Eternity’s Hymn Book: Why Study the Psalms

It has been described as the ‘Bible in miniature.’ All the great doctrines are there, including the gospel itself. A grand collection of songs, we are indebted to eternity’s great hymnbook. For these reasons and more, we need to study the Psalms.

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

It is the most beloved prose in the English language. Recited at secular funerals, Psalm 23 is part of the largest book of the Bible.

If we could only have one book of the Bible, instead of sixty-six, that contained the essential message of Scripture, including salvation, which one would it be? The answer is The Psalms.

The longest book of the Bible, with the longest chapter (Psalm 119 – 176 verses), contains the Bible in miniature. History, prophecy, covenants, personal struggles, victorious living, every type of human experience  – it’s all there in the Psalms. The New Testament has 116 direct quotes from the Psalms. That’s why Martin Luther called Psalms ‘a little Bible.’

Written in order to be sung, the Book of Psalms has been the ‘hymnbook’ of Israel and the church for centuries. David the king authored around half of them. .Some of the psalms are stand-alone

Another great reformer, John Calvin, said this of the Psalms: ‘An anatomy of all the parts of the soul; for no one will find in himself a single feeling of which the image is not reflected in this mirror.’

HEBREW NAME

Called Sepher Tehillim or the ‘Book of Praises.’ In the Greek it is called psalmos or psalmoi, meaning ‘a song, words with music, or a song accompanied by a stringed instrument. ‘

AUTHORS OF THE PSALMS

Psalms clearly has several authors, since it is a compilation of praises and prayers to God. There are 150 psalms or poems set to music and meant to be sung. Here is what we know about the authorship of Psalms and how many they wrote:

  • David, the ‘sweet psalmist of Israel – 2 Samuel 23:1 – (73), nearly half.
  • Asaph (12);
  • Sons of Korah (10);
  • Solomon (2).
  • Moses, author of the Pentateuch, (1 – Psalm 90).
  • Ethan (1 – Psalm 89);
  • Heman (1 – Psalm 88);
  • Anonymous (50)

PORTRAIT OF CHRIST

The entire gamut of the gospel is represented in Psalm. Jesus tells His disciples after His resurrection that ‘All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me’ (Luke 24:44ff – emphasis mine).

The Son of God & King: In Psalm 2, Christ is the Son (v. 7), the king set on the holy hill of Zion (v. 6), who will rule with a rod of iron (v. 9) from David’s throne. Other kingly notations are found in Psalms 21, 45, and 72.

Priestly Messiah: Psalm 40:6, 8; 22; 49; 110.

Suffering of Messiah: Psalm 22 and 69.

Resurrection of Messiah: Psalm 16.

THEME OF PSALMS

The Psalms cover the entire range human experience and emotion from the heights of praise to the depths of depression (Psalm 42; 88). The Psalms teach on praise, thanksgiving, repentance, trust, distress, history, and prophecy.

The bottom line: Psalms takes a person from where they are at, turns their focus off sin, self, and the world and finally puts it squarely on Almighty God Himself, who is worthy to be praised. It takes their eyes off the problem and puts in on the (divine) solution.

KEY VERSES IN PSALMS

Psalm 149

1 Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints. 2 Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. 3 Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp. 4 For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation. 5 Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds. 6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand; 7 To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; 8 To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; 9 To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints. Praise ye the LORD.

Psalm 150

Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.

SUMMARY OF PSALMS

In the Psalms, you can find:

  • Biblical history (42; 63; 80; 84; 137);
  • Confession and Repentance, a key theme in Psalms (6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143);
  • Times of Distress (4; 13; 55; 64; 88). The psalmist experienced the same challenges and emotions that we all do;
  • Teaching psalms (1, 5, 7, 15, 17, 50, 73, 94, 101);
  • Curses (35, 52, 58, 59, 69, 83, 109, 137, 140). This is before the coming of Christ; now, we are called to ‘bless’ our enemies;
  • Trusting God (3; 27; 31; 46; 56; 62; 86);
  • Praise (8, 29, 93; 100);
  • Thanksgiving (16, 18, 30, 65; 103; 107; 116);
  • Messianic prophecy (2; 16; 22; 24; 40; 45; 68; 69; 72; 97; 110; 118);
  • Pilgrimage psalms (120-134). These were what the pilgrims sang when they made the ascent to Jerusalem to worship the Lord.

OUTLINE OF PSALMS

Psalms, like the Torah or Pentateuch, can be divided into five books:

Book One   — Psalms 1  –  41

Psalms of humanity, mostly all from David

Book Two   — Psalms 41  –  72

Psalms of Israel, from ruin to redemption

Book Three — Psalms 73  –  89

Psalms of the Sanctuary

Book Four  — Psalms 90  –  106

Psalms of the earth

Book Five  — Psalms 107 – 150

The Word of God (especially Psalm 119)

Why not make it a daily habit to read from Psalms and Proverbs? It will change your life!

Menu