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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Psalms

- Psalms

by Gary H. Everett

STUDY NOTES ON THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

Using a Theme-based Approach

to Identify Literary Structures

By Gary H. Everett

THE BOOK OF PSALMS

January 2013 Edition

All Scripture quotations in English are taken from the King James Version unless otherwise noted. Some words have been emphasized by the author of this commentary using bold or italics.

All Old Testament Scripture quotations in the Hebrew text are taken from Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Westminster Hebrew Morphology, electronic ed., Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society, Westminster Seminary, 1996, c1925, morphology c1991, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.

All New Testament Scripture quotations in the Greek text are taken from Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (with Morphology), eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, M. Robinson, and Allen Wikgren, Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft (United Bible Societies), c1966, 1993, 2006, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.

All Hebrew and Greek text for word studies are taken from James Strong in The New Strong's Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, c1996, 1997, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.

The Crucifixion image on the book cover was created by the author’s daughter Victoria Everett in 2012.

© Gary H. Everett, 1981-2013

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form without prior permission of the author.

Foundational Theme How to Serve the Lord with All Our Heart

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart,

and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Structural Theme - We are Predestined to Reflect the Image of Christ

as We Develop a Passion for God’s Word

But his delight is in the law of the LORD;

and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

Psalms 1:2

Imperative Theme Loving God is Mature as We Abide in Christ & Labour in His Vineyard: The Psalmists Serve as a Testimony of Mankind’s Need of Redemption Through His Love of the Lord and Service to Him

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psalms 23:1

INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF PSALMS

Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures supports the view of the verbal, plenary inspiration of the biblical text of the Holy Scriptures, meaning that every word originally written down by the authors in the sixty-six books of the Holy Canon were God-breathed when recorded by men, and that the Scriptures are therefore inerrant and infallible. Any view less than this contradicts the testimony of the Holy Scriptures themselves. For this reason, the Holy Scriptures contain both divine attributes and human attributes. While textual criticism engages with the variant readings of the biblical text, acknowledging its human attributes, faith in His Word acknowledges its divine attributes. These views demand the adherence of mankind to the supreme authority of the Holy Scriptures above all else. The Holy Scriptures can only be properly interpreted by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, an aspect of biblical scholarship that is denied by liberal views, causing much misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Holy Scriptures.

Introductory Material - The introduction to the book of Psalms will deal with its historical setting, literary style, and theological framework. [1] These three aspects of introductory material will serve as an important foundation for understanding God’s message to us today from this divinely inspired book of the Holy Scriptures.

[1] Someone may associate these three categories with Hermann Gunkel’s well-known three-fold approach to form criticism when categorizing the genre found within the book of Psalms: (1) “a common setting in life,” (2) “thoughts and mood,” (3) “literary forms.” In addition, the Word Biblical Commentary uses “Form/Structure/Setting” preceding each commentary section. Although such similarities were not intentional, but rather coincidental, the author was aware of them and found encouragement from them when assigning the three-fold scheme of historical setting, literary style, and theological framework to his introductory material. See Hermann Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction, trans. Thomas M. Horner, in Biblical Series, vol. 19, ed. John Reumann (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Fortress Press, 1967), 10; see also Word Biblical Commentary, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard, and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas, Texas: Word Incorporated, 1989-2007).

HISTORICAL SETTING

“We dare not divorce our study from understanding the historical setting of every passage of Scripture

if we are going to come to grips with the truth and message of the Bible.”

(J. Hampton Keathley) [2]

[2] J. Hampton Keathley, III, “Introduction and Historical Setting for Elijah,” (Bible.org) [on-line]; accessed 23 May 2012; available from http://bible.org/seriespage/introduction-and-historical-setting-elijah; Internet.

Each book of the Holy Scriptures is cloaked within a unique historical setting. An examination of this setting is useful in the interpretation of the book because it provides the context of the passage of Scripture under examination. The section on the historical setting of the book of Psalms will provide a discussion on its title, historical background, authorship, date and place of writing, recipients, and occasion. This discussion supports the Jewish tradition that David was the primary contributor to the book of Psalms, writing during his reign as king over Israel, as well as other authors listed in the prologues to certain psalms.

I. The Title

Luke was familiar with the title of the book of Psalms (Luke 20:42; Luke 24:44, Acts 1:20), although its second mention seems to refer to the collection of Hebrew poetic and historical books called The Writings.

Luke 20:42, “And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,”

Luke 24:44, “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.”

Acts 1:20, “For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.”

II. Historical Background

A. History of the Use of the Psalms - Of all the Old Testament books in the Holy Bible, the book of Psalms is quoted more often than any other book. This is evidence that Psalms was the most popular book for the Jews during the New Testament times.

There are clear indications both in Scriptures and in other ancient Jewish writings and the Psalms were used as songs in gatherings to worship and praise the Lord.

God gave the children of Israel songs as early as during the Exodus.

Exodus 15:1, “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.”

Numbers 21:17, “Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it:”

Deuteronomy 31:19, “Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.”

However, it was during the golden age of Israel, during the reigns of David and Solomon that many songs and psalms were given to the people. These songs were an important part of temple worship during the reigns of those kings that loved the Lord.

1 Chronicles 6:31, “And these are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after that the ark had rest.”

1 Kings 4:32, “And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five.”

Nehemiah 12:46, “For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God.”

After the return from the Babylon captivity, temple worship was again established, with songs being an important part of that worship.

