Psalms — The Hebrew Hymnal
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Written by at least six known authors and some anonymous composers, the psalms are a collection of hymns, choruses, chants, meditations, poems, etc., penned as early as the Exodus and as late as the Babylonian exile. It is likely that the first edition of the Psalms was compiled during the reigns of David and Solomon. Hezekiah may have added to it, with Ezra providing the finishing touches. Perhaps for this reason many Bibles have the Psalms divided into five sections or “books.”
Seventy-three of the Psalms are attributed to David, as noted in the superscriptions of those chapters. Acts 4:25-26 also attributes Psalm 2 to David; while Hebrews 4:7 references Psalm 95 as a work of Israel’s greatest king. Twelve psalms are attributed to Asaph, the chief worship leader in the days of David and Solomon. “The sons of Korah,” a guild of worship leaders established not long after David’s administration, are credited with ten. Others are ascribed to Solomon, Moses, Heman the Ezrahite and Ethan the Ezrahite. The remaining fifty are anonymous, although scholars traditionally credit Ezra with some of these. [c.f.—Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts, pp. 177 & 179]
For a chart noting the authors, topics and correlations to biblical events for each Psalm, download the PDF of the document entitled, “The Psalms by Author, Topic & Correlation.”
Psalms 1:1, in the New International Version starts out, “Blessed is the man who does not…” and follows with a list of three things we shouldn’t do, if we want to experience God’s blessing:
- “walk in the counsel of the wicked”—Someone who wants God’s blessing won’t take advice from people who habitually do evil.
- “or stand in the way of sinners”—Don’t stubbornly continue on a course that leads to sinful conduct.
- “or sit in the seat of mockers”—If you want God’s blessing, you won’t feel comfortable being boastful, making fun of others or hanging out with those who do.
Instead, this person actually enjoys God’s word, thinking about it night and day (v. 2)! In a verse not unlike Jeremiah 17:8, Psalms 1:3 compares this godly individual to “a tree planted by the rivers of water,” that produces fruit and doesn’t wither. He is successful in every undertaking.
In contrast, the ungodly person [i.e.—one who does those things we shouldn’t do] is compared to wind-driven chaff (v. 4). He lacks direction, weight or value. He will not withstand God’s judgment, nor be allowed in the assembly of the righteous (5). God is fully aware of the ways of those who fear and serve Him, but He will do away with those who serve themselves or other gods (6).
Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD and against His Anointed (Psalms 2:1-2).
The composer George Frideric Handel took these words from the King James Bible and set them to music in the song, “Why Do the Nations So Furiously Rage?” in his famous Messiah oratorio.
When Christ came over 2,000 years ago, His mission was first to atone for sin. But He also founded a kingdom on earth—invisible but powerful, overarching every other form of authority one this planet. However, those in power—whether in political, military, business, religious or other contexts—do not easily yield to a higher authority. The apostles encountered this when they began preaching and seeing many new converts to Christianity. The religious leaders resisted the notion that Jesus, whom they crucified, might’ve been the Prophet, Priest and King their people had long awaited.
These verses also foretell the days when all the nations will gather to oppose the forces of heaven and Christ’s millennial rule on earth, as described in Revelation 17:12-14, 19:17-21 & 20:7-9. According to Psalms 2:3 and these apocalyptic passages, the demonically-inspired nations perceive the leadership of YHWH as bonds to be cast off. They will be willing to work together, and even make a deal with the devil himself, to be rid of God’s restrictive rule over their kingdoms.
Of course, resisting the Creator and Sustainer of the universe is futile. Therefore verse 4 says, “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the LORD shall hold them in derision.” When He voices His anger, everyone will be distraught (5). He’ll remove all doubt as to who’s in charge, declaring, “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion” (6).
Verse 7 was applied to Jesus in Hebrews 1:5 & 5:5. “…The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” God the Father tells His Son, Jesus, “Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession” (8). Echoing Psalms 2:9, Revelation 2:7, 12:5 & 19:15 tell us Jesus is going to rule the nations with a rod of iron, shattering them like pottery.
In light of this, the psalmist urged kings and judges of earth to serve YHWH with fear and trembling (Psalms 2:10-11). “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish…when His wrath is kindled but a little” (12). Nobody wants to make God’s anointed angry—it can have fatal consequences! However, the psalm concludes on this positive note: “Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.” Messiah Jesus will look after those who serve Him willingly.
This eight-verse psalm was written when David fled from his son Absalom (See 2 Samuel 15-17). It starts out, “LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me” (Psalms 3:1). David complained that many were convinced not even God could help him (v. 2).
“But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head” (3). David said he cried out to YHWH and He heard from His holy hill, therefore he could sleep in peace and safety, even with 10,000 enemies surrounding him (4-6).
The song concludes, “Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God!” (7). It foretells God striking David’s enemies on the cheek, shattering their teeth, and affirms YHWH as the source of salvation and blessing for His people (8).
According to the forward of the chapter, this psalm of David was intended for the Chief Musician to have played on stringed instruments. Recalling the good God had already done in his behalf, David expressed his faith that the Lord would continue to look after him.
It starts out, “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer” (Psalms 4:1). David then turns to those trying to dishonor him and asks, “How long will you love worthlessness and seek falsehood?” (v. 2). He expressed confidence that God has set the godly apart for Himself and will hear his cry (3).
Whether he is speaking to himself or his accusers, David urges, “Be angry, and do not sin”—an admonition later repeated in Ephesians 4:26. He counsels that we meditate on our beds and be still, offer sacrifices of righteousness and put our trust in YHWH (Psalms 4:4-5).
Turning his thoughts again to the Lord, David reported that many were skeptical of seeing any good come their way, but prayed for God to show them His kindness (6). He said the gladness in his heart was better than a bumper crop or alcohol could give (7). He anticipated a night of peaceful sleep, “For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (8).
This psalm of David was composed for the Chief Musician to have accompanied with flutes. It is another ancient song that has been adapted into more modern choruses. You can find a lovely recording by Maranatha of the song, “Psalm 5,” also called “Give Ear to My Word,” along with printed lyrics at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMgYcycbK_Y. I believe this is their version of the song written by Bill Sprouse, Jr., in 1975.
Compare the lyrics with what David wrote in verses 1-3 of Psalm 5, as translated in the old King James Version:
Give ear to my words, O LORD,
consider my meditation.
Hearken unto the voice of my cry,
my King, and my God:
for unto thee will I pray.
My voice shalt thou hear in the morning,
O LORD; in the morning
will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
In other words, David was meeting with YHWH first thing in the morning, and wanted to be sure the Lord heard and responded not only to what he was saying, but also to what he was thinking. He knew God could not stand any kind of evil (v. 4). Those who are full of themselves, who sin, hurt others or lie cannot endure in His sight (5-6).
David realized it was only by God’s mercy that he could gain access to him at all (7). He begged for God to lead him in right pathways, because of his enemies, fully aware that they’d take any opportunity to destroy him with flattering and deceptive words (8-9). He depended on God to pronounce them guilty and to punish them for their rebellion (10). But he longed for God to bless those who loved and trusted in Him with overflowing joy (11). “For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield” (12).
This psalm of David was dedicated “To the Chief Musician” and intended to be played on stringed instruments and an eight-stringed harp. It appeals for God’s mercy in a time of sickness and sorrow.
The song starts out, “O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure. Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled” (Psalms 6:1-2). Apparently, David was feeling guilty for something and thought God was punishing him physically. He said his soul was “greatly troubled” and wondered how long his suffering would last (v. 3).
Feeling separated from God, David asked the Lord to return and rescue him, for the sake of His mercy (4). “For in death there is no remembrance of You;” a dead man is incapable of voicing thanks (5). David described his suffering: weariness and groaning, long sleepless nights, soaking his pillow with tears, eyes swollen from crying and feeling older than his years because of his enemies (6-7).
In faith that the Lord had heard him and would respond to his prayer, David ordered the wicked to depart from him (8-9). He prayed for all his enemies to be ashamed and troubled, turned back from their wicked schemes against him (10).
The prologue of this next psalm says it was sung by David to YHWH “concerning the words of Cush, a Benjaminite.” It is a complaint against the false accusations of this individual and an appeal for God to right the situation.
It starts out, “O LORD my God, in You I put my trust; save me from all those who persecute me…” (Psalms 7:1). David compared those who were verbally attacking him to a lion trying to tear him to pieces (v. 2). So confident was he of his innocence, that he invoked a curse on himself, should he be found guilty of sin, such as harming a person who was at peace with him or plundering an enemy without cause (3-5).
He appealed to the Lord to rise up in anger and render judgment on his enemies (6). While ruling the people from on high, David invited the Lord to render justice according to his righteousness (7-8). He prayed for YHWH to put an end to the wicked, but establish the just, knowing that “the righteous God tests the hearts and minds” (9). Rather than relying on himself or other men, David was trusting God to deliver him, knowing He “is a just judge” (10-11a).
David anticipated the Lord’s response to the wicked:
- He is angry with them every day (11b).
- If they don’t repent, He’ll prepare weapons to slay them (12-13).
- He lets the trouble they dream up for others catch the wicked themselves (14-16).
David, meanwhile, intended to “praise the LORD according to His righteousness” (17).
This short poem by David expresses his wide-eyed wonder at God’s creation. The note at the beginning says it was written “To the Chief Musician. On the instrument of Gath.” This would indicate it was published, at least, after David became king, but may well have been written after his encounter with the Philistines, considering he’s composed it for one of their devices.
Whenever I read the first line of this psalm, I think of the song popularized by Sandi Patti, which starts out the same: “O LORD , our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalms 8:1, NIV). The next sentence notes that God’s glory is above the heavens. The second verse, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” was quoted by Jesus when the children were shouting their hosannas at the temple after His triumphal entry (See Matthew 21:16).
Considering the size and scope of the universe and celestial bodies, David couldn’t comprehend why the Lord would concern Himself with miniscule humanity (Ps. 8:3-4). Yet he acknowledges that we were made only “a little lower than the angels” and crowned with glory and honor (v. 5). Meditating on Genesis 1:28, David added that we had been put in charge of everything else God had made—all the livestock and wild beasts, birds and fish (6-8).
It is interesting to note that the statement, “that pass through the paths of the seas” was the poetic hint that later led Christian naval officer Matthew Fontaine Maury, nicknamed “the Pathfinder of the Seas,” to map the system of winds and currents in the earth’s oceans!
This simple psalm of praise ends just as it began: acknowledging the majesty of YHWH our God (9).
This next psalm was originally a single unit with Psalm 10, later broken up into two separate songs in the Hebrew hymnal. An acrostic written by David “to the tune of ‘Death of the Son,’” it was also entrusted to the Chief Musician.
It starts out expressing David’s deep devotion: “I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You…” (Psalms 9:1-2). He was certain his enemies would fall before him, since God was on his side (vv. 3-4). David envisioned God enthroned in heaven, judging the nations, blotting out the memory of the wicked (5-6). The exploits of the wicked would be long forgotten, while YHWH endured forever (7-8).
David saw the Lord as a refuge for the oppressed in times of trouble (9). Just as he had experienced in his own lifetime, David assured others that those who know, trust and seek YHWH He has not forsaken (10). Therefore, everyone should sing His praises and publicize His deeds among the people (11). He avenged the blood of the innocent and would not forget the cry of the humble (12).
David prayed, “Have mercy on me, O LORD! Consider my trouble from those who hate me…” (13). To the One who lifted him up from the “gates of death” he expected to offer praise in the gates of Zion [Jerusalem] (13-14).
“The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made; in the net which they hid, their own foot is caught,” and by God’s justice, the wicked were snared by their own devices (15-16). Evil men and ungodly nations were destined for hell, while the poor and needy would be remembered and rescued by the Lord ((17-18). This half of the acrostic ends with the petition:
Arise, O LORD,
Do not let man prevail;
Let the nations be judged in Your sight.
Put them in fear, O LORD,
That the nations may know themselves to be but men. (19-20).
In a change of tone from the previous verses, David asks, “Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (Psalms 10:1). He complained that the proud persecute the poor and asked God to “Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised” (v. 2). The wicked boast of their ambitions, bless the greedy and renounce YHWH—not even seeking or considering God (3-4). They seem to prosper and remain victorious, fearing no trouble in the future (5-6). They curse, deceive and oppress, hatching all sorts of schemes (7). They lie in wait to murder the innocent and pounce on the poor and helpless like a lion (8-10). All along, they tell themselves God is unaware of any of it (11).
David called the Lord to rise and take action in behalf of the humble, not allowing the wicked to get away with evil or their delusions about God (12-13). Knowing God was aware of the trouble and grief around him, David reminded Him that the helpless—especially orphans—were counting on Him (14). He asked God to break the arms of the wicked and hunt them down (15).
He concluded that, ultimately, God would triumph and justice would prevail:
The LORD is King forever and ever;
The nations have perished out of His land.
LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will prepare their heart;
You will cause Your ear to hear,
To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
That the man of the earth may oppress no more. (16-17).
This psalm of David, written for the Chief Musician, attests to the omnipotence of God and His care for those who trust Him. It starts out, “In the LORD I put my trust; how can you say to my soul, ‘Flee as a bird to your mountain’?” (Psalms 11:1). Apparently, rather than live in constant fear of enemy ambushes, some well-meaning friends were telling David just to run away and hide from those who pursued him (v. 2). In a seemingly unrelated statement, David added, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (3). Maybe he was referring to the lawlessness in the land that allowed the wicked to pursue the innocent with impunity.
But David was a man of faith, who wasn’t about to run from adversity. Why? Because He trusted in a powerful God he was sure was fully aware of and capable of addressing his situation. He wrote, “The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them” (Psalms 11:4, NIV). While YHWH “tests the righteous,” He hates the violent and rains down destruction on the wicked (v. 5-6). “For the LORD is righteous” and loves righteousness and allows the upright to see His face (7).
This psalm of David was composed for the Chief Musician to be played on an eight-stringed harp. It was probably written at some point when David felt overwhelmed by the number of evil men surrounding him.
It starts out, “Help, LORD, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men” (Psalms 12:1, NIV). David complained that everyone spoke insincerely—flattering and deceiving their neighbors—and prayed for God to put a stop to it, so they would no longer think they could do whatever they pleased (vv. 2-4).
He imagined YHWH rising up to defend the poor and needy (5). In contrast to the deception of men’s speech, David said, “The words of the LORD are pure,” like silver refined seven times (6). Therefore, David was confident the Lord would preserve the godly from the wicked (7-8).
Verse 1 starts out in exasperation: “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” He wondered how much longer he had to rely on himself and live with the depressing circumstances of a persistent enemy (v. 2). He begged for the Lord to hear his prayer and give him insight; otherwise, he was sure his enemy would defeat and gloat over him (3-4). He was trusting in God’s mercy, rejoicing in His salvation and was singing to YHWH, because He had “dealt bountifully” with him (5-6).
It begins, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalms 14:1a, NIV). The person who denies God’s existence is senseless, denying all the evidence in the world around us that points to a Creator (c.f.—Psalm 19:1-4 & Romans 1:18-32). Without belief in God, men have no grounds for morality, therefore, “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good” (v. 1b).
David says God looks down from heaven in vain, trying to find someone who understands and seeks Him; yet every human is corrupt, and there is not one truly good person on the planet (2-3)! Those who exploit others and do evil lack sense (4). They live in fear and mock the poor, while God helps and shelters the righteous (5-6). David concluded his song with an appeal for salvation to come out of Zion and for God to bring His people back from captivity in joy (7).
This short song is billed simply as a “Psalm of David” and describes the kind of worshipers God is looking for. It starts with the question, “LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” (Psalms 15:1). The answer? The person who lives with integrity, does what is right and speaks the truth—even to him/herself (v. 2). This person will never stab you in the back, do anything to hurt a neighbor, or accept an accusation against a friend (3). This individual wants nothing to do with the wicked, but honors those who fear YHWH (4). He/she keeps his/her word—even when to do so is not to his/her advantage. Nor will such a person lend at interest or accept a bribe (5). Someone like this can always feel secure.
This song is described as “A Michtam of David.” Michtam is apparently some sort of obscure technical term whose meaning is unknown today. The psalm expresses David’s contentment with his lot in life, as well as foreshadowing the Messiah.
Similar to many of David’s psalms, this one starts out by asking God to preserve him, “for in You I have put my trust” (Psalms 16:1). He recognized he could enjoy nothing good without God (v. 2). He relished the company of fellow believers in YHWH, but wanted nothing to do with other gods or those who sacrificed to them (3-4).
David considered YHWH his source of provision, and said He had allocated a very pleasant inheritance to him (5-6). He blessed the Lord for counseling him and instructing him even while he slept (7). David credited his focus on God and the Lord’s constant presence for keeping him on track (8).
In Acts 2:25-28 and 13:34-37, Peter and Paul attributed Psalms 16:8-10 to Jesus, regarding the Lord’s preservation of Christ’s body in the tomb:
I have set the LORD always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
David, we know, died and was buried (1 Kings 2:10). But Jesus was raised from the dead three days after His burial. However, because of the work of his descendant, David could look forward to life after death, saying, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalms 16:11).
This “Prayer of David,” appeals for God’s assistance on the basis of David’s integrity. He opened by asking God to listen to his a “just cause” and vindicate him (Psalms 17:1-2). God had already tested his heart and found nothing offensive; David had committed not to sin with his words (v. 3). In keeping with the Lord’s commandments, he had avoided the paths of evil and asked God to keep his feet firmly in the paths of righteousness (4-5).
He called on God, confident He would hear him and would show His “marvelous lovingkindness” to “save those who trust in You” from those who opposed them (6-7). He prayed “Keep me as the apple of Your eye [i.e.—His pupil]; hide me under the shadow of Your wings, from the wicked who oppress me” (8-9).
David complained his “deadly enemies…have closed up their fat hearts” and spoken proudly (10). He compared his adversaries to vicious lions, surrounding him and others, crouching down and lurking about, watching their prey, ready to tear them to pieces (11-12).
David prayed for God to confront them with His sword and save him from those who lived for what this life alone can yield (13-14). He, in contrast, lived to see the Lord’s face and to become more like Him daily (15).
According to the prologue, this song was written by “David the servant of the Lord…on the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” It’s another psalm addressed “To the Chief Musician.” A very similar version can be found in 2 Samuel. [See the document entitled, “Comparison of 2 Samuel 22 & Psalm 18” to see how the two passages line up side-by-side.]
David started this version, saying, “I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalms 18:2-3). That first sentence is not included in the version in 2 Samuel.
This next verse found its way into a worship song, entitled “I Will Call Upon the Lord,” by Michael O’Shields, made popular by Petra in the ‘80’s. You can listen to a recording and see the lyrics from their album, Petra Praise—The Rock Cries Out at this God Tube site: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=CBF0JNNU. As the first few lines of the song says, David wrote, “I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies” (v. 3). A King James-sounding version of verse 46 makes up the chorus of the song.
In the face of death, David called to the Lord, who heard from His temple (4-6). When God came to his rescue, the earth quaked, smoke roiled, dark clouds surrounded Him, thunder roared and lightning flashed, as YHWH “bowed the heavens…and came down” to scatter David’s enemies (7-14). In the psalmist’s dramatic description of Divine intervention, even “the channels of the sea were seen,” and “the foundations of the world were uncovered, at the rebuke of the LORD,” and the blast from His nostrils (15).
David described his rescue from overpowering enemies as God drawing him “out of many waters” and setting him on a broad plain (16-17 & 19). David said those who hated him “confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support” (18). Because of His delight in David, God delivered him and rewarded his faithful conduct (19-20).
David credits his devotion to the Lord to his constant focus on God’s word and his determination to avoid evil (21-24). God shows mercy to the merciful, is blameless in the sight of those whose conduct is blameless, pure to the pure in heart (25-26a). He saves the humble, but confuses and brings down those who are devious and proud (26b-27).
David compared God to a lamp, lighting the darkness, and credits the Lord with enabling him to run against a troop and leap over a wall (28-29). He says of his God, “His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him” (30). That’s why David was always so bold in battle. Referring to God as his rock, David saw the Lord as his source of strength and direction (31-32). I love how the NIV renders verse 35: “You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great.” The Lord kept David sure-footed, helped Him pursue his enemies and destroy them, subduing every foe that rose against him (36-42).
Not only did the Lord make David a mighty warrior; He made him a great ruler, too: “You have also delivered me from the strivings of the people; You have kept me the head of the nations” (43a). Even foreign powers were subject to David—people unknown to him before he was king (43b-45)! David depended on God, not himself, for vengeance and to keep people under control (47). Because the Lord always delivered him from every enemy, David was prepared to sing His praises even before Gentiles (48-49). In a slight variation from the version in 2 Samuel, the psalm concludes, “Great deliverance He gives to His king, and shows mercy to His anointed, to David and his descendants forevermore” (50).
Another well-known song written by David “To the Chief Musician,” Psalm 19 starts out by focusing on the general revelation of God (through His creation), then shifts to the specific revelation of God (through His written word).
“The heavens declare the glory of God,” he says (Ps. 19:1). Even without speech, they tell how marvelous their Maker must be (v. 2). There is no place on earth where a person can escape their testimony (3-4)!
David describes the sun as “a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,” and an athlete running a race (5). He says “there is nothing hidden from its heat” (6).
Even greater than this universal revelation of God’s glory through the heavens and celestial bodies was the revelation of God’s written word, primarily found at that time in the books of Moses. David says, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul” (7). He then uses various synonyms to refer to the way the Law brought wisdom, encouragement and inspiration (7-8). It’s too bad modern preachers have forgotten that it is the conviction of the Holy Spirit, brought about through the reading of God’s law, that convinces men and women of their need to repent!
He says, “The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever” and adds that God’s judgments are true and righteous (Psalms 19:9, NIV). More desirable than wealth or honey, a person is warned by God’s teachings and rewarded when he/she lives according to them (v. 10).
In response to all this, David asks the rhetorical question, “Who can understand his errors?” and asks the Lord, “Cleanse me from secret faults” (12). He neither wishes to overstep his bounds [perhaps thinking of his predecessor, Saul], nor be controlled by sin (13). Even to the words of his mouth and the core of his being, David longs to be blameless, innocent and acceptable in God’s sight (14). What a great prayer to pray each day: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalms 19:14, NIV)!
It starts out:
May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble;
May the name of the God of Jacob defend you;
May He send you help from the sanctuary,
And strengthen you out of Zion;
May He remember all your offerings,
And accept your burnt sacrifice.
May He grant you according to your heart’s desire,
And fulfill all your purpose. (Psalms 20:1-4, NKJV)
In other words, David was wishing for His people answered prayer, protection, help, strength, peace and satisfaction. Once this was accomplished, then everyone else would celebrate those blessed by God (v. 5).
