The Bible in a nutshell - Psalms
"Give unto the Lord the glory due to His Name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." Psalm 29:2
Our Primary Purpose
What is the chief end of man? Our purpose is to worship God and to enjoy Him forever! The Psalms are the songs and prayers of a man after God's own heart.
The Heart of the Bible
Psalms is the Hymn Book and Prayer Book of the Bible.
It is the longest Book in the Bible.
It is the middle Book of the Bible.
It is the most loved and most quoted Book in the Bible.
Most of the Psalms were written by David, the Shepherd King, around 1000BC. However there is a Psalm of Moses, dating back to the time of the Exodus, and Psalms written by Ezra, during the time of the return from exile in Babylon.
Some of the greatest Hymns in history have been based on the Psalms, including Dr. Martin Luther's, A Mighty Fortress is our God, based on Psalm 46 and Isaac Watt's, Jesus Shall Reign, based on Psalm 72.
The Reformers on the Psalms
The Reformer, Dr. Martin Luther wrote: "In the Psalms we look into the heart of every saint."
John Calvin declared, that in the Psalms: "We look into a mirror and we see our own heart." Every Psalm seems to have our name and address on it. The Psalms are a direct expression of the soul's consciousness of God.
Dr. Martin Luther described the Psalms as: "The Bible within the Bible" - the Bible in miniature. The Psalms deal with Creation, the patriarchs, the Exodus, the history of Israel, the monarchy, the United Kingdom, the divided kingdom, the Exile and the return to Jerusalem.
Emotions in the Psalms
The Psalms cover every emotion and situation, from sorrow to joy, from failure to victory. Many of the Psalms express negative emotions: anger, frustration, despair, fear, jealousy and envy. The Psalms also reflect many positive emotions: love, joy, peace, hope, excitement, and exhilaration.
Personal and Corporate
Many of the Psalms are personal, using the personal pronouns: I, me, and my. Other Psalms are collective for public worship, using we and us. King David wrote most of the personal Psalms. The Psalms not only cover every emotion, they are also comprehensive in dealing with Biblical themes and doctrines.
The Bible Within the Bible
In the Psalms we see instruction, history, prophecy, repentance, thanksgiving, trust, praise and adoration.
Some of the Psalms deal with the Law of God (Psalm 1, 19 & 119).
Others with Creation (Psalm 29 & 104).
Other Psalms deal with Judgement (Psalm 52).
Many Psalms are messianic (e.g. Psalm 2, 22 & 53).
The Psalms deal with Israel's Ruin, Israel's Redeemer, and Israel's Redemption.
The Prophets and the Psalms
The prophets quoted from the Psalms repeatedly.
Jonah's prayer, while inside the whale, quoted from five different Psalms.
Habakkuk quoted from the Psalms three times in his prophecy.
Not all the Psalms are in the Book of Psalms.
We also see Psalms in Exodus 15: the song of Miriam; Judges 5; the song of Deborah, 1 Samuel 2; the song of Hannah. There are also Psalms in Job, Isaiah and Revelation.
The Long and the Short of It
The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 117.
The longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119 (176 verses).
The middle chapter of the Bible is Psalm 118.
The middle verses in the Bible are: Psalm 118:8-9, "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes."
The Psalms consist of five Books, paralleling the first five Books of the Bible:
The Law of Moses. Just as Genesis deals with
Creation, Exodus - Salvation, Leviticus - Worship, Numbers - Rebellion, and Deuteronomy - Law, so in the five groupings of the Psalms, we see similar themes. Each of the five Books ends with a Doxology. (Psalm 41, 72, 89, 106 & 150).
The Names of God
The two main Names used for God in the Psalms are Yahweh and Elohim. Elohim means the most High God. It is plural, containing the idea of God's Trinitarian nature. Elohim communicates to us the transcendence of God. He is far above and completely different to us. The other Name for God used throughout the Psalms is Yahweh, which communicates relationship and intimacy with God. He is immanent. This balance between the transcendence and immanence of God is seen throughout the Scriptures.
Psalm 22 to 24 forms an important trilogy: Psalm 22: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" deals with the Cross. Psalm 23: "The Lord is my Shepherd..." deals with the crook, or shepherd's staff. Psalm 24: "Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates, lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in." deals with the Crown. Psalm 22: Saviour. Psalm 23: Shepherd. Psalm 24: Sovereign.
Psalm 113 to 118, are known as the Hallel Psalms and were sung at the Passover. The term Hosanna comes from Psalm 118. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the people were shouting Hosanna! The crowd then fell silent when the Lord took a whip and drove out the Jewish moneychangers from the Temple.