Nehemiah 10:39, “For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the corn, of the new wine, and the oil, unto the chambers, where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers: and we will not forsake the house of our God.”

The Israelites sang from Psalms 118:0 when Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Matthew 21:9, “And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”

Jesus ended the Last Supper with a hymn.

Matthew 26:30, “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.”

Mark 14:26, “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.”

The New Testament church sang and worshipped with hymns.

1 Corinthians 14:26, “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.”

Ephesians 5:18-20, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;”

Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

III. Authorship

A. Internal Evidence The book of Psalms is a collection of one hundred and fifty psalms written by a number of authors over a period of approximately one thousand years, from Moses to the post-exilic years. With David being the most popular writer of psalms, other authors include Moses, Solomon, and Asaph.

1. David David was the most prolific writer in the book of Psalms. Fifty-eight psalms introduce themselves as a “Psalm of David.” In the Hebrew language, this phrase can also be translated, “A Psalm to David” or “A Psalm for David,” etc. However, Jesus and Paul quote from some of these fifty-eight psalms and give credit to David as the author. Thus, the context of the New Testament agrees with the phrase being properly translated as, “A Psalm of David,” or “A Psalm written by David.” Note:

Luke 20:44, “David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son?”

Acts 1:16, “Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.”

Acts 2:25, “For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:”

Acts 4:25, “Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?”

Romans 11:9, “And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:”

The book of Chronicles mentions David and Asaph as the writers:

2 Chronicles 7:6, “And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of musick of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD , because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.”

2 Chronicles 29:30, “Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the LORD with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer . And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped.”

Jesus says that David, by the Spirit, wrote Psalms 110:0:

Matthew 22:41-45, “While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying , The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?”

Peter says that David, the king of Israel, wrote Psalms 16:0 (Acts 2:25-28).

Acts 2:25-28, “For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.”

2. Additional Authors - Twelve psalms are credited to Asaph (Psalms 50, 73-83). One psalm is credited to Heman (Psalms 88:0). Three psalms are dedicated to Jeduthun (Psalms 39, 62, 77). Jeduthun prophesied with musical instruments (1 Chronicles 25:1). These three men were worship leaders in the Tabernacle (1 Chronicles 25:6, 2 Chronicles 5:12).

1 Chronicles 25:1, “Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals : and the number of the workmen according to their service was:”

1 Chronicles 25:6, “All these were under the hands of their father for song in the house of the LORD, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God, according to the king's order to Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman .”

2 Chronicles 5:12, “Also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun , with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets:)”

B. External Evidence - If we look outside of biblical literature for clues to authorship and into other ancient Jewish literature from which much Jewish tradition is found, the Babylonian Talmud says that David wrote the book of Psalms with the assistance of ten Jewish elders.

“And who wrote all the books? Moses wrote his book and a portion of Bil’am [Numbers, xxii.], and Job. Jehoshua wrote his book and the last eight verses of the Pentateuch beginning: “And Moses, the servant of the Lord, died.” Samuel wrote his book, Judges, and Ruth. David wrote Psalms, with the assistance of ten elders, viz.: Adam the First, Malachi Zedek, Abraham, Moses, Hyman, Jeduthun, Asaph, and the three sons of Korach. Jeremiah wrote his book, Kings, and Lamentations. King Hezekiah and his company wrote Isaiah, Proverbs, Songs, and Ecclesiastes. The men of the great assembly wrote Ezekiel, the Twelve Prophets, Daniel, and the Book of Esther. Ezra wrote his book, and Chronicles the order of all generations down to himself. [This may be a support to Rabh’s theory, as to which, R. Jehudah said in his name, that Ezra had not ascended from Babylon to Palestine until he wrote his genealogy.] And who finished Ezra’s book? Nehemiah ben Chachalyah.” ( Babylonian Talmud, Tract Baba Bathra (Last Gate), 1.Mishna 5) [3]

[3] Michael L. Rodkinson, New Edition of the Babylonian Talmud, vol. 13 (New York: New Talmud Publishing Company, 1902), 45.

IV. Date

Although most scholars agree that the books of Psalms were written over a thousand-year period, from Moses to the Babylonian exile, it is evident that the final compilation did not take place until the exile, or shortly thereafter. This is because a few of the books of Psalms make reference to the Babylonian captivity.

One evidence that the books of Psalms was compiled at a later date than which they were actually written is the fact that many of the Psalms are duplicated either within the book of Psalms, or in other Old Testament passages:

1. Psalms 14:1-7 and Psalms 53:1-6

2. Psalms 18:1-50 and 2 Samuel 22:1-51

3. Psalms 40:13-17 and Psalms 70:1-5

4. Psalms 42, 43 are considered one Psalm

5. Psalms 60:5-12 and Psalms 108:6-13

6. Psalms 105:1-15 and 1 Chronicles 16:8-22

7. Psalms 108:1-13 is a combination of Psalms 57:7-11 and Psalms 60:5-12

Note that Psalms 14:0 is in book 1 (Psalms 1-41) and Psalms 53:0 is in book 2 (Psalms 42-72). This implies that the Psalms may have consisted of several separate, smaller books, with some of the same Psalms being found in several of these separate books. At some point, these books were compiled into a single, larger book of Psalms as we know it today. The ancient Jews who compiled these smaller groups of books reverenced the writings enough so as not to delete any particular Psalms just because it was duplicated in a different section of this larger compilation.

This duplication is also found in the book of Proverbs, implying that it also has a history of being compiled at a later date than when it was authored.

