The Book of Psalms in the Bible is a collection of prayers and poems set to music. They have served as the hymnal of ancient Israel. These psalms were sung during worship. For the psalmists God was the center of their lives and they related everything to God: every single act and feeling, every experience whether pleasant or unpleasant was all referred to God. The Psalms also teach us how to adore, praise and worship God, a discomfort for most Americans.
One of the results of being filled with the Spirit or the word of Christ is singing. The psalms are the “songbook” of the early church that reflected the new truth in Christ.
These 150 religious poems touch on every human experience and on every aspect of the believer’s personal relationship with God. The Psalms guide us today to worship, to praise, to trust and to hope in the Lord.
For Americans, the whole idea of God asking us to sit around and sing and say nice things about Him can seem rather foreign. But, think about this, we have no problem praising, worshiping and shouting at the top of our lungs at our favorite sporting events or musical events. We have no problem praising Hollywood’s latest negative role models, because as a society, we enjoy giving them adulation. But to our God, the Creator of heaven and earth it is hard to praise and especially thank Him. Our ingratitude toward our God, as a nation, is very obvious.
Perhaps The Message, a translation written by Eugene Peterson in contemporary language, will be able to help us get a sense of one of the psalms. This is Psalm 100:
1-2 On your feet now—applaud God!
Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into His presence.
3 Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn’t make him.
We’re His people, His well-tended sheep.
4 Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank Him. Worship Him.
5 For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.
Did you know that the highest goal of the Christian life is worshiping the Lord? Never allow your worship to become routine or artificial or boring or repetitive. The Book of Psalms has far more “chapters” than any other book in the Bible, with 150 individual psalms. It is also one of the most diverse books of the Bible. The psalms deal with such subjects as God and His creation, war, worship, wisdom, sin and evil, judgment, justice, and the coming of the Messiah.
Seventy-three of the Psalms are attributed to King David. Asaph, David’s worship leader wrote 12 psalms. Korah, a major Levite family wrote 11 of the psalms. There are also some referred to as orphan writers which means no credit is given to the author and that could also mean that the psalm was from tradition or from the scribes who crafted them. There are about 50 of those types of psalms. There are also some minor contributors: Solomon wrote 2. Moses wrote 1. Etan, the Ezrahite wrote 1 and Heman the Ezrahite also wrote 1.
The Psalms name more than seven authors, including five individuals and two families (who wrote psalms over the centuries). Who are the writers of the psalms?
- David: the God-anointed king of Israel. I’m sure you’ve heard of him—he killed Goliath. You can read his story in the books of First and Second Samuel.
- Asaph (the family): Asaph and his sons were ordained by David to lead the people in worship, and were re-commissioned when Nehemiah rebuilt Jerusalem (1 Ch 25:1; Neh 7:44; 12:46–47).
- The sons of Korah (another family): back in the book of Numbers, a man named Korah rebelled against Moses and Aaron—and God caused the earth to swallow him up. His sons survived, though (Nu 26:11), and continued to serve in the house of the Lord. They share one psalm (Ps 88) with the wise man Heman.
- Heman: not to be confused with He-Man. He was a wise man who co-authored the eighty-eighth psalm with the sons of Korah. His brother Ethan (1 Ch 2:6) wrote a psalm, too.
- Solomon: this king is better known for his work in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon . He’s David’s son, and inherits his father’s throne.
- Moses: he wrote more words in your Bible than any other human. Most of those words are in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and he also wrote one Psalm.
- Ethan the Ezrahite: we don’t know much about Ethan, except that he was a famous wise man. So famously wise, in fact, that the Bible makes a point to tell us Solomon was even wiser (1 Ki 4:31).
The psalms are categorized as a “school of prayer”. The psalms provide us with models to follow, but they also inspire us to talk to our Lord and confess our deepest feelings, hopes and desires.
I hope you notice that God is the same Lord in all the psalms. But we respond to Him in different ways, according to the specific circumstances of our lives. What a marvelous God we worship, the psalmist declares, He is high and lifted up beyond our human experiences but also close enough to touch us and He walks beside us along life’s way.
We can bring all our feelings to God—no matter how negative or complaining they may be—and we can rest assured that He will hear and understand. The psalmists teaches us that the most profound prayer of all is a cry for help as we find ourselves overwhelmed by the problems of life. There is no need to have theological training in order to pray. Sometimes all we need is a simple few words and they can even be as simple as: HELP, LORD!
Just a couple of other thoughts on the Book of Psalms: Psalms 113-118 are referred to as Praise psalms or songs. Psalms 113-118, which are psalms of praise or Hallel. They are called "The Egyptian Hallel," because it was chanted in the temple while the Passover lambs were being slain. It was chanted also on other festival occasions, as at Pentecost, the feast of Tabernacles, and the feast of Dedication. The Levites, standing before the altar, chanted it verse by verse, the people responding by repeating the verses or by intoned hallelujahs. It was also chanted in private families at the feast of Passover. This was probably the hymn which our Savior and his disciples sung at the conclusion of the Passover supper kept by them in the upper room at Jerusalem (Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26).
There is also another group of psalms called "The Great Hallel". They include Psalms 118-136, which was recited on the first evening at the Passover supper and on occasions of great joy.
And before we leave the psalms there are other Psalms that are referred to as Imprecatory Psalms. What is an imprecatory Psalm? An imprecation is a curse that invokes misfortune upon someone. Imprecatory psalms are those in which the author imprecates; that is, he calls down calamity, destruction, and God’s anger and judgment on his enemies. This type of psalm is found throughout the book. The major imprecatory psalms are Psalms 5, 10, 17, 35, 58, 59, 69, 70, 79, 83, 109, 129, 137, and 140. The following are a few examples of the imprecatory language gleaned from these psalms:
“Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you” (Psalm 5:10).
“Rise up, LORD, confront them, bring them down; with your sword rescue me from the wicked” (Psalm 17:13).
“Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the kingdoms that do not call on your name; for they have devoured Jacob and devastated his homeland”. (Psalm 79:6–7)
It is necessary to make you aware that when studying the imprecatory psalms, remember that these psalms were not written out of vindictiveness or a need for personal vengeance. Instead, they are prayers that keep God’s justice, sovereignty, and protection in mind. God’s people had suffered much at the hands of those who opposed them, including the Hittites, Amorites, Philistines, and Babylonians (the subject of Psalm 137). These groups were not only enemies of Israel, but they were also enemies of God; they were degenerate and ruthless conquerors whom had repeatedly tried and failed to destroy the Lord’s chosen people. After all, there’s a reason Mary Queen of Scots reportedly said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.”
Does anyone fear that we are praying today??
No that you have an overview of what this Book of Psalms is all about, perhaps you will read it with meaning and not just as a check off list. The final Psalm 150 is referred to as the final doxology. The word doxology means and as used in Christian worship as: a hymn expressing praise and honor to God; a form of praise to God designed to be sung or chanted by the choir or the congregation. Most times it is sung at the end of a Christian service to bring all the thoughts expressed that day together.
Psalm 150 KJV
Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.
2 Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.
4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.
What a powerful finale! In this last Psalm we see the Messiah is worshipped as ‘the Blessed God.” The cry here in this Psalm says that everything that has breath must praise the Lord. In the coming Kingdom Age, this will be true for all. Men, women, and children will have nothing but praise for Him. The pages of this Book are wet with tears and its music broken with sighs, but this last song is a burst of rapture and the finale closes with a loud “Hallelujah!”