David expressed confidence that YHWH would save His anointed and answer the prayer of the king from heaven (6). Some nations trusted their armies of chariots and horsemen, but Israel would trust in the name of YHWH their God (7). Foreigners would be brought to their knees and fall, while the people of God stood tall (8). The song concludes, “O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call!” (Psalms 20:9, NIV)
This psalm of David was written for the Chief Musician. Its opening lines express the king’s joy in YHWH’s strength and salvation (Psalm 21:1). Next David says, “You have given him his heart’s desire, and have not withheld the request of his lips” (2). He tells of how God had blessed him with goodness, long life, honor and majesty and had put “a crown of pure gold upon his head” (3-5). For this the king was glad and trusted in YHWH, saying, “through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved” (6-7).
David was confident the Lord would find and both those who hated Him and their offspring (8-10). “For they intended evil against You; they devised a plot which they are not able to perform” (11). He imagined God would make them turn tail and run and would drive His arrows into them (12). The song concludes: “Be exalted, O LORD, in Your own strength! We will sing and praise Your power” (13).
This psalm of David was for the Chief Musician to have played to the tune of a song called, “The Deer of the Dawn.” It is a Messianic psalm, all at once describing David’s struggles and the future suffering of Jesus.
The first line was uttered by Jesus on the cross, as quoted in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34—“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Psalms 22:1). Not only was He expressing His distress at being separated from His heavenly Father for the first time, but Jesus’ utterance of that first line of Psalm 5 would have brought to the minds of Jewish onlookers all the rest of that sacred song that was repeated at least twice every year.
Perhaps feeling some of that same despair in his own circumstances, David asked why God seemed so far away and so unwilling to respond to his groaning. Day and night he cried out to the Lord, but He seemed not to hear or answer (v. 2). He acknowledged God was holy, “Enthroned in the praises of Israel” (3). Israel’s ancestors trusted in the Lord and cried out to Him; He delivered them and did not leave them disappointed (4-5).
“But I am a worm and not a man,” David said, “scorned by men and despised by the people” (6). That definitely happened when Shimei, son of Bichri, tossed stones and dirt at David the day he fled from Absalom (See 2 Samuel 16:5-14).
That and the following verse were even more true of Jesus, when He hung naked on the cross with every passer-by mocking and insulting him (Psalms 5:7). In Matthew 27:43, you even hear the people hurl almost the same words as Psalms 5:8 at Jesus: “He trusts in the LORD…Let him deliver him…”
David acknowledged the Lord as the One who took him from the womb and made him trust in God while he was still an infant (vv. 9-10). He prayed for God not to be far from him, since trouble was near and he had no one else to rely on (11). He used a vivid illustration of angry bulls surrounding him, of lions gaping at him and roaring before they attacked (12-13).
The next several verses describe Jesus’ condition on the cross:
- His bones were out of joint; His heart was weak (14).
- His strength was utterly depleted; His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth from dehydration (15).
- His hands and feet were pierced (16).
- He felt every bone in His body and was acutely aware of the stares of those surrounding Him (17).
- Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34 and John 19:23-24 tell us the soldiers divided Jesus’ garments between them and threw lots for the seamless tunic they took from Him before Jesus was crucified, just as it says in Psalm 5:18.
David pleaded for God to come quickly to strengthen and help him, to deliver him from the sword (vv. 19-20a). He compared his persecutors to dogs, lions and wild oxen (20b-21b).
In faith, he looked ahead and saw that God did indeed answer him (21c). He resolved, “I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You” (22). David urged all the rest of his people to praise, glorify and fear the Lord, as well (23). “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard” (24). David promised to praise God and fulfill his vows in public, so others could celebrate with him (25-26).
David didn’t stop with Israel. He invited all the nations to the “ends of the world” to “remember and turn to the LORD” to worship Him (27). “For the kingdom is the LORD’s, and He rules over the nations” (28). He foresaw everyone small and great, living and dead worshiping the Lord (29). The psalm beautifully concludes:
Future generations will also serve him.
Our children will hear about the wonders of the Lord.
His righteous acts will be told to those yet unborn.
They will hear about everything he has done. (Psalms 22:30-31, NLT).
Probably the most oft-quoted of all the Psalms, number 23 may be one of David’s earliest compositions. It may have been written while he was out tending his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 16:11), and then sung for Saul when David played to relieve the king’s anxiety caused by the “distressing spirit” sent from God (vv. 14-23).
David begins this psalm by comparing YHWH to a shepherd (Psalm 23:1). Using incidents from his own experience as a shepherd as illustrations, David talks about the Lord’s…
- Provision of food, drink and rest (v. 2).
- Guidance along “paths of righteousness” (3).
- Protection and comfort through trying times (4).
- Healing and favor (5).
- Kindness and fellowship (6).
This ten-verse psalm was written by David. It starts out by establishing God’s ownership over the earth and its inhabitants, by merit of the fact that He created it on the waters (Psalms 24:1-2). Then like Psalms 15:1, it asks, “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place?” (Psalms 24:3). Verse 4 answers, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully.” That’s the sort of person God will bless and vindicate (5).
In verse 7, David commands the city gates to open wide to receive the King of glory. The remaining verses identify the King of glory as YHWH Sabaoth [the LORD of hosts], strong and mighty in battle. (8-10).
Quite possibly written when David was in peril of his life from Saul, Psalm 25 is a plea for YHWH’s protection from his enemies. An acrostic poem, it features two lines for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It also happens to be the inspiration for some beautiful worship songs—including “Unto Thee, O Lord,” by Charles F. Monroe, and “My Hope Is You,” by Third Day.
David starts out by putting his life into God’s hands: “To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul” (Psalms 25:1). He reminds the Lord of his trust in Him and prays that God not let it not be in vain by allowing his enemies to gain the upper hand (v. 2). He prays that no one who trusts in God be ashamed, but only those who deal treacherously without cause (3).
David then asks for the Lord’s guidance, acknowledging God as his salvation, for whom he is willing to wait all day long (4-5). He prays for God to remember His age-old mercy and love—not David’s earlier sins (6-7). He focuses on God’s goodness and integrity by which He is qualified to teach sinners the right way (8). The Lord is especially concerned with helping the humble: “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies” (9-10). David asks the Lord not only to not recall his sins, but to pardon his great iniquity (11).
He says the person who fears God will be directed along good paths, enjoy prosperity and have secrets revealed to him (12-14). He recognizes God as his only hope for rescue, “My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net” (15). David begs the Lord to have mercy on him, “For I am desolate and afflicted,” his troubles have multiplied, along with his pain and distress (16-18). Considering the number of his enemies who hated him cruelly, David urged God to keep and deliver him (19-20). “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You” (21).
He concludes by asking for God to rescue the rest of his country, as well (22).
Billed simply as “A Psalm of David,” this Hebrew poem affirms David’s commitment to integrity and asks God to examine and uphold him. The shepherd prince asks God to vindicate him, in light of the fact he has lived well and trusts in the Lord (Psalm 26:1). Using terms that typically refer to the evaluation of precious metals, David prays for God to “examine” and “prove” him, to “test” his mind and heart (v. 2).
The source of his good behavior is that David has kept God’s character at the forefront of his attention and has let His truth direct his paths (3). He has avoided idolaters, hypocrites, evildoers and rebels (4-5).
David says, “I will wash my hands in innocence; so I will go about Your altar, O LORD” (6). He loves to be where God is, to thank Him and tell about all He has done (7-8). He prays for God to make a distinction between him and sinful people, to protect him from scheming, bloodthirsty and corrupt men (9-10). David is committed to walk in integrity and trusts God to redeem and be merciful to him, so he can continue to bless the Lord in the assembly of believers (11-12).
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalms 27:1).
This verse alone has been the inspiration for over a hundred worship songs over the years. My favorite is a chorus I learned decades ago, for which I do not know the author or the date. If anyone can tell me more about this song, I would love to give credit where it is due. Its lyrics go something like this:
The Lord is my light and my salvation,
Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I fear?
He is the defense of my life.
Of whom shall I be afraid?
Of whom shall I be afraid?
Of whom shall I be afraid?
He is the defense of my life.
Of whom shall I be afraid?
David said when his enemies came after him, they stumbled and fell (v. 2). Even in face of warfare, he could be confident, knowing God was on his side (3).
The one thing David wanted was the freedom to go and worship in God’s temple (4). He knew God would keep him safe, letting him triumph over his enemies and return to worship the Lord (5-6).
He prayed for YHWH to hear him, to respond to David and not abandon him, when he turned to him for help (7-9). His next statement is so relevant to our love-starved culture today: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take care of me” (10). Most likely David was talking about the death of his parents, versus the eternality of God; but with so many parents today abandoning their little ones, it should be a comfort to know God’s loving presence is constant. He asked God to guide him and not let his adversaries have their way with him, “For false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out violence” (11-12).
Were it not for his confidence in YHWH’s ability and willingness to protect him, David would have long since given up (13). Instead, he encourages all who hear this song, “Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart” (14).
This psalm of David is yet another description of wrong-doing he was suffering from the wicked and an appeal for help from God. He first called out to God, “To You I will cry, O LORD my Rock: Do not be silent to me,” otherwise, he was afraid he would surely die (Psalms 28:1). David was crying out to God with his hands lifted toward the sanctuary (v. 2).
He begged the Lord not to treat him like the wicked, “Who speak peace to their neighbors, but evil is in their hearts” (3). They deserved to be destroyed, because of their wicked deeds and their disregard of the works of YHWH (4-5).
In anticipation of the Lord’s response, David broke out in song:
Blessed be the LORD,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!
The LORD is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him. (6-7).
Turning his attention outward, he says YHWH is the strength and saving refuge of His anointed and prays for Him to save, bless, shepherd and bear up His people forever (8-9).
This psalm of David encourages the mighty men of earth to acknowledge God’s superiority. It starts out urging the powerful to give YHWH the glory and strength due His name, to “Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalms 29:1-2).
The next two verses tell how the powerful and majestic voice of the Lord thunders over the waters (vv. 3-4). It breaks the cedars and makes them skip like calves; it divides flames of fire and shakes the wilderness (5-8). With that mighty voice, God makes deer deliver their young and strips the forest bare (9). Everything in His temple declares God’s glory. YHWH sat enthroned over the flood and “sits as King forever” (10). That same God will give strength to His people and bless them with peace (11).
This psalm of David was sung at the dedication of his house—most likely the cedar palace built in 2 Samuel 5:11 and 1 Chronicles 14:1. The king starts out saying, “I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my foes rejoice over me” (Psalms 30:1). He tells how God healed him when he cried out and kept him from going down to the grave (vv. 2-3). He encourages the saints of God to thank and praise Him, recognizing “His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (4-5).
When things were going well, David thought nothing bad would ever happen to him, since God was blessing him (6). But when God hid His face and trouble came, he cried out to the Lord, asking who would praise Him when he was dead (7-10).
He concluded, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness” (11). He promised to thank and praise the Lord forever (12).
This psalm of David for his Chief Musician starts off reminding YHWH that he trusts in Him, and asks that he never be ashamed (Psalms 31:1). David asked God to hear and deliver him, to be his “rock of refuge” and “fortress of defense” (v. 2). He prayed for God’s leadership and guidance, and that He would pull him out of the net his enemies had secretly laid for him (3-4).
No doubt, when Jesus quoted Psalm 31:5, his enemies’ thoughts would have flitted back to this chapter. In Luke 23:46, His last words were, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit;” which should have triggered an instant recall of the next part of the verse: “You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.”
David confessed a hatred of idolaters (Psalms 31:6). Trusting God, he anticipated joy in spite of his troubles, knowing the Lord was aware of his situation and wouldn’t leave him in the power of his enemies (vv. 6-8).
He described his physical suffering due to stress:
- His eyes were wasted with grief (9).
- His lifespan and strength were reduced because of sin (10).
- His appearance was repulsive even to those who knew him well (11).
- He was forgotten (12).
- He suffered fear and paranoia.
Nevertheless, David trusted in God (14). “My times are in Your hand;” he believed God alone could save him from his persecutors (15). He begged for the Lord not to allow him to be ashamed of this trust, but for the wicked to be put to shame and for liars to be silenced in the grave (16-18).
Anticipating the Lord’s favor, David broke out in praise: “Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You…” (19). While their rewards would be evident for all to see, God would hide His beloved “in the secret place of Your presence,” safe from the plots of men (19-20). At first David jumped to the conclusion that he was doomed for sure, but when he cried out, God heard and showed kindness to him (21-22).
The king urged every believer to love YHWH, confident that He preserves the faithful, while giving the proud what they deserve (23). He concluded: “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the LORD” (24).
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalms 32:1-2)
Before confessing his sin, David suffered wasting in his bones, groaning and pain, pressure and weakness, as God’s hand was heavy on him (vv. 3-4). Once he acknowledged his guilt, the Lord forgave him and removed the penalty of his sin (5).
“For this cause,” he says, “everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found…” (6). David feared no destructive forces once his sin was forgiven, saying “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance” (7).
Years ago, my husband and I learned a beautiful chorus based on this verse, called “You Are My Hiding Place,” by Michael Ledner. To hear a recording by Selah and see a series of magnificent photographs from around the world and throughout the universe, go to this YouTube site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EF5ieYJCqnw&feature=related. The lyrics are printed below the video panel.
The next couple of verses seem to come from the heart of God:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle… (Psalms 32:8-9, NIV)
I think those lines definitely apply to this current generation, which seems so stubbornly set on having its own way, picking and choosing which of God’s words to believe and obey! We don’t really believe verse 10, which says, “Many sorrows come to the wicked,” otherwise we wouldn’t be so quick to do our own thing (Psalms 32:10a, NLT). It’s those who trust in Him [and do what He says] who experience God’s mercy and have reason to rejoice (vv. 10b-11).
This anonymous psalm declares God’s sovereignty over all creation—including men and nations. It starts out with a marvelous reason to get excited about God: “Praise is becoming to the upright” (Psalms 33:1, NASB). Other versions say it is fitting or beautiful to praise God. This version gives us the sense that praise makes a believer more attractive.
Verses 2-3 encourage us to include musical instruments in our praise—specifically, the harp and a ten-stringed lyre—and to sing a new song, playing skillfully with a shout of joy. Why? Because God’s work and everything He does is righteous and full of truth; He loves justice and the earth is filled with His goodness (4-5). With a word, God made the heavens and all their starry hosts (6). He gathers and contains the waters of the sea (7). Whatever He says comes to pass and remains (9).
For this reason, the nations should fear YHWH and all of the inhabitants of the earth should stand in awe of Him (8). He thwarts the plans of human beings, nullifying their counsel, while His counsel and His plans stand firm (10-11). Referring to Israel and any other people group that submits to Him, verse 12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”
Verses 13-14 tell us God looks from heaven and sees every inhabitant on the earth. Having made each human heart individually, He evaluates all that we do (15).
“No king is save by the multitude of an army;” neither human strength nor the strength of a good war horse is going to keep him safe (16-17). But God looks after those who fear Him, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine (18-19).
The song concludes:
Our soul waits for the LORD;
He is our help and our shield.
For our heart shall rejoice in Him,
Because we have trusted in His holy name.
Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us,
Just as we hope in You. (20-22).
This song is introduced as “A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.” This corresponds with the incident in 1 Samuel 21:13-15, when David feared for his life from the king of Gath and pretended to be insane. It is important to realize that the Scripture is not inconsistent at this point. While Achish was the king’s name, Abimelech was a royal title, like Pharaoh king of Egypt, so this prologue really is referring to the same man (c.f.—Genesis 20 & 26). The words of the psalm form an acrostic with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
David starts out, “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the LORD…” (Psalms 34:1-2). Then he encourages others to join him in making God’s name greater and higher (v. 3). He talks about how he sought God, who heard him and delivered him from all his fears (4). “This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles” (6).
To those of us who face our own set of challenges, David assures us, “The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (7). He challenges us, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (8). He knows that anyone who samples God’s goodness is going to want more. He urges, “Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.” (9). Young lions may go hungry, “But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing” (10).
He invites the next generation to listen, as he teaches them to fear YHWH (11). The person who wants to enjoy a long and happy life will keep himself from saying and doing what is wrong; he will “seek peace and pursue it” (12-14). By then he must’ve realized how foolish it was for him to deceive the priest Ahimelech and King Achish!
David then compared and contrasted the Lord’s response to the righteous and the wicked:
- God looks out for the righteous and listens for their cries (15).
- He is set against those who do evil, to cut off the very memory of them from earth (16).
- God hears the righteous and responds to their cries, delivering them from all their troubles (17).
- “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalms 34:18, NIV). [This is especially comforting when you have lost loved ones or suffered any other devastating life circumstances.]
- He says though the righteous will experience many afflictions [Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!], the Lord will deliver them out of them all (19).
- He keeps our bones from breaking (20).
- “Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned” (21)
- But God will redeem His servants and will not allow them to be condemned (22).
This imprecatory prayer of David calls for God to bring down harm on those who were seeking his life. It starts out, “Plead my cause, O LORD, with those who strive with me; fight against those who fight against me” (Psalms 35:1). It invited God to take up arms in his behalf and “stop those who pursue me,” assuring David’s soul that He would save him (vv. 2-3).
For those who were after David, to kill and ensnare him, he prayed that:
- They would be put to shame and dishonored, rebuffed and confused (4).
- They would be chased and driven like chaff before the Angel of YHWH (5).
- Their path would be dark and slippery (6).
- They would be overtaken by sudden, unexpected destruction, caught in their own devices (8).
Anticipating the invention of the Lord, David said his soul would be joyful in Him (9). His very bones would resonate with the words: “LORD, who is like You, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him,…from him who plunders him?” (10).
David described what was happening. “Fierce witnesses” were rising up, asking him things he didn’t know (11). They were repaying the good he had done—like mourning in sackcloth with fasting and prayer when they were sick—with evil (12-14). They were celebrating when things went badly for David and ganging up on him (15). They were making fun of him and making faces at him (16).
David begged the Lord not to sit idly by any longer, but to rescue him, comparing his adversaries to ferocious lions (17). When that happened, David would give Him thanks and praise among the people (18). He prayed that the Lord would not let them continue to rejoice over him who were enemies without provocation (19). “For they do not speak peace, but they devise deceitful matters against the quiet ones in the land. They also opened their mouth wide against me…” (20-21).
Knowing the Lord was fully aware of all this, David prayed that He would not remain silent or distant any longer, but that He would stir Himself up to take action “according to Your righteousness” on David’s behalf (22-24). He didn’t want them to be able to boast, “We have swallowed him up” (25). Instead, he wanted them to be ashamed and confused for raising themselves up against him and taking pleasure in hurting him (26).
For those who were on David’s side; however, he wished for joy and prosperity (27). Then they and he would speak of God’s righteousness and praise Him all day long (27-28).
This prologue is different from most of David’s psalms. It is addressed to the Chief Musician, as “A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD,” and it’s introduced as an oracle “concerning the transgression of the wicked” (Psalms 36:1).
These are the characteristics David listed for an evil man:
- He has no fear of God (v. 1).
- He flatters himself and minimizes his sin or hatred (2).
- His words are wicked and deceitful (3).
- He’s incapable of being wise or doing good.
- He plots evil in bed at night and sets a course for himself that is not good (4).
- He does not avoid evil.
David said God’s mercy and faithfulness, on the other hand, reached the heavens (5). His righteousness was as solid as the mountains; His judgments as deep as the sea (6). God preserves both men and animals. Because of His lovingkindness, men could rely on the shelter of God’s overshadowing presence (7). “They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.” (8-9).
David prayed that YHWH would continue to extend this kindness to those who knew Him, and to treat those who were upright with righteousness (10). He didn’t want God to let prideful men come against him or drive him from the Lord’s presence (11). He knew they would soon fall and not be able to get back up (12).
David started out by saying we should not envy evildoers, because they will be cut down or shrivel up like grass (Psalm 37:1-2). Rather, we should trust in YHWH and do good; we should live in the land and “feed on His faithfulness” (v. 3).
Next comes one of my favorite passages in the Old Testament: “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalms 37:4, NIV). We self-centered humans look at that verse and think, “If I like God, He’ll give me what I want.” But it’s more than that. This verse tells us, if we make God our number one obsession, He’ll not only give us what we want, but He will change our desires to conform with what He intends to give!
Verses 5-6 says, if we trust God for guidance, He will make everything clear; He will reveal righteousness in us like the rising of the sun and give us justice like the sun at its peak. “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him” (7). It’s useless to worry about evil people who seem to do well; you’re only going to make yourself miserable for no reason (7-8). God will cut off the wicked without a trace, while those who trust in Him will inherit the earth, enjoying peace and safety (9-11).
While the wicked plot against the godly, God just sits and laughs, because He knows his day is coming (12-13). Evil people aim their weapons at the weak and wind up wounding themselves (14-15).
The little bit the godly person has is better than the wealth of the wicked (16). Why? Because the Lord allows the good man to enjoy what he has, while the evil person cannot even defend his possessions (17). A good man need not be afraid when troublesome times come, since God will take care of him (18-19). But a bad man will soon disappear like smoke (20). An evil person borrows with no intention of repaying; while the righteous person freely gives to others in need (21). “For those blessed by Him shall inherit the earth, but those cursed by Him shall be cut off” (22).
The Lord orders a good person’s steps and picks us up when we fall down (23-24). David says, “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread” (25). Godly people have enough to lend to others, yet their own children are blessed (26). David urged his readers, “Turn from evil and do good…For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off…” (Psalms 37:27-28, NIV).
A godly person’s speech is characterized by wisdom and justice, because God’s law is in his heart to keep him from slipping (vv. 30-31). Although an evil person watches for an opportunity to kill the innocent, God will not allow His people to fall into his clutches or suffer injustice at his hand (32-33).
If we trust in the Lord and stick to His path, we’ll be promoted and get to see the wicked defeated (34). David compared the wicked to a spreading vine that is cut off and withers away (35-36). The future of a blameless person is life and peace, but the wicked have no future to speak of (37-38). God is our source of salvation and strength in a time of crisis (39). He will surely save those who trust Him from the wicked (40).
It starts out, “O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your wrath, nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure! For Your arrows pierce me deeply, and Your hand presses me down” (Psalms 38:1-2). David said there was no soundness in his flesh, nor health in his bones, due to the Lord’s anger at his sin (v. 3). He was in over his head with sin that was like a heavy burden (4). “My wounds are foul and festering,” he said, “because of my foolishness” (5). Whether this describes an actual infection or is merely figurative, we have no definite mention of this condition in the historical books of the Bible. David talked about being bowed down and mourning; even his loins were inflamed (6-7). He was weak and groaning from inner and physical suffering (8).