V. Recipients

VI. Occasion

One interesting testimony of how David wrote his psalms comes from Jesse Duplantis, who was caught up into heaven and met some of the people of the Holy Scriptures. When he spoke with David, Jesse was told by him that many of his psalms came while he was sitting on the side of a hill and was moved and inspired by the Holy Spirit to write down the words of these psalms. [4]

[4] Jesse Duplantis, interviewed by Benny Hinn, This is Your Day (Irving, Texas), on Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California, July 16, 2002), television program.

LITERARY STYLE (GENRE)

“Perhaps the most important issue in interpretation is the issue of genre.

If we misunderstand the genre of a text, the rest of our analysis will be askew.”

(Thomas Schreiner) [5]

[5] Thomas R. Schreiner, Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, second edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, c1990, 2011), 11.

Within the historical setting of the early kingdom of Israel, the authors of the book of Psalms chose to write using the literary style of poetry and song. Thus, the book of Psalms is assigned to the literary genre called “psalms.”

A. Revelation of God as Father - Throughout the history of the nation of Israel, God progressively revealed His many names to certain individuals. Each name revealed a new aspect of His holy, divine character. Each time He revealed His name, it was to meet a need in someone’s life, and it was to encourage someone to look to Him as the Lord over every situation and over all the enemies. Abraham knew God in measure. God told Moses, “And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.” (Exodus 6:3) Thus, Moses knew God in a fuller measure. In the book of Psalms, there are many names of God that have never been mentioned before. For example, David calls him “Father” for the first time in the Scriptures (Psalms 68:5; Psalms 89:26; Psalms 103:13). David realized that God knew him intimately and love him as a father loves a son.

Psalms 68:5, “ A father of the fatherless , and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.”

Psalms 89:26, “He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father , my God, and the rock of my salvation.”

Psalms 103:13, “ Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.”

It was Jesus Christ who revealed God to us in the Gospels as our Heavenly Father in order to show us His tender love for His children. Few individuals in history before Jesus came to earth knew God as intimately as did King David. For David was a true worshipper of God, and this worship ushered him into the presence of God, where God revealed Himself to David as a Father.

David learned the secret of silence and rest, of solitude and of song in the presence of the Lord. Note these words from Frances J. Roberts:

“I don’t want you to work for Me under pressure and tension like a machine striving to produce, produce. I want you to just live with Me as a Person. I have waited for you to wear yourself out. I knew you would find it eventually the secret of silence and rest, of solitude and of song. I will rebuild your strength not to work again in foolish frenzy, but just for the sake of making you strong and well. To Me this is an end in itself. Make it your aim to join with Me wholeheartedly in the project. ‘Many joys are waiting yet’.” [6]

[6] Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved (Ojai, California: King’s Farspan, Inc., 1973), 152.

B. Vocabulary Strong says the Hebrew word “selah” ( סֶלָה ) (H5542) means, “a suspension (of music),” hence, “a pause.” This word is used seventy-one (71) times in the book of Psalms and three (3) times in the book of Habakkuk for a total of seventy-four (74) uses in the Old Testament. In contrast, F. F. Bruce says the LXX renders this Hebrew word into the Greek as “diapsalma,” which means “the playing of musical instruments during a pause in the singing.” [7]

[7] F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1963), 193.

C. Use of Introductory Sentences to Many Psalms Many of the Psalms open with a statement as to the history or content of that particular Psalm. But when and how these comments were added is not known. But one possible answer may be found in the way that the Old Testament reached its final phase of compilation and editing during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, which led to the canonized of the thirty nine books that we know of today.

E. W. Bullinger tells us the Jewish tradition how that after the Babylonian captivity, Ezra and Nehemiah began the task of setting the Old Testament Scriptures in order. We see this in Ezra 7:6; Ezra 7:11 and Nehemiah 8:8. They created an order of scribes called the Sopherim (from the Hebrew word “saphar,” which means, “to count or number.”) Their task was to set the original text in order. This means, that they counted each line, each word and each letter of the books of the Old Testament. They devised the way each page of Scripture was to have a certain column of text with the known amount of words and letters on each particular page. These pages could then be copied without error using this counting system because each page would always look the same. This meant that each letter was locked into same place on its designated page in the Scriptures and could never be moved. Only the order of the Sopherim had the authority to revise the original text or to move text to a new place. Jewish tradition tells us that the men of “the Great Synagogue” as they were known, took about one hundred years to complete this work, from the time of Nehemiah to Simon the first (410 to 300 B.C.) After the text was set, the order of the Massorites was established. This title comes from the Hebrew word “maser,” which means, “to deliver something into the hand of another, so as to commit it to his trust.” They became the custodians of the Sacred Scriptures. Their job was to preserve the Scriptures so that no changes took place. A look at an ancient Hebrew manuscript reveals how this was done. In the upper and lower margins of these ancient manuscripts and between and along the outside of the columns of Sacred Text, you can see small writings by these Massorites which contain a counting system for the text. These side notes are not commentaries, but rather information about the text on that particular page, such as the number of times the several letters occur in the various books of the Bible; the number of words, and the middle word; the number of verses, and the middle verse; the number of expressions and combinations of words, etc. It even listed the one hundred thirty-four (134) passages in which the Hebrew word “Adonai” was substituted for the original “YHWH.” Thus, it would have been very likely that this order of Sopherim, which had been given the authority to edit the Sacred Hebrew text for the purpose of giving understanding to the Jewish people, were the individuals that added introductory notes to these Psalms. [8]

[8] E. W. Bullinger, Appendix 30: Massôrah, in The Companion Bible Being The Authorized Version of 1611 With The Structures And Notes, Critical, Explanatory and Suggestive And With 198 Appendixes (London: Oxford University Press, c1909-22), 31.

