Studying the Psalms? Read with all of your ‘eyes’

The literature term for what we will learn about today is Metaphor. A metaphor may be a figure of speech – like the apple of his eye – or writing about a thing that we can see with our mind’s eye to represent or teach us a spiritual truth that is seen by the eyes of our heart. For example, you may know that Jesus saves but when you see the metaphor, “Hide me in the shadow of our wings,” you begin to understand what your salvation means – you are protected from many evils that would threaten and harm you. You realize that the closer you draw under those wings, the more you trust His protection, the safer you are in Jesus Christ.

We read with our physical eyes by looking at the letters, words, and even the form of the print on the pages. Our brains interpret the letters, words, and phrases to give them meanings. Good writers can assemble the letters and words in a way that creates visual images in our imaginations. My image may be different than yours but we both ‘see’ something when we read the word ‘water’. When a writer uses an image of something we both understand – ocean – chances are better that what we see in our minds is similar.

The poetry in the Psalms is best understood when read with all of our eyes. So let’s learn more about using all of these eyes.

The Psalms are written to be appreciated with our ‘mind’s eye’ – our imaginations. The Psalms use vivid images to convey meaning and this is the proper place for us to use our imaginations to see these pictures. Psalm 17:8 says, “Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.” Here are two word pictures. They are written as a request, a prayer to God from you – His loved one.

Use your mind’s eye imagination to see what this verse is saying. The apple of the eye is the reflection you see in someone else’s eye when you are very, VERY close! Can you imagine getting that close to someone? It seems very intimate! In the second picture, a large strong bird is sheltering the smaller, weaker one beneath a wing. The little weak bird stays there – safe, warm, protected from everything! If you imagine well, perhaps you can feel the warmth of that protection or hear the heartbeat of your protector.

The Psalms are also meant to be read with the eyes of our hearts. One of the songs we sing is “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord.” This song is a prayer to open our eyes – the eyes of our heart – to see God. Jesus told the Samaritan woman he met at the well that God is Spirit and that He desires worshippers who worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4) In another instance, Jesus walked with two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus after his death and resurrection. These two men did not recognize Jesus until he opened their eyes. (Luke 24:13-35) The eyes of our hearts see spiritual things, and God is the one who opens these eyes for us.

Psalm 17:8 is a prayer. You are asking God to keep you as close as the reflection in His eye! What would happen if someone wanted to harm that reflection? The eyelid would close and the reflection is safe. We used our imaginations to see the strong bird protecting the weak under His wing but let’s try to see with the eyes of our hearts. The writer is telling us that God is our refuge from all the evils around us that try to hurt us. You ask God for His protection and you are safe in this refuge as you stay close to Him. The eyes of our heart might also remember the story of Ruth and Boaz. Ruth and Naomi returned from a foreign land without the protection of husbands. Ruth worked in the field of Boaz and at the harvest festival she asked to hide under the covering of his robe because he was her kinsman redeemer. When God wakes the eyes of our hearts, we will glean many spiritual truths from all of the scriptures.

To study and learn from the Psalms use your eyes to read and study the words written in the Psalms, use your mind’s eye to imagine the pictures and examples shown to you, and ask God to open the eyes of your heart to the spiritual truths He has for you. When we learn to do this, God will make the words work in our minds and hearts to know Him better.

Psalm 19 is a magnificent Psalm to practice reading with all of our eyes. Read it and ask:

  • What do the words say?
  • What images do the words show to my mind?
  • What does God tell about Himself and about me?
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