He was certain none of this escaped the Lord’s awareness (9). It was certainly known to friends and family, who avoided him (11). Enemies added insult to injury by trying to trip him up and deceive him (12). David was so caught up in his pain, he was hardly even aware of all that was going on around him (13-14). His hope was in God, whom he begged to hear him and preserve him from these hidden snares (15-16).
Ready to collapse and overwhelmed by sorrow, David decided to confess his sin (17-18). Worried about these enemies, who were mighty in strength and number and were bent on repaying good with evil, David appealed to God not to forsake him, but hurry and come to his aid (19-22).
This psalm of David, addressed to the Chief Musician, actually names its recipient—a Levite named Jeduthun, listed among the maestros in 1 Chronicles 16:41 & 25:1-6. It tells how David at first muzzled himself, not even saying anything good, out of fear of sinning with his mouth (Psalms 39:1-2). When the inner pressure became too much for him to hold things in any longer, he prayed, “LORD, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.” (3-4).
Compared to our eternal God, a man’s lifespan is no longer than His hand is wide (5a). David likened men to mere vapors or shadows, heaping up wealth that someone else would enjoy (5b-6).
He acknowledged God as his only hope and prayed for His deliverance from the criticism of fools (7-8). He prayed for the Lord to remove the plague He had placed upon him (10). He said when God rebuked someone for sin, their beauty melted away (11). He begged,
Hear my prayer, O LORD,
And give ear to my cry;
Do not be silent at my tears;
For I am a stranger with You,
A sojourner, as all my fathers were. (12)
He asked Him to direct His penetrating gaze elsewhere, so he could get some relief (13).
Another psalm of David intended for the Chief Musician, this song talks about the author’s faith under fire. David vividly describes the Lord’s attentiveness: “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry” (Psalms 40:1). Can you visualize David’s towering heavenly Father stooping down to lift His son from a pit full of miry clay and setting him firmly on solid ground (v. 2)?
David said, “He has put a new song in my mouth—praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD” (3). That trust would mean blessing for the God-fearing individual, who disregarded proud and dishonest people (4).
In a moment of spontaneous praise, David said:
Many, O LORD my God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare. (Psalms 40:5, NIV)
He felt that sacrifices and offerings were not what the Lord desired, so much as a person willing to keep God’s Law in his heart and carry it out (vv. 6-8). David had not kept secret the righteousness of God, but had proclaimed it publicly, along with God’s faithfulness and salvation, His lovingkindness and truth (9-10).
David prayed for the Lord not to withhold His tender mercies from him, but to preserve him with His lovingkindness and truth (10). “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see;” the consequences for his sin outnumbered the hairs on David’s head (Psalms 40:12, NIV). He begged for God’s speedy delivery, for the Lord to shame, confuse and drive back those seeking his life (vv. 13-15).
In contrast, he desired all who sought the Lord and loved His salvation to rejoice and be glad in Him, to constantly say, “The LORD be magnified!” (16). Though he felt poor and needy, David knew God was thinking of him and would be his help and deliverer. Nevertheless, he prayed, “Do not delay, O my God” (17).
This psalm, also by David for the Chief Musician, contains more Messianic prophecy, along with David’s assurance of God’s help in hardship. It opens with the claim that those who look after the poor will be delivered during their time of trouble (Psalms 41:1). God will keep that person safe from his enemies, bless him, and heal him (vv. 2-3).
David prayed for God’s mercy when his soul was sin-sick (4). His enemies wanted him dead (5). Although pretending concern, they were just gathering fodder for the rumor-mill (6). Confident his illness was fatal, they plotted against him (7-8).
Verse 9 applied not only to David, but his descendant, Jesus. In Matthew 26:21-25, Mark 14:18, Luke 22:21-22 and John 13:18, we see Judas playing out the prophecy, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Psalms 41:9).
David’s hope was that God would be merciful and raise him up to avenge himself on his enemies (v. 10). That would show him [and them] that God was on his side (11-12). In anticipation of the fulfillment of his prayer, David said, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting!” (13).
This contemplation by the sons of Korah, intended for the Chief Musician, describes an individual desperate for God. We find two stanzas with a chorus in chapter 42, and then another in chapter 43. Who knows why someone decided to break up the song in this way?
It starts out, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Psalms 42:1, NIV). The psalmist thirsted for the Living God and wanted to know when he would next be able to come and worship Him (v. 2).
Experiencing an intense trial, the author had not only been dealing with incessant grief, but also the taunts of those who asked, “Where is your God?” (3). He remembered happier days of traveling with the crowds to the feasts at God’s temple and was moved again to tears (4). He admitted a feeling of depression, being reminded by every landmark in Israel of His God (6). Sorrow overwhelmed him, like the waves of the sea (7). Nevertheless, he encouraged himself, saying, “The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me—a prayer to the God of my life” (8). Under constant oppression from the enemy, he felt forgotten by God (9-10). Again, attempting to console himself, the psalmist cried,
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. (Psalms 42:11, NIV).
It starts out, “O God, take up my cause! Defend me against these ungodly people. Rescue me from these unjust liars” (Psalms 43:1, NLT). The psalmist acknowledged God as his source of strength, but could not understand why He had cast him aside and left him under mourning and oppression (v. 2). He begged for the Lord to send His light and truth to lead him back to the worship center, where he could go to the altar and praise YHWH (3-4). He concluded with the chorus introduced in Psalm 42:5 & 11.
I’m sure anyone who has suffered persecution for their faith can identify with these words. No doubt, Jesus Himself felt the same way that the psalmist did, when everyone turned against and crucified our Lord.
Another contemplation by the sons of Korah for the Chief Musician, this psalm recalls the victories God gave His people in the past, and hopes for more of the same in current unhappy circumstances.
The first few verses call to mind the “good old days” of Israel, when YHWH drove out the nations and planted His people in their place (Psalms 44:1-2). It wasn’t their own military might that accomplished this, but God’s mighty power, direction and favor (v. 3). The psalmist asserted God was his King, who commanded victories for Jacob’s descendants; he said through the Lord they would overcome their enemies (4-5). “For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. But You have saved us from our enemies, and have put to shame those who hated us” (6-7). That is reason enough to boast in God and praise His name forever (8)!
Unfortunately, the psalmist pointed out, God no longer accompanied the armies of Israel (9). The soldiers had retreated before their enemies, and their possessions had been taken as spoil (10). With vivid imagery he complained, “You gave us up to be devoured like sheep and have scattered us among the nations. You sold your people for a pittance, gaining nothing from their sale” (Psalms 44:11-12, NIV). Israel was made fun of by other nations and its enemies, to the shame of the writer of this psalm (vv. 13-16).
He couldn’t understand why God had abandoned them, considering he found no evidence that Israel had turned from the Lord or His covenant (17-18). They were now “severely broken…in the place of jackals,” and near death (19). Had they worshiped other gods, the psalmist knew the Lord would’ve been aware of it, “For He knows the secrets of the heart” (20-21). “Yet,” he insisted, “for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered” (Psalms 44:22, NIV). Romans 8:36 quotes this scripture, applying it to persecuted Christians.
The last few verses of this psalm call YHWH to action, saying, “Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord? Arise! Do not cast us off forever. Why do You hide Your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression?” (23-24). With his soul “bowed down to the dust,” the psalmist begged God to help and redeem His people for the sake of His mercy (25-26).
This piece is billed as “A Contemplation of the sons of Korah” for the Chief Musician. It’s a love song, set to the tune of something called “The Lillies.” It may very well have been sung at Solomon’s wedding, but is also considered by many scholars as a picture of Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church.
The first verse is a great one for aspiring writers and musicians: “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer” (Psalms 45:1, NIV). This is probably a fancy way of saying the psalmist felt inspired by God and hoped the earthly or heavenly king would be pleased with what he was about to say.
Verse two says, “You are fairer than the sons of men; grace is poured upon Your lips; therefore God has blessed You forever.” This could’ve been applied to Solomon or Jesus. Since Solomon was a man of peace, verses three and five probably did not apply to him, considering that the psalm addresses a “Mighty One” armed with a sword and arrows for slaying his enemies.
Verse four says, “in Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness; and Your right hand shall teach You awesome things.” In the sixth verse, the composer comes right out and identifies the object of his praise as YHWH Himself: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.” Wait, it isn’t God Most High, but Someone just below God the Father, yet greater than a man—since the psalmist continues by saying to this higher Being, “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions” (7).
The next few lines could’ve applied to Solomon or Jesus, since they say his garments were scented with costly perfumes from ivory palaces; kings’ daughters attended him, and his queen was arrayed in the finest gold (8-9).
Verses 10-11 address the queen—which might’ve appeared to refer to Abishag or Pharaoh’s daughter: “Listen, O daughter…Forget your own people also, and your father’s house; so the King will greatly desire your beauty…” But the next line belies the deeper meaning of the Church of Jesus Christ, saying, “Because He is your Lord, worship Him.” No devout Hebrew would encourage anyone to venerate a mere man. If she submitted to her Lord and King, the psalmist indicated women from the wealthiest nations would come bringing gifts (12).
Returning to a more earthly scene, the psalmist describes the queen decked out in garments woven with gold and robes of many colors (13-14). Virgins attended her, and they all entered the palace together “with gladness and rejoicing” (14-15). Her focus would shift from pleasing her fathers to raising up sons “whom you shall make princes in all the earth” (16). Her name would be remembered for generations, and people would praise her forever (17).
This psalm by Korah’s descendants describes the safety available in God, in spite of our circumstances. Years ago, I heard its first three verses set to music, but I don’t recall the source of the song and could not find it online. It goes something like this:
God is our refuge and strength
An ever-present help in trouble.
We will not fear,
Though the earth gives way and the mountains fall
Into the heart of the sea…
This psalm starts off with the cadence of a march or a battle hymn: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). Even if the earth crumbles, mountains fall into the sea, and massive waves crash against the coastline, we have no need to fear (vv. 2-3).
Reminiscent of the descriptions in Ezekiel 47:1-12 and Revelation 22:1-2, the psalmist said, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High” (Psalms 46:4). Could he see it in his mind’s eye? Had he read Ezekiel’s prophecy? Or was there really a river of some sort running through the holy city in the proximity of the temple mount?
With God in the midst of Jerusalem, he was sure the capital would be safe (vv. 5 & 7). God only had to speak to stop the nations that were raging against Israel (6). He could devastate a nation, destroy chariots and weapons and put a stop to any war (8-9).
For this reason, we can find peace in the midst of turmoil. I love the first part of verse 10: “Be still, and know that I am God…” That first phrase is the Hebrew word, raphah, which can also be translated “cease,” “relax” or “let go.” Why can we let go of our anxiety and relax in the Lord? The last two lines of that verse tell us: “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” God’s name is exalted when, against all odds, He proves Himself a Refuge, a Protector of His people, as verses 7 and 11 tell us.
In the classic King James Version, this song opens with the words, “O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph” (Psalms 47:1). A simple but rousing chorus from the 70’s borrows this very phrase to draw believers into worship. For a fun rendition of “Clap Your Hands,” by Jimmy and Carol Owens, sung by Pat Boone, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tOrDC5ICV4.
The psalmists tell us YHWH Elyon, the awesome King over all the earth, will subdue nations under Israel’s feet and choose an inheritance for the people He loves (vv. 2-4). With a shout and the sound of a trumpet, He has gone up (5). With understanding, we should all sing praises to our King, who reigns over the nations from His holy throne (6-8). The psalm concludes, “The princes of the people have gathered together, the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; He is greatly exalted” (9).
Great is the LORD,
and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God,
in the mountain of his holiness.
Beautiful for situation,
the joy of the whole earth,
is mount Zion,
on the sides of the north,
the city of the great King.
Thus begins Psalm 48 in the King James Version (vv. 1-2). These lines also make up the first verse of an old worship chorus we used to sing, when I was a kid. I couldn’t find out who the composer was, so if anyone can tell me, I’d appreciate it, so I can give credit where it’s due. You can see the full song lyrics and hear a nice guy sing and play the guitar to the song at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6f3QXJOKIhY.
The sons of Korah were credited with authorship of the original song, which tells about the beauty of the city of Jerusalem and the God who dwelt there. Verse 3 tells us YHWH not only inhabited the temple, but also the palaces—quite likely referring to the magnificent royal halls built by Solomon (See 1 Kings 7:1-12). We also read how foreign kings assembled, but turned away in fear from invading the city (Ps. 48:4-7)—perhaps sensing God’s presence or seeing how impregnable its walls were. Verse 8 tells us YHWH Sabaoth “will establish it forever.”
The authors talk about having meditated on God’s lovingkindness in His temple (v. 9).
Like your name, O God,
your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;
your right hand is filled with righteousness.
Mount Zion rejoices,
the villages of Judah are glad
because of your judgments. (Psalms 48:10-11, NIV)
Listeners are instructed to tour the holy city, observing its walls, towers and palaces, so they can describe it all to future generations (vv. 12-13). As glorious as the Zion was in the days of Solomon, her God was greater still. “For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end” (Psalms 48:14, NIV).
This psalm of the sons of Korah for the Chief Musician describes the folly of trusting in one’s wealth. It starts out by inviting people from all over the world, of every socioeconomic background, to listen to the psalmist’s wisdom, as he revealed hidden knowledge to the accompaniment of his harp (Psalms 49:1-4).
Then he asked, “Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me—those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?” (Psalms 49:5-6, NIV). He pointed out that no one could redeem another person’s soul or pay a ransom to God for him so he could live forever, since “the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough” (Psalms 49:7-9, NIV). We learn in the New Testament that Jesus was the only One able to pay the price for not one human soul, but for all (c.f.—Matthew 20:28 & 1 Timothy 2:6).
The wise and foolish alike die and leave their wealth to others (Psalms 49:10). Although they think their lands and houses will belong to them forever, they can’t escape death (vv. 11-12). Anyone who deceives himself this way is foolish and will be in for a rude awakening when they are overtaken by death and decay far from everything in which they found security (13-14).
The psalmist, on the other hand, trusted YHWH to “redeem my soul from the power of the grave,” expecting Him to receive the god-fearing (15). He advised others, “Do not be afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dies he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him” (16). Although the rich and their admirers flatter themselves, they are doomed to die and are no better than ignorant beasts to think otherwise (18-20).
In this psalm of Asaph, we find God’s communication to those who fear Him and those who do not. The first line uses three of the names of God—El, Elohim, and YHWH—almost as if the writer could not decide which title to use, or felt that one name was not enough to capture the grandeur of the Lord! Psalms 50:1 says He has “called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down,” or, as the New Living Translation says, “he has summoned all humanity from east to west!”
Verses 2-3 designate Zion, or Jerusalem, as God’s headquarters, from which His glory will shine forth in the midst of fire and storm. He’ll first judge His own people, the saints who have made a covenant with Him (vv. 4-6). YHWH identified Himself as their God and indicated there had been no shortage of sacrifices and burnt offerings—none of which He needed, considering that all the wild and domestic animals are His anyway (7-11). He has no need of the food offered at their worship center. “If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness” (12). It was not the meat or blood of sacrificial animals He was seeking; rather God wanted their devotion, thanks and praise (13-15).
“But to the wicked God says: ‘What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you?’” (16-17). He gave examples of those who disregarded God’s laws and permitted theft, participated in adultery, deceived and slandered others—all the while thinking it was okay, since God didn’t say anything to correct their behavior (18-21). If they didn’t repent, those who forgot the Lord would be rebuked and torn to pieces, while those who lived rightly and worshiped God would be saved (22-23).
This powerful piece was written for the Chief Musician after Nathan the prophet had confronted David about his affair with Bathsheba (See 1 Samuel 12:1-15). It may be divided into three main parts: 1) a confession of sin, 2) an appeal for forgiveness and 3) a commitment to worship. The following songs based on this chapter have been a blessing in my life.
- the chorus of “David’s Song,” by Mike Hudson, included on Steve and Annie Chapman’s album, A Circle of Two
- “Create in Me a Clean Heart,” originally recorded by Brown Bannister on his album, Talk to One Another
In the first few verses, David begs for God’s mercy to cover and cleanse him from sin and its consequences (Psalms 51:1-2). He admits his sin, saying it “is always before me” (v. 3). Although David’s sin touched Bathsheba, her child, her husband, her father and grandfather, the king acknowledges that ultimately it was an affront to God most of all, so that He was justified in declaring a sentence against David (4).
In verse 5, he said, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (5). This has led some scholars to suggest David was the product of adultery or some other illicit relationship, pointing to Jesse’s disdain toward his youngest son as evidence. Others say this refers to so-called ‘original sin’ passed down from mother to child. In either case, David knew he was corrupt from the beginning.
He confessed that God desired “truth in the inward parts” and would help him learn wisdom in the deepest part of his soul (6). Recalling the ceremonies for physical cleansing (c.f.—Leviticus 14:1-7 & Numbers 19), David prayed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (7). Just as the priest was required to be part of a man’s cleansing from physical contact with something unclean, so David realized that being purified from sin required God’s priestly involvement. He longed for the Lord to restore joy and gladness, and prayed, “That the bones You have broken may rejoice” (8).
Desiring not to be treated as his sins deserved, the psalmist prayed, “Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities” (9). He longed for God to give him a clean heart and restore a faithful spirit within him (10). Fearing the Lord would abandon him, as He had Saul, David prayed, “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit” (11-12).
Once he experienced God’s forgiveness, David said he’d share with others what he had learned about the Lord, so that sinners would be converted to faith in Him (13). If God would remove from him the blood guilt for murdering Uriah, then he would sing YHWH’s praise (14). He realized heartfelt praise and contrition were more meaningful to God than burnt offerings and sacrifices (15-17). Yet he asked God to guard the holy city, so that sacrifices could continue to be offered up the altar (18-19).
This psalm was written after David learned that Doeg the Edomite had told Saul about his visit to Ahimelech the priest at Nob (See 1 Samuel 22:6-23). It describes the fate of those who use their tongues for evil and praises God for taking action.
The chapter starts out, “Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man?” and contrasts men like Doeg to the Lord: “The goodness of God endures continually” (Psalms 52:1). David compared the man’s destructive tongue to a “sharp razor, working deceitfully” (v. 2). He said the wicked fellow loved evil more than good, lying more than truth, and devouring words (3-4). God would surely destroy him, snatching him away from his place, giving cause for the righteous to celebrate: “Here is the man who did not make God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness” (5-7).
David, in contrast, perceived himself as “a green olive tree in the house of God,” trusting His mercy forever (8). He intended to publicly praise God for taking care of this injustice and to “wait on Your name, for it is good” (9).
For a discussion of the content of this contemplation of David, see the notes on Psalm 14. These two chapters are almost identical, with some variation near the end. If you look at the “Comparison of Psalms 14 & 53,” you will notice there is slightly different wording in verses 1-2 of each chapter. But verse 5 of Psalm 53 uses much stronger language than we find in verses 5-6 of Psalm 14: “For God has scattered the bones of him who encamps against you; You have put them to shame, because God has despised them.” Otherwise, the two passages are essentially the same.
This psalm was composed as a “Contemplation of David” on stringed instruments for the Chief Musician, when the men of Ziph informed Saul that David was hiding among them (See 1 Samuel 23:19-23). This short song expresses the confidence David had in God’s deliverance in face of betrayal by men he did not even know.
David started out by begging the Lord to listen and save him, by His superior character and might, “For strangers have risen up against me, and oppressors have sought after my life…” (Psalms 54:1-3). Unlike those who were after him, David made God his focus, trusting He would help not only him, but others who were trying to protect him (v. 4). His enemies, however, would be repaid for their evil and cut off from the truth by the Lord (5). In anticipation of God’s deliverance and the fulfillment of his prayer, David committed to offer freewill sacrifices and to praise YHWH’s good character (6-7).
David began with “Give ear to my prayer, O God, and do not hide Yourself from my supplication” (Psalms 55:1). He was restless, complaining and moaning because of the oppression, trouble, anger and hatred of his enemies (vv. 2-3). His heart was hurting; fear, trembling, terror and horror had overtaken him due to the eminence of death (4-5). All he wanted was to escape far away from the storms in his life (6-8).
David prayed for destruction on those plotting against him. He personified Violence and Strife, Sin and Trouble, Destruction, Oppression and Deceit as rabble prowling the city day and night (9-11). Whether written concerning Absalom or Ahithophel, verses 12-14 complain:
For it is not an enemy who reproaches me;
Then I could bear it.
Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me;
Then I could hide from him.
But it was you, a man my equal,
My companion and my acquaintance.
We took sweet counsel together,
And walked to the house of God in the throng.
He wished that death would seize those men who allowed wickedness to dwell among them (15). David, in contrast, intended to call upon God, morning and noon, confident the Lord would save him (16-17). “He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me:” while those who didn’t fear God would surely be afflicted (18-19).
Regarding the one who betrayed him, David wrote:
He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him;
He has broken his covenant.
The words of his mouth were smoother than butter,
But war was in his heart;
His words were softer than oil,
Yet they were drawn swords. (20-21)
Verse 22 is a reassuring promise to the faithful: “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalms 55:22, NIV). Although bloodthirsty and deceitful men had nothing but death to look forward to, David had all the reason in the world to trust YHWH (v. 23).
It starts out by begging God for mercy, since men were trying to swallow him up, hounding him and fighting against him all day long (Psalm 56:1-2). He says, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” and not be fearful, knowing no human can harm him when God is on his side (vv. 3-4).
He talks of how men have twisted his words and thought evil of him (5). They watched his every move, hoping to catch him in some mortal transgression (6). He did not want God to allow them to escape the kind of fate they were wishing for him (7)!
He asked the Lord to bottle his tears and keep track of his wanderings, recording all his hardships in a book (8). He was confident YHWH would turn his enemies back as soon as he cried out to him, “because God is for me” (9). He again repeats the chorus:
In God I have put my trust;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me? (c.f.—vv. 4 & 11).
He mentions vows he’d made to YHWH and said he would praise the Lord, because He had delivered David from death and kept him from falling, so he could “walk before God in the light of the living” (12-13).
This song, set to the tune of “Do Not Destroy,” was composed when David fled from Saul into the cave—probably referring to the cave of Adullam (See 1 Samuel 22:1). It expresses David’s trust in God’s mercy, even in face of life-threatening circumstances.
It starts out with the prayer:
O God, be merciful to me!
For my soul trusts in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge,
Until these calamities have passed by. (Psalms 57:1)
David knows “God Most High” will act in his behalf (v. 2). In response to his cry, the Lord will “send from heaven and save me,” in mercy and truth, reproaching the one intent on swallowing David up (3). David compared his enemies to hungry lions, their weapons to sharp teeth and their treacherous words to deadly swords (4). He talked about how they had laid nets to trip him up and dug pits to catch him, into which they themselves had fallen (5-6).