D. Use of Acrostics - Many of the Psalms form acrostic poetry. This means that the first letter of each verse begins with a Hebrew letter in alphabetical order. Note:

1. Psalms 9:1 thru Psalms 10:18

2. Psalms 25:0

3. Psalms 34:0

4. Psalms 37:0

5. Psalms 111:0

6. Psalms 112:0

7. Psalms 119:0

8. Psalms 145:0

This acrostic characteristic is considered to aid in the memorization of lengthy writings.

E. Prophecies of Christ in the Book of Psalms The book of Psalms contains many prophecies of the coming of the Messiah, so much so that when Jesus Christ came to earth, the Jews were looking for the “Son of David.”

1. Psalms 2:7, “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.”

Matthew 3:17, “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

2. Psalms 8:2, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.”

Matthew 21:15-16, “And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?”

3. Psalms 8:6, “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:”

Hebrews 2:8, “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.”

4. Psalms 16:10, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”

Matthew 28:7, “And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.”

5. Psalms 22:1, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?”

Matthew 27:46, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

6. Psalms 22:7-8, “All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.”

Luke 23:35, “And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.”

7. Psalms 22:16, “For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.”

John 20:27, “Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.”

8. Psalms 22:18, “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.”

Matthew 27:35, “And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.”

9. Psalms 34:20, “He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.”

John 19:32-36, “Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.”

10. Psalms 35:11, “False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not.”

Mark 14:57, “And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying,”

11. Psalms 35:19, “Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.”

John 15:25, “But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.”

12. Psalms 40:7-8, “Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”

Hebrews 10:7, “Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.”

13. Psalms 41:9, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.”

Luke 22:47, “And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.”

14. Psalms 45:6, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.”

Hebrews 1:8, “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.”

15. Psalms 68:18, “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.”

Acts 1:9-11, “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

16. Psalms 69:9, “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.”

John 2:17, “And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.”

17. Psalms 69:21, “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”

Matthew 27:34, “They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.”

18. Psalms 109:4, “For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer.”

Luke 23:34, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.”

19. Psalms 109:8, “Let his days be few; and let another take his office.”

Acts 1:20, “For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.”

20. Psalms 110:1, “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”

Matthew 22:44, “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?”

21. Psalms 110:4, ”The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Hebrews 5:6, “As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”

22. Psalms 118:22, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.”

Matthew 21:42, “Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?”

23. Psalms 118:26, “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.”

Matthew 21:9, “And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”

THEOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK

“Scholarly excellence requires a proper theological framework.”

(Andreas Kösenberger) [9]

[9] Andreas J. Kösenberger, Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2011), 161.

Based upon the historical setting and literary style of the book of Psalms, an examination of the purpose, thematic scheme, and literary structure to this book of the Holy Scriptures will reveal its theological framework. This introductory section will sum up its theological framework in the form of an outline, which is then used to identify smaller units or pericopes within the book of Psalms for preaching and teaching passages of Scripture while following the overriding message of the book. Following this outline allows the minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to take his followers on a spiritual journey that brings them to the same destination that the author intended his readers to reach.

VII. Purpose

VIII. Thematic Scheme

The underlying theme of the Old Testament Scriptures is the office and ministry of God the Father as He works out His divine plan of redemption for mankind through His divine foreknowledge and sovereign intervention in the affairs of man. The underlying theme of the books of poetry in the Old Testament is how to trust in the Lord with all of our hearts. (In contrast, the historical books teach us how to trust in the Lord with all of our strength, and the prophet books teach us how to trust in the Lord with all of our mind.) No three men suffered greater than the authors of the poetic books of Job, Psalms and Lamentations; for we see in the lives of Job, David, who wrote much of the book of Psalms, and Jeremiah, who wrote Lamentations, a testimony of how to trust in God in the midst of hardships. Their hardships were not occasioned by sin in their lives, but because God needed vessels in which to work out His divine plan of redemption for mankind. When He finds a vessel who will suffer for Him, then the testimony of His Son Jesus Christ His Son can be declared to all of mankind.

A. Primary Theme (Foundational) How to Worship the Lord With All Our Heart - The common underlying theme of the Hebrew poetry of the Scriptures is “How to Worship the Lord with all our Heart.” Poetry is primarily written to express the mood of man’s heart. When we read these books in the Old Testament, we are emotionally moved as we identify with the poet or psalmist. Although there are many poetic passages in the Scriptures, for the purposes of identifying thematic schemes, this division of the Old Testament includes Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations, although scholars group this biblical genre differently. The first book of Hebrew poetry we encounter as we read through the Old Testament is the book of Job, which opens with an account of this man worshipping God at an altar of sacrifice (Job 1:5). The Psalms of David show us how to worship the Lord during all seasons of life while the book of Job and Lamentations teaches us how to worship during the times of the greatest tragedies in life. As we journey through this life, we will have times of ecstasy when we are caught up in worship and we will have times of trials when we cry out to God for deliverance. However, most of our days are given to simple routines and decisions that determine our future well-being. We must then look to the book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Songs for a pattern of how to worship the Lord with our hearts during such uneventful days.

