Psalms: the Book of Praises

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise."

Psalms are a collection of sacred Hebrew poems, intended for use in the worship of God. They are inspired responses of the human heart to God's revelation of Himself in law, history and prophecy.

They teach us that we can make all our circumstances opportunities of worship. When we are in sorrow, it is time to worship. When we are full of joy, it is time to worship. When we are overwhelmed with intense darkness, it is time to worship. When we are full of insight and wisdom, it is time to worship. When we turn to the New Testament we hear the message of the Psalms: “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice.”

Campbell Morgan said, “It is impossible to think of any human circumstances which do not find expression in this book. It is intensely human. The deepest thing is that it is a collection of songs in which human experiences are brought into the presence of God. They show how man feels and thinks and speaks and acts when he is conscious of God.”

New Testament writers more often quote the Psalms than any other book. They are “the height of God-given literature.”

No other portion of the Bible has been used more frequently or consistently in the worship of the LORD God as the Book of Psalms. The early church usually opened with the reading, or the singing of Psalms. Congregational singing familiar among the Hebrew people, continued in apostolic times (Acts 2:47). The Old Testament Psalms were widely used in the New Testament church.

The Book of Psalms and the Letter to the Romans were the scriptural foundation that produced the Reformation. The Psalms gave joy, courage, and strength in days of trial and danger. “The Lutheran Reformation restored congregational singing.” He gave an even greater impetus to the reformation movement by his hymns. “The Calvinistic Reformation regarded the Psalms as of basic, liturgical importance.” John Calvin wrote, “When we sing them, we are certain that God has put the words into our mouths, as if He sang within us to exalt His glory.” John Knox said, “Hear that harmony and well turned song of the Holy Spirit, speaking to our fathers from the beginning.”

NAME: in Hebrew is called Tehillim, “Book of Praises.” The English name, “The Psalms,” comes through the Greek Septuagint (LXX). Praise is the keynote of more than twenty Psalms. The Hebrew word for “Psalm” signifies a poem and restricts the application to Hebrew songs sung in praise to God. It is equivalent to our English, Books of Praises, or Hymn Book. The LXX, psalmoi means “melodies” sung to stringed instruments.

FIVE BOOKS OF THE PSALMS: The complete collection of 150 Psalms is grouped into five books with each one ending with an appropriate doxology. Book I - Psalms 1-41 (41:13); Book II – 42-72 (72:18-19); Book III – 73-89 (89:52); Book IV – 90-106 (106:48); Book V – 107-150 (Psalm 150 is the concluding doxology of the whole collection of five books).

AUTHORS: The names in the heading are worthy of consideration because they represent very ancient Jewish traditions, however it should be kept in mind these are not part of the inspired Scripture.

David appears to be the author of seventy-three psalms. John R. Sampey says, “The age of David offered fruitful soil for the growth of religious poetry.” Music played a vital part of the life of the school of the prophets (1 Samuel 10:5f). The organization of the Levitical choirs, and moving the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, would stimulate religious poetry and hymns of praise to the LORD God (2 Samuel 6; 1 Chronicles 15, 16, 25). David exercised leadership in developing Israel’s liturgy (2 Sam. 6:5, 16; 1 Chron. 15, 16, 25; 2 Chron. 7:6; 29:30).

David was a skillful musician (1 Sam. 16:15-23), and was a poet of ability (2 Sam. 1:19-27). He was “a man of deep feeling and of imperial imagination.” He had deep faith in Yahweh (1 Sam. 30:6). The Spirit of Yahweh rested upon David (1 Sam. 16:13; 2 Sam. 23:1-3; Matt. 22:43; Acts 2:29-31). He was inspired of God to write many of the Psalms.

The New Testament also names David as author of certain Psalms (110; Matt. 22:41-45; Mk. 12:35-37; Lk. 20:41-44). Jesus attributed these words to David who was called, “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam. 23:1, 2; Mk. 12:36; Acts 1:16; 2:30, 31; 4:25). Psalms 96, 105, 106 are acknowledged as David’s according to 1 Chron. 16:18-36. The tone, temper, historic allusions in the life of David corresponds to his psalms.

Moses (Psalm 90)

Psalms of Asaph (Psalms 50, 73-83)

Psalms of the sons of Korah, who were a prominent family of singers in temple worship in the time of David (Psalms 42-49, 84, 85, 87).

Ethan the Ezraphite (Psalm 89)

Psalms of Solomon (Psalms 72, 127)

The era of Jehoshaphat (Psalms 75, 76)

Period of Jeremiah (Psalms 31, 35, 38, 40, 55, 69, 71)

During the Exile (Psalm 102)

Post Exilic (Psalms 85, 126)

DATE: The majority of the Psalms were composed during the United Kingdom. Precise occasions are hard to pinpoint. Historical allusions of the psalms do not go beyond the time of David, except the anonymous psalms of captivity (Psalm 137), according to R. L. Harris.

PURPOSE: The authors give expression to the truths, emotions and purposes that fill the people’s hearts when Yahweh blessed them. Calvin said, “There is not an emotion of which anyone can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.” These collected hymns of praise provided the hymnbook of Israel, and a devotional guide for Temple centered worship. The book begins with benediction and ends with praise. Hymns of praise are found throughout the book, but especially in Books IV and V. It builds to a great Hallelujah Chorus at the end. It was the prayer book and hymnal of the Jewish people, which provided nurture for the spiritual life of the individual, and a hymnal for public worship. The final collection of the 150 psalms was influenced by the use of these prayers, songs, and hymns in the worship at the Temple.