In the midst of this he interjected praise: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth” (Psalms 57:5, NIV). He said, “O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise,” then he called for stringed instruments with which to “awaken the dawn” with his worship of the Lord (vv. 7-8). In the next two verses, he committed to praise God in the presence of both his own people and the Gentiles, because of His overarching mercy and truth, and then he concluded with the words used in verse 5.
Brent Chambers did a masterful job of putting this psalm to music in 1977, when he wrote “Be Exalted Oh God.” You can hear a choral version of this song and watch a lovely slide show of some of the wonders of the universe, along with the lyrics, at this You Tube site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXOhHCQexT0&feature=related.
David started out with a question to those in authority: “Do you indeed speak righteousness, you silent ones? Do you judge uprightly, you sons of men?” (Psalms 58:1). He answered his own question in the following verse with a resounding “No,” saying they worked out wickedness in their hearts and executed violence in the earth (v. 2).
He asserted that the evil was present in these corrupt men from birth, and that they began to speak lies as infants (3). He compared their toxic words to the poison of serpents and said they were like deaf cobras that were unable to be charmed (4-5).
David asked God to break their deadly fangs, switching from comparing them to snakes to calling them lions (6). “Let them flow away as waters,” he prayed, “…like a snail which melts away as it goes” (7-8). He wanted their weapons to be broken and for them to be made like stillborn children, not seeing the light of day. He longed for the Lord to sweep them away in the whirlwind of his anger (9).
Then the righteous would rejoice to see God’s revenge on the wicked and would acknowledge that it was worth it to do the right thing (10-11). They would declare, “Surely He is God who judges in the earth” (11).
According to the prologue, this song was written by David when Saul sent men to lie in wait outside his house to kill him (1 Samuel 19:11-17). Yet another psalm composed to the tune of “Do Not Destroy,” it, too, was entrusted to the Chief Musician.
It starts out, “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God…”—the bloodthirsty “workers of iniquity” who had risen against him (Psalms 59:1-2). David talked about how these mighty men gathered around him and laid in wait for his life, but not because of any wrong he had done to them (3-4). He called for the Lord to “Awake to help me…to punish all the nations,” showing no mercy to the wicked (4-5). He compared them to growling dogs prowling about the city, spewing words as sharp as swords, telling themselves no one would hear (6-7).
David said God would laugh at them (8). Meanwhile, David would wait for the Lord to rise in his defense (9). “My God of mercy shall come to meet me;” he said, “God shall let me see my desire on my enemies” (10).
For whatever reason, David didn’t want God to just kill these guys, but to scatter and defeat them—to make a public spectacle of them (11). He thought it would be poetic justice if they were ensnared by their own proud, cursing, lying words (12). He wanted them to know there was a God over Israel and the rest of the earth, who held them accountable (13).
While they wandered the city looking for a victim and howling with dissatisfaction, David was determined to sing of God’s power and mercy (14-15 & 17). “For You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble” (16).
With text closely resembling that of Psalm 108, this Michtam was set to the tune of a song called “Lily of the Testimony.” Intended to be used by the Chief Musician to teach others, the heading says it was written by David, “When he fought against Mesopotamia and Syria of Zobah, and Joab returned and killed twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.” The incident referred to in 2 Samuel 8:13 credits David with this victory, while 1 Chronicles 18:12 says Abishai was responsible for the defeat of these enemies. [See my blog, “Seeming Discrepancies” for an explanation of the differences in these three accounts.]
Psalms 60:1 says, “O God, You have cast us off; You have broken us down; You have been displeased; Oh, restore us again!” David told how the earth had been shaken, broken apart, and the people were troubled and confused (vv. 2-3). Nevertheless, YHWH had given a banner to those who feared Him, “That it may be displayed because of the truth” (4). In words similar to Psalm 108:6, David asked the Lord to hear, save and deliver His beloved—assumedly David or the nation of Israel (Psalms 60:5).
In holiness, God declared that He would divide Shechem [in Manasseh] and apportion out the Valley of Succoth [in Gad], claiming Gilead and Manasseh as His own, Ephraim as His helmet and Judah as His lawgiver (vv. 6-7). Moab, on the other hand, God considered as a water pot for washing, and Edom as a place to toss His dirty shoes, while Philistia would hear His shout of triumph (8).
With words nearly identical to Psalms 108:10-13 in Psalms 60:9-12, David asked who would lead him into the strong city to victory over Edom. He complained that God had cast His people out and no longer accompanied Israel’s army to victory. The king begged God for help in their trouble, saying “the help of man is useless,” and said with God they would do valiantly, for He would trample down their enemies.
This song of David was for the Chief Musician to play on a stringed instrument. Only eight verses long, it starts out, “Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed…” (Psalms 61:1-2). David referred to God as a rock, a shelter and a strong tower from the enemy (vv. 2-3). He trusted in the safety of God’s presence, like a little bird hiding under its mother’s wings (4).
He said the Lord had heard his vows and had given him the heritage of those who fear God (5). He anticipated a long life, and living with God forever, as God’s mercy and truth preserved him (6-7). “So I will sing praise to Your name forever,” he concludes, “that I may daily perform my vows” (8).
David began his song, “Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation” (Psalms 62:1). With God as his defense, David saw no reason to worry (v. 2).
The wicked, however, he portrayed as a leaning wall or fence that would be knocked down (3-4). Liars, they blessed with their mouths, but cursed in their hearts (4).
David instructed his soul to wait silently for God, his rock, salvation, defense, glory, strength and refuge (5-7). He also encouraged his audience to “Trust in Him at all times” and pour out their hearts to God (8).
David said, “Surely men of low degree are a vapor, men of high degree are a lie” (9). Compared to God, they don’t even carry enough weight to register on a scale! He said not to trust in oppression or robbery, nor get too attached to riches (10).
For both power and mercy belong to God (11). He metes out what is appropriate to each individual (12).
This chapter was written by David while he was in the wilderness of Judah (See 1 Samuel 23:14). The opening lines attest to this, where David compared his longing for the Lord to his thirst in the desolate land where he was hiding from Saul:
O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water. (Psalms 63:1)
He said he had sought God in His sanctuary, longing to see His power and glory (v. 2).
The words below from the King James Version are the inspiration for the chorus, “Thy Loving Kindness,” written in 1956 by Hugh Mitchell. You can see the very simple lyrics at GreatWorshipSongs.com.
Because thy lovingkindness is better than life,
my lips shall praise thee.
Thus will I bless thee while I live:
I will lift up my hands in thy name. (3-4)
This is one of several passages that advocate the practice of raising one’s hands in worship to God. I love the way recording artist, Carmen, used to explain this at his concerts: “When I was in school, if you knew the answer, you raised your hand. How many of you know the Answer tonight?”
Even though his dire circumstances at the time would not have hinted at the possibility, in faith David anticipated the day he would be satisfied with plenty to eat and would praise God with joy (5). Meditating on the Lord on his bed during the night watches, David could rejoice, remembering all the times and ways God had already helped and protected him (6-8).
Incidentally, Verses 7-8 provided the inspiration for yet another of my favorite songs, “My Soul Followeth Hard after Thee,” written by Jeff Smith in 1978. You can download a free PDF of the original lyrics and chords at ZionSong.com.
In contrast, those who were in pursuit of David to kill him would become food for jackals, destined for “the lower parts of the earth” [a Hebrew euphemism for hell] (9-10). Anticipating his future status as king of Israel, David wrote that he would rejoice in God, along with everyone else who took oaths in His name, while “the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped” (11).
This psalm of David, written for the Chief Musician, appeals to God for deliverance from his enemies. David began by praying for God’s protection—not only from the wicked schemes of his adversaries, but also from his fear of them (Psalms 64:1-2). Fear of what might happen is sometimes more damaging than the machinations of evil men themselves.
Using the powerful metaphor of swords, he said the wicked sharpened their tongues, and compared their bitter words to arrows that they shot at innocent men without considering the consequences (vv. 3-4). David imagined them conspiring together and “laying snares secretly,” convinced that no one would ever catch them (5-6).
Even though the hearts and minds of men are cunning, God is fully aware of what is going on. David was sure the Lord would shoot at them with arrows of His own and wound them without warning (7). Others would see the wicked tripped up by their own malicious speech and would take it to heart (8-9). The righteous, on the other hand, “shall be glad in the LORD, and trust in Him. And all the upright in heart shall glory” (10).
David says that praise, the fulfillment of vows and prayers will be offered to God in Zion by “all flesh,” as God atones for our transgressions (Psalms 65:1-3). He remarks how blessed are those whom God has designated to come near Him, living in the courts of the temple, enjoying the good things brought to Him there (v. 4).
“By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation…” (5). David describes God as “the confidence of the ends of the earth and of the far-off seas,” Maker of the mountains, clothed with power, who stills both the ocean waves and “the tumult of the peoples” (5-7). People far away from Israel were terrified by the signs YHWH worked in the heavens and on the earth (8). He is the source of the rain that softens the earth and brings forth its crops (9-10). He provides abundant food for Israel’s flocks and feeds the people grain, so they are filled with joy (11-13).
This anonymous song for the Chief Musician encourages everyone to praise God for His awesome works and answered prayer. It starts out, “Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!” (Psalms 66:1-2, NIV). In 1988 Sandi Patty released a wonderful song with almost identical words in the chorus. To see and hear her sing “Make His Praise Glorious” on TBN, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7di9ksMsJPU&feature=related. You can read the lyrics at http://www.lyricstime.com/sandi-patty-make-his-praise-glorious-lyrics.html.
The psalmist went on to encourage others to tell the Lord how awesome His works are (v. 3). Because of His power, even God’s enemies will bow before Him, and everyone on earth will sing His praises (3-4). The psalmist recalled how God “turned the sea into dry land” and the Israelites later “went through the river on foot” (6). No one can successfully rebel against YHWH, since “He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations” (7).
All God’s people should bless Him, considering that He keeps us alive and helps us stand firm (8-9). Although He refines and tests us like silver, letting us go through afflictions of all kinds, yet He brings us out to a place of abundance (10-12).
For this reason the psalmist intended to make burnt offerings at the temple and pay the vows made while he was in trouble (13-15). He also testified about what God had done (16-17). He said, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer” (Psalms 66:18-19, NIV). He praised God, who had neither rejected his prayer, nor withheld His mercy (20).
Another anonymous song intended for the Chief Musician to share with the accompaniment of stringed instruments, this psalm invokes God’s blessing on His people. Echoing the ancient priestly benediction of Numbers 6:24-27, it begins, “God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us” (Psalms 67:1). It was not only for the benefit of YHWH’s people that the psalmist prayed this, but so that the Lord and His salvation would be known by all the nations on the earth (v. 2). Like so many of us today, he longed to hear all people everywhere singing joyfully to the righteous judge (3-5). When that happens, the earth will again be productive and everyone shall experience the fear and blessing of God (6-7).
The first few lines ask God to arise and scatter His enemies, like the wind drives away smoke (Psalms 68:1-2). As wax melts in the presence of fire, so he imagined the wicked perishing in the presence of God, while the righteous rejoiced (vv. 2-3). David urged everyone to sing praises to God’s name, to “Extol Him who rides on the clouds,” and rejoice in Him (4).
The next two verses should be a great comfort to orphans, widows and those who feel alone in this world:
A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,
Is God in His holy habitation.
God sets the solitary in families… (5-6).
Furthermore, he said prisoners are brought into prosperity, while the rebellious live in desolation (6).
David recalled how the earth shook and rain fell from heaven, when YHWH led His people through the wilderness (7-8). When they entered their inheritance, He refreshed them with plenty of rain and provided for the poor from His goodness (9-10). God scattered the armies of kings—yielding more than enough spoils both for those who went to war and those who stayed at home (11-14).
The psalmist imagined other mountains envying the one God chose to occupy in Israel (15-16). He envisioned God as a General among thousands of chariots, triumphantly leading “captivity captive” and receiving tribute even from the rebellious (17-18).
He said, “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits” (19). Our God saves us and helps us escape from death; meanwhile His enemies who insist on sinning are wounded in the head (20-21). This statement is followed by a rather graphic picture of YHWH’s total annihilation of the wicked (22-23).
Perhaps reflecting on the day they brought the ark into Jerusalem, David described the procession—complete with male and female singers and musicians—that carried the ark of God’s presence into the sanctuary (24-25). He recalled how the Benjamites led the parade, with the princes of Judah, Zebulun and Naphtali following (27).
David asked for God to demonstrate His power in Israel as He had before, so foreign kings would bring presents and sacrifices to His temple (28-30). As He scattered everyone who loved war, envoys would come from Egypt, and Ethiopia would join in worshipping God (30-31).
“Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth,” David urged (32). He described the Lord as riding on the heavens and sending forth His mighty voice (33). He told people to give credit to our awesome God for His strength, which He gives to His people (34-35).
This song was written by David to the tune of “The Lilies,” and intended for the Chief Musician. In addition to registering David’s complaints concerning his enemies and eliciting God’s aid, this psalm contains prophetic words concerning the future suffering of David’s descendant, Messiah Jesus. Although it does not explicitly say so, this psalm may very well have been written concerning the time David fled from his son Absalom.
Comparing his troubles to deep water, mud or quicksand, David cried out for God’s help (Psalms 69:1-2). He was weary of crying, with a parched throat and burning eyes (v. 3).
The people who hated him without provocation outnumbered the hairs on David’s head. Even though he had stolen nothing, they expected him to restore what was missing (4).
David realized the Lord knew how foolish he’d been and was fully aware of his sin (5). He didn’t want any God-fearing people to be ashamed because of what he had done (6). He described the shame and reproach he was bearing and how his own family had rejected him (7-8).
Both of the lines in Psalm 69:9 are attributed in the New Testament to Jesus. John 2:17 quoted “Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up,” when Jesus cleared the temple early in His ministry. Romans 15:3 uses “the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me” to show how Jesus did not live to please Himself.
David complained that his devotion to God through fasting, mourning and wearing sackcloth made him a laughingstock to others (Psalms 69:10-12). But that didn’t stop him from praying to God and longing for His truth (v. 13). He begged the Lord to raise him out of the mire, to rescue him from the flood waters of hateful people and not to let him sink into the pit (14-15). He prayed for God in His lovingkindness, goodness and mercy to hear, draw near to, redeem and deliver him (16-18). He acknowledged that God knew of his shame, reproach and dishonor, as well as the identity of his adversaries (19). He was brokenhearted and full of heaviness, but nobody seemed to care (20).
The next verse was fulfilled at the cross, when Jesus was offered both gall and vinegar (c.f.—Psalms 69:21, Matthew 27:35 & 48, Mark 15:23 & 26, John 19:29). Romans 11:9-10 quotes Psalms 69:22-23 and applies it to unbelieving Israel. Acts 1:20 applies Psalms 69:25 to Judas Iscariot. David, however, intended all these curses to be placed on his enemies, who persecuted those God was disciplining (Psalms 69:22-28):
- They would be trapped.
- Their eyes would be blinded, and their loins would shake.
- They would feel God’s wrath.
- Their homes would be deserted.
- Their sins would be heaped up, excluding them from God’s righteousness, and their names would be blotted out of the book of life.
David prayed, “But I am poor and sorrowful; let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high” (v. 29). Once he was restored, David intended to praise God’s name with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving, as this would be more satisfying to YHWH than any sacrificial offering (30-31).
He encouraged others that those who seek God would live, “For the LORD hears the poor, and does not despise His prisoners” (32-33). He called for heaven, earth, the seas and all that lived in these to praise YHWH (34). He was certain God would save Zion and Judah, so His servants and their descendants could live there (35). “And those who love His name shall dwell in it” (36).
It starts out, “Make haste, O God, to deliver me!” (Psalms 70:1). David asked God to shame, confound, turn back and confuse those who were trying to destroy him (vv. 2-3). In contrast, he prayed for all who seek God to rejoice and be glad in Him, and for those who loved His salvation to sing His praise (4). David concluded, “But I am poor and needy; make haste to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay.” (5).
This anonymous psalm admits our dependence on God. It starts out, “In You, O LORD, I put my trust; let me never be put to shame” (Psalms 71:1). It goes on to plead for God to work out the psalmist’s escape and salvation; “Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually” (vv. 2-3). Imagine that—a portable bomb/storm shelter that goes wherever we do! The writer of this psalm was apparently suffering some injustice at the hand of an “unrighteous and cruel man,” and prayed for God to deliver him (4).
He admitted he had placed his hope and trust in God from his youth, and YHWH had cared for him since birth (5-6). Many people marveled at the psalmist, yet he gave credit to the Lord and wanted to continue to do so (7-8). Now there’s a great attitude for any celebrity!
He worried about God discarding him when he was old and weak, for fear of enemies who might take advantage of him in this time of vulnerability (9-11). He pleaded for God to stay near and help him, to confound and shame those who wished to harm him (12-13).
No matter what, the psalmist was determined to hope in and praise YHWH, declaring His limitless righteousness, strength and salvation to all who would listen (14-16). He acknowledged God as his teacher (17). Now that he was old and grey, he hoped the Lord would remain with him, until he had had opportunity to declare God’s greatness to the upcoming generation (18).
Knowing God was unlike any other, and had brought him safely through so many things already, the psalmist was confident the Lord would revive him again, increase his greatness and comfort him on every side (19-21). He was prepared to praise God’s faithfulness with the lute and sing with the harp to the Holy One of Israel (22). Both body and soul rejoiced to sing to his Redeemer (23). While the psalmist talked all day long about God’s righteousness, those who wanted to hurt him were utterly confounded and brought to shame (24).
It starts out with a petition for God’s wisdom and righteousness, so that he can judge the people justly (Psalms 72:1-2). Thus equipped, he meant to bring justice to the poor and the children of the needy, while destroying their oppressors (4). And the people would fear God for generations—“as long as the sun and moon endure” (5).
Verses 6-7 compare the Lord to rain that causes the people to flourish and enjoy peace. Although King Solomon came close to fulfilling verses 8-10, dominating most of the fertile crescent between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates and being honored by kings from distant lands—like Tarshish [perhaps ancient Spain or Cyprus], Sheba [somewhere in southern Arabia] and Seba [possibly Ethiopia]. However, only Jesus will rule the entire earth, with men from every nation serving Him(11). And only Christ can deliver the very souls of the needy when they cry out to Him (12-14).
Solomon was honored with gold, and I am sure many prayers were offered in his behalf (15). During his administration, the people enjoyed great prosperity—including an abundance of grain (16). Think how much greater our Lord’s millennial reign will be!
But it is Jesus whose “name shall endure forever…as long as the sun.” By Him will everyone be blessed and call Him blessed (17).
Solomon concluded, “Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, Who only does wondrous things! And blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory” (18-19).
Apparently, this was the last of the psalms in the original edition of the Hebrew Hymnal, since there was a note inserted as verse 20, which says, “The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.” Later editions must’ve added the rest of the 150 psalms we have preserved in our Bibles today.
This psalm of Asaph starts out bemoaning the seeming advantages of the rich and powerful wicked over the godly. But then the psalmist gains new perspective when He puts his eyes back on God.
It starts out by stating, “Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart” (Psalms 73:1). But then the psalmist admitted he almost stumbled when he envied the proud and wealthy (vv. 2-3).
It seemed like the rich and powerful never suffered like ordinary men, but clothed themselves with pride and violence (4-6). They had more than they could possibly need (7). They talked contemptuously toward men and God and thought they could get away with it (8-11). Considering how such ungodly people lived at ease, while their riches only increased, it hardly seemed worthwhile for Asaph to deprive himself to keep his heart clean before God (12-14).
Had he stopped there in his thought-processes, Asaph admitted he would have betrayed a generation of God’s people (15). It was too hard for him to figure out, until he went to the temple and got YHWH’s perspective (16-17): Ultimately, these people find themselves on a slippery slope to sure destruction (18). Without warning, calamity and terror comes upon them, just as soon as YHWH rises to take action (19-20).
Until he realized this, the psalmist was terribly upset (21). He said he was “senseless and ignorant,” like “a brute beast” before God (Psalms 73:22, NIV). Yet God never left his side, always holding his hand, guiding him through life until it was time to take the man to heaven (23-24). Then the psalmist said, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (25-26).
He concluded with the realization that those who are far from God will perish; they’ll be destroyed for deserting Him in spiritual infidelity (27). “But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works” (28).
Having realized the end of powerful sinners, Asaph next turns our attention to prayer to overcome them. He started off asking why God had cast His people off, feeling like He was angry with the sheep of His pasture (Psalms 74:1). He reminded the Lord of how He had purchased/redeemed Israel long ago and had designated Zion as His permanent dwelling place (v. 2).
Although during Asaph’s administration the temple of Solomon was not desecrated, being a prophet as well as a musician (See 1 Chr. 25:1-2 & 2 Chr. 29:30), he must’ve foreseen one of the times in the future when it was. He wrote, “The enemy has damaged everything in the sanctuary. Your enemies roar in the midst of Your meeting place…” (Psalms 74:3-4). It must’ve been horrifying for Asaph to envision the magnificent new temple hacked to pieces and burned (vv. 5-8). He foresaw a time when God’s prophets were silent and the people had no idea how long they would suffer under the enemies’ hands and hear them blaspheme the name of the Lord (9-10).
He begged God to take action, reminding YHWH He was Israel’s “King from of old,” the one who had worked salvation for them in the midst of the earth (11-12). He recalled how He had divided the Red Sea and broken the heads of sea serpents [perhaps symbolizing the Egyptian soldiers?] (13-14). He broke open fountains in the wilderness and dried up the Jordan (15). Asaph knew God made the day and night, sun and moon, earth and its seasons, so all of it belonged to Him (16-17).
It wasn’t just Israel these enemies reproached, but they were saying Israel’s God was not so great (18). Asaph compared Israel to a turtledove in the jaws of some beast of prey (19). He reminded God of His covenant and asked that the oppressed not be ashamed but return to praise God’s name (20-21). He urged God to defend His own reputation against these foolish invaders who had risen against Him (22-23).
Asaph must’ve been quite a stern fellow; though a poet and musician, a warrior for God at heart. For this psalm of his, set to the tune of “Do Not Destroy,” was yet another piece for the Chief Musician to declare the might of YHWH against His enemies.
This one starts out, “We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near” (Psalms 75:1). Asaph depicted God as a judge, dissolving the earth and its inhabitants, warning the boastful not to get too full of themselves (vv. 2-5). God is the One who determines who gets put down or promoted (6-7). He has a cup filled with the wine of his wrath in hand and pours it out on all the wicked of the earth, making them drain it to the dregs (8). Jeremiah envisioned something very similar in His day (See Jer. 25:15ff).
Asaph intended to declare and sing God’s praises forever (Psalms 75:9). It’s not clear whether the prophet was stating this final verse of himself or God: “All the horns of the wicked I will also cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted” (v. 10).