The writings of Solomon provide three phases of man’s spiritual journey in learning to love God with all his heart, while Job, Lamentations, and Psalms provide real life illustrations of people who have experienced these aspects of a devout life of faith in God. Although all three writings of Solomon emphasize man’s relationship with God, it is important to note that each one places emphasis upon a different aspect of man’s make-up. Scholars have proposed themes for the writings of Solomon since the time of the early Church fathers. Origen (A.D. 185-254) recognized a three-fold aspect to the books Solomon by saying Proverbs focused on morals and ethics, Ecclesiastes focused on the natural aspect of man’s existence, and the Song of Songs focused on the divine, spiritual realm of man. He says:

“First, let us examine why it is, since the churches of God acknowledge three books written by Solomon, that of them the book of Proverbs is put first, the one called Ecclesiastes second, and the book of Song of Songs has third place….We can give them the terms moral, natural and contemplative…The moral discipline is defined as the one by which as honorable manner of life is equipped and habits conducive to virtue are prepared. The natural discipline is defined as the consideration of each individual thing, according to which nothing in life happens contrary to nature, but each individual thing is assigned those uses for which it has been brought forth by the Creator. The contemplative discipline is defined as that by which we transcend visible things and contemplate something of divine and heavenly things and gaze at them with the mind alone, since they transcend corporeal appearance…” ( PG 13, col. 74a-b) [10]

[10] J. Robert Wright, ed., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament IX, ed. Thomas C. Oden (Downer Grover, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 278-288; Rowan A. Greer, trans., Origen: An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer and Selected Writings (New York: Paulist Rowan A., 1979), 231-232, 234.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (A.D. 393-466) makes a similar three-fold evaluation of the writings of Solomon, saying:

“It is also necessary to say by way of introduction that three works belong to Solomon: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Proverbs offers those interested moral benefits, while Ecclesiastes comments on the nature of visible realities and thoroughly explains the futility of the present life so that we may learn its transitory character, despise passing realities and long for the future as something lasting. The Song of Songs…brings out the mystical intercourse between the bride and the bridegroom, the result being that the whole of Solomon’s work constitutes a king of ladder with three steps moral, physical and mystical. That is to say, the person approaching a religious way of life must first purify the mind with good behavior, then strive to discern the futility of impermanent things and the transitory character of what seems pleasant, and then finally take wings and long for the bridegroom, who promises eternal goods. Hence this book is placed third, so the person treading this path comes to perfection.” ( Preface to Commentary on Song of Songs) ( PG 81, Colossians 4:0 6d-47a) [11]

[11] J. Robert Wright, ed., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament IX, ed. Thomas C. Oden (Downer Grover, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 288; Pauline Allen, et al., eds., Early Christian Studies (Strathfield, Australia: St. Paul’s Publications, 2001), 2.32.

John Calvin (1509-1564) refers to the theme of the book of Psalms and the writings of Solomon in his argument to the epistle of James, saying:

“The writings of Solomon differ much from those of David, both as to matter and style. Solomon directs his view, chiefly, to form the external man, and to deliver to us the precepts of political life: David constantly chooses the spiritual worship of God, peace of conscience, or the gracious promise of salvation, for his theme.” ( Argument to the Epistle of James) [12]

[12] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentary on the Epistle of James: Newly Translated from the Original Latin (Aberdeen: J. Chalmers and Co., 1797), iii.

Although all three writings of Solomon emphasize man’s relationship with God, it is important to note that each one places emphasis upon a different aspect of man’s make-up. (1) Proverbs and Job - The secondary theme of the book of Proverbs teaches us to make wise decisions in our life by pursuing God’s wisdom. It is structured in a way that teaches us how to take our mental journey through this life. We begin this spiritual journey by responding to wisdom’s call to learn of God’s ways as the book of Proverbs reveals. It is by the fear of the Lord that we embark upon this initial phase of learning to love the Lord by understanding and following the path of divine wisdom. The story of Job serves as an excellent illustration of a man that feared God and walked in wisdom with his fellow men, and thus serves as an excellent illustration of the teachings of Proverbs. (2) Ecclesiastes and Lamentations - As we walk in wisdom, we soon perceive that God has a divine plan for our lives in the midst of the vanities of life, as taught in the book of Ecclesiastes. It is at this phase of our spiritual journey that we offer our bodies in obedience to God purpose and plan for our lives as we continue to fear the Lord, which is the secondary theme of Ecclesiastes. The writer of Lamentations teaches us about the results of fearing God and keeping His commandments, and thus serves as an excellent illustration of Ecclesiastes. (3) Song of Solomon and Psalms - We then come to the phase of our spiritual journey where we learn to enter into God’s presence and partake of His intimacy, which is the secondary theme of Songs. The Song of Songs tells us about the intimacy and love that man can have in his relationship with God. It is structured in a way that teaches us how to take our spiritual journey through this life. The Song of Solomon teaches us to move from a level of fearing the Lord into the mature walk of loving God with all of our hearts. The Psalms of David teach us about a man that learned to love the Lord with all of his heart, and thus serves as an excellent illustration of the Songs of Solomon. Summary - Therefore, Proverbs emphasizes our minds, while Ecclesiastes emphasizes our strength, while the Song of Songs reveals to us how to worship the Lord with oneness of heart. In these three books, Solomon deals with the three-fold nature of man: his spirit, his mind and his body. These writings inspire us to commune with God in our hearts.

