The Psalms

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December 4, 2022

This week we started the book of Psalms and went to Psalm 30. The title “Psalm” means “Praises” or “Book of Praises” or “Songs of Praises”. The title in Greek suggests the idea of an instrumental accompaniment (psalmos). It is considered the book of worship, the hymnbook of the temple, or the hymnbook of the Old Testament.

Reading the Psalms is different than reading the other books of the Bible because they are written as poems and music. God inspired them in that form and we must read them that way to get the most out of them.

Poetry has different characteristics. It communicates experience, not just information. Psalms tells us what is important in the human experience from God’s perspective. The language and structure in the Psalms are different. It uses figures of speech.

The book is divided into 5 sections.

Book 1: 1-41

Book 2: 42-72

Book 3: 73-89

Book 4: 90-106

Book 5: 107-150

Each Psalm has a header which is a genre. This helps us know the type of Psalm it is because we don’t always know the historical setting of the Psalm. There are 5 types of genres in the psalms.

  1. Hymn: Psalm of praise of who God is and what he has done. These psalms are God centered.
  2. Lament: Psalm of petition. The Psalmist finds himself in difficulty and turns to God for relief.
  3. Royal (or Kingship): David as King or God as King.
  4. Thanksgiving: Similar to praise. There is an offer of gratitude to God for something he has done on his behalf or for his people.
  5. Wisdom: These teach us how to live godly lives (Psalm 1, 111, 112).

Of the 150 Psalms, 116 have superscriptions (brief titles written just above the text).

  • These may hint about how ancient Israel interpreted these texts.
  • Superscriptions contain 3 elements:
  • Liturgical collections: “Psalm of David,” “Psalm of Asaph” This indicates the collection from which the psalm came
  • Technical terms related to use in worship. Psalm 59 is a “Miktam” (golden poem) of David, and its superscription includes instructions to the choirmaster.
  • Historical notes. Several Psalms include a setting for the psalm.
  • Psalm 57 (has all three elements) “To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy (technical terms for use in worship). A Miktam of David (liturgical collection), when he fled from Saul, in the cave (historical note).
  • Psalms without a title are called orphan Psalms

There were different collections in the psalms.

  1. Koharite collection
  2. Davidic Collections
  3. Elohistic Collections (from Elohim or God) vs. Yahweh Lord
  4. Asaphite Collections
  5. Psalms on the Kingship of God
  6. A Collection of Psalms of Praise
  7. Songs of Ascents
  8. Hallelujah Psalms (begin and end with Hallelujah

A few other tidbits about the psalms:

Some of the psalms are prophetic. They prophesy the first and second coming of Christ. Psalm 22 looks at the crucifixion and Psalm 2 looks forward to the time that His kingdom is universally acknowledged. Many of the psalms are quoted in the New Testament (Ex: Romans 4:7-8 quotes Psalms 32:1-2). Psalm 119 is the very center of the Bible and it exalts God’s word. There are 16 psalms that speak specifically about Christ. It was written over a broad time period extending from before to after the Jewish exile, and it was probably compiled in its present form sometime during the third century B.C.

The main theme of the psalms as one commentator put it “At the core of the theology of all Psalter is the conviction that the gravitational center of life…is God.” Also, God is worthy of praise and prayer, thanksgiving and confidence, whatever the occasion in personal or community life.

The Psalms reflect the inner most thoughts of historical people who experienced and felt many of the same things we feel today; feeling bad about mistakes, feeling angry, feeling left out, feeling abandoned, feeling resentful, feeling afraid,, feeling unsure…you name it and the psalmists felt it. Just like you and me. This is a book of real people, real life and real faith.

We will be spending a total of 5 weeks reading Psalms. They are all important, but we will be discussing just one psalm per week over the next 4 weeks. Because the book is so different than other Psalms, I wanted to give this overview to help you read and understand it a little better.

The psalms we will specifically discuss each week are:

December 11, 2022: Psalm 23

December 18, 2022: Psalm 51

December 25, 2022: we will skip to celebrate the birth of Christ

January 1, 2023: Psalm 91

January 8, 2023: Psalm 139

This week I want you to think about a song that makes you feel closer to God and listen to it before reading His word.

Have a blessed week.

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