Psalms Bible Study


Alright so the title of the series is Psalms
for Beginners. This is lesson one, the introduction to the psalms
themselves. And I want to start by maybe discussing how we’re
going to approach this. I mean if you do the math, there are 150
psalms in the Book of Psalms. We have 13 weeks that, no, no matter how
fast we try to go through them, we wouldn’t be able to go through all those psalms. So
we’re going to take a bit of a different approach, a more overall survey of the psalms. So the three things here that we’re going to
do in this class: we’re going to review the history and the authorship. There
are different authors. One thing that a lot of people say all the
time, which is not accurate, is David you know King David, he wrote the book of Psalms. Well
yes, part of it, but there are other authors in that book and other authors of psalms throughout the Old Testament. So we’re going to look at that, the history some of the technical information on Hebrew
poetry, in other words we’re going to look at a variety of literary
devices that they used in those days to embellish, to strengthen, to highlight the psalm itself, very different from the
type of devices that modern day poets use. So we’re going to look
at that. Also very important to understand the devices because if you
understand the devices it gives you insight into what the meaning of the psalm actually is.
We’re going to spend some time on that and then we’re
going to study each of the nine groups of Psalm types. So if
you took all the Psalms they fall into categories,
types, themes, nine general ones, so we’re going to look at the nine different groups
of psalm types and then we’re going to focus in on one or two of the psalms in each type, because we certainly don’t have the time to go through all 150. So the objective here, I always
like to have a bit of an objective, a goal if you wish for a class.
So the objective is that you know first of all about
the psalms themselves, that you can understand and differentiate between
the types of psalms. Hopefully by the end you’ll be able to say, “Oh this is a royal psalm” or “this is
a praise psalm you’ll know you know what type of psalm that you are reading. Also
you’ll be able to have a better appreciation of the poetry
itself and because of this, be able to draw more insights. In other words it will be
more meaningful when you read the psalms in the future, you’ll understand more about what
the author is saying. And I think that’s true for any kind of study, any type of
literature, whether it be modern literature or Elizabethan literature, whatever.
When you understand what the poets were doing, the devices and technical things
that they were doing, you also gain an insight into the meaning. So let’s begin
shall we? With a couple of basic things, Tehillim is the Hebrew for the term praise or praises.
The name of the book. It’s a Greek translation of the
word Psalmoi, in other words if you go into the Greek, the
Greek word is psalmoi and the English word is an
Anglicized version of this particular word
which becomes psalm. One of the things that we recognize, they’ve done the same thing with the
title of the book of Psalms as we do with the word baptism.
You’ve probably been in classes where they say, “Well the word in the Greek
for baptism is baptizo, (well one form of it anyways) is baptizo and if you
were to translate the Greek word baptizo into English, what you
would get “to plunge or to immerse.” When the translators translated that word into
the English they didn’t translate it. They transliterated in other words, they
Anglicize the Greek word baptizo and it became an English word baptize. Well
they did the same thing with this word here. A Greek word Psalmoi,
instead of translating it to praises, they simply Anglicized the
word and it became the English word psalm. Alright. The Psalms
have, the thing about them, the main characteristic is
that they have a universal quality. They offer comfort without critical understanding. Now in this class we’re
going to aim at having some critical understanding of what the author is saying
but even if you never take this class, you can still get something out of the
Psalms. They’re still, they still speak to people in an universal way. You don’t have to be a scholar to understand,
you don’t have to understand Jewish history. You don’t have to understand
the life of David, anything like that. You get something out of the Psalms
just from a surface reading. The paradox of the Psalms is how a book that came from such a
narrow minded culture, like the Jews, and a complex religion, how a book coming from this type of
background could have such a universal appeal. There’s the
paradox. The answer is that they speak to every area of the
human experience. That’s why they’re so popular. That’s why
they’re universally accepted and loved because the
writers speak to people who have ordinary and common human
experiences and so their appeal is based on several factors in this
line of thinking, if you take this line of thinking. First of all, they
heighten our sense of worship satisfying this basic need in
all men. In other words, we use the Psalms in our own
worship when our own words fail us. There they have better words to praise
God than we can sometimes think of no matter what language we speak and so
that’s one of the appeals. One of the appeals that they have. They’re
universal because they show people who were bold in prayer, people with an
intimate relationship with God in an era when this was not done. At the time when these were written
other nations, these pagan nations, they had no concept of this intimate
relationship. They didn’t call Molech their father, they didn’t say things about the pagan gods
that the Psalms said about God. There was no personal, friendly, intimate, loving relationship
between the pagan god and the pagan worshipper, and so
this was appealing to people. They saw in the Psalms that
the people who believed in that God had a tremendous relationship with him, something that they themselves did not have.