As a review, the foundational theme of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon is how to serve the Lord with all our hearts. The secondary theme of this three-fold series of writings is what gives these books their structure:

1. Proverbs Wisdom Calls Mankind to Understand His Ways (Mind)

2. Ecclesiastes God Gives Mankind a Purpose in Life When We Serve Him (Body)

3. Song of Solomon God Calls Mankind to Walk With Him in the Cool of the Day (Heart)

The third theme of this three-fold series of writings reveals the results of applying the book’s message to our daily lives:

1. Proverbs - The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom. The virtuous woman is a reflection of a person walking in wisdom and the fear of God.

2. Ecclesiastes Fear God and Keep His Commandments. The man who keeps God’s commandments has a purpose and destiny in Christ.

3. Song of Solomon Loving God is Mature as We Abide in Christ & Labour in His Vineyard. The man who abides in Christ and produces fruit that remains.

Combining these three themes to see how they flow together in each of Solomon’s writings, we see that Proverbs teaches us to serve the Lord with all of our mind as the fear of the Lord moves us to wise choices above foolishness. The outcome of this journey is the development of a person who is strong in character, symbolized by the virtuous woman. This is illustrated in the story of Job. In Ecclesiastes the believer serves the Lord with all of his strength by obeying God’s commandments because of his fear of the Lord. The outcome of this journey is the development of a person who walks in his purpose and destiny, rather than in the vanities of this world. This is illustrated in the book of Lamentations. The Song of Solomon reveals the most mature level of serving the Lord with all of one’s heart. This person yields to God’s love being poured into him by learning to abide in constant holy communion with the Lord. The outcome of this journey is the development of a person who overflows in the fruits and gifts of the Spirit. This is illustrated in the book of Psalms.

The themes of the books of the Holy Bible can be often found in the opening verses, and we now can easily see these three themes in opening passages of the writings of Solomon. Proverb’s opening verses emphasize the need to make sound decisions through wisdom, instruction and understanding.

Proverbs 1:2, “To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;”

Ecclesiastes’ opening verses emphasizes the vanity of human labour when one does not serve the Lord.

Ecclesiastes 1:3, “What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?”

Song of Songs emphasizes the intimacy of love that proceeds from man’s heart.

Song of Solomon 1:2, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.”

Thus, it is easy to see why King Solomon would follow such a three-fold structure in his writings. Since Deuteronomy 6:4-5 was one of the more popular passages of Scripture for the children of Israel, it would make sense that Solomon, in his quest for the meaning of life, would follow this three-fold approach in his analyze of what it meant to worship God. Although the book of Proverbs places emphasis upon serving the Lord by making wise decisions, a careful study of the book of Proverbs will reveal that this three-fold emphasis upon the spirit, soul and body is woven throughout the book.

In addition, the book of Job gives us an extension of the theme of Proverbs, as both of these books serve as wisdom literature, teaching us through poetry to serve the Lord with all our mind. The book of Lamentations gives us an extension of the theme of Ecclesiastes, as both of these books serve as poetic explanations for the vanities of life, teaching us through poetry to serve the Lord with all our strength. The book of Psalms gives an extension of the theme of Songs, as both of these books serve as poetry to edify the heart, teaching us through poetry to serve the Lord with all our heart. Finally, the redemptive message of the poetical books reveals that even when a man like Job walks in wisdom, he finds himself in need of a redeemer. Lamentations reveals a nation who has a divine destiny and purpose, yet the children of Israel find themselves in need of a redeemer. The psalms of David reveal that even when man is at his best intimacy with God, like David, he still finds himself in need of a redeemer.

Click image for full-size version

Figure 6 - Thematic Scheme of the Books of Poetry

B. Secondary Theme (Structural) We are Predestined to Reflect the Image of Christ as We Develop a Passion for God’s Word - In the book of Psalms the third theme, which reflects what a child of God looks like when obeying the Psalms, is true passion for God’s Word (Psalms 1:2). A person who learns to love God’s Word will walk in God’s blessings, and he will worship the Lord as David was a worshiper of God. Yet, as David the psalmist found himself in need of a redeemer, we will also have a desire for continual fellowship with the Lord in worship and a need for deliverance in times of trouble. Therefore, many of the psalms not only worship God, but cry out to God for deliverance and redemption.

C. Third Theme (Imperative) Loving God is Mature as We Abide in Christ & Labour in His Vineyard: The Psalmists Serve as a Testimony of Mankind’s Need of Redemption Through His Love of the Lord and Service to Him - In the book of Psalms the third theme, which reflects what a child of God looks like when obeying the Psalms, is true worship and sincere service. A person who learns to worship as David was a worshiper and servant of God reflects the message of Psalms. Yet, David found himself in need of a redeemer for failure to fulfill his calling. Therefore, many of the psalms not only worship God, but cry out to God for deliverance and redemption.

We can easily see the theme of the book of Psalms by reading the twenty-third Psalm, which many consider the most well known passage in the entire Scriptures. It describes a person who is totally dependent upon the Lord for is well being, spiritual, mental, physical and financial. The theme of Psalms could be “The Lord is My Shepherd.”

Of all the people in the Holy Scriptures who learned to praise the Lord, David stood out as a man of praise. David was a man after God’s own heart.

Acts 13:22, “And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart , which shall fulfil all my will.”

This is because David was a man who had learned the secret of praise. He praised God during easy times and this prepared David to worship Him during difficult times. David was called a man after God’s own heart because he worshipped his Heavenly Father and poured out his love to Him during the most difficult times in his life. This touches the heart of God more than any other act that man can perform and it moves God to deliver His children. For example, we see David’s cry for God to deliver him from his enemies throughout the Psalms. As we read the history of David in the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, we see how God was faithful to deliver him from all of those who opposed him.

