The Book of Psalms, A Survey
Pr Edi Giudetti
What a journey we have uncovered to date, to think that we have past the seventeen historical books of the Bible and entered deeply into the five poetical books in the midst of the Bible. These books are the separation between the Seventeen Historical books and the Seventeen Prophetic books, completing the Old Testament.
We have seen structure in the layout of the Bible, and we believe the text inspired of God, but not only do I believe that the text itself is inspired of God, but that the order and layout of the Bible as a whole is governed by him. That is no less true in these poetical wisdom books we have before us. So of interest to note is that the poetical books begin with the book of Job, the story of a man who is yet to come to the full appreciation of that distinction between the creature and the creator.
He we find the book of Job beginning with the perspective of God concerning him as the best man in all the Earth. In fact, the Lord states categorically “that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?”. But by the end of the book of Job we find The Best man on the Earth on his face before God exclaiming “I abhor myself in dust and ashes”
And now we come to the Psalms where we see such a change that describes the new life in God. J Sidlow Baxter states that it is here, in this new life, where we express ourselves “in praise and prayer, in adoration and supplication and intercession, in faith and hope and love, in fear and joy and song and sigh, and in every frame that godly hearts know”[i]
And what a simple true order that is, in these two books we describe the Death of the Old life in self and then the flame of the New life in God. In Job we see even the Best man had to come to the end of HIMSELF and exclaim “I abhor myself in dust and ashes” before we will take of that glory and life God has already prepared for us we must die to ourselves before we can live to God.
So before us is the New Life in God in song and praise, next week we will come to the School of God where this new life is to gain many valuable lessons, and will show also why this order so perfectly fits our new life in Christ.
The Psalms Introduction
The Psalms don’t follow any obvious pattern. But they are separated into five distinct books, each of which is identified by its conclusion in a Doxology.
Doxo = Glory, Logo= Words or sayings.
Each book concludes with glorifying the Lord in praise and thanks. You will find the Doxology at the end of each of the five books as the Psalms separate in the Hebrew writings;
- Book 1: Psalm 1-41 (41 Psalms) Doxology: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting and to everlasting. Amen and Amen.”
- Book 2: Psalm 42-72 (31 Psalms) Doxology: “And blessed be his glorious name for ever: And let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.”
- Book 3: Psalm 73-89 (17 Psalms) Doxology: “Blessed be the Lord for evermore. Amen and Amen.
- Book 4: Psalm 90-106 (17 Psalms) Doxology: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting. And let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the Lord.
- Book 5: Psalm 107-150 (44 Psalms) Doxology: “Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.”
The Author of the Psalms is clearly the Holy Spirit, the penmen of the Psalms are varied; David is attributed to have penned some 74 Psalms and is known in the scriptures as “The Sweet Psalmist of Israel” 2 Sam 23:1. But we also have some Psalms that do not contain David’s name yet are expressed as his writings such as;
Psalm 2 (Acts 4:25 tells us plainly that David penned it)
Psalm 96 & 105 (1 Chron 16 have David stating the same words and we conclude it was from his pen).
Others include Solomon, Asaph, Moses, Haggai, Zechariah, Heman, Ethan and over 40 anonymous Psalms.
