Richard Beck: ‘The Psalms are Liberation Theology’

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett

Richard Beck:

The thing that strikes you about the psalms when you read them straight through is how oppressed and beleaguered is the psalmist. Enemies, hecklers, back-stabbers, two-faced friends, violent oppressors and economic exploiters abound.

This goes to the source of lament in the psalms. Rarely is the lament about, say, the death of a loved one. The lament is generally about oppression, about the victory of the oppressor.

The lament is about the bad guys winning and the good guys being trampled underfoot.

Only in the last couple of years have I started to value the lament psalms alongside the psalms of praise. What I realized reading Beck’s post, though, is that even within the praise/lament matrix, I can easily read the psalms individualistically.

When you frame the psalter in terms of liberation from the oppressor, as Beck is suggesting, you get one step closer to how the psalms were intended to be read: communally.

I’m not convinced it’s an “either/or” decision, nor is Beck arguing that. Rather, these two frameworks for the psalter complement each other.

(Beck is using The Paraclete Psalter as a guide for working through the Psalms on a 4-week cycle—only $2.99 on Kindle.)