And so the the Psalms appealed to people, even if they were not Jews. They also contain
theological certainty in the presence and in the power of God to
rule and to respond to prayer. In other words, the Psalmist’s
never make an attempt. to write something in order
to prove that God exists. There are no psalms that do that.
They’re not apologetic in nature. The Psalms begin with the assumption that God
is there. Now if you don’t believe that, then too bad for you, we’re not even going to make an effort to try to convince you. They start with the assumption, God is there, God is in
charge, God answers prayers, God is the one who punishes, God is the one who blesses,
God is the one who gives victory, and so on and so forth. Well, that’s appealing to people. That appeals to that certainty of God’s existence and
the surety of God’s presence, that’s an appealing feature to other people and to people who read the Psalms. And also they have an aesthetic form that appeals to
everyone, their beauty and grace are timeless. Let’s face it, we’re in that we’re
in the 21st century right? “The Lord is my shepherd.” You know, I get that. “The Lord is my
shepherd, I shall not want.” I get that in the 19th century. I get that in the 17th century. I get
that in the 9th century. I get that if I’m a slave. I get that if I’m a noble. I
get that if I’m a woman. I get that if… you know, I get it. It has this universal appeal. It
doesn’t matter what country, what language, what life situation,
it speaks to people in a very special way.
Written almost 3000 years ago. What other
piece of literature from outside the box, what other piece of
literature from that long ago has an immediate impact on someone 3000
years later? No translators needed, no explanation needed, you
just read it and you go get it. So we understand, we dom we
understand by faith that this is because these things,
these psalms, are God’s work and they were purposefully given to
men and to women of course with all of these things in mind. It’s not
like an accident. It’s not like a fluke that there is a heightened sense of worship in here. There’s purpose. God inspired men to write these things, to be bold in prayer, to
have certainty that God exists, to put these things together
in a beautiful aesthetic way that all men, all mankind
could appreciate it. So yes, the men were talented, it was men who wrote these, were
talented, but we believe that they were inspired by God to do these things.
So let’s do some like critical analysis. Talk
about the authorship here. As I said, there’s always sometimes, there’s an
assumption, you know David wrote the book of Psalms. Yes, but he wasn’t the only one.
And I’m going to say this just once so that we don’t have to repeat it,
we all know that of course the Holy Spirit is the author. We get that, but when I
say the author, I’m talking about that the human individual that actually
wrote the words down on paper OK? So different writers of the
Psalms, but the Holy Spirit is the author, if you wish.
So 2 Samuel 23:22 says, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, And His
word was on my tongue.” That’s David. That’s a quote from David. David.
Excuse me. Not necessarily out of the Psalms. This is a quote from Second Samuel
23:2. The point I’m making here is that David was under the
impression, was under the understanding that God was
giving him material to write. In Matthew chapter 22, verse 43, “Jesus said to them, ‘Then how does David in
the Spirit call Him “Lord,” saying,'” etc. etc.. And so
here we see Jesus confirms the inspiration of the Psalms. Now my initial point was David and others
wrote the psalms and they were inspired by God to do so. And now what I am
doing is, well where does it say in the Bible that the Psalms are inspired? Well, Matthew 22:43 for example. Luke 24:44, “Jesus said to them, ‘These are my words which I
spoke to you while I was still with you., that all things which are written
about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms
must be fulfilled.” And so Jesus Himself was saying
to people, to His Apostles and disciples, that the book of Psalms
written by David, partly written by David, this was inspiration. This was prophecy. Another one. Peter confirms the inspiration of
David and the Psalms in Acts 1:16 it says, “Brethren, the scripture had to
be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of
David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested
Jesus.” So here you have Peter the apostle who is saying that
the Holy Spirit inspired David to prophesy concerning the
one who would betray Jesus. So David himself says, “I’m speaking by
the word of the Lord.” You have Jesus confirming
that David, you have Peter talking about this as well in Acts 1:16. One other apostle,
Paul also teaches that the entire Old Testament was inspired,
including David, that passage probably a little more familiar with this one also. “All
scripture,” and of course when Paul was writing the New Testament had not yet been compiled, the
canon of the New Testament, had not yet been compiled. So when Paul is saying,