This song starts out, “In Judah God is known; His name is great in Israel. In Salem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place in Zion” (Psalms 76:1-2). Both Salem and Zion are Spiritual names for Jerusalem, where the temple was located. Perhaps thinking of when David first took the city from the Jebusites, Asaph said, “There He broke the arrows of the bow, the shield and sword of battle” (v. 3).
He said that God was more glorious and excellent than the mountains (4). He described how the Lord plundered the stouthearted, and halted the chariots and their horses with a simple rebuke (5-6). “You alone are to be feared,” wrote Asaph, “Who can stand before you when you are angry?” (Psalms 76:7, NIV). The whole earth heard God’s voice from heaven and stood still in fear when God arose to judge and rescue the oppressed (vv. 8-9). Even the anger of men brings God praise (10).
Asaph encouraged his audience to make vows to YHWH and pay them, bringing presents to the God who should be feared (11). He is able to wipe out princes and strike fear in the hearts of the kings of earth (12).
The psalmist starts out saying he cried out to God, and He listened (Psalms 77:1). The poor fellow was distressed, praying all night long, overwhelmed, complaining, inconsolable over his trouble (vv. 2-3). He protested to the Lord, “You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak” (4).
His source of encouragement was to remember better days and focus on them (5-6). He wondered whether the Lord would cast him off forever, forgetting to be merciful and gracious, in anger neglecting His promises (7-9). The only way to get through this tough time seemed to be to remember the wonderful works God had performed long ago, to concentrate on them and talk about them (10-12).
He broke out in praise:
Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;
Who is so great a God as our God?
You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples.
You have with Your arm redeemed Your people,
The sons of Jacob and Joseph. (13-15)
He told how God terrified the waters with lightning, thunder, a whirlwind, an earthquake and torrential rain (16-18). And then “Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters”—no doubt referring to God’s parting of the Red Sea (19). He concluded, “You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (20). My guess is that Asaph decided that as God had led His people from danger to safety before, so He would also eventually do the same in his situation.
The first two lines urged the people to listen to what the worship leader had to say (Psalms 78:1). The next verse was quoted in Matthew 13:35 as a prophecy regarding Jesus: “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old” (Psalms 78:2). What Asaph intended, however, was to remind the people of the stories of their ancestors about the Exodus, telling “the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done” (vv. 3-4).
He recalled the Law, which God commanded to their forefathers, instructing them to pass them on to their children (5). The intention was that each successive generation would put their hope in God, not forgetting His works, but keeping these commandments (6-7). That way, they wouldn’t be like their ancestors—“a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him” (Psalms 78:8, NIV).
The Ephraimites, for example, were defeated in battle, because they had forgotten God’s works and forsaken His covenant (vv. 9-11). Perhaps this refers to the failure of the tribe of Ephraim to take all the land allotted to them, out of fear of the Canaanites (Josh. 17:16-18).
Asaph recounted how God had performed miracles in front of their ancestors in Egypt, had divided the Red Sea, led the Israelites with the pillar of cloud and fire, and provided water from the rocks in the wilderness (Psalms 78:12-16). Yet they tested the Lord by demanding the food they craved, doubting that God could feed them in the desert, as well (vv. 17-20). Although YHWH was angry about this blatant unbelief, He “opened the doors of heaven” and gave them the bread of angels (21-25). He also sent the east wind and “rained down meat as thick as dust— birds as plentiful as the sands along the seashore” around their tents (Psalms 78:26-28, NLT). Even though they had what they craved, and were eating their fill, God struck them with the plague, killing the strongest men in Israel (vv. 29-31).
“In spite of this they still sinned, And did not believe in His wondrous works. Therefore their days He consumed in futility, and their years in fear.” (32-33). The only times they remembered to turn to God was when He killed them (34). But their devotion was insincere. With flattery they lied through their teeth, “For their heart was not steadfast with Him, nor were they faithful in His covenant” (35-37). Nevertheless, our compassionate God forgave them again and again, withholding the destruction they deserved, knowing that they were mere mortals, whose lives were but a breath compared to Him (38-39).
After all the miracles they had seen in Egypt, the Hebrews repeatedly grieved and tempted the Lord (40-42). In a passage closely resembling Psalms 105:28-36, Asaph described some of the punishments with which God struck the Egyptians:
- turning their rivers into blood, so they couldn’t drink the water
- sending swarms of flies to bite them
- locusts and caterpillars to devour their crops
- hail and frost to destroy their cattle, vines and fruit trees
- a deadly plague on all their firstborn (Psalms 78:43-51).
God led His people safely through the wilderness and the Red Sea like a flock of sheep, but He overwhelmed their enemies with the returning waves of the sea (52-53).
God brought Israel to the border of their new home, drove out the occupying nations and allotted the Hebrews their inheritance, according to all that had been surveyed of the land (54-55). Yet they continued to test and provoke YHWH with their worship of idols and their high places (56-58). So disgusted was the Lord with their unfaithfulness, “that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh,” and let the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of His presence, fall into enemy hands (59-61). Soldiers died, young men and women were killed before they could marry; even their priests were slain, and there were no widows left behind to mourn them (62-64)!
Finally, the Lord roused himself like a mighty man waking from a long nap and “beat back His enemies,” making them a “perpetual reproach” (65-66). He abandoned His favoritism toward Joseph’s descendants and chose the tribe of Judah to build his sanctuary, instead (67-69). He put David, a shepherd boy, in charge of His people (70-71). “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands” (72).
Once again, the prophet Asaph is at work, foreseeing a dire future for Israel and praying for YHWH to intervene. The opening lines of this psalm paint a grim picture of the invasion of Jerusalem, the defilement of the holy temple and wild animals and birds feasting on the bodies of the dead, which litter the city streets with no survivors to bury them (Psalms 79:1-3). Asaph says the nation has become a reproach to her neighbors and a source of derision for everyone around them (v. 4).
He asks how long YHWH will be angry against His people and prays for Him to turn His anger, instead, against unbelieving nations that “devoured Jacob and laid waste his dwelling place” (5-7). In light of their humiliation, the psalmist begs the Lord to forget their sins and show mercy (8). Concerned for YHWH’s reputation, he prays for God to save Israel and atone for their sin, to avenge Himself on those who shed the blood of His people and were now mocking Him (9-10). He begged God to heed the groaning of the prisoners and take pity on those condemned to die—to repay seven times the ones who were afflicting God’s people and reproaching Him (11-12).
When this was done, the people of God—called the sheep of His pasture—would thank and praise YHWH’s name (13).
This psalm of Asaph is billed as a testimony set to the tune of “The Lillies” for the Chief Musician. Its opening verse refers to God as the “Shepherd of Israel” who leads Joseph like a flock (Psalms 80:1). The next two verses urge the Lord to stir up his strength before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh (all tribes descended from Jacob through Rachael) and save His people (vv. 2-3).
Asaph asked how long the Lord would be angry with His people (4). He complained that He had mingled their food and drink with tears and caused their enemies to laugh at their nation (5-6).
Perhaps the earliest biblical reference to Israel as a vine, verses 8-9 tell us YHWH brought this vine out of Egypt, cast out nations before it, planted it, and let it take root and fill the land. The vine covered the hills and trees, spreading from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Euphrates (10-11). But then God tore down the hedges that kept animals away, so wild boars uprooted the vine, and other beasts devoured it (12-13). Verses 14-16 begged the Lord to look down from heaven at the vineyard He had planted and see how it was now cut down and burned. These images are very similar to descriptions of God’s judgment against Israel in Isaiah 5:1-7 and Ezekiel 17 & 19:10-14.
Psalms 80:17 appeals to YHWH to “Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself”—in the immediate context referring to the king; in the future referring to Messiah. The next verse says, if God will revive them, the people will not turn back from Him again, but will call on YHWH’s name (18). The psalm concludes with a chorus repeated in verses 3, 7 and 19: “Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!”
This psalm was penned by Asaph, one of the worship leaders appointed by King David, for the Chief Musician to have accompanied by an instrument from Gath. It encourages worship on all sorts of instruments and calls people to fear God.
Its opening verse says: “Sing aloud to God our strength; make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob” (Psalms 81:1). The people are admonished to raise a song, accompanied by the timbrel, harp and lute, and to sound a trumpet at the New Moon, full moon and special feast days, since this is what the Law requires (vv. 2-4).
The psalmist recalls the history of Joseph in Egypt and how God later removed the burden of slavery from Israel’s shoulders (5-7). He tells how God tested them and demanded to be their only God, trusting Him to satisfy them (7-10). But they wouldn’t listen, and chose to do their own thing (11-12).
“Oh, that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways!” YHWH cries (13). Then He would subdue their enemies and cause even those who hate Him to cringe in His presence (14-15). The psalm concludes with the verse from which this website’s name is taken: “He would have fed them also with the finest of wheat; and with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you.” (16). In other words, God gives the very best to those who trust in Him, rather than themselves.
This brief psalm of Asaph was a rebuke from YHWH directed at the leaders of Israel. It says, “God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers” (Psalms 82:1, NASB). That word translated “rulers,” “judges” or “gods” in the different versions of the Bible is elohim—used in other contexts to refer to God Himself. The Lord asked how long these men intended to make unjust decisions, showing partiality to the wicked (v. 2). He ordered them to defend the poor, fatherless, afflicted and needy and to deliver them from the power of the wicked (3-4).
It is unclear whether verse 5 refers to the victims or the judges when it says, “They do not know, nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are unstable.” Jesus quoted the next line—“I said, ‘You are gods,’” to the leaders of Israel, when they got bent out of shape about Him referring to Himself as the Son of God (c.f.—Psalms 82:6 & John 10:34-36). Any good Jew hearing Jesus say this would have immediately recalled the rest of verse 6, which says we are all “children of the Most High.” Nevertheless, Asaph said these ‘gods’ would die like men (Psalms 82:7). He called for God to arise and judge the earth, saying He would inherit all the nations (8).
This next psalm of Asaph asked God to intervene in a conspiracy against Israel. Sounding much like modern headlines, Asaph said there were several nations consulting together to cut off Israel as a nation (Psalms 83:2-4). He urged YHWH not to be still any longer, but to take action against the Edomites, Ishmaelites, Moabites, Hagrites, Gebalites, Ammonites, Amalekites, Philistines, Tyrinians and Assyrians who had formed an alliance against God and His people (vv. 1 & 5-8).
Recalling Judges 4, Asaph urged God to “Deal with them as with Midian,” defeating them like Sisera and Jabin at the Brook Kishon (Psalms 83:9-10). He brought up another incident from Judges 8:1-21, in which YHWH delivered Oreb, Zeeb, Zebah and Zalmunna into the hands of Israel, after they had plotted to take the Holy Land for themselves (Psalms 83:11-12).
Asaph asked God to blow these conspirators away like chaff and set fire to them, pursuing them with His tempest (vv. 13-15). He hoped they would be afraid, ashamed, confounded and dismayed, and perish in disgrace (16-17). “Then they will know that you are the Lord, that only you are God Most High over all the earth” (Psalms 83:18, NCV).
It starts out by remarking how lovely the house of God was, and acknowledges how desperately the psalmist longed to be in the presence of YHWH (Psalms 84:1-2). Even sparrows and swallows were allowed to take shelter in the eaves of the temple (v. 3). Anyone so blessed to dwell in His house would surely praise Him (4).
The psalmist added, “Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage” (5)—conceivably on his way to appear before God at the temple. He talks about worshipers passing “through the Valley of Baca,” probably referring to an actual geographic location in Israel, making it a spring and covering it with pools (6). It is important to note that Baca means “weeping;” a Hebrew would recognize that the name was symbolic of suffering. The idea is that, though we may cry enough tears to make a desert a pool of water, when we appear before our God, we “go from strength to strength” (6-7). The journey, no matter how hard, is worth the blessing we receive from our Lord!
The psalmist prayed for the YHWH Sabaoth to hear his prayers, and to uphold His anointed—referring either to the king or the priest or both (8-9). Then he said, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (Psalms 84:10, NIV). I get the sense that, if God didn’t protect Israel, the sons of Korah knew they wouldn’t get to be nearly as close to the Lord!
Verse 11 calls God “a sun and shield” and tells us YHWH “will give grace and glory” and withhold nothing good “from those who walk uprightly.” The psalm concludes, “O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You!” (12).
Anyone familiar with the work of Matt Redman will recognize in Psalm 84:1-2 & 10 the lyrics of a wonderful worship song he wrote in 1995, called “Better Is One Day.” To hear this song and see the lyrics on a rather mesmerizing background, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLxqHjctAN4&feature=related.
This psalm for the Chief Musician by the sons of Korah anticipates a time of trouble in Israel and prays for God to restore His favor to the nation. It starts out, “Lord, You have been favorable to Your land; You have brought back the captivity of Jacob” (Psalms 85:1). Verses 2-3 acknowledge how God forgave and turned His anger away from Israel.
Next, the psalmist prayed, “Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your anger toward us to cease” (4). He asked whether YHWH would be angry with them forever—to all generations—and prayed for the Lord to “revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You” (5-6). He asked also for God’s mercy and salvation (7).
The psalmist anticipated that the Lord would speak peace over His people again, but warned them not to backslide as before (8). Verse 9 is a beautiful promise: “Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land.”
Personifying God’s character traits, the psalmist wrote:
Mercy and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
And righteousness shall look down from heaven (10-11).
Certain the Lord would grant his petition, the psalmist declared that YHWH would give what was good to Israel and make their land productive once again (12). And He would set the people onto paths of right living (13).
David opened this psalm by placing himself at a very low level compared to God—so much so that he appealed for YHWH to stoop down in order to hear him (1 Samuel 86:1). As he had previously said in Psalm 70:5, David wrote, “For I am poor and needy.” He appealed to YHWH as a servant to his master, asking God to spare his life, because he trusted in Him (v. 2). He prayed for mercy, saying he cried to Him all day long (3). David longed for the Lord to restore joy to his soul out of His goodness, mercy and readiness to forgive (4-5).
David said, “In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, for You will answer me” (7). He considered YHWH incomparable among the gods, His works unlike those of any other (8). Like his Lord, David longed to see the knowledge of God extended to all the nations He had created—that they would worship and glorify His name because of His greatness, His achievements and the fact that He alone is God (9-10).
Verse 11 from the New International Version is a simple prayer I offer every day:
Teach me your way, O LORD,
and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I, like David, long to live daily in single-hearted devotion to my God, to follow His example, to be guided by His unfailing truth. With all his heart, David committed to praise YHWH and glorify His name forever, in gratitude for His mercy and for saving him from death (12-13).
David said the proud had risen against him, forming a violent mob intent on his destruction (14). Unlike David, they had no fear of or focus on God.
David acknowledged the compassion, grace, patience, mercy and truth of his Lord and begged Him to turn and grant some of that mercy and strength to “the son of Your maidservant” (15-16). He concluded, “Show me a sign for good, that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed, because You, LORD, have helped me and comforted me” (17).
This seven-verse psalm by the sons of Korah talks about the glory of God’s city and what a privilege it was to live there. It starts out, “His foundation is in the holy mountains. The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God!” (Psalms 87:1-3). It sounds almost like the slogan of an ancient travel brochure, asserting Jerusalem is the best vacation destination in all Israel! The next verse indicates that everyone wants to live there, too—including the people of Egypt, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia (v. 4). Better still is to be designated by God as someone born in Zion (5-6). The psalm concludes with the line, “Both the singers and the players on instruments say, ‘All my springs are in you.’” (7)—probably meaning the city of God was the source of everything good.
I think this psalm was written to express the international appeal of YHWH. He isn’t just Israel’s God; He’s the God of anyone who will call on Him in faith. Though we may be born somewhere outside of Jerusalem in Israel—for instance: Cairo, Baghdad, Gaza, Beirut or Addis Abbaba (or even somewhere in Europe, Australia or the USA!)—we can all have access to the Lord through faith in Jesus Christ. At the cross of Christ, we are “born again,” and therefore “born in Zion,” where Jesus suffered to make us part of His family!
Inspired by the words of this psalm, Gary Driskell and Mike Hudson wrote the song “Born in Zion,” which was record by Wayne Watson his album, Giants in the Land, in 1985.
This psalm is billed as a song of the sons of Korah—more specifically, “a Contemplation of Heman the Ezrahite”—for the Chief Musician. It is set to the melody of a something called “Mahalath Leannoth.”
It opens with a heartfelt plea for God to hear the psalmist’s prayer:
O LORD, God of my salvation,
I have cried out day and night before You.
Let my prayer come before You;
Incline Your ear to my cry. (Psalms 88:1-2)
Heman was so distressed in spirit and weak in body, he felt certain he was near death (vv. 3-4). Verse 5 says he was afraid of being cut off from God and forgotten. He’d already suffered waves of grief and was confined, neglected by family and friends (7-8). “My eye wastes away because of affliction,” the psalmist complained (9). He asked whether God would gain any praise if he went to the abode of the dead (10-12). In verses 14-15, he despaired:
LORD, why do You cast off my soul?
Why do You hide Your face from me?
I have been afflicted and ready to die from my youth;
I suffer your terrors; I am distraught.
The last three verses are basically a recap of verses 7-9.
The first verse, “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever; with my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations,” was adapted into a worship song years ago by James Henry Fillmore, Sr. For a lively version sung by a children’s choir, accompanied by a colorful display of the lyrics, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyhn1jOSAAs.
Verses 3-4 recall how YHWH swore to King David to establish his throne forever, with one of his own descendants to occupy it. Then in verse 5, Ethan declared, “the heavens will praise Your wonders, O LORD; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the saints.” No one in heaven, not even “among the sons of the mighty,” can compare with God; therefore the saints reverence and fear Him (6-7). He rules the sea and stills its waves; He has broken Rahab [a poetic reference to Egypt] in pieces and scattered His enemies with His mighty arm (9-10).
The heavens and the earth and all they contain belong to YHWH, since He made them (11-12). The Lord is strong and mighty (13). “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; mercy and truth go before Your face” (14). How blessed are those who walk in the light of His face, who rejoice in His name, and are exalted by His righteousness (15-16)! YHWH was the glory, strength, shield and King of Israel (17-18).
Returning to the subject of God’s covenant with David, Ethan told how the Lord had selected this mighty man from the people and anointed him as king (19-20). He promised to establish and strengthen David, protecting him from every foe, defeating them all and even bringing down plagues against those who hated him (21-23). Not only would David be the first and foremost of the kings in the land, God also gave him dominion over the sea and the rivers (24-27).
As with His covenant with Abraham, God used the word, “seed” in the singular to refer to the One descendant of both Abraham and David, whom He would “make to endure forever…his throne as the days of heaven” (29). This, of course, refers to Jesus, the Messiah, Son of David, who will eventually rule over all God has made.
If David’s other descendants forsook God’s law and did their own thing, He promised to “punish their transgression with the rod,” yet that would not nullify YHWH’s love, faithfulness or covenant with the house of David (30-34). Ethan quoted Almighty God:
“Once I have sworn by My holiness;
I will not lie to David:
His seed shall endure forever,
And his throne as the sun before Me;
It shall be established forever like the moon,
Even like the faithful witness in the sky.” (35-37)
Switching from Israel’s glory days to the future, Ethan described a day when YHWH “cast off and abhorred” the king in fury (38). Did he refer to Rehoboam? Or some later successor to the throne, perhaps? Most likely Ethan foresaw Israel and Judah’s apostasy and God’s punishment of the rulers and the people of the land. He talks of the Lord profaning the crown, casting it to the ground, destroying the strongholds, strengthening his enemies and allowing them to plunder Israel (39-42). Verses 43-45 describe the king’s defeat, deposition, disgrace and early demise.
Echoing the words of David in Psalm 13:1, Ethan asked, “How long, LORD? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire?” (46). He asked God to bear in mind how short-lived men are and how powerless to deliver themselves from death (47-48). In true priestly fashion, he reminded the Lord of His former promises to David and called attention to the reproach His people now bore in sight of their enemies, due to His discipline of the king (49-51).
Anticipating a merciful response to this prayer, the psalm concluded, “Blessed be the LORD forevermore!” (52).
“You have been our dwelling place in all generations,” verse one of Psalm 90, provided the inspiration for the song, “To Every Generation,” written in 1987 by Bill Batstone. You can find the lyrics of this chorus at HigherPraise.com. Bill Batstone has recorded it on a CD by the same title, which you can listen to at ReverbNation.com.
Moses recalled how God formed the earth and existed even before the mountains were born (Psalms 90:2). He exerts authority over mankind, determining who lives and dies (v. 3). For our everlasting God, a thousand years is like yesterday or a few hours (4).
Human beings, in sorry comparison, are like grass—flourishing today, and cut down in the evening (5-6). If God acts to avenge our secret sins, we’ll be consumed by His anger (7-8). In hard work and sorrow we might live for seventy or eighty years, and then “fly away,” and “finish our years like a sigh” (9-10). In light of how powerful the Lord’s anger toward sin could be, Moses asked God to “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (11-12).
Moses urged God to show compassion to His servants and satisfy them with His mercy, “that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (13-14). He longed for years of blessing in proportion to the number of years Israel had suffered (15). He wanted God’s work to be evident to His people, along with His beauty and glory, and prayed for YHWH to “establish the work of our hands” (16-17).
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.” (Psalms 91:1-2)
The person who turns to God will find protection from traps, diseases, attacks, terrors and destruction (vv. 3-6). This psalm boldly declares, “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you” (7). The godly will witness the punishment of the wicked but be unaffected by the disaster himself (8).
If you make the LORD your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your dwelling.
For he orders his angels
to protect you wherever you go. (Psalms 91:9-11, NLT)
Satan tried to use Psalms 91:11-12 to get Jesus to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, saying God’s angels would not allow Him to dash His foot against a stone (See Matthew 4:6 & Luke 4:10-11). But Jesus didn’t fall for it. Not only are those of us who trust in God promised protect from accidental injury, but we are granted authority over wild beasts and venomous snakes (Psalms 91:12-13).
The final three verses of this psalm are a beautiful promise from our Heavenly Father:
- Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him—YHWH will keep those who love Him safe (v. 14).
- I will set him on high, because he has known My name —He will place those who know and imitate His character in positions of honor and authority, above the fray.
- He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him—Those who know God can count on their prayers being heard (15).
- I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him—We can count on the Lord’s presence and power wherever we go and whatever we may go through.
- With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation—Those who trust in YHWH instead of themselves live longer here on earth, and are preserved for eternity, as well (16).
This anonymous psalm says it is intended to be sung on the Sabbath. Its opening lines say, “is good to give thanks to the LORD, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night” (Psalms 92:1-2). In addition to verbal praise at all hours of every day, the psalmist advocated the use of stringed instruments “with harmonious sound” (v. 3). A God as great as ours deserves more than what our voices alone can generate in praise, since He has made us triumphant and joyful by the things He has done for us (4)!