These songs cover 7 identifiable Genres;
But as for the themes they touch on, there are over one hundred and seventy identifiable themes found, such as;
- Worship 85
- Faith 75
- Prayer: Petition 70
- Thankfulness 62
- God: Providence 60
- Righteousness 57
- God: Faithfulness 56
- God: Love 56
- Music 55
- Salvation 54
- God: Power 52
- Joy 49
- Eternity 47
- Evil 45
- Grief 43
- Persecution 43
- Blessing 41
- Holiness 41
- Reverence 41
- God: Mercy 36
- Tabernacle 36
- Glory 35
- Creation 33
- God: Sovereignty 33
- Justice 32
- Prayer 31
- Death 28
- God: Wrath 28
- Honor 26
- Honesty 25
- Suffering 25
- Happiness 24
- Judgment 23
- God: Grace 22
- God: Presence 21
- Guidance 21
- Poverty 21
- Pride 21
- Humility 20
- Revelation 20
- Sin 20
- Family: Children 19
- Hope 19
- Obedience 18
- Patience 18
- Power 18
- Promises 18
- Redemption 18
- Wisdom 17
- Speech 16
- Education 15
- Peace 15
- Sacrifice 15
- Stress 15
- Complaining 14
- Holidays: Thanksgiving 14
- Commitment 13
- God: Knowledge 13
- Heaven 13
- Law 13
- Slander 13
- Victory 13
- Covenant 12
- Discipline 12
- Forgiveness 12
- Prophecy: Jesus 12
- Fear 11
- Injustice 11
- Mission 11
- Repentance 11
- Confession 10
- Encouragement 10
- Violence 10
- Character 9
- Doubt 9
- Miracles 9
- Purity 9
- Stewardship 9
- Watchfulness 9
- Assurance 8
- Election 8
- Foolishness 8
- Idolatry 8
- Killing 8
- Prayer: Intercession 8
- War 8
- Wealth 8
- Angels 7
- Anger 7
- Beauty 7
- Depression 7
- Friendship 7
- Healing 7
- Loneliness 7
- Truth 7
- Weakness 7
- Comfort 6
- Courage 6
- Family: Fathers 6
- Mercy 6
- Revenge 6
- Apostasy 5
- Atheism 5
- Blasphemy 5
- Clothing 5
- Conflict 5
- Discouragement 5
- Giving 5
- Greed 5
- Kingdom of God 5
- Perseverance 5
- Revival 5
- Alcohol 4
- Atonement 4
- Eschatology: Resurrection 4
- God: Father 4
- Government 4
- Guilt 4
- Holidays: Fathers 4
- Restoration 4
- Sabbath 4
- Sanctity of Life 4
- Scripture 4
- Service 4
- Sickness 4
- Submission 4
- Work 4
- Adoption 3
- Calling 3
- Creativity 3
- Economics 3
- Envy 3
- Family 3
- Fasting 3
- Freedom 3
- Holidays: Memorial 3
- Holy Spirit 3
- Justification 3
- Money 3
- Profanity 3
- Temptation 3
- Borrowing 2
- Church and State 2
- Contentment 2
- Counseling 2
- Family: Mothers 2
- Gluttony 2
- Good Works 2
- Holidays: Mothers 2
- Jesus: Epiphany 2
- Jesus: Resurrection 2
- Legalism 2
- Love 2
- Marriage 2
- Neighbors 2
- Baby Dedication 1
- Church: Fellowship 1
- Conversion 1
- Creation: Renewal 1
- Debt 1
- Discipleship 1
- Eschatology: Last Judgment 1
- Family: Parents 1
- Family: Wives 1
- Holidays: New Years 1
- Hypocrisy 1
- Jealousy 1
- Jesus: Humanity 1
- Leadership 1
- Parables 1
- Prophecy 1
- Shame 1
- Stealing 1
- Vision 1
- Women 1
- idolatry 1
In fact, so many are the topics covered in the Psalms that we might consider all the topics of the Bible have been placed in Song.
Just to give you an example. I opened my New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge which contains over 500,000 (scripture with scripture) cross references and looked up Psalm 1. On the first verse alone there were 113 Cross Referencing scriptures in the Bible. Not bad when you think there are only 28 words in Psalm 1:1!
Those who will commit these “songs” to memory will have an inexhaustible resource to draw upon as you live and when you come before the Lord; and commit them to memory we should!
It is recorded that the primitive church “would admit no man to the superior orders of the clergy unless among other pre-required abilities he could say all David’s Psalter (Psalms) by heart”
There are five points that we will consider in our study this morning, the first is
The Psalms Are Songs
The Psalms are Songs, they sing the songs of the Lord in praise, they sing the songs of petition and prayers, and they sing the song of the penitential.
Historically, these songs extend from the time of Moses who sang when the people were liberated from slavery in Egypt, Psalm 90. And they extend in their history all the way up to and including the taking away of the children of Israel into that miserable captivity By The Rivers of Babylon, Psalm 137.
They are songs and they sing songs of poetry but not the poetry that we are accustomed to, they don’t rhyme and they are not there for our entertainment, they speak the truth of individual experience and are learnt and taught for our benefit. Yet even though there is no rhyme, they are poetry. These songs of poetry however are of a different nature, one called Parallelisms.
