N.T. Wright Wants to Save the Best Worship Songs
How does Jesus' entrance into human history affect how we read the Psalms?
Since Jesus was raised from the dead, the first Christians understood that he was the expected Messiah. So their approach to the Psalms had to be reconceived. We have to assume that as good Jews, the first Christians were praying the Psalms day by day, but now with this wholly new and unexpected focus.
It was actually quite disorienting. Instead of the temple, Jesus is the place where God has decided to dwell on the earth. And since the Spirit has been poured out upon the church, somehow God's presence is everywhere, rather than concentrated in one place. The Psalter needed to be re-read from top to bottom and radically refocused around Jesus and the Spirit. This made the first Christians newly aware of Jesus' personal presence in their worship and prayer.
Much of the Psalms, especially the songs of lament, can be unnerving. What should we make of these raw, brutal pleas? Can we pray, with Psalm 139, that God would "slay the wicked"?
Almost all human beings find themselves overcome, from time to time, by extreme anger and hatred. It is not that these emotions should determine how we live. But we must have a way of saying, "Yes, that is actually where I am right now." And the safest and best place to do this is in the presence of God. The Psalms offer us a way of worshiping God amid any and all emotional states.
Also, the Psalms promote a hyperideal hope for the world. They help us see that God wants a world in which there will be no evil. If there is injustice, if the poor are being oppressed, then it is right to pray that God will rid the world of that. Part of our reaction to the so-called "cursing Psalms" is that we think the modern world basically has the problem of evil solved. The Psalms bring us up short and say, "No, evil is real, and some people are so wicked that we simply must wish judgment upon them."