The Treasury of David
David wrote more than half of the Psalms. Davids experiences as a shepherd, a musician, soldier, refugee and king, are reflected in many of his Psalms, such as the Shepherd Psalm 23. Psalm 2 was written by David for his son, Solomon's coronation. 14 of these Psalms have historical titles linking them to events in David's life: Psalm 3: When David fled from the rebellious army of his son Absolom. Psalm 30: David's sin prior to the dedication of the Temple area. Psalm 51: After Nathan exposed David's sin with Bathsheba. Psalm 57: At En Gedi, when Saul was trapped. Psalm 59: David's jealous associates. Psalm 60: The dangerous campaign in Edom. Psalm 63: David's flight eastwards. Psalm 142: David at Adullum.
Solomon wrote Psalm 72 and 127. Ezra wrote Psalm 49, 50 & 119. Psalm 90 was written by Moses. Psalm 92 encourages the observance of the Sabbath.
There are Lamentation Psalms written out of personal despair, turmoil and tragedy. In the 42 Lament Psalms we see frustration, despair, concerns and complaints presented to God. Each of the Lament Psalms follow a five-fold form: 1. A cry to God. 2. A complaint about what is wrong. 3. A confession of trust in God. 4. A petition calling on God to intervene. 5. A promise to thank and praise God when deliverance comes. While many of these Lament Psalms are personal, some are written on behalf of the nation (such as: Psalm 44, 74, 79, 80, 83, 85 & 90).
Psalms of Gratitude
Psalms of Thanksgiving are the second largest grouping of Psalms. These thanksgiving Psalms have a four-part pattern: 1. A proclamation: "I will praise You..." 2. A statement about what the worshipper is going to praise God for. 3. A testimony of God's provision. 4. A vow to continue to praise God for what He has done. These Psalms thank God for who He is and what He does, for His Creation, sovereignty, intervention, provision, protection, deliverance and Revelation.
Psalms of Repentance
Thirdly, there are Psalms of Repentance (including: Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 130 & 143). Royal Psalms
The Royal Psalms
(Psalm 2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 72, 89, 101, 110, 132 & 144) have inspired numerous European national anthems. The British national anthem, for example, is based on several of these Psalms. The lion and the unicorn, referred to in Psalm 22, are still in the English Coat of Arms.
From Sea to Sea
Canada remains the only nation in the world with The Dominion in its name. The founding fathers of Canada named their country: The Dominion of Canada, based on Psalm 72: "He shall have dominion... from sea to sea." As Canada stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, it was called The Dominion of Canada.
The Wisdom Psalm
The Wisdom Psalms deal with the conduct of life and contradictions in life. Psalm 1 begins with the two ways, two types of people and two destinations. The Book of Psalms is for those who are walking in the right way, rooted in God's Word, drawing nourishment from the streams of living waters, bearing the fruit of the Spirit.
The Wise and the Foolish
The foolish are those who stand with evildoers, who walk with them, being influenced by bad company. Finally they end up sitting with, and becoming friends with the world. In His Sermon on the Mount, Our Lord Jesus Christ expounded Psalm 1 as He spoke of the wise man and the foolish man, the good tree and the bad tree, the good fruit and the bad fruit, the house built upon the rock of God's Word and the house built upon the sand of human effort. The broad way and the narrow way, the broad gate and the narrow gate, those who stand in the day of crises and those who fall.
In the Light of Eternity
Psalm 73, tackles head on the problem of bad people seeming to get away with their evil behaviour, while good people often suffer. Psalm 73 evaluates justice in the light of eternity.
Celebrating Who God Is
The Psalms celebrate the attributes of God: His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. God is, All powerful, All knowing and Everywhere present! The Psalms celebrate God's actions in Creation and in Redemption. The Psalms tell us God is the Good Shepherd, the Commander in Chief, the Eternal Judge, the Redeemer, the Provider and the Sustainer. T
heology Leads to Doxology
In the Psalms, Theology quickly leads to Doxology. Truth must inevitably lead to worship. Many of the songs in the New Testament are modelled on the Psalms (e.g. Luke 1 & 2). The apostles turned to the Psalms when under threat (Acts 4) and used the Psalms when preaching (Acts 13). Many of the Epistles, such as Hebrews, quote prolifically from the Psalms. Our Lord Jesus Christ quoted from the Psalms throughout his public teaching, in the Sermon on the Mount, while cleansing the Temple, at the Last Supper, on the Cross and on the road to Emmaus. He reminded His disciples that the Law, the prophets and the Psalms teach of Him.
The Psalms in