The parallelisms of Psalms can be broken into four obvious and distinct categories;
These are worth writing down in your notes (even if only the type and the scripture reference) because this type of structure is found in many parts of scripture, but concentrated in the Psalms and Proverbs
4 x Parallelisms
- Synonymous, the thought of the first line is repeated exactly, but with different words, in the second line (e.g., 49:1);
Psalm 49:1 Hear this, all ye people;
Give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world:
This is something we must be greatly used to for the synonymous form of parallel is used all through this blessed book.
- Antithetical, the first line is affirmed by a contrast, or exact opposite, in the second line (e.g., 37:21),
Psalm 37:21 The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again:
But the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth.
- Synthetic, the statement in the first line serves as the basis for the statement in the second line, which fulfills it (e.g., 19:7–10);
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul:
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart:
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever:
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold:
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
(4) Climactic, the first line is incomplete, but the second line draws from it and completes it (e.g., 29:1).
Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, (well what do we give unto the Lord?)
Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
These songs not only tell of vital truths but they exercise the mind into how the Lord makes his word clear and understandable. Though the Parallelisms are concentrated here, they are in fact found throughout the Bible, in fact, if we were to take a birds eye view of scripture, the Old Testament shares the same relationship of parallels with the New Testament. This is the reason why Paul was pleased to have his teaching confirmed by the Old Testament scriptures, (See Acts 17:11). It was why Jesus also spoke of things that where synonymous with that of the Old Testament.
When our Lord quoted scripture from the Old testament you would notice that it is not word for word the same, but it is certainly synonymous and is given to us this way that we may learn and understand.
Brethren, this does not give license to change the words of the Bible and use synonyms to create new translations!
The Word can do as he pleases with his own words, but we are held to that which has been given to us only.
Synonyms we can employ, but only as explanations and never as replacements!
So we can see that these songs are also explanatory, they teach, but what do they teach on, what are they all about?
We sing unto the Lord a new song, a blessed song, that which are his own words we will choose to sing in his ears, for he loves the praises and prayers of the Saints, none more so than those from whom he has ordained to eternal life.
His words are life.
The Psalms Are Prayers
1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness:
Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress;
Have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.
2 O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame?
How long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.
3 But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself:
The Lord will hear when I call unto him.
4 Stand in awe, and sin not:
Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
1 Give ear to my words, O Lord,
Consider my meditation.
2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God:
For unto thee will I pray.
3 My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up
1 As the hart panteth after the water brooks,
So panteth my soul after thee, O God.
2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God:
When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my meat day and night,
While they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?
1 I cried unto God with my voice,
Even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.
2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord:
My sore ran in the night, and ceased not:
My soul refused to be comforted.
3 I remembered God, and was troubled:
I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.
One of the first consideration I had when I found myself desiring to pray was “how do I pray?” How does mortal man commune with God? We are not speaking about have a conversation with a mate, we are not here considering the talk we would have either with an acquaintance or a parent; this is God! This is the one who spoke and light came into being. The Bible says that the worlds were framed by the Word of God This is the one who’s words created all that we see, who’s words created….me.
How am I to exchange words with him?
How do I communicate words to The Word?
The Psalms give to us much knowledge concerning the Lord and prayer. In the first Psalm we read.
Psalm 4, we have some instruction in verse 3
But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: The Lord will hear when I call unto him.
Those who have been set apart by the Lord are set apart specifically for himself. It is these same ones he will hear when we call to him. So vital is this point, because it does not take long before we stop praying if we do not think he hears those prayers. And why would you? There are no words you could utter that make any difference to one who does not hear, but God hears the prayers of those set apart for himself.
The next Psalm we read a portion of, Psalm 5 says;
1 Give ear to my words, O Lord, Consider my meditation. 2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: For unto thee will I pray.
Our meditations are those done within the heart and in silence, this tells us that it is not only the prayers of an audible voice, but the prayers of the heart that he hears. In fact, we can even cry in our heart to our king and our God (v2). Didn’t Hannah pray in the bitterness of her soul in utter silence and before Eli the priest in 1 Samuel 1?