God’s works are great and His thoughts so deep, that no mere man or fool can begin to understand them (5-6). Although wicked people spring up like grass and seem to flourish, they will be destroyed forever (7). YHWH reigns on high forevermore, and will scatter and destroy these enemies who work iniquity (8-9).
The psalmist told how God exalted and anointed him and let him see the desired end of those who opposed him (10-11). He said the righteous would flourish like palm trees and cedars (12). Those planted in the house of YHWH would still be productive in old age, fresh and vigorous as ever, declaring YHWH’s righteousness (13-15a). The last two lines conclude: “He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (15b).
This five-verse anonymous psalm focuses entirely on YHWH’s sustaining power. It starts out, “The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty; …He has girded Himself with strength. Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved” (Psalms 93:1). Verse 2 announces the eternality of God and His authority. Although the flood waters and waves of the sea may thunder and rise up, YHWH is higher and mightier than either one (vv. 3-4). The psalm concludes by saying to Him, “Your testimonies are very sure; holiness adorns Your house, O LORD, forever” (5).
This anonymous psalm invokes God’s vengeance against those who do evil. No doubt recalling God’s exclusive claim on vengeance in Deuteronomy 32:35, it starts out, “O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongs…shine forth!” (Psalms 94:1). Verse 2 calls for the Judge of the earth to rise up and render punishment on the proud. Then the psalmist asked, “How long will the wicked triumph?” (3).
Next, he focused on the insolence, the boasting, and the abuses of the wicked (4-5). “They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. Yet they say, ‘The LORD does not see, nor does the God of Jacob understand,’” he complained (6-7).
To these foolish ones, who think they can get away with murder and mayhem, he said, “Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see?” (Psalms 94:8-9, NIV). God disciplines the nations; surely He is able to confront individuals, as well (v. 10). He is fully aware of the futility of our thoughts (11).
The person who receives instruction from YHWH, on the other hand, is blessed; God gives him relief from trouble, until the wicked get what’s coming to them (12-13). “For the LORD will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance. Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it” (Psalms 94:14-15 NIV).
The psalmist asked who would stand up for him against those who do evil (16). Unless God had helped him, he was sure he would have died (17). If he told God he was slipping, the Lord would hold him up; YHWH granted comfort in the midst of his anxieties (18-19).
Evil rulers have no part with God when they conspire to take innocent lives (20-21). The psalmist claimed YHWH as his defense (22). He was certain God was going to bring the wickedness of the evildoers against them and cut them off (23).
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving… (Psalms 95:1-2).
It acknowledges YHWH as the greatest of gods—King over all, since He made the low and high places of the earth, the seas and the dry land (vv. 3-5). As befitting a King of such stature, we should bow in worship and kneel before our Maker (6). God is our Shepherd, we are His sheep (7).
The psalmist urges everyone who hears God’s voice to respond humbly to it, not hardening their hearts as Israel did at Massah and Meribah (c.f.—Ps. 95:8 & Exodus 17:1-7). Even though they witnessed one miracle after another, the generation that God led out of Egypt brought nothing but trouble and grief to the Lord, as He led them for forty years in the wilderness (Ps. 95:9-10). As a consequence, they missed out on the rest God intended for His people (v. 11).
This anonymous song starts off with the general invitation, “Oh, sing to the LORD a new song!
Sing to the LORD, all the earth” (Psalms 96:1). Then it encourages the people of God to “bless His name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day,” and publicize His glory, telling what wonderful things God has done “among all peoples” (vv. 2-3).
Had Israel focused on these things, rather than being distracted by sin and false gods, they would’ve fulfilled their purpose, and the nations would’ve joined them in worshiping YHWH. Were Christians today to make a daily effort to tell others about Jesus, the entire planet would be evangelized!
Why? “For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods” (4). Other people worship mere idols—lifeless statues of wood, stone or metal—[or demons, or gods of our own making], while YHWH spoke the heavens into existence (5)! More than any human monarch, He reigns in honor and majesty, and the temple in Jerusalem reflected the strength and beauty of our God (6).
The next few verses urge all the families of earth to give God the glory due His name, and to bring their offerings into YHWH’s worship center (7-8). “Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth” (9). A God as great as YHWH should command our complete respect; considering what He can do to those who disregard His greatness, we should be afraid to cross Him—even more than we would be intimidated to appear before an earthly king! “Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns; the world also is firmly established, it shall not be moved…’” (10). YHWH is the only one really in charge; what He says goes, and no one can mess with it.
It’s not enough in the psalmist’s eyes for just the humans on this earth to praise God; he calls for all of creation—the heavens and earth, the seas, fields and forests—to rejoice (11-12). “[F]or He is coming to judge the earth” with righteousness and truth (13).
The LORD reigns;
Let the earth rejoice;
Let the multitude of isles be glad! (Psalms 97:1).
The next verse talks about how YHWH is surrounded by clouds and darkness, yet “righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (v. 2). Fire consumes His enemies; lightning illuminates the world and causes everyone to tremble with fear (3-4). Verse 5 says “the mountains melt like wax” in God’s presence. As Psalm 19 told us, “The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the peoples see His glory” (Psalms 97:6).
Those who serve carved images and put their trust in idols will be put to shame, since every other so-called ‘god’ is subject to YHWH (7). Israel, on the other hand, rejoices in the Lord, who is “most high above all the earth;…exalted above all gods” (8-9).
Verse 9 is actually part of a chorus written in 1977 by Pete Sanchez, Jr. To see the lyrics and listen to the song, “I Exalt Thee,” go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arPrM8RCiyo&feature=related.
The psalmist urged those who love YHWH to hate evil; he also promised God would deliver His saints from the power of the wicked (10). Considering that “Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart,” we are encouraged to rejoice in and give thanks to God’s holy name (Psalms 97:11-12, NIV).
This brief anonymous song talks about the salvation and judgment of God. It starts out, “Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory” (Psalms 98:1). Verse 2 tells us He has made known His salvation and revealed His righteousness for all the nations to see. The ends of the earth have seen how He remembered His mercy and faithfulness and saved His people Israel (3).
All the earth is commanded to shout joyfully to YHWH the King, to rejoice and sing praises accompanied by the harp, a trumpet and a horn (4-6). Even the sea and everything in it is called to worship, along with all the inhabitants of the earth, the rivers and the hills (7-8). “For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, and the peoples with equity” (9).
The LORD is king!
Let the nations tremble!
He sits on his throne between the cherubim.
Let the whole earth quake! (Psalms 99:1, NLT).
The psalmist saw Zion as YHWH’s headquarters, where He is enthroned “high above all the peoples” (v. 2). That last word in the Hebrew can also be translated “nations”—indicating He’s in charge of everyone. We’re all urged to praise His “great and awesome name,” because YHWH is holy (3).
Crediting God as the source of righteousness and justice in the kingdom of Israel, the author said, “Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at His footstool” (5). Other passages refer to the Ark of the Covenant as the Lord’s footstool (1 Chron. 28:2 & Psalms 132:7-8), while Isaiah 66:1 identifies the entire earth. The psalmist probably was referring to the temple where the ark was housed, but we can worship the Lord anywhere, so long as our hearts are humble before His holiness.
In 1977, Rick Ridings put the words of Psalms 99:5 to music as a simple worship chorus entitled, “Exalt the Lord.” To see the lyrics of this song, go to http://www.topchristianlyrics.com/2009/10/10/rick-ridings-lyrics-exalt-the-lord-footstool/.
Moses, Aaron and Samuel are named as men who called on YHWH and heard His answers from the pillar of cloud (Psalms 99:6-7). Why were they so fortunate? “They kept the rules and laws he gave them” (Psalms 99:7, NCV). God is much more willing to reveal Himself to those who do what they already know is right. He was a forgiving God to Israel, yet He still punished their evil deeds (8). The song concludes, “Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at His holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy” (9).
This is an anonymous song of thanksgiving a mere five verses long. In a universal appeal, it invites all lands to shout joyfully to YHWH, to serve Him with gladness and come into His presence with singing (Psalms 100:1-2). Laying foundational truth as the reason for this praise, it states, “Know that the LORD, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (v. 3).
With that in mind, we should “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise…” (4). One of my favorite worship choruses is based on this verse—“I Will Enter His Gates,” by Gwen Shaw. You can see the lyrics and listen to a rousing rendition of this song at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nr_YiSZ8KBc. Why should we praise the Lord? Because YHWH is good; His mercy and truth last forever (5).
In this psalm, David expresses his commitment to remain morally pure. He starts out praising God’s mercy and justice (Psalm 101:1). Then he says he wants to be careful to lead a blameless life, in hopes that YHWH will want to be near him (v. 2). I love the next part and have committed the following to memory:
I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.
I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not fasten its grip on me. (Psalms 101:2-3, NASB)
I first discovered these verses as a teenager. I realized that much of the secular music I was listening to at the time was “the work of those who fall away”—that is, it was composed by unbelievers who did not follow God. I was convicted that anything created by godless men and women could not have a positive impact on my thought life; therefore, it was probably not something I should listen to and let it “fasten its grip on me.” I have since used this same litmus test when evaluating reading materials, movies and other media.
David also realized the power of bad company and committed to avoid people who were perverse, so that he would not so much as know wickedness (4). As king, he was able to execute slanderers and banish the proud (5). On the other hand, he said, “My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me;” he wanted men and women with integrity in his service (6). No liar or deceitful person was allowed in his household, and he was determined to wipe out the wicked in his domain (7-8).
Although this is another anonymous psalm, it is billed as “A Prayer of the afflicted when he is overwhelmed and pours out his complaint before the Lord.” The first two verses plead for YHWH not to turn away, but to hear the psalmist and answer him quickly on the day he calls for help (Psalms 102:1-2).
He complained, his days were consumed like smoke, and his bones were as hot as a hearth (v. 3). His heart felt so shriveled, he forgot to eat, and he was a groaning mass of mere skin and bone (4-5). He compared himself to a pelican in the wilderness, an owl in the desert or a sparrow alone on a housetop (6-7). He also faced enemies that picked on him all day long, and took oaths against him (8). Ashes and tears were his food and drink, due to the Lord’s wrath against him (9-10). His days of torment seemed to last forever, while he withered away like grass (11).
God, on the other hand, would last forever and be remembered for generations (12). He expected YHWH to “arise and have mercy on Zion,” since her time for favor had come (13). God’s people loved even the stones and the dust of the holy city (14). As the Lord built up Zion and appeared in His glory there, other nations and leaders would learn to fear and serve Him (15-16).
The next verse should be a great comfort to anyone who feels like the psalmist did: “He will listen to the prayers of the destitute. He will not reject their pleas” (Psalms 102:17, NLT). Just when we need Him most, YHWH will help us out. “Write these things for the future so that people who are not yet born will praise the Lord” (Psalms 102:18, NCV). God looks down from heaven to earth “to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death” (Psalms 102:20, NIV). Here is a terrific promise for the days of the psalmist and for a day yet to come: The name of YHWH and His praises will be sung, when people gather from all the nations to worship Him in Jerusalem (21-22).
When he felt weak and near death, the writer of this song pleaded with God not to take his life before his time (23-24). Long ago God “laid the foundation of the earth” and created the heavens (25). They would eventually wear out and be replaced by the Lord like a garment, yet He endures forever, unchanged (26-27). Likewise, “The children of your people will live in security. Their children’s children will thrive in your presence” (Psalms 102:28, NLT).
It starts out, “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!” (Psalms 103:1). Andrae Crouch wrote a delightful song based on this line, way back in 1973. You can actually catch a recording of this vintage song and see the lyrics for “Bless His Holy Name” at http://www.elyrics.net/read/a/andrae-crouch-lyrics/bless-his-holy-name-lyrics.html.
Next, David says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (v. 2). Verses 3-13 give an inventory of the good things God does for us:
- Forgives all our sin.
- Heals all our diseases
- Rescues us from destruction
- “crowns us with lovingkindness and tender mercies”
- Feeds us good things
- Renews our youth
- Executes righteousness/justice
- Reveals Himself
- “is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy”
- Doesn’t stay angry with us
- Doesn’t punish us the way our sins deserve
- He removes our transgressions from us “as far as the east is from the west.”
- He cares for us like a father cares for his children.
Our eternal God remembers that mankind is made of dust, that our lifespan is not much longer than the flowers of the field that are here today and gone tomorrow (vv. 14-16).
But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them. (17-18)
God’s throne is established in heaven, and His authority extends to everyone and everything (19). David calls for God’s ministering angels to praise Him, along with everything He has made everywhere His dominion is found (20-21). Then he again commands his own soul to praise the Lord.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, You are very great:
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment,
Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain (Psalms 104:1-2).
Then it talks about how the Lord has built His home in the clouds, and rides on the wind and clouds like a chariot (v. 3). Hebrews 1:7 quotes the next line about angels being flaming ministers (Psalms 104:4).
Verse 5 credits YHWH with laying the foundations of the earth. Then the psalmist makes reference to the great flood, wherein “the waters stood above the mountains,” until God rebuked them, and sent them back where they belonged (6-9). Now, “He sends the springs into the valleys,” giving animals water to drink (10-11). Birds have their nests and sing among the trees that grow on the banks of these streams, and all “the earth is satisfied with the fruit of [God’s] works” (12-13).
Not only does God give us all water, but…
He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for man to cultivate–
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine,
and bread that sustains his heart (Psalms 104:14-15, NIV).
The birds have well-watered trees in which to nest, while the goats and rock badgers live in the hills (16-18). God made the sun and moon to illuminate day and night and tell us the seasons (19). At night time, the lions and other beasts of prey hunt for food, while during the day, they sleep in their dens (20-22). Man is supposed to run on an opposite schedule: We work during the day and go to bed at night (23). How I wish my nocturnal upstairs neighbor would grasp this concept!
The psalmist gets really excited about the variety of wildlife YHWH has created. “How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Psalms 104:24, NIV). He mentions all the “teeming things” that live in the seas—including the dinosaur Leviathan [See the discussion about this creature at Job Chapter 41], “which You have made to play there” (Psalms 104:25-26).
All these creatures depend on the Lord to feed them (v. 27). When He is generous, “they are filled with good,” but if God ignores them, they’re in trouble (28-29). He determines when living things are created or die (29-30).
Verse 31 says, “May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in His works.” If He so much as looks at the earth, it trembles; if He touches a hill, it smokes (32). Now there’s an interesting explanation of a volcano!
In light of all this power and authority God has demonstrated, the psalmist intends to praise the Lord all his life (33). He hopes his very thoughts will be pleasing to YHWH, as he rejoices in his Maker (34). He hopes sinners are “consumed from the earth,” and the wicked are wiped out (35). The last half of that final verse says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD!”
This anonymous psalm is fairly long. Its 45 verses recount the history of Israel, from God’s covenant with Abraham, to Israel’s sojourn in Egypt, the plagues that won their release from bondage and God’s fulfillment of His promises by bringing His people into their inheritance.
The first six verses of the song encourage YHWH’s people to:
- thank God
- call to Him; seek Him and His strength
- publicize what He has done among all people
- sing to Him, glorify and rejoice in His name
- remember the amazing things He has said and done (Psalms 105:1-6).
Why? “He is the LORD our God; His judgments are in all the earth” (7). Not only that, but He is a covenant-keeping God—remembering the agreement He forged with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants “for a thousand generations” (8-10)! And, of course that promise was to deed the land of Canaan to them as an inheritance (11).
According to verses 12-15, YHWH watched out for His people. When they were just a small family unit, wandering from one city-state to another,
He allowed no one to oppress them;
for their sake he rebuked kings:
“Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm.” (Psalms 105:14-15, NIV)
For example, when Abraham went to Egypt during a famine, God would not allow Pharaoh to keep Sarah in his harem, plaguing his household until he gave her back to her husband (Gen. 12:10-20). He actually told Abimelech, king of Gerar, he was “a dead man” for taking Sarah into his harem, and told the king to have Abraham pray for his family, since he was a prophet (Gen. 20:2-7). Isaac had a similar encounter with Abimelech’s successor (Gen. 26). And the Lord commanded Laban to be careful what he said to Jacob, when he came in hot pursuit of his son-in-law (Gen. 31:22-24).
Psalm 105:16-22 tells how God sent Joseph to Egypt as a slave, and then elevated him to leadership, in anticipation of the famine He had called for in the land. Verses 23-24 tell how Israel and his descendants soon followed and multiplied in the land of Ham [a poetic ID for Egypt]. Again God’s sovereignty was demonstrated, as the Israelites began to outnumber the Egyptians, and the Lord turned their hosts against them, so they dealt “craftily with His servants” (25)—referring, of course to Pharaoh’s enslavement of the Hebrews and his attempts at population control (Ex. 1:7-22).
This gave YHWH opportunity to bring judgment against the nation of Egypt. “He sent Moses his servant, and Aaron, whom he had chosen” to perform His miraculous signs and wonders among the Egyptians (Psalms 105:26-27, NIV). Verses 28-36 describe some of the plagues with which God struck the Egyptians:
- turning water into blood and killing the fish they normally ate
- inundating the land with frogs—“Even in the chambers of their kings”
- sending swarms of flies and lice
- hail and thunderstorms to destroy their vines and fruit trees
- locusts to devour their crops
- death to their firstborn
Verses 37-38 tell how the Israelites went out, laden down with treasure, because the Egyptians were afraid of their God and happy to see them leave. The Lord provided shelter and illumination, food and water for them in the desert (39-41).
Finally, God “remembered his holy promise given to his servant Abraham” and brought His chosen people into the lands of the Gentiles to inherit what had previously belonged to others (Psalms 105:42-44, NIV). And His purpose in all of this was “That they might observe His statutes and keep His laws” (v. 45).
This anonymous psalm also celebrates God’s past dealings with Israel. Echoing the worship choir at the dedication of the temple (2 Chr. 5:13), it starts out, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalms 106:1). The next verse asks, “Who can utter the mighty acts of the LORD? Who can declare all His praise?” (v. 2). I imagine the answer to this rhetorical question is that no human can possibly recount everything God has done. Verse 3 tells us the just and upright enjoy God’s blessing.
The psalmist asked God to remember him with the same favor and saving grace He showed His people, so that he could rejoice with them for the benefits God bestowed on His nation (4-5). He admitted his generation was as sinful as their forefathers who had come out of Egypt (6-7).
After seeing God perform so many wonders already, the former slaves “rebelled by the sea.” God helped them anyway, leading Israel through the Red Sea, and “saved them from the hand of him who hated them” [i.e.—Pharaoh], revealing His mighty power (8-10). As the water covered their enemies, leaving no survivors, the Hebrews finally believed God’s words and sang His praises (11-12).
“They soon forgot His works,” did their own thing, and tested God in the desert (13-14). He gave them what they wanted, “but sent leanness into their soul” (15). They envied Moses and Aaron, and Dathan, Abiram and company were destroyed (16-18). They made a calf to worship at Mt. Horeb [Sinai], thus trading “their glory [YHWH] into the image of an ox that eats grass” (19-20). God would have destroyed these amnesiacs, “had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath” (23).
“Then they despised the Pleasant Land,” not believing God would give them victory over its inhabitants as He’d promised (24). So YHWH vowed that generation of complainers would be overthrown in the wilderness (25-27).
Verses 28-29 talk about the incident when the people worshiped Baal of Peor, “and ate sacrifices made to the dead.” This refers to the mythology of the land, that Baal died and came back to life again. “Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,” killing two revelers, so the plague was stopped, “And that was accounted to him for righteousness to all generations forevermore” (30-31). Verses 32-33 tell how the people rebelled at the waters of Meribah, causing Moses to speak rashly and blow his chance at the Promised Land.
When the next generation made it there, they failed to wipe out the inhabitants of the land, but intermarried with them and picked up their evil worship habits—even sacrificing their children to demons (34-37). The land was polluted with innocent blood; the people became as defiled as a woman engaged in prostitution (38-39).
Angry at all this, God let them fall into the hands of the Gentiles, who hated and oppressed Israel (40-42). Although He delivered them many times, they still did their own thing and suffered for it (43). YHWH took pity on them when He heard their cry, remembered His covenant and gave them favor in the eyes of their captors (44-46).
Likewise, the psalmist hoped the Lord would gather His people at that time from among the nations, so that they could give thanks and praise to Him (47). Anticipating such an answer to prayer, the psalmist said to those around him, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, ‘Amen!’ Praise the LORD!” (48).
The theme of this anonymous psalm is giving thanks for God’s deliverance in various circumstances. It is arranged into six stanzas, four of which describe a dire situation and then conclude with the refrain, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalms 107:8, 15, 21 & 31).
The song starts out, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (v. 1). According to 2 Chronicles 5:13 & 7:3 these are the very words sung by the Levites and the congregation at the dedication of YHWH’s temple in Jerusalem. Verse 2 encourages those redeemed by YHWH to let others know how He delivered them from the power of their enemies.
For the first vignette, the psalmist described the Exodus: God gathered the Israelites out of the lands from all directions and led them through the wilderness, where “they found no city to dwell in” (3-4). “Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses” (5-6). He guided them on a good path that led to habitable cities (7). Following the aforementioned refrain, the psalmist concludes the first chorus, declaring, “For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” (9).
The next section refers to Israel’s times of bondage during the days of the judges: “Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, bound in affliction and irons—because they rebelled against the words of God…” (10-11). The psalmist tells of the labor they were forced to do, until they realized there was no hope or help for them but YHWH (12). When they cried out to Him, “He saved them out of their distress”—out of darkness, the threat of death and slavery (13-14). The conclusion of this vignette is that God “has broken the gates of bronze, and cut the bars of iron in two” (16).
The next stanza talks about diseases inflicted on a foolish and sinful population: The people were so sick, they didn’t even want to eat, and almost died (17-18). When they cried out to Him, the Lord “sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (19-20). The concluding recommendation for this section is that God’s people would bring “sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing” (22).
The fourth stanza tells of mariners who nearly lost their lives on stormy seas: “Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters…see the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep” (23-24). God stirred up the wind and the waves to such an intensity that even these seasoned sailors were frightened and sea-sick (25-27). When they cried out to YHWH, He calmed the storm and made the waves still, allowing them to reach a port of safety (28-30). The psalmists instruction to them: Praise God “in the assembly of the people” and “the company of the elders” (32).
The final section of the psalm describes God’s power over the elements and the inhabitants of earth:
- drying up previously productive land, because of the wickedness of its inhabitants (33-34)
- transforming deserts into well-watered settlements in which the hungry can farm and raise cattle and children (35-38)
- overthrowing unjust rulers who oppress their subjects (39-40)
- elevating the poor and removing their afflictions, increasing their families (41).
The righteous who observe these things rejoice in the lovingkindness of YHWH, while the wicked are silenced (42-43).
