired book of worship for our region?
- We might have our favorite verses and chapters, but do we see a redemptive theme of victory throughout the 150 psalms?
- What makes the Son in Psalm 2 unique from all other sons of God?
- Is the Messiah deity? And what sets Him apart from the gods described in Psalm 82?
- What is the Melchizedek Priesthood all about in Psalm 110?
- Where do you find Jesus in the Psalms?
- Should a Jew or anyone else find hope for the resurrection and a new kingdom in the Psalms?
- In counseling, do you find much of humanity’s emotions and struggles in the Psalms? Is it ok to express doubts and discouragement to God?
- Have you read through the Psalms?
- Do you think it is beneficial to be in the Psalms both personally and corporately every week?
I look forward to the Spiritual Formations Colloquium with Will Galkin on Saturday, August 21, 2021.