“All Scripture is inspired by God,” at the time he’s writing that, the scripture he’s
talking about is what we know as the Old Testament and he says, “and
profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” So Paul teaches that all the Old Testament is inspired
which included the Psalms. So the first point we’re making here
is that the Psalms, yes it’s in poetic form, but let’s not discount the idea
that even though it’s in poetic form it’s still inspired writing,
inspired by God Himself. Another point. As a matter of fact Dayton
and I were just talking about that before the class started. It is
quoted from in the New Testament more times than any other Old
Testament book. There are 287 quotes in the New Testament
that are taken from the Old Testament. 116 of those 287 quotes are taken from the Book of
Psalms. So it is a very, they’re all important of course, but it is
a very important book. When it comes to the fulfillment of prophecy
in the New Testament. Now we said that
there are 150 Psalms in the Book of Psalms, but there
are more than 150 Psalms in the Old Testament. In other words not all
the Psalms are in the Book of Psalms. There are other Psalms located in other places. The present format of 150 represents a selection process from a larger
number of Psalms available and collected under the guidance
of the Holy Spirit. Originally Psalms or praises were gathered into
smaller collections and they were arranged by the similarity of
themes or catch words or phrases or types or form, they
were kind of put together in smaller collections. We know this
for several reasons. First of all, in Psalm 72:20 it says that
David’s Psalms are ended. You read the end of Psalm
72:20 and it says, “And thus the end of David Psalms.” Psalm 72. There
are no more. But then you keep reading and then in Psalm 86
is credited to David. Psalm 101 is credited to David. Psalm 103 is credited to David. Psalm 108 is credited David, what’s going on? It said
in 72, Psalm 72, this is it. These are all David’s Psalms, there are no more and then
it gives credit to David for Psalms you know beyond Psalm 72. So this suggests that two
collections were combined and the smaller was included with the larger one. There are doublets or duplicate Psalms in and out of the Book of Psalms.
For example, Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 are the same. Psalm 105 verses one to 15
and First Chronicles Chapter 16, chapter
16 verses 8 to 22, they’re the same. So how do you
reconcile that? They make a mistake? No. This means that different groups had different
collections and when they were put together that’s when the duplicates showed up and
they did not want to eliminate one Psalm from they kept the collections
complete. You know what happens like if you have a coin collection, you’ve got a coin collection,
you buy somebody else’s coin collection of the types that you’re collecting and then when you put
them both together, “Oh good, I didn’t have this one. Oh, I didn’t have this or that. I got two of these
now and I got two of these, oh my goodness I’ve got 3 of these and so when they put the
collections of these, the collection of three, a collection of 15, a collection of nine, when they put them all together all of a sudden they realize, “Whoa, we have doubles here.” Also, and these are like the facts, you know
little facts that I’m giving you about the Psalms. We also recognize
that short sets were also used for special purposes. Special occasions. The most famous of course are Psalms One 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18. Together they form what is called the Hallel.
They’re called the Hallel Psalms because they begin and end with “Praise the
Lord.” They start with “Praise the Lord.” The Psalm begins with “Praise the
Lord,” it ends with “Praise the Lord.” And these Psalms 1, 13 to 18,
making up the Hallel, were sung at the three great
festivals for the Jews; the festival of dedication, the
festival of New Moon, and the festival of the Passover. And it’s
what Jesus sang with the apostles at the last supper. At the last
supper before they leave to go to Mount of Olives, to Gethsemane,
before they leave to go there, it says they sang a hymn. When they sang hymns,
they sang the Hallel. That’s what they sang. That was the
custom of the Jews. These were the songs or psalms that were recited and sung
during the time of the Passover. So if you’re curious to know “What songs did they
sing? What were the words?” Well just go to Psalm 113-118 and you’ll see. Now they weren’t
always sung, all of them, sometimes one or two are sung, but these were the ones. Again these were a separate or
smaller collection that were placed in the larger collection. Some
psalms were included in the book of Psalms and others were not. For example, Moses’ song of deliverance, Exodus 15 verses one to 18, that’s a psalm. When they escaped from the Egyptian army. God
saved them in a miraculous way. Moses comes forth with a song of praise or song of
deliverance. That’s a psalm. It’s not in the book of Psalms,
it’s in Exodus. Deborah. Deborah’s song of praise.