Indeed, don’t all our prayers need to come from our hearts?
The 42nd Psalm that we looked at says;
As the hart panteth after the water brooks, So panteth my soul after thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God:
Tells us of a soul that so yearns for the Lord, it is as if the thirst of our souls cannot be quenched but by our prayers to the living God. Brethren, these are not Prayer flags that you pin on a clothes line and offer to the wind. What vanity is that?
We pray to the living God who we hunger and thirst after every day. He hears our prayers, this we know. He hears our hearts prayer; this we also know. And we thirst.. for God, for the living God.
The last Psalm we read, Psalm 77, a Psalm of Asaph;
I cried unto God with my voice, Even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. 2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord:
We know also that our hearts can oft be turned and we Cry unto the Lord, we do so out of trouble, we do so when we cannot be comforted by any other means. And we can know he gives ear to us. We seek him in our trouble and we keep seeking until we find him. Jeremiah tells us that he will be found of us when we seek him with the whole heart.
But these are only a very small sampling of instruction that we can glean from the Psalms.
The more you read them, the more full will your prayers be before the Lord. Your heart will be filled to overflowing with words that he has given you, to give to him and how wonderful it is to pray in such a way.
The Psalms Are Penitential
These are Psalms of confession before the Lord, there are seven particularly that fit this description.
Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143, but many other Psalms also contain penitent aspects within them.
1 Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.
2 Lord, hear my voice:
Let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
3 If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities,
O Lord, who shall stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with thee,
That thou mayest be feared.
5 I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait,
And in his word do I hope.
6 My soul waiteth for the Lord
More than they that watch for the morning:
I say, more than they that watch for the morning.
Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord, and this is the state of the penitent heart who cries unto the Lord out of the depths of grief stricken soul burdens for sin.
In Psalm 42:7 David cries “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me
This is the state of a soul that is cast down.
In Psalm 6 the same sweet psalmist of Israel says “I am weary with my groaning; All the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. (v6)
In Psalm 119:136 he says “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes because they keep not thy law”
These depths are the heart of a soul mourning for sin against his Lord even till his eyes run dry with tears;
Psalm 32:3-4 David says
When I kept silence, my bones waxed old
Through my roaring all the day long.
4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me:
My moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
Great and terrible grief strikes the heart of the penitent man, sick with sin.
Those who belong to the Lord cry out of those depths for their sin against him, they are they whose tears water their pillow, they are they who fill their boxes of tissues with crying and grief for their sin, these are they who confess their sin unto the Lord and he hears them.
In the first two verses that same Psalm 32 states;
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no guile.
But there are no “Depths” of groaning for sin by the wicked, there is no crying for sin in those who are not made sensible to sin by the Spirit of Holiness. Sin does not affect them as it does those who God indwells. And this is the most fearful state of them, for while they will happily not admit to sin in this temporal life, they will for eternity lament it. Though the cry for our sin seems a grief to us at the time, Happy is our state compared to those who laugh now.
The Psalms are penitential, they teach us even how to seek after the Lord and they encourage us greatly in our grief.
Who can cry for grief of sin more than David? More than half the penitential Psalms are his Psalms, and yet he is the man known to be after Gods own heart.
Paul claimed to be the chief of sinners, a claim we can only trust is true, it was he who wrote of the struggle with the flesh, it was he who spoke of the Grace of the Lord being all sufficient for that burden (2 Cor 12:9) for grace is never mentioned in the scriptures as a requirement for anything other than sin. It was he who stated that this is nothing other than sin dwelling within (Rom 7:17-20) and wrestling with the flesh leaving us often unable to do that which we want to do (Gal 5:17)
And yet we grieve; and out of the deapths we cry unto the Lord.
The Penitential Psalms encourage us that we are not alone in this sorrow. Even Peter told that these are the same afflictions that are accomplished in our brethren who are in the world (1 Peter 5:6).
The Psalms Are Petitions
Over 70 Psalms are recognised as Petitional. These prayers in which we ASK of the Lord that which is on our hearts. Many a varied are those requests; Some are Imprecatory, that is, they seek Judgment and wrath from God against the wicked;
Psalm 79 is a Psalm of Asaph who is so troubled by the heathen who have taken away the people without mercy; saying in verse 6
6 Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee,
And upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.