This song of David may very well have been written around the time of the events described in 2 Samuel 8 and 1 Chronicles 18, since it talks about God giving decisive victories against the Philistines and Edomites. It is very similar to Psalm 60, which actually says it was composed on this occasion.
It starts out, “My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul” (Psalms 108:1, NIV). David called for his lute and heart to awaken the dawn, so he could praise YHWH in the hearing of all the peoples among all the nations (vv. 2-3).
In words very similar to those in Psalm 57:9-11, David said God’s mercy was “great above the heavens,” and His truth reached the clouds (Psalms 108:4). He wanted to exalt God above the heavens and raise His glory above the earth, hoping the Lord would hear him, and save and deliver His beloved (vv. 5-6).
He imagined the Lord saying He would divide Shechem [a city in Manasseh], and measure out the Valley of Succoth [in the territory of Gad] (7). He said Gilead and Manasseh were His, and called Ephraim His helmet and Judah the lawgiver (8). In less complimentary terms, however, God referred to Moab as a wash pot and Edom a place to toss His shoes (9). He promised to triumph over Philistia.
In an unexpected turn, David asked who would lead him to the strong city and Edom, complaining God had cast off the armies of Israel (10-11). He appealed for YHWH’s help, “For the help of man is useless” (12).
The psalm concludes, “Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies” (13). Way back in 1979, Dale Garratt wrote a chorus, entitled “Victory Song,” that incorporated the words of this verse. The lyrics of this out-of-print song are printed below:
Through our God we shall do valiantly.
It is He who will tread down our enemies.
We’ll sing and shout His victory—
Christ is King!
For God has won the victory,
And set His people free.
His word has slain the enemy.
The earth shall stand and see that…
Through our God we shall do valiantly.
It is He who will tread down our enemies.
We’ll sing and shout His victory:
Christ is King! Christ is King! Christ is King!
You can listen to an old recording of this and a related song by the Maranatha! singers at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvegiZMO5Xo.
This psalm of David for the Chief Musician was another imprecatory prayer against those who falsely accused him. It starts out, “Do not keep silent, O God of my praise!” (Psalms 109:1). Wicked and deceitful men had spoken against him with lying tongues, surrounded him with words of hatred and fought against him without cause (vv. 2-3). David had never done anything but love these people and pray for them, yet they had rewarded him with evil for good (4-5).
Interestingly, the pronouns in the next block of verses change from plural forms to singular. In the first five verses, David may have referred to Saul’s men or later slanderers. Now he focuses on one antagonist—perhaps Saul or Ahithophel? The New Testament applies this passage to Judas, Jesus’ betrayer:
Set a wicked man over him,
And let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is judged, let him be found guilty,
And let his prayer become sin.
Let his days be few,
And let another take his office.
Let his children be fatherless,
And his wife a widow. (Psalms 109:6-9; see also Acts 1:20).
He went on to wish poverty and extinction to the offender’s children (Psalms 109:10-13). David wanted the sins of the man’s parents added to their account, so there was no one to carry on the family name (vv. 14-15)!
Just as this person mercilessly exploited the poor and needy and killed the broken-hearted, so David did not want God to show him mercy (16). He wanted the Lord to clothe this man with cursing, just as he was so fond of laying curses on others (17-19). “Let this be the LORD s reward to my accusers,” David prayed, “and to those who speak evil against my person” (20).
For himself, David desired mercy and deliverance, “For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me” (21-22). He felt cast off; his body was weak from fasting, and he was reproached by his companions (23-25). He wanted God to save him, so everyone would know how much He cared for David (26-27). To counteract their curses, he implored God’s blessing; he hoped that they would be ashamed, while he rejoiced (28-29).
As always, David anticipated that he would soon have opportunity to praise the Lord publicly for answered prayer (30). “For He shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those who condemn him” (31).
In this brief psalm by David, we are introduced to the Messiah. Jesus quoted verse 1 to the Pharisees to ask how the Christ could be the “Son of David” (Matthew 22:43-45, Mark 12:35-37 & Luke 20:41-44). He was trying to show them that the Messiah had to be divine for David to write: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool’” (Psalms 110:1). Acts 2:34-36 and Hebrews 1:13 also apply it to Jesus.
According to Psalm 110:2, the Messiah, or “Anointed One,” was to be a ruler in Zion, or Jerusalem. He was also going to be “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (3) This verse is quoted, and the title is explained in marvelous detail in Hebrews 5:6-10 and 7:11-28. Finally, He was also going to “judge among the nations” and “execute the heads of many countries” (Psalms 110:5-6).
Unfortunately, this was the role the people of Israel expected of their coming King right away. They did not know that He was going to have to suffer before He could do these other things.
This anonymous psalm is pure praise for the God who does such good things for His people. It starts out saying, “I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation” (Psalms 111:1). Verses 2-4 say His works are great, honorable, glorious and memorable—“studied by all who have pleasure in them.” YHWH provided food for those who feared Him, ever faithful to His covenant (5). The way He enabled Israel to claim their inheritance was proof of God’s power (6). Everything He does is true and just; all of His commandments are sure, standing forever (7-8). Verse 9 says, “He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever—holy and awesome is his name” (Psalms 111:9, NIV). Expressing the same sentiment as Proverbs 9:10, this psalm concludes, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise” (v. 10, NIV).
Its opening word in the Hebrew is Hallelujah! Our English Bibles translate this, “Praise the Lord!” The rest of the verse says, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments” (Psalms 112:1). Have you ever considered God’s commandments a source of blessing? If you see them as His means of protecting you—like a loving parent’s rules against talking to strangers or running into the street—then you might perceive them this way.
What are the blessings such a person enjoys? His children “will be mighty on earth” (v. 2). He’ll enjoy material wealth and righteousness (3). The gracious, compassionate and righteous person will find light even in the darkness (4). He is gracious and lends to others; discretion directs all his actions (5). He will never be shaken, always fondly remembered, unafraid, firmly rooted in his trust in God (6-8). “They give freely to the poor. The things they do are right and will continue forever. They will be given great honor” (Psalms 112:9, NCV).
The wicked, on the other hand, will see all this and be upset. Even though he grinds his teeth to nubs in envy, he’ll never get what he wants (10). You can’t enjoy the best in life, if you won’t do things God’s way.
This anonymous psalm briefly contemplates how our great God reaches down to lift up the unfortunate. It starts out encouraging all of YHWH’s servants to praise His name all hours of the day and night forever (Psalms 113:1-3). Why? “The LORD is high above all nations, His glory above the heavens” (v. 4). He is so beyond comparison, so exalted, that He has to stoop down to examine the things in heaven and on earth (5-6).
Yet our gracious God “raises the poor out of the dust” to seat him with rulers of his people (7-8). And the most despised of women—those who could not bear children—He gives both a home and little ones (9). What an amazing God to care for the “least” among us!
When Israel went out of Egypt,
The house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became His sanctuary,
And Israel His dominion (Psalms 114:1-2).
Referring to the parting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River, verses 3-4 say these waters “fled” and “turned back,” while “The mountains skipped like rams, the little hills like lambs.” The next two verses ask why the waters and the land responded in such a way (5-6). Verses 7-8 tell all the earth to tremble in the presence of the God of Jacob, since He turned bare rock into pools and fountains of water.
This anonymous psalm compares YHWH to idols and encourages God’s people to trust and worship Him. It starts out, “Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness” (Psalms 115:1, NIV).
The psalmist wondered why the nations asked, “Where is their God?” (v. 2, NIV). Quite likely, it was because they could not see YHWH, since the Hebrews had no graven image at their temple. He answered, “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands” (3-4).
In verses 4-8, he listed the limitations of man-made gods:
- Even though they have mouths, idols cannot speak.
- They have eyes, but cannot see.
- They have ears that don’t hear.
- Their noses don’t smell.
- Their hands can’t handle anything.
- Their feet cannot transport them.
Then he said something very insightful: “Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them” (8). Psalms 135:18 says the same thing.
Instead, the psalmist urged Israel, the priests and everyone else who feared Him to trust in YHWH—their hope and shield (9-11). He assured them YHWH was mindful of them all and would bless everyone who trusted in Him—“both small and great” (12-13). The One who made heaven and earth would increase them and their children (14-15). In the New International Version, verse 16 says, “The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man.” The psalm concludes that the dead won’t praise YHWH, but those who fear Him will forever (17-18).
This anonymous psalm begins by saying, “I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” (Psalms 116:1-2, NIV). The psalmist told how he was in trouble and sorrow and near death, when He called on YHWH for deliverance (vv. 3-4). He asserted that the Lord is gracious, righteous and merciful, preserving the simple (5-6).
The psalmist said he was brought low, but God saved him. His soul could rest, because YHWH had dealt bountifully with him (7). He delivered his soul from death, his eyes from tears and his feet from falling (8). He said, “I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (9). 2 Corinthians 4:13 quotes verse 10: “I believed, therefore I spoke…” He trusted God, but he considered all men to be liars (11).
Considering all God had done for him, the psalmist asked what he should do to express his gratitude (12). His answer: “I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all His people” (13-14). Verse 16 is a great comfort when believers pass on: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalms 116:15, NIV).
Then to God, he said he was the Lord’s servant, the son of a woman who also served YHWH (16). “You have loosed my bonds,” he said. “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD” (17). Again, he said he would publicly pay his vows in the courts of the temple in the middle of Jerusalem (18-19).
This shortest chapter in the Bible consists of just two verses by an anonymous author. It urges everyone from all the nations to praise YHWH, for his love and kindness toward us is very great, and His truth endures forever (Psalms 117:1-2).
This anonymous song begins and ends with the admonition, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalms 118:1 & 29, NIV). I know of a simple chorus that uses these words, but I couldn’t find the author or the version I was used to anywhere online [If anyone knows and can tell me, I’d love to give credit where it’s due]. It goes like this:
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
His love endures forever.
Oh, His love endures forever!
His Love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
His love endures forever!
The psalmist then enjoins the nation, the priests and everyone who fears YHWH to repeat the line, “His love endures forever” (vv. 2-4).
The writer says he called to the Lord in his distress, and God answered and set his feet on a broad place (5). Knowing YHWH was on his side, the psalmist felt no fear, since no man could touch him, and the Lord was sure to carry out justice against those who hated him (6-7). For that reason, he asserted that it was better to trust in YHWH than any man, no matter how great that person might be (8-9).
The next three verses talk about how the nations surrounded the psalmist, to where they seemed like a swarm of bees; but in YHWH’s name, he was sure to destroy them like a blazing fire (10-12). Though they pushed him violently, YHWH helped him (13). Echoing the song of Moses in Exodus 15:2, the psalmist wrote, “The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation” (Psalms 118:14).
The next two lines say, “The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous” (15). The following three lines tell us the right hand of YHWH does valiantly and is exalted (15c-16).
Although the psalmist admitted he had been severely disciplined, God had not surrendered him to death, so he would live to declare His works (17-18). He called for the “gates of righteousness” to be opened, so he could enter and praise YHWH (19-20). “I will praise You,” he said, “For You have answered me, and have become my salvation” (21).
This is the context of a prophecy Jesus quoted about Himself in the Gospels: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalms 118:22-23; c.f—Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10-11, Luke 20:17). It was also applied to Him in Acts 4:11 & 1 Peter 2:7.
The next verse is part of the same context of salvation. It was also adapted into an upbeat worship song by John W. Peterson in 1953, called “This Is the Day that the Lord Has Made.” For a page of printed lyrics with a rather subdued recording of the song, go to http://www.touchjesussongs.net/lyricspage129.html.
The next two verses were also fulfilled by Jesus during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem:
Save now, I pray, O LORD;
O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We have blessed you from the house of the LORD. (25-26).
When the people were waving their palm branches and shouting “Hosanna!” they were uttering that first line in Hebrew (See Matthew 21:9 & 23:39, Mark 11:9-10, Luke 13:35 & 19:38 and John 12:13). The Pharisees knew it was a Messianic passage, which is why they got so bent out of shape about what the people were saying to this person they considered a mere misguided man.
On a more somber note, the next verse may also be applied to Christ, our perfect Sacrifice. “God is the LORD, and He has given us light; bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You” (27-28).
This anonymous psalm is a grand acrostic, dedicating eight verses (16 lines) to each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. With its 176 verses, it is the longest chapter of the Bible. Its subject: the excellence of God’s Law.
Those who keep themselves pure by walking according to God’s word are blessed, when they seek Him with their whole heart (Psalms 119:1-2). God has commanded us to keep His precepts diligently, therefore the psalmist prayed for Him to direct his ways toward doing just that (vv. 4-5). Keeping the commandments saves us from shame, with no violation to accuse us (6). The person familiar with the Lord’s “righteous judgments” appreciates His character and gives Him praise (7).
Two popular quotes are included in this section: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word” (Psalms 119:9, NIV); and “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalms 119:11, NIV). In verse 10 the psalmist said he had sought YHWH with his whole heart, yet he prayed that God would not let him stray from His commands. He asked blessed YHWH to teach him His statutes (12). He had spoken God’s judgments aloud (13)—either for himself or others. Considering God’s word more valuable than riches, he meditated upon it and contemplated the ways of YHWH (14-15). God’s word was his delight, something he did not want to forget (16).
The psalmist asked God to “deal bountifully” with His servant, allowing him to live (17). Here is a good prayer to utter each time you read the Bible: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalms 119:18, NIV). The sentiment that he was a “stranger in the earth” was shared by many of the great saints of the Bible—including Abraham, Moses and King David (Psalms 119:19; c.f.—Gen. 23:4, Ex. 2:22 & 18:3, 1 Chr. 29:15). This verse may also be a good indication that Ezra or some other post-exilic writer penned this magnificent psalm. Like anyone who truly loves righteousness, the author’s heart was broken with longing for God’s justice, His rebuke of the proud, cursed deviants from the Law (20-21). He prayed, “Remove from me reproach and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies” (22). When falsely accused, he focused on what God said and let that be his counselor (23-24).
Near death, the psalmist prayed for YHWH to revive him, as God’s word promised (25). Wanting to understand God’s teachings, he thought long and hard on what the Lord had done (27). In depression, the psalmist knew God’s word promised strength from the Lord (28). He didn’t want to lie or be ashamed, but chose “the way of truth,” and focused on God’s word to keep him on track and “enlarge” his heart (29-32).
Knowing God’s word is just the first step in keeping it. The psalmist also realized that we need the Author’s help to obey it (33-35). He knew a heart inclined toward God’s word would not desire what belonged to others (36). In language similar to Psalm 101:3, he prayed, “Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way” (Psalms 119:37). “Worthless things” could refer to anything from an idol, to fickle wealth or relationships, a foolish ambition, or anything that corrupts our minds and hearts and lures us away from God’s purposes for our lives. The psalmist wanted to be single-heartedly devoted to the Lord and His ideas (vv. 38-40).
The psalmist begged for the mercy and salvation of God; “then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word” (Psalms 119:41-42, NIV). He didn’t want to ever lose the ability to quote God’s truth, but wanted to keep His word forever (vv. 43-44). Contrary to what some rebels may believe, God’s precepts keep us free and equip us when we appear before those in high positions of authority (45-46). That’s why the psalmist loved and delighted in God’s commandments, praising their wisdom (47-48).
The psalmist prayed for God to remember the things He had promised, in which His servant had placed his trust (49). “When I suffer, this comforts me: Your promise gives me life” (Psalms 119:50, NCV). Even when the proud made fun of him, the psalmist refused to turn from God’s word; remembering the history of His dealings with mankind in the past comforted him (vv. 51-52). This knowledge of the Law made him indignant when others forsook God’s ways (53). The word of God provided inspiration for his songs, gave him food for thought at night, and guided his life (54-56).
God was the psalmist’s portion, and he was committed to keep God’s word (57). “I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies. I made haste, and did not delay to keep Your commandments” (59-60). Even when the wicked tied him up, he didn’t forget God’s Law (61). He preferred to hang out with others who feared God and kept His commandments (63).
Verse 65 says, “You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word” (65). Here are a couple of great endorsements for corporal punishment and God’s discipline: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (67) and “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (71). Verse 68 affirms that God is good and does good. God’s law is better than thousands of gold or silver coins (72)!
Knowing God made and fashioned him, the psalmist realized He was the source of understanding (73). Those who fear God are happy to see others who hope in His word (74). Because God’s judgments are always right, He is also justified when He disciplines us (75). The psalmist hoped the proud would be ashamed for wronging him with falsehood, but no matter what, he was going to focus on God’s rules (78). He wanted to be a refuge for those who feared God and kept His laws; he wanted to be a man of integrity, so he wouldn’t be ashamed (79-80).
Even when he felt weak from waiting for God to save, he never lost hope in His word (81). His eyes were worn out from studying Scripture; he felt spiritually dry, yet he didn’t stop looking to God and His word for comfort (82-83). Knowing he wasn’t going to live forever, the psalmist asked when God was going to “execute judgment on those who persecute me,” reminding the Lord how they had wrongfully tried to trap him, how they gave him a hard time, and almost killed him (84-87).
Here are some terrific truths about our God:
Your word, O LORD, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.
Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you. (Psalms 119:89-91, NIV)
The psalmist credited God’s Law with saving his life (vv. 92-93). Here’s another great statement: “To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless” (Psalms 119:96, NIV).
Would you like to outsmart your enemies, possess more understanding than your teachers, or be wiser than your elders? Then study the Scriptures (See vv. 97-100). I latched onto those verses when I was in high school. I have since found it is true that the more you know the truth of Scripture, the better you understand the things that matter—sometimes even more than folks twice your age! God’s word will keep you out of trouble, too (101). With God as his teacher, the psalmist gained understanding and he hated everything false (102 & 104). “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (103).
Here’s another oft-quoted verse: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (105). Those of you familiar with Amy Grant or Michael W. Smith’s work will recognize these words from a song they wrote together in 1984. To see the lyrics and hear these two artists sing a duet of “Thy Word,” go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ig8dO3VVayw&feature=related. Verse 108 compares our words to God as a freewill offering.
The man who loves God’s Law hates the double-minded—those who can’t decide whether to do what the Lord says or something else (113). Verse 114 calls God our hiding place and shield; He gave the psalmist confidence to tell the wicked to get away (115). With God holding him up, the psalmist said he’d be safe and sure to keep the Lord’s commandments continually (116-117). He said of YHWH, “You reject all those who stray from Your statutes, for their deceit is falsehood” (118). Because God discards the wicked like dross, the psalmist loved His testimonies, but also trembled in fear of Him—perhaps afraid he, too, might be judged (119-120).
Claiming, “I have done what is righteous and just;” the psalmist asked God not to leave him to the power of those who wanted to harm him, but “Ensure your servant’s well-being; let not the arrogant oppress me” (Psalms 119:121-122, NIV). He said it was time for YHWH to act, “for they have regarded Your law as void” (v. 126).
“Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them” (129). The psalmist compared God’s word to light that “gives understanding to the simple” (130). Panting with longing for God’s commandments, the psalmist prayed, “Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name” (Psalms 119:131-132, NIV). He wanted God to direct him through His word, so sin could not dominate him (133). He cried a river of tears, because so many people wouldn’t keep God’s Law (136).
Verse 138 calls God’s commandments “righteous and faithful.” You can hear the psalmist’s passion in the next three verses:
My zeal has consumed me,
Because my enemies have forgotten Your words.
Your word is very pure;
Therefore Your servant loves it.
I am small and despised,
Yet I do not forget Your precepts. (139-141)
Even in “trouble and anguish,” he delighted in God’s commandments (143)!
Recognizing his utter dependence on on the Lord, the psalmist said three times in as many verses that he cried out to God—the third time admitting he got up before daybreak to do so (145-147). He stayed up through the night thinking about God’s word (148). He felt the wicked breathing down his neck, yet God was nearer, still, than those who were far from His Law (150-151).
Verse 155 makes a chilling statement: “Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Your statutes.” Verse 158 expressed the psalmist’s disgust for those who were treacherous and disregarded God’s word. Why would they want to do that, anyway? They must not realize “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” (160).
I wonder what the world would be like, if more of us felt what the psalmist expressed in verse 162: “I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure.” Would everyone “hate and abhor lying,” if they loved the word of God as he did (163)? Seven times daily he praised God for His righteous judgments (164). And here’s a great promise: “Those who love your law have great peace and do not stumble” (Psalms 119:165, NLT). Verse 168 tells us God sees all our ways.
You can hear this song come to a crescendo, as the psalmist wrapped up his poetic meditation on God’s word: “My lips shall utter praise, for You teach me Your statutes. My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness” (171-172). He concluded with these two final thoughts:
Let my soul live, and it shall praise You;
And let Your judgments help me.
I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
Seek Your servant,
For I do not forget Your commandments (175-176).
This brief anonymous “Song of Ascents” decries those who are contentious and deceitful. It starts out with the testimony that the Lord heard the psalmist when he cried out to him (Psalms 120:1). In verse 2 he prayed, “Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue.”
In the rest of the psalm, our attention is turned to those who were causing the author trouble. He asked what the consequences should be for the person with a “false tongue,” and suggested the arrows of warriors or burning coals (3-4).
“Woe is me, that I dwell in Meshech,” he wailed—probably referring to the area in southeastern Europe or western Russia, where the descendants of Japheth lived (5). Then he mentioned “the tents of Kedar”—referring to the descendants of Ishmael. The last two verses tie into verse 5, saying, “I have lived too long with people who hate peace. When I talk peace, they want war” (Psalms 120:6-7, NCV).
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth” (Psalms 121:1-2, NASB).
In 1990, those two verses were adapted into a wonderful worship song by Brian Doerksen. You can hear a recording from a Vineyard album and see the lyrics to the song at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YNx7C7Q9Wo. Living within sight of the beautiful San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, I often sing this song while waiting for the bus on my way to work. It gives me great comfort and confidence to face each day, knowing the Creator and Sustainer of those magnificent mountains is on my side!
Verses 3-4 remind us that the One who looks after each individual and the nation of Israel never takes a nap. He protects us from harm night and day, and keeps us from evil—guarding body and soul at all times and forevermore (5-8)!
Another of David’s “Song of Ascents,” this one reflects the exuberance the king expressed when he danced before the Lord as the ark was being carried into Jerusalem: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD’” (Psalms 122:1). He described Jerusalem as a city whose buildings are close together (v. 3). There the tribes went to worship before the Ark of the Testimony and give thanks to YHWH (4). Not only that, but David’s throne was set up there for judgment (5).
David urged his countrymen to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for its prosperity and the prosperity of all who loved that city (6-7). For the sake of Israel and the house of their God, David was determined to seek the good of his capital (8-9).