Judges Chapter 5, also a psalm written by a woman,
but not included in the book of Psalms. David’s
lament over Saul and Jonathan. David’s good friend Jonathan dies in battle along with his father Saul. And David
even though he now becomes king and his greatest enemy has now been killed. He doesn’t jump up
and down and rejoice. No no. He makes this lament a
dirge. We call it dirge over of course Saul, but especially
Jonathan. In Second Samuel chapter 1 19-27, a psalm. A psalm, actually a type, a psalm of lament, but not included in the book
of Psalms even though David wrote psalms for that book. This one
here didn’t make it in. Another example Hezekiah’s praise to God for
delivering him from illness. Remember that? God gave him an extra 15 years of life. Hezekiah praises God because
of this. King Hezekiah. Read this in Isaiah 38
verses 9 to 20. And so the process of selecting
some and omitting others can be compared to John’s statement
in John Chapter 20 verses 30 and 31. Remember what John says at the
end of his gospel where he states that only some of the events of
Jesus’s life were recorded to suit the purpose of the author which is the
Holy Spirit? Same thing happens in Psalms. There were lots of Psalms, lots
of songs of praise written by many people but not all of them were
included in “The Old Testament” canon. Amazing that John says Jesus did so many more things and if what was written
about Him, if we put all that in a book, you know the world couldn’t contain everything, and
we understand that. Have you ever typed into Google “Jesus Christ”?
Just “Jesus Christ” into Google? Are you kidding me? I mean
hundreds of millions and there’s no end to the books and articles and sermons. I mean just Bible talk
itself, we’re closing in on a thousand videos. That’s just us, one little
little website. So you can imagine over the period of 2000
years how much material exists. Now getting back to our study of
the Book of Psalms, for study purposes, not by me now, but
the way that it’s been put together is divided
into five sections and this was probably done to aid studying or to
correspond to the five books of the law. Five books of the law, five
divisions of Psalms. At the end of each section there’s a
doxology. Doxology is a word of praise. Every section ends
with praise not with a song of lament, for example, it could be a
song of lament or a dirge or a type of song…cursing somebody or
asking God to destroy an enemy among the different
types of Psalms, but when they ended a section it was always
with a psalm of praise. The five books were divided in the
following way. And so Psalm one to 41, Section 1. Psalm 42
to 72, Section 2. Psalms 73 to 89, Section 3. Psalm
90 to 106, Section 4 and Psalm 107 to 150, is the fifth section of the book. OK, so the Book of Psalms
was written over a period of approximately twelve hundred years
by a number of writers, authors, even David, he didn’t sit down one day
and say, “Yeah, I believe I’m going to write a book of poetry. Going to knock out 70 or
80.” No. A collection of the Psalms that he wrote during
different periods of his life and we’ll study that. Some of the Psalms we
can pinpoint why he wrote it, when he wrote it, not all, but some. Some again, some facts, all
introductory facts. Moses has the earliest Psalm 1400 B.C.. Psalm 90, only one psalm
credited to him, Psalm 90. David as we mentioned was the
most prolific of the writers around 1000 B.C.. He wrote Psalm 1 to 41 exclusively. No doubt about
that. And then another 30 or so that appear after that. So
he’s the principal writer of The Book of Psalms but not the
only one. Solomon 950 B.C. He wrote, two or three are
credited to him. And then you have Asaph, the sons of Korah, Ethan, Heman and other unknown authors
between the years 900 to 400 BC who also
contributed to the Book of Psalms. I say 400 BC because by the
year 4[00], I’m not giving the exact year, but by the fourth century
before Christ, the Old Testament canon had been put together and it
was complete. It didn’t change after that. Alright. We learn about the canon or the the word canon
means a measure, OK? And so the books that measured up, the books that
belong to the inspired…the law and the prophets and the history
were collected and confirmed as the inspired word
of God by the Jews, by those, that group before Christ.
400 years before Christ arrived. And the amazing thing is the Old
Testament that we read now is the exact same old testament that they read when Jesus
was on earth, not divided the same way, it was divided
differently, but it had all the same books in it. So these were
collected, the Psalms, rather these were collected and included in the
Old Testament canon as one single book of Psalms with the 150
psalms that we now have and this was done many centuries before Jesus appeared. So let’s talk about how
they’re used. The Book of Psalms was considered the Jewish Songbook. It was used in temple worship, also in
synagogue, in the home as a hymnal or as a guide for devotional purposes. Remember back in those days
you couldn’t just go somewhere and buy a book cheap. They didn’t have books, actually
scrolls, but writing and written material was expensive and so when
you had it, when they had it, this is how they used it. It was also used in
the early church in much the same way. What were they singing
in the New Testament church in the first century? Well they were
singing what they sang when before they were converted because at
first the Jews, it was decades before the Gentiles were preached to. It took almost 10 years before
Peter actually went to see Cornelius. It was a decade. So for years only the Jews were
being preached to about Christ and when they converted to Christianity, what
did these new “Jewish Christians” sing? Well, they sang the
songs that they already had because they were
singing to the same God. Much later on Martin Luther
used the book of Psalms in restoring congregational singing. John Calvin, the Calvinists,
not the Calvinist church, but John Calvin, the church today would be the
Presbyterian Church, but there were thousands of congregations of
Calvinists at that time and they were all non-instrumental. They got rid
of the instrument. I mean sometimes we think in the church of Christ
we’re the ones that rediscovered the idea of non instruments of music
in our public worship and yes, we understood that that was the
way worship, New Testament worship, should be conducted, and yes we’re known for that,
but let’s not get crazy here and think we’re the original
ones that came up with that idea. There were no instruments of music
for the first thousand years. There were no instruments at all. It was all
acappella. The instrument was introduced ninth century or
something like that, became prevalent all the way through to the Middle Ages, but when the
Protestant Reformation started Martin Luther wanted to go…you know what, Martin
Luther’s and the reformers, what was their battle cry?
