The Holy Scriptures

Psalm 1‑150  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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The Book of Psalms
The Book of Psalms is a collection of meditations, prayers and praises. While the book has a distinctly prophetic character, it is not a formal declaration of future events, neither is it history or doctrine, though it contains both. David wrote many of the psalms (Luke 20:4242And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, (Luke 20:42)). Some can be related to specific circumstances in his life.
Nevertheless, these are not simply the cries of David, nor mere human sentiment. Rather, they are the language of the Spirit of Christ (1 Peter 1:1111Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. (1 Peter 1:11)). Some, such as Psalm 22, can be identified with a particular time and place in the history of the Lord Jesus. In others, we find Christ in association with the godly remnant in Judah and Israel: afflicted in the land, out of the land, the place He took among them when on earth, and in the full blessing of millennial days. No other book expresses the thoughts of the Lord’s heart in such a manner.
The psalms are occupied with Judah and Israel. They are the experiences of a people under law. The blessings and position that we as Christians—members of the body of Christ—enjoy weren’t known.
Prophecy and Psalms
An understanding of the prophetic future of Judah and Israel is helpful in understanding the Psalms. At the close of the historic books, both Judah and Israel are in captivity. Judah’s post-captivity history has differed from that of Israel, whose identity as a people has been lost.
As we are witnessing even today, Judah will be restored to her land in unbelief (Isa. 18) and will ultimately rebuild her temple (Isa. 66:1616For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many. (Isaiah 66:16); 2 Thess. 2:44Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2:4); Psa. 74). With the church having been taken out of this scene, a period of tremendous trial will come upon the whole habitable world (Rev. 3:1010Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. (Revelation 3:10)). Lasting for seven years (Dan. 9:24-2724Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. 25Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 26And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. 27And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Daniel 9:24‑27)), the first 3½ years are known as the beginning of sorrows (Matt. 24:88All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24:8); first book of the Psalms), while the last 3½ years are a period of great tribulation (Matt. 24:15-2415When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 16Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: 17Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 19And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 20But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 21For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 23Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matthew 24:15‑24); second book of the Psalms).
The 75-day period following the great tribulation is called the indignation (Isa. 10:24-25; 26:20; 34:1224Therefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt. 25For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction. (Isaiah 10:24‑25)
20Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. (Isaiah 26:20)
12They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing. (Isaiah 34:12)
; Dan. 11:3636And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. (Daniel 11:36)). During this time, many nations will attempt to crush Israel, challenging even the Lord Himself. A remnant of Judah will be preserved (Zech. 13:99And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God. (Zechariah 13:9)). The experiences of this remnant under the chastening hand and governmental discipline of God, suffering for and confessing the national guilt of a broken law and the still more awful burden of crucifying their Messiah, are very fully detailed in the Psalms. The Lord will gather the ten tribes back into the land (Matt. 24:3131And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:31); Deut. 30:1-101And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, 2And shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; 3That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. 4If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. 7And the Lord thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. 8And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the Lord, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day. 9And the Lord thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers: 10If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. (Deuteronomy 30:1‑10); fourth book of the Psalms), causing them to pass under the rod, purging out the rebels at the border (Eze. 20:35-3735And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. 36Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord God. 37And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: (Ezekiel 20:35‑37)).
With the close of the indignation, the Lord’s kingdom will have been established and He will reign over the earth in righteousness for a period of 1000 years—the Millennium (Psa. 72; Isa. 35; Zech. 14:99And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one. (Zechariah 14:9); Rev. 20:16). Those that remain of the Gentile nations will go up year by year to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts (Zech. 14:1616And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16)).
Divisions of Psalms
The Book of Psalms is not divided into chapters; rather, each psalm is known by its position—for example, the second psalm (Acts 13:3333God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. (Acts 13:33)). The headings that are found above many of the psalms appear in the Septuagint and other manuscripts and are of a very ancient date. In the Hebrew, the Book of Psalms is divided into five books, each with a distinct character: Psalms 141 form the first book, 42-72 The second, 73-89 the third, 90-106 the fourth, and 107-150 the fifth. The closing of each book is distinctly marked, as may be observed by reading the last few verses of each. Their order is moral, never chronological.
Overview of the Five Books of Psalms
In the first book of the Psalms we have Christ in association with a suffering but faithful remnant in Judea. Jehovah is the most frequent title used in this portion, being His title of covenant relation with Israel. “To the saints that are on the earth, and to the excellent Thou hast said, In them is all My delight” (Psa. 16:3 JnD). The first two psalms are introductory to the whole collection: They introduce the godly remnant and the Messiah (the Lord’s anointed; Psa. 2:22The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, (Psalm 2:2)).
In the second book the remnant is viewed as driven from the land but cheered and sustained by the presence and promises of their Messiah. God does not publicly own this remnant and so “God” (Elohim), the creation title, is used in preference to “Jehovah.” “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:11<<To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth.>> God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)).
The whole nation in the last days is spoken of in the third book. Their history and God’s dealings with them are referred to (for example, Psalm 78). The subject is taken up in a general fashion; it is not Christ in association with the remnant. We see equally references to “God” and “Jehovah.”
In the fourth book we have the coming of the Messiah, the relationship between Israel and God having being restored. Jerusalem is the setting. Here we have His reign and the blessing associated with His personal presence. These are joyous psalms. Jehovah is again the preferred title. “O sing unto the Lord a new song; for He hath done marvelous things: His right hand, and His holy arm, hath gotten Him the victory” (Psa. 98:11<<A Psalm.>> O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory. (Psalm 98:1)).
The psalms that make up the fifth book are moral rather than prophetic, dealing with Israel’s return to Jehovah and His ways with His people (for example, the fifteen Songs of Degrees; Psalms 120-134). They end in praise.
N. Simon