It was David’s intimate worship with the Father that moved God to chose the Davidic lineage to give birth to the Messiah. God’s favor brought about divine election so that Jesus Christ became the “son of David.” In a similar manner, Mary found favor with God in being chosen as the mother of our Savior.

Luke 1:30, “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31  And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.”

Although God chose the tribe of Judah to birth the Messiah during the time of Jacob (Genesis 49:10), it was not until the time of David that God chose the family.

Genesis 49:10, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”

David’s family lineage was chosen because he was a true worshipper of God. It is this same type of worship seen in the life of David that moves God to give us anything and everything that our hearts desire. For God did not hold back any gift from the young shepherd boy who gave the Father so much love and attention. Note:

2 Samuel 12:8, “And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.”

As a result, David became the greatest conqueror in Holy Scripture. He subdued kingdoms and brought the nation of Israel into a place of rest. Other kings could have had the same victories that David had, if they had chosen the same path of praise. We see this in the victory of Jericho when Joshua led the children of Israel in praise as they marched around the city. We also see this when Jehoshaphat led a worship team into battle against a host of nations encamped against Jerusalem. This is because praise always gives us victory. Prayer and supplication are good, but praise is the most effective weapon against the enemy.

In the history of Israel, the victories were never won on the battlefield, but in the prayer room. The battles may have been fought in the valleys, but the victories were won on the mountaintop. Joshua defeated the Amalekites in the valley while Moses held up the rod on the mountain (see Exodus 17:8-16).

There is no situation too terrible that we cannot praise Him and thus, find the victory. Did not the Lord give David the victory when he encouraged himself in the Lord?

1 Samuel 30:6, “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.”

Did not the Lord deliver Jonah from the belly of the whale when he began to praise and acknowledge the greatness of the Lord (see Jonah 2:1-10)?

Was not Job’s captivity turned when he prayed and acknowledged God’s greatness (see Job 42:1-10)?

Does not Habakkuk tell us to praise Him in difficult times?

Habakkuk 3:17-18, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

Were not Paul and Silas delivered from prison when they began to praise the Lord (Acts 16:25-26)

Acts 16:25-26, “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.”

The name Judah means, “Praise.” For it was the tribe of Judah that led the children of Israel through the wilderness.

Numbers 10:14, “In the first place went the standard of the camp of the children of Judah according to their armies: and over his host was Nahshon the son of Amminadab.”

Did not the Lord appoint the tribe of Judah to go into battle to bring the victory?

Judges 1:2, “And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.”

It was the tribe of Judah that Jacob prophesied would be a conqueror.

Genesis 49:8, “Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee.”

Did not the walls of Jericho fall down when the people shouted to the Lord?

Joshua 6:16, “And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city.”

Many of the Psalms reveal to us that David worshipped the Lord during the most difficult times in his life. Even when David sinned with Bathsheba and God judged the child so that it died, David worshipped the Lord. As a result, the Lord gave David another son by Bathsheba.

2 Samuel 12:20, “Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat.”

All of these examples are given to us in Scripture to tell us that God will still our enemies when we begin to praise the Lord.

Psalms 8:2, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.”

Matthew 21:15-16, “And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?”

Note these words from Frances J. Roberts:

“Man has contemplated the power of faith and of prayer, but only rarely have I revealed to men this far greater power of praise. For by prayer and faith doors are opened, but by praise and worship, great dynamos of power are set in motion, as when a switch is thrown and an electric power plant such as Niagra is thrown into operation. Praying for specifics is like requesting light for individual houses in various scattered places, while worshipping and praise flood the whole area with available current.” [13]

[13] Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved (Ojai, California: King’s Farspan, Inc., 1973), 118.

“Praise me, O My people, praise Me. Praise Me out of a heart full of love. Praise Me for every blessing and every victory. Yea, and praise Me when the most difficult thing to do is to praise. This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith, and praise is the voice of faith. It is faith rejoicing for victories claimed in advance. The song of praise is made of the very fabric of things hoped for. It becomes an evidence of unseen things. It is the raw material in My hands from which I fashion your victories. Give it to Me. Give Me much, give to Me often. I dwell in the midst of the praises of My people. I dwell there because I am happiest there, and just as surely as ye make Me happy with your praising, ye shall make the enemy most unhappy. He has no power whatsoever over a praising Christian. He cannot stand against a praising Church. This is the most powerful weapon ye can use against him. So praise is like a two-edged sword, the one side bringing health to your own spirit and the other side cutting down the enemy.” [14]

[14] Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved (Ojai, California: King’s Farspan, Inc., 1973), 126-7.

IX. Literary Structure

The book of Psalms traditionally consists of five divisions, or five smaller books.

Book I - Psalms 1:0 thru 41

Book II - Psalms 42:0 thru 72

Book III - Psalms 73-89

Book IV - Psalms 90-106

Book V - Psalms 107-150

Each of these main sections of the book of Psalms ends with similar transitional sentences (Psalms 41:13; Psalms 72:18; Psalms 89:52; Psalms 106:48), a literary structure also found in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 7:28; Matthew 11:1; Matthew 13:53; Matthew 19:1; Matthew 26:1).

Psalms 41:13, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.”

Psalms 72:18-19, “Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.”

Psalms 89:52, “Blessed be the LORD for evermore. Amen, and Amen.”

Psalms 106:48, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.”

