Long, long ago God decided to have a kingdom, which he would rule as a wise and good king. His kingdom’s first home would be on planet earth, which he made, and it would begin with just one man. God created that man out of soil, breathed life into him and called him Adam. There were all kinds of things about Adam which reminded you of God. That’s because God designed Adam to be a mini-king to rule the earth for him and fill it full of people to be the citizens of God’s kingdom. But God, who had his own home in heaven, would still be the main king.
This meant that all the laws of the kingdom had to come from God, not be made up by Adam. But Adam was told a lie by an evil heavenly servant. The servant said Adam could be the top king and have his own laws. Adam liked the sound of that! So he stole God’s crown. Well, not quite. He actually stole something which put him in charge of making up laws, which is just as bad. Adam’s disobedience made him a poor king, spoiled his life and affected all the people who came from him. God was ignored and disobeyed. So the kingdom God had planned for the earth ended up in a wicked mess which God had to punish. Everything and everyone started slowly crumbling to dust. It was all very sad.
God, however, decided to be kind. He would rescue his kingdom. Due to way he had made the earth, this would take time. But God, when the right moment came, would put a new king on the earth. One who would do everything properly and obey God perfectly. He would change people’s disobedient hearts so they could receive God’s forgiveness, learn about him and live the right way. He would save the kingdom, though it would cost him a lot to do so. We could call this new ruler: Adam 2 or new Adam. God gave him the name ‘Jesus’.
Now in the years before Jesus came, God needed to get things ready for him. He did that by building a mini-kingdom where Jesus could be born and where people knew a bit about God already. This one would not fill the whole earth, like Adam’s. It would just have one little country. As with Adam, God started this mini-kingdom with one man. He selected his man from a city called Ur. The man’s name was Abram, though God later changed it to Abraham. Abraham didn’t know God at all. But God changed that.
Over the following hundreds of years, Abraham’s family grew and grew until it was big enough for the next step in God’s plans. At that point, God got all the people together at a mountain called Mount Sinai. There, by speaking to them through their leader Moses, God made the people into a nation called Israel. However, he didn’t give them a king because he would be the king. Then he told them what their laws were to be and asked them if they promised to obey. Carried away with excitement, they all said ‘Yes!’ and signed up to an important agreement with God.
Sadly, they did not keep the deal: they did not obey God’s laws. Remember these people were not only Abraham’s family but also Adam’s. This meant inside they were rebels, just like Adam, who wanted their own ways. So even though they promised to obey, most of them didn’t try and Israel quickly ended up in a wicked mess. God had to punish their disobedience. Everything and everyone started slowly crumbling to dust. It was Adam all over again.
God, however, is extremely patient and kept being kind. The people of Israel behaved very badly at times. As a result God brought many troubles their way. But he also sent them good teachers to warn and guide them, and even gave them a fine, earthly king named David. This meant that some Israelites did actually love God and try to serve him, though most didn’t. Also, Israel ended up with lots of helpful booklets written by God through the leaders. There are 39 of these booklets and when put together we call them the Old Testament – the first part of the Bible. The booklets could not save Israel. But they really helped those Israelites who did love God. The books also controlled some of the bad behaviour of all the Israelites who didn’t love God.
Now the 39 books have many types of things in them such as stories, laws, lists, dreams and promises. But one of the biggest of them is filled with 150 songs and poems for the worship of God. We call it the ‘Book of Psalms’. The famous king of Israel – David – especially loved to write these and have them sung or recited in the country. But it wasn’t only him who wrote the 150. God helped others – both before and after David – to write them too. Of course, because these psalms were for Israel, they had to be written in a way which was suitable both for people who loved God and people who didn’t.
However, God did more than just help people in Israel write these songs and poems. He also helped them turn the 150 into a booklet. This took a long time and probably worked a bit like this. A person would write a psalm – maybe King David after he had escaped from enemies. Then he would give it to the person in charge of worship who taught a choir to sing the words together in public for everyone else to hear and learn. In the years which followed, new choirs would sing the psalm – people who only knew David from history books, not personally. Then, eventually, one (or more) of the ‘choirmasters’ put all the best psalms they sang together in a collection. He did that carefully, thinking about the proper order for them so you could sing them one after another in a way which makes sense and is beautiful. In fact, five collections of psalms were gathered in this way. Then those five collections were arranged into one big booklet, which is what we now have in the middle of our Bibles: the ‘Book of Psalms’. Isn’t that amazing? Over hundreds of years God was working through so many different people – poets, singers, musicians, writers, editors – to put this important book of songs and poems together.
Then Jesus turned up in Israel. As he preached, he made lots of use of the 39 booklets of the Old Testament. From their words, he showed how God had spent his time getting everything ready for Jesus. He said that their words were not only about the old Israelites but about him too. So Jesus sang the Psalms and knew they were about what happened long ago. But he also knew they were about what was happening to him now and what would happen to him, and his people, in the future. In the Psalms Jesus saw pictures of himself and the kingdom he came to rule.
So today, Christians still sing the Psalms. When we hear the words, we remember how the Psalms started because it helps us to understand them and learn about God. We also remember how they got turned into this booklet because that gives us more help. But, especially, we like to think about how Jesus used them because that helps us most of all. Even if you’re not a Christian yet, they can help you too if you will listen to them carefully.