In a climate of contempt from others, this anonymous “Song of Ascents” appeals for God’s favor. The psalmist lifted up His eyes, to where YHWH dwells in heaven (Psalms 123:1). He compared himself to a servant waiting for his/her master/mistress to grant some kindness (v. 2). He pleaded for YHWH to have mercy on His people, since they had had their fill of the contempt of others and the scorn of the rich and prideful (3-4).
One of King David’s “Song of Ascents,” this psalm focuses on God’s protection of His people. It starts out saying, “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive…” (Psalms 124:2-3). David compared the destructive power of their enemies’ wrath to a flood-swollen river overwhelming their souls (vv. 4-5). In another illustration, David said, “Blessed be the LORD, Who has not given us as prey to their teeth,” comparing the enemy to a fowler trying to capture a bird (6-7). The song concludes, “Our help is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth” (8).
This five-verse “Song of Ascents” talks about how God cares for those who love Him and destroys those who are evil. It starts out by asserting that those who trust in YHWH are as immovable and permanent as Mount Zion (Psalms 125:1). “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever” (v. 2). He doesn’t leave the wicked in charge for long, lest His people fall into sin, too (3). The psalmist prayed for God to do good to those inclined to do good, but to lead away those who do evil (4-5). He closed with a wish for peace for Israel.
This next “Song of Ascents” may very well have been one written by Ezra the priest, or some other post-exilic composer. It talks about their feelings upon returning to Jerusalem after their captivity: “When the Lord brought the prisoners back to Jerusalem, it seemed as if we were dreaming” (Psalms 126:1, NCV). The returnees celebrated with laughter and singing (v. 2). People from other nations said, “The LORD has done great things for them,” and the Israelites gladly agreed (2-3).
The psalmist prayed for more of his people to return, like streams flowing in the southern part of their country (4). Anticipating the Lord’s restoration of their land, he concluded:
Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him. (5-6).
How good it must’ve been to plow and plant their own land again! But these verses have a spiritual significance, too. Sometimes when our efforts to evangelize seem most difficult, our joy at reaping a harvest of souls is greater. Take heart, friend! Your labors are not in vain.
This “Song of Ascents” is attributed to Solomon. It focuses on the blessing of family. It begins, “If the Lord doesn’t build the house, the builders are working for nothing” (Psalms 127:1, NCV). Furthermore, without God’s protection of a city, no amount of night watchmen can keep it secure. It’s no use getting up early and staying up late, just to feel bad; God gives blissful sleep to those He loves (v. 2).
This next verse is something you’ll never hear from Planned Parenthood—or most of our anti-child society, for that matter: “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (3). Verse 4 compares sons and daughters to arrows in the hand of a warrior, while verse 5 says the man with a full quiver is especially blessed. Rabbinical tradition tells us a full quiver consisted of a dozen or more arrows! The rest of that final verse says the fellow with many children is able to face his adversaries unashamed at the city gate—that is, if he is ever taken to court.
This anonymous “Song of Ascents” also talks about family. It says the person who fears God and walks in His ways is blessed (Psalms 128:1). He is able to enjoy what he works for, happy and well cared for (v. 2). His wife is compared to a fruitful vine growing at the center of his household, while the children are like olive trees around the table—an assessment of great value in a culture where wine and olive oil were some of the biggest cash crops (3). The source of all this blessing was God (4). The psalmist ended by pronouncing a blessing over his hearers:
May the Lord bless you from Mount Zion;
may you enjoy the good things of Jerusalem all your life.
May you see your grandchildren.
Let there be peace in Israel. (Psalms 128:5-6, NCV)
This anonymous “Song of Ascents” talks about the discipline and blessing of God on His people. The first two verses tell how many times the Israelites were afflicted, but their enemies did not prevail against them (Psalms 129:1-2). Perhaps referring to the scourges of slave-drivers, verse 3 tells how they plowed long furrows in their backs. But YHWH was good; “He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked” (4).
The psalmist prayed for those who hate Zion to “be turned back in shame” (Psalms 129:5, NCV). He visualized them like the grass that grows up on a rooftop, but withers, without enough surviving for a reaper to gather in his arms (vv. 6-7). He didn’t want the wicked to experience God’s blessing, but only those who worship Him (8).
This anonymous “Song of Ascents” appeals for God’s forgiveness. It starts out, “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD” (Psalms 130:1). Apparently, this person was familiar with depression and despair. He begged for YHWH to listen to him, but not to pay attention to his sins, realizing, “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,…who could stand?” (vv. 2-3). Assured that the Lord was a forgiving God, the psalmist resolved to wait for Him—even more than a night watchman waited for his shift to end (4-6).
To his countrymen, he urged:
O Israel, hope in the LORD;
For with the LORD there is mercy,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel
From all his iniquities (7-8).
This very brief psalm is a “Song of Ascents,” which was probably sung by worshipers on their way up to the temple mount. It talks about approaching God with the simplicity of a child. David says, “My heart is not proud, O LORD, …I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me” (Psalms 131:1, NIV). He calmed and quieted his soul, like a toddler sitting with his mother (v. 2). He urged Israel to hope in YHWH from that time on (3).
This is one of the longer “Song of Ascents” included in the Hebrew hymnal. It starts out asking the Lord to remember David’s afflictions and how he resolved to find a suitable place to build a dwelling for YHWH (Psalms 132:1-5). The psalmist urged everyone to go to the tabernacle, to “worship at His footstool” (v. 7).
Then to God, he says, “Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let Your saints shout for joy.” (8-9). Solomon said something very similar in 2 Chronicles 6:41-42, when the temple was dedicated. This is probably the occasion upon which this psalm was introduced, as the choir of Levites led the people in singing (2 Chr. 5:11-13 & 7:6).
The psalmist prayed that the Lord would not let the king turn away from Him, for David’s sake, so that YHWH’s promise to keep one of his descendants on the throne of Israel could be fulfilled (10-12). “For the LORD has chosen Zion;” verse 13 says, “He has desired it for His dwelling place.” Verses 13-16 tell us the benefits of God’s choice to the inhabitants of Israel: He’d provide food for the people, save the priests and grant His saints joy enough to inspire shouting! He would also provide strength and inspiration to the king, while bringing disgrace on those who opposed him (17-18).
This short “Song of Ascents” may very well have been written by David to celebrate the unification of Israel under his authority: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” (Psalms 133:1, NIV). He compared it to the fragrant oil poured out on Aaron’s head and beard, when he was anointed as priest over Israel, or like the rain falling on Mount Hermon or Zion, which God had blessed (vv. 2-3).
Only three verses long, this is one of the shortest songs of ascents. It starts off, “Behold, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, who by night stand in the house of the LORD!” (Psalms 134:1). This, of course refers to the priests and Levites, who were appointed to serve at the temple at all hours of the day and night. The psalm instructs them to lift up their hands in the sanctuary and praise God (v. 2). In return, the blessings of YHWH, “who made heaven and earth,” were invoked upon them (3).
Even this short psalm has inspired a 20th Century worship song: “Behold, Bless Ye the Lord,” based on verses 1-2 in the old King James Version. To hear a children’s choir singing the song on a website with lyrics, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkVoNgs8bwk&feature=related.
It starts out by encouraging those who minister in the courts of the temple to praise YHWH, for He is good and it is pleasant to sing to Him (Psalms 135:1-3). Not only that, but the Lord has singled out Israel as “His special treasure” from among all the nations (v. 4).
YHWH is great and rules over all the other gods (5). He does whatever He pleases in heaven, on earth and in the seas (6). He controls the weather (7).
He sent signs and wonders to Egypt—including the death of their firstborn (8-9). “He defeated many nations and slew mighty kings”—including Sihon, Og and the Canaanites—and then gave their property to Israel (10-12).
The name of YHWH endures forever, throughout all generations (13). He will judge His people and have compassion on those who serve Him (14).
In contrast, the idols of the nations are mere hunks of metal fashioned by men (15). “They have mouths, but they cannot speak. They have eyes, but they cannot see. They have ears, but they cannot hear.” There is no life in them. (Psalms 135:16-17, NCV) Verse 18 is so in-your-face true: Those who make and trust in idols are as impotent as they are!
The psalm concludes by inviting everyone who fears God to bless Him who dwells in Zion (vv. 19-21).
Remember the responsive readings they used to do in liturgical churches? This anonymous psalm is a lot like those. Each verse contains a statement about YHWH, followed by the repetition of the phrase, “For His mercy [other versions say love/lovingkindness] endures forever.”
The first line says, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalms 136:1). Verses 2 and 3 tell us YHWH is “the God of gods” and “Lord of lords.” Verses 4-9 describe the wonders He has done—making the heavens, earth and the seas, as well as the sun, moon and stars.
In the next section the psalmist recounts how God struck the firstborn of Egypt and led the Israelites out “with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm” (10-12). He divided the Red Sea, so that Israel could pass through it, but overthrew Pharaoh and his army there (13-15). Then He led Israel through the wilderness (16). Verses 18-22 tell how God “slew famous kings”—Sihon and Og—“and gave their land as a heritage…to Israel His servant.”
The song wraps up by talking about how God remembered Israel in their lowly state, rescued them from their enemies, and “gives food to all flesh” (23-25). It concludes by urging everyone, “Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever” (26).
Due to its subject matter, this anonymous psalm pretty much had to be written during one of the three deportations of Judah to Babylon—most likely the first round during the administration of Jehoiachin, described in 2 Kings 24:8-16. The psalmist wrote, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalms 137:1, NIV). Too despondent to sing for their captors, the priests hung their harps on the willows along the riverbanks (vv. 2-3). “How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?” the musicians asked (4).
The psalmist invoked a curse against himself, should he forget Jerusalem and fail to desire it more than any place on earth (5-6). He also cursed Edom for demanding the demolition of Jerusalem when Israel was taken by the Babylonian army (7). Quite likely recalling the prophecies that promised YHWH would repay Israel’s enemies, the psalmist said Babylon would be destroyed, too, and its innocent children murdered for what the Babylonians had done to the Hebrews (8-9).
It starts out, “I will praise You with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing praises to You” (Psalms 138:1). The Hebrew word for gods, elohim, can also be translated “rulers,” “judges,” “angels,” or any other term for leading or mighty persons. He intended to worship and praise God’s name for His lovingkindness and truth and the way He had kept His word (v. 2). David credited God with giving him the courage to go on when he was in trouble (3). He was certain other kings would worship YHWH, too—once they heard the things He said and saw how He looked out for the lowly, while distancing Himself from the proud (4-6). He was confident God would continue to encourage and save him through all his troubles, since YHWH’s mercy is everlasting (7-8). The song concludes: “Do not forsake the works of Your hands” (8).
This psalm of David, also written “For the Chief Musician,” is one of the most marvelous descriptions of the involvement of our Creator with humanity. It can be divided into four main sections—with the first three focusing on important attributes of God in relationship to men, while the fourth shows the response of a man who properly fears the Lord.
Verses 1-6 deal with God’s omniscience—the fact that He knows everything. “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me” (Psalms 139:1, NIV). God is aware of David’s routine, his thoughts, his activities, and his speech (vv. 2-4). In anticipation of all that could possibly happen, God protects us constantly (5). His knowledge is so superior to ours, David says it is beyond our comprehension (6).
Verses 7-12 describe God’s omnipresence—the fact that He can be everywhere all at once. David asks, “Where can I go from Your Spirit?” (7). Heaven is not high enough; Sheol, the abode of the dead, is not deep enough (8). The farthest east or west he could travel was not distant enough to escape God’s grasp (9-10). No darkness could hide David from God’s presence, since darkness and light were both the same to God’s all-seeing eyes (11-12).
Verses 13-16 extol the Lord’s omnipotence—the limitless power of God at work in His creation. “For you created my inmost being;” David says, “you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (13). Scientists have actually found that our kidneys are “knit” together of interlocking blood vessels while a human child develops in utero! Although not all of us recognize it like David, we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” (14). Our frames [skeletons] were not hidden from God, when He formed us, long before our parents were even aware of our presence (15). Even when we were merely a ball of unformed cells, God saw us and calculated our life spans while we had yet to be born (16)!
Anyone who takes the time to consider the vast amount of thought God put into us will naturally be awestruck and regard our God with great appreciation (17-18). In light of His might and holiness, we will be repulsed by those who rebel against God and misrepresent Him (19-20). We will look with aversion on those who hate the One who so skillfully made us and is so intimately involved with each detail of our lives (21-22).
Finally, we will submit to the One who knows us best, trusting Him to release us from anything that hampers our walk with Him. Every day, we’ll pray:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting” (23-24)
Another psalm of David designated for the Chief Musician, the theme of this song is God’s rescue. David starts out asking YHWH to deliver him from evil and violent men, who plan evil and constantly look for an excuse to engage in battle (Psalms 140:1-2). He compared their sharp tongues to those of serpents, and said, “The poison of asps is under their lips” (v. 3). These same men try to trip him up with hidden snares and cords, nets and other traps (4-5).
David appealed for God’s attention, calling Him “the strength of my salvation” and the one who covered his head in battle (6-7). He prayed that God would not let the wicked achieve their desires, so they would not become proud (8). He prayed for their own evil lips to be their undoing, that they would fall into fire pits and have burning coals land on their heads (9-10). He wished that no slanderer would get ahead and that the violent would themselves be pursued (11).
David concluded, “I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor” (12). Consequently, the righteous would thank Him, and the upright would live in His presence (13).
Billed simply as “A Psalm of David,” chapter 141 is a prayer for God to keep His servant on track. It starts out by crying out for a quick response from God (Psalms 141:1). David then compared his private worship to incense offered in the tabernacle or an evening sacrifice burned on the bronze altar (v. 2).
Next, he prayed for God to keep him from committing any sin:
- With his words—“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (3).
- In his thoughts—“Do not incline my heart to any evil thing” (4).
- With his actions—“To practice wicked works”
- By association—“With men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies.”
Not only was he open to God’s direction, but was teachable, willing to accept correction from righteous people. When a godly person struck or rebuked him for sin, David considered it a kindness, like anointing his head with oil (5). At the same time, he prayed against the deeds of the wicked—that their rulers would be overthrown and their bones scattered (5-7).
David said his eyes were fixed on YHWH: “In You I take refuge; do not leave my soul destitute” (8). He prayed for God to keep him from falling into the traps the wicked had laid for him, but to let them be entangled in their own nets, while he escaped to safety (9-10).
According to the prologue, this “Contemplation of David” was written while he was in the cave—most likely the cave of Adullam (See 1 Samuel 22:1-2). Like others written at this time, it appeals for God’s help against oppression.
In verses 1-2, David cried out, made supplication, verbalized his complaint and declared to God his trouble. He took comfort in the fact that God was aware of his path, even when David was overwhelmed (1 Sam. 142:3). Apparently this song was written before the psalmist was joined by a sizable army of fellow refugees, since he complained that no one acknowledged or cared for him (v. 4). David said to YHWH, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living” (5). He called for God to rescue him from his persecutors, admitting, “they are stronger than I,” and he prayed for release from his emotional prison, so he can praise the Lord again (6-7). In faith he concluded, “The righteous shall surround me, for You shall deal bountifully with me” (7).
This psalm of David is another desperate plea for the Lord’s help in the midst of trouble. David begged God to hear and answer him in faithfulness and righteousness, but not in judgment—acknowledging no one living is righteous in God’s eyes (Psalms 143:1-2). He complained how his enemy had persecuted him to the point that he felt utterly crushed, forced to live in darkness like a dead man (3). Overwhelmed and distressed, his only remedy was to remember what God had previously done for His people (4-5). He spread out his hands to God, longing for Him, like a man craves water in a desert land (6).
David begged God not to hide His face, or he was sure he’d die (7). He asked to feel God’s lovingkindness and receive his direction, saying He was the only one he trusted (8). He took shelter in YHWH for deliverance from his enemies (9). In verse 10, he prayed,
Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Your Spirit is good.
Lead me in the land of uprightness.
He asked God to revive him, bring him out of trouble, and destroy all those who afflicted him (11-12). David’s closing statement in this psalm is, “For I am Your servant.”
Billed simply as a psalm of David, this is a prayer for help from his enemies and blessing from the Lord. It starts out, “Blessed be the LORD my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle,” acknowledging that David could not even fight without God’s help (Psalms 144:1). He compared God to a fortress, a tower, his shield and deliverer (v. 2).
Considering how short-lived man is compared to the eternal God, David couldn’t figure out why the Lord paid him any attention (3-4). He prayed for YHWH to rescue him from lying foreign enemies with a spectacular display of power—including smoking mountains and flashes of lightning (5-8). In response, David planned to compose new songs for God, to sing praises with a ten-stringed harp to “the One who gives salvation to kings, who delivers David His servant from the deadly sword” (9-10).
He longed for God to rescue him from lying foreigners, so that Israel’s sons and daughters could grow up undisturbed, their barns could be filled with produce, the flocks and herds would increase, and no one would come to raid the land any more (12-14). He concluded, “Happy are the people who are in such a state; happy are the people whose God is the LORD!” (15).
This psalm is introduced simply as “A Praise of David.” He starts out by praising God as his King and committing to bless Him daily for all eternity (Ps. 145:1-2). He says God is great and worthy to be praised—so much so “His greatness is unsearchable” (3). Were a human being to spend his/her entire life studying YHWH, he/she would never run out of new and wonderful discoveries about the Lord!
It’s only natural that one generation of believers should tell the next about what God has done (4). David was determined to meditate on YHWH’s splendor and majesty and the things He had done (5). Some of the greatest bards and minstrels of the time focused their attention on the Lord—His goodness and righteousness (6-7).
David repeated the common refrain used throughout the Old Testament, “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works” (8-9). Because of that, His works would praise Him (10). God’s followers would “speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power” (11). Those of us who know and love Him want to be sure others know about what God has done and how glorious is His eternal kingdom (12-13).
He picks up those who fall down, and raises up the humble (14). Every living thing is dependent on God for its food and its very life (15-16). “The LORD is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works” (17). He hears those who sincerely call for Him (18). He fulfills the desire of those who reverently fear Him, delivers those who cry out to Him, and preserves those who love Him (18-20a). The wicked, on the other hand, God will destroy (20b).
For that reason David praised Him and anticipated that every other living being would do the same forever (21).
This anonymous psalm tells us how happy people can be when they trust in our awesome God. It starts out, “Praise the LORD, O my soul! While I live I will praise the LORD; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (Psalms 146:1-2). We are advised not to trust in rulers or any other men, “in whom there is no help” (v. 3). If a man can die and all his plans come to nothing, what good is he (4)? That’s a good thing to keep in mind during an election year!
Putting our hope and trust in YHWH, on the other hand, is a good thing. True happiness is found in Him (5). What better Person can we find to trust in than He who made heaven and earth and all they contain, “Who keeps truth forever,” helps the oppressed, feeds the hungry, frees prisoners, heals the sick, protects strangers, “relieves the fatherless and widows,” and overturns the wicked (6-9)? Men may talk about loving everyone and establishing ‘liberty and justice for all,’ but God is active doing it all the time. Verse 10 adds, “The LORD shall reign forever.” His righteous administration has no end!
This anonymous psalm tells of God’s watch care over His chosen nation. Its opening verse states, “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful” (Psalms 147:1). Verses 2-3 tell us that He builds up Jerusalem, gathers the outcasts of Israel, “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” He is so great, His understanding so infinite, our God has actually numbered the stars and calls each one by name (4-5)! Still, he cares enough about ‘little ol’ us’ to lift up the humble and put down the wicked (6).
We should therefore bring thanks, praise and worship with harps to the God who “covers the heavens with clouds” and provides rain, making grass grow and feeding the birds and beasts (7-9). He doesn’t get excited so much about the strength of a horse or the speed of a man as He does those who fear Him and hope in His mercy (10-11).
The psalmist urged Jerusalem to praise YHWH, who had strengthened their defenses, blessed their children, established peace and fed them “with the finest wheat” (12-14). He controls the weather, yet communicates with Israel (15-19). “He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws” (Psalms 147:20, NIV). The nation of Israel was and is special to YHWH.
This anonymous psalm invites all of God’s creation to praise Him. Starting with the heavens, the psalmist invokes praise from the angels; the sun, moon and stars; and the water vapor in the atmosphere (Psalms 148:1-4). “For He commanded and they were created. He also established them forever and ever; He made a decree which shall not pass away” (vv. 5-6).
Then he moves on to the earth—including sea creatures; the elements involved in weather; mountains and hills; trees; wild and domesticated animals; flying creatures and all ages, stages and socioeconomic states of human beings (7-12). “For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven” (13). The psalm concludes by remarking how God has elevated the children of Israel, “a people near to Him” (14).
This anonymous psalm begins and ends with the Hebrew word, Hallelujah, which literally means, “Praise YHWH!” The first verse encourages God’s people, “Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints” (Psalms 149:1, NIV). Specifically, it encourages Israel to rejoice in their Maker and King—even employing dance and musical instruments in their celebrations (vv. 2-3). Verse 5 admonishes the faithful to sing in their beds. Why? “For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation” (Psalms 149:4, NIV).
To our modern Christian sensibilities, verses 6-9 seems very strange: With “the high praises of God” in their mouths and double-edged swords in their hands, God’s people were commanded to execute vengeance on the nations, punish peoples, bind kings and noblemen in chains and “execute on them the written judgment.” Thank heaven our Lord Jesus atoned for sin, so we no longer need to be so warlike! Now we engage God’s battles through prayer and praise.
This anonymous psalm encourages worshipers to praise the Lord with all sorts of musical instruments. It starts by saying we should praise YHWH in his sanctuary in the firmament for His mighty acts and His excellent greatness (Psalms 150:1-2). We are exhorted to praise Him to the accompaniment of a trumpet, lute, harp, timbrel, stringed instruments, flutes and cymbals (vv. 3-5). Dance is even encouraged as a form of worship (4a).
The psalm concludes, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” (6). In 1997, Matt Redman wrote a delightful song, entitled “Let Everything That Has Breath,” which includes the words of this last verse. You can see the lyrics and a You Tube video at http://www.lyricsty.com/matt-redman-let-everything-that-has-breath-lyrics.html.
Valued as source of encouragement, inspiration and devotion, Psalms is probably the most oft-quoted, most cherished book of the Bible. It spans the generations—from the song of Moses to the anonymous writings of Ezra the priest and his contemporaries. Its sacred lines have been chanted, sung and recited as hymns, prayers and lamentations for centuries. Pregnant with prophetic insight and Messianic foreshadows, they are as relevant today as when they were first recorded.
The Psalms show us that God is not threatened by honest questions, doubts and fears. Those who wrestle with Him in the most troubling issues are often the ones who get closest to the Lord in the end. Whether our communication involves instruments, clapping, shouting, dancing or quiet meditation, the Lord is pleased to hear us speak His name, consider what He’s done and ask with positive expectations for Him to intervene in our own circumstances.
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible—© 1982, by Thomas Nelson, Inc.