I believe that our spiritual journey is reflected within the structure of the book of Psalms, as in other books of the Holy Bible. Perhaps each of these five divisions reflect one of the five phases of our journey:

Book I - Psalms 1:0 thru 41 Justification Deliverance from Sin

Book II - Psalms 42:0 thru 72 Sanctification Indoctrination of God’s Word

Book III - Psalms 73-89 Sanctification Calling and Order

Book IV - Psalms 90-106 Sanctification - Perseverance

Book V - Psalms 107-150 Sanctification Perseverance

Here is a proposed summary of the book of Psalms:

I. Book One - Psalms 1:0 thru 41 (Justification) The theme of Book One of Psalms (Psalms 1-41) is man’s deliverance and justification before God. Throughout this collection of psalms, we see David’s desire for righteousness to be established upon the earth as he cries out for righteousness and justice through divine judgment upon sin and deliverance for the upright of heart. The first two unnamed psalms appear to serve as a type of introduction to the book of Psalms, perhaps emphasizing predestination and/or calling, which are the first two phases of God’s plan of redemption for mankind.

Psalms 1:0 thru 2 - Author unnamed

Psalms 3:0 thru 41 - Psalms of David

The theme of Psalms 1:0 is that the Lord has predestined mankind to live under His divine blessings if we will meet the condition of desiring and obeying God’s word. Psalms 1:0 is followed by Psalms 2:0, which emphasizes God’s call to the nations to repent and bow down to His Son, exalted as King over all nations. Thus, Psalms 1:2 serve as an introduction to the book of Psalms in that they give us the first two phases of God’s plan of redemption for mankind, which are predestination and divine calling. The rest of the psalms in book 1 (3-41) will express David’s cry for righteousness to be established upon the earth through judgment upon the sinner, and deliverance to the upright. Each psalm of David will deal with a different facet of justification before God. For example, Psalms 3:0 emphasizes salvation (or deliverance), Psalms 4:0 emphasizes trust in God, and Psalms 5:0 emphasizes God’s mercy.

II. Book Two - Psalms 42:0 thru 72 (Indoctrination) The theme of Book Two of Psalms (Psalms 42-72) is man’s indoctrination through the instruction of the Word of God. Once we are saved and regenerated by the Holy Spirit as newborn babes in Christ, we begin to hunger for God’s presence in our lives, and we find this communion and His guidance in His Word. The things of this world no longer gain our attention. Psalms 42:0 expresses this yearning for God’s presence, while Psalms 43:0 asks for His light and truth to lead us (Psalms 43:3).

A. Psalms 42:0 thru 49 - Psalms of the sons of Korah

B. Psalms 40:0 - Psalms of Asaph

C. Psalms 51-71 (Psalms of David) - Most of these Psalms reflect upon some of the most difficult times in David's life. In fact, Psalms 51:0, which deals with his sin with Bathsheba, is perhaps the most difficult trial that David ever faced. Outward persecutions are not the most difficult issues in life to face. Rather, our inward failures can become our greatest challenges in life.

D. Psalms 72:0 (Psalm of Solomon) The final psalm of Book Two declares that the Messiah will reign over the earth with His divine judgments, which reflects the theme of this book.

III. Book Three - Psalms 73-89 (Divine Service) The theme of Book Three (Psalms 73-89) is divine service unto the Lord. The first psalm of this book emphasizes this theme. When the psalmist understood the end of the wicked and the ways of God (Psalms 73:17), he is compelled to declare the works of God (Psalms 73:28).

IV. Book Four - Psalms 90-106 (Perseverance) The theme of Book Four (Psalms 90-106) is man’s perseverance in order to receive divine redemption. Psalms 90:0 opens this book with this theme of perseverance. The psalmist (Moses) expresses the brevity of man’s lifespan and shortness of years (Psalms 90:10) in contrast with God, whose day is as a thousand years (Psalms 90:4). The psalmist asks how long we must wait until the Lord’s return (Psalms 90:13), while we spend our days in affliction and evil (Psalms 90:15). In this psalm, Moses prays for God to redeem His children. The next psalm (Psalms 91:0) teaches us that we can persevere in life’s afflictions and evil by abiding under the shadow of the Almighty, which is descriptive of the New Testament believer’s rest in Christ. Book Four closes with Psalms 106:0, which recounts God’s faithfulness during Israel’s wilderness journeys.

V. Book Five - Psalms 107-150 (Glorification) The theme of Book Five of Psalms (Psalms 107-150) is glorification, which is clearly expressed in numerous psalms on worship in Book Five. Psalms 107:0 creates an atmosphere of thanksgiving and praise for Book Five as the psalmist reflects upon the Lord’s mercies being poured forth upon mankind. The book of Psalms seems to reach it climax in Psalms 119:0, which reflects a child of God’s complete submission and passion for God’s Word. Psalms 1:2 reveals that every child of God has been predestined to grown in his passion for God’s Word. This person is now able to ascend unto the presence of God, thus follows the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134). Chapters 120 thru 134 are entitled “Song of Ascents.” They were probably sung by the Levites as they proceeded up the temple steps or as the children of Israel made their way up to Jerusalem for the yearly festivals. As we ascend into the presence of the Lord, we become absorbed and captured in divine worship (Psalms 135-150).

Psalms 1:2, “But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”

X. Outline of Book

Book I - Psalms 1:0 thru 41 Justification

Book II - Psalms 42:0 thru 72 Indoctrination

Book III - Psalms 73-89 Calling and Order

Book IV - Psalms 90-106 Perseverance

Book V - Psalms 107-150 Glorification

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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