7 For they have devoured Jacob,
And laid waste his dwelling place.
This is an Imprecatory petition for a nation, but there are also those for an individual;
Turn to Psalm 35
Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me:
Fight against them that fight against me.
2 Take hold of shield and buckler,
And stand up for mine help.
3 Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me:
Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.
4 Let them be fconfounded and put to shame that seek after my soul:
Let them be fturned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt.
5 Let them be as chaff before the wind:
And let the angel of the Lord chase them.
6 Let their way be dark and slippery:
And let the angel of the Lord persecute them.
7 For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit,
Which without cause they have digged for my soul.
8 Let destruction come upon him at unawares;
And klet his net that he hath hid catch himself:
Into that very destruction let him fall.
9 And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord:
It shall rejoice in his salvation.
Some petitions are also those which confirm Gods providence;
Psalm 18 has David singing to the Lord for his deliverance out of the hand of Saul the King, saying;
I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised:
So shall I be saved from mine enemies.
4 The sorrows of death compassed me,
And the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about:
The snares of death prevented me.
6 In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried unto my God:
He heard my voice out of his temple,
And my cry came before him, even into his ears.
7 Then the earth shook and trembled;
The foundations also of the hills moved
And were shaken, because he was wroth.
But added also to this are Instructive Psalms given to both teach and encourage;
Fret not thyself because of evildoers,
Neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
So shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Psalm 1 this morning is also an instructive Psalm.
There are Messianic Psalms that speak to the Saviour coming the first time, Psalm 22 is most clear. Psalm 2 is a picture of the Messiahs reign when he returns. And many more.
If these Psalms alone are a blessing to you then take good note of them in your sermon notes, I have listed them there for your blessing and encouragement. Read them, memorize them and be encouraged by them.
The Psalms are Praise
Finally, there are the Psalms of Praise, and we will conclude this mornings service with the 150th Psalm, the last Psalm.
1 Praise ye the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary:
Praise him in the firmament of his power.
2 Praise him for his mighty acts:
Praise him according to his excellent greatness.
3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet:
Praise him with the psaltery and harp.
4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance:
Praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals:
Praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord.
Praise ye the Lord.
This last phrase, “Praise ye the Lord” is but one word in Hebrew, it is the word Hallelujah
Who is it that can praise the Lord more than those who have been saved by his grace? To think how blessed that person is who’s transgressions are covered, who’s iniquities will not be counted against them.
If you do not find enough cause to praise the Lord in this alone, then you truly do not know what you have been saved from. A judgement has been averted, a condemnation has been nullified, a damnation has been reversed.
God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
There is not a man, woman or child alive that is outside the potential to share in this opportunity, for “Whosoever will call upon the Lord shall be saved” and what a salvation it is.
This time of praise is not a time to consider an eternal lake of fire, but it is difficult to praise the Lord fully when we are ignorant of the amount of danger we were in. People are fearful of temporal harm today, they fear going out at night, or being accosted by a thief or murderer, but the fear of God they do not have and this is the greatest fear of all.
In Matthew 10:28 Jesus himself warned saying;
28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
But, to those who believe the prophets of old concerning the coming of the Just one, these do praise the Lord.
They Praise God in his sanctuary:
They Praise him … of his power.
They Praise him for his mighty acts:
They Praise him according to his excellent greatness.
They Praise him with the sound of the trumpet:
They Praise him with… psaltery and harp With the timbrel and dance….with stringed instruments and organs….and upon the loud cymbals:
Everything that has Breath should indeed praise the Lord, because he is the one who put breath in them.
Who is it of you who knows the things that God has prepared for them?
The life that you inherit is not only life everlasting, but what a life!! Glory is the description, wonder is our emotion, sheer joy and amazement will be our lot.
To think that none of it was deserved yet all of it is given to those who believe, there are no words given that can come close to what it is, for eye has not seen and ear has not heard what God has prepared for those and only those who love him.
Those who love him will praise him forever and ever, Hallelujah!!!!
[i] Explore the Book, J Sidlow Baxter. Lesson 51 p 12