“Back to the Bible!” Let’s just go back to the Bible and they had varying
degrees of success. It’s easy for us to judge, we’re looking back on them and say,
“Well, they didn’t do this” and think, well, you know in those times it was a it was a different time.
They were pretty courageous. Many of them were killed because of what they wanted to do. And one of
the features of “Let’s get back to the Bible was let’s get rid of the instrument.
So what do we use then as a songbook? Well many of them used
the book of Psalms. Our songbook today “The Songs of the Church” there are a lot of
variations of songs, different editions, but this songbook, today we
have 126 songs in our songbook that are listed as
being taken from the Psalms. So the tradition of using the Psalms in
public worship continues to this day even in our brotherhood. The
book of Psalms of course is a valuable book because of what it
provides for the reader. For example, it’s effective to prove the claims of Christ were accurately
prophesied in the Old Testament. I read Luke 24:44. You know I
say it’s profitable for apologetics, it wasn’t written as
apologetics to prove that God existed, but it was used by
New Testament writers as apologetics to say, “Look, this was
prophesied in the Old Testament about Jesus.” So here it says, “Now Jesus said to
them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to while I was still with you, that all things
which are written about Me in the law of Moses and the prophets and
the Psalms must be fulfilled.” So Jesus saw the Psalms as
an inspired source of prophecy about Himself. It also, and we’re talking about how the Psalms are
used, one way is as you know as apologics, another way, devotional. It enhances
our prayer and devotional experience. It helps us to develop a pious
and saintly vocabulary and spirit for acceptable worship. In
other words, when we’re lost for words to express to God how much
we love and appreciate him, it’s a good idea to go to the
Psalms and use their words. Thirdly it widens our
appreciation for God. Psalms describes with wondrous praise
God’s power and glory and wisdom and mercy without
embarrassment, without hesitation. The Psalms deepen our knowledge and
relationship with God and show us the relationship between
thanksgiving and contentment. You know when we focus on what we don’t
have, we’re dissatisfied. When we focus on what we have and can
consistently give thanks for this, we create and nourish the sense of
contentment and well-being and the Psalms provide the language and
the understanding for that particular expression of thanksgiving. Fourthly they teach us
the godly response to sorrow and fear and discouragement and
anger and disbelief and victory and joy. How should I speak? How
should I feel? How should I respond in my anger or
discouragement or whatever? The psalm provides what ordinary men felt the same type of emotions as we do and how
they express those things to God without fear. Not always praise, not
always “oh God, you’re wonderful.” Sometimes it was “How? How dare you?
Why have you done this to me? Why me Lord? Why? Why aren’t you
destroying my enemies?” I mean real human beings talking to a real
God. So if you want to know how Godly people feel and deal with
their feelings, read the Psalms. In the end I hope that our study will help
us to experience some of the things felt by the writers who expressed in
their Psalms the things that they experienced in their relationship with God and I think as I
close out this class, I think that is the number one thing I certainly
that I get out of Psalms. I get to see how ordinary people
felt in their intimate relationship or their pursuit of an intimate
relationship with God. And it tells me that my feelings are not out of bounds. When
I’m mad at God for some reason or other, my feeling is not out of bounds. I’ve got to get over
that. I got to figure a way to get out of that, but feeling that way is
not so unnatural, because others have felt angry with Him and
disappointed with Him and doubted Him in the past, and yet they
pursued and continued with their faith. OK. So tonight was just let’s get in,
introduce some facts, some background. Next week we’re going to get into the technical
stuff looking at Hebrew poetry. I think it’s fascinating. I think it’s a fascinating study and I hope that you do too and you will be back for another lesson. Alright. Thanks.

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