STYLE: These ancient poems were not written down in poetic lines. Hebrew poetry consists, not primarily in rhyme, or even rhythmic balance, but in parallelism of thought in which succeeding phrases either repeat in some way or elaborate the previous line. It says the same thing, or a variation of the same thing, in two linked lines. The American Bible Society Handbook on Psalms notes authors use “acrostics, chiasmus, metaphors, clusters of images, repetitions, alliterations, similes, ellipsis, wordplay, sound imitation, refrains, personification of abstracts, word pairs, gender matching, inversions, and particularly parallel lines.” 

The Psalms are individualistic, personal and emotional. The greatest number of these poems possesses a lyric, singing quality and is entitled “psalm.” Various literary types are found in the Psalms including laments (Psalm 44), hymns (Psalms 8, 115), thanksgiving (Psalms 34, 67), songs of confidence (Psalms 11, 125), hymns of Zion (Psalm 46, 48, 76, 87), enthronement Psalms (Psalms 29, 47, 93, 95-99), the royal Psalms (Psalms 2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 72, 89, 101, 110, 132, 144), pilgrim Psalms (Psalms 84, 122), wisdom Psalms (Psalms 1, 37, 49, 73, 119), liturgies (Psalms 15, 24, 50, 75, 85), and of course, some palms cannot be classified under any one heading.

HEBREW CANON: the Psalms were placed in the “Writings” or third group in the Hebrew Canon. There has never been any serious question as to a place in the Canon of Hebrew Scripture. John R. Sampey said, “If Christians were permitted to retain only one book in the Old Testament, they would almost certainly choose Psalms.”

SONGS OF THE MESSIAH: Psalms 2, 8, 16, 22, 23 (Messianic application), 45, 72, 89, 110, 118, 132. Check out Christ in the Old Testament for an expository studies of these psalms.

Christ’s Ascension

Ps. 68:18 (Eph. 4:8)

Christ’s Betrayal

Ps. 41:9 (Luke 22:48)

Christ’s Death

Ps. 22:1–21 (Matt. 27)

Christ’s Deity

Ps. 45:6–7 (Heb. 1:8–9)

Christ’s Exaltation

Ps. 8:5–6 (Heb. 2:6–9)

Christ’s Kingship

Ps. 2:6; 89:18–19 (Acts 5:31)

Christ’s Lordship

Ps. 8:2 (Matt. 21:15–16)

 

Ps. 110:1 (Matt. 22:44; Acts 2:34)

Christ’s Obedience

Ps. 40:6–8 (Heb. 10:5–7)

Christ’s Priesthood

Ps. 110:4 (Heb. 5:6)

Christ’s Resurrection

Ps. 2:7; 16:10 (Acts 2:25–28, 13:33–35)

Christ’s Sonship

Ps. 2:7 (Matt. 3:17, Heb. 1:5)

Christ’s Sufferings

Ps. 69:9 (John 2:17, Rom. 15:3) Ps. 69:4 (John 15:25)

Christ’s Supremacy

Ps. 118:22–23 (Matt. 21:42)

Archer, G. L. (1998, c1994). A survey of Old Testament introduction : By Gleason Archer, Jr. (electronic ed.). Chicago: Moody Press.

THE GOSPEL IN THE PSALMS: John R. Sampey said, “Christians love the Psalter as much as the ancient Jew could possibly have done. One every page they discover elements of religious life and experience that is thoroughly Christian. Along with the New Testament, the aged Christian saint desires a copy of the Psalms. He passes easily from the Gospels to the Psalter and back again without the sense of shifting from one spiritual level to another.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ found prophecies concerning Himself in the Palms (Luke 24:44-47). He is the suffering Savior (Psalm 22; 31:5; 69:21). “Only Isaiah 52:12-53:1 surpasses Psalm 22 as a picture of Calvary and an interpretation of the significance of the cross. . . Every sentence in Psalm 22 can be applied to Jesus without straining its meaning. If David took up his harp to sing of his own sorrows, the Spirit of God guided him to describe those of a greater (ISBE, iv, p. 2492). Then Sampey adds, “The real author of inspired prophecies is the Holy Spirit. His meaning is that which the reverent interpreter most delights to find.”

In the Psalms Jesus is described as the Conquering King Messiah (2; 110; 72), and His growing Kingdom (47, 67, 96-100, 117).

A Look at the Book

Christ in the Old Testament

Christ in the Psalms


Title: Introduction to the Psalms
Series: A Look at the Book

Introduction to the Psalms Wil Pounds (c) 2003. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent. Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible (c) 1973 The Lockman Foundation.

Unless otherwise noted “Scripture quotations taken from the NASB." "Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://www.bible.org/. All rights reserved.

Wil is a graduate of William Carey University, B. A.; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Th. M.; and Azusa Pacific University, M. A. He has pastored in Panama, Ecuador and the U. S, and served for over 20 years as missionary in Ecuador and Honduras. He had a daily expository Bible teaching ministry head in over 100 countries for ten years. He continues to seek opportunities to be personally involved in world missions. Wil and his wife Ann have three grown daughters. He currently serves as a Baptist pastor and teaches seminary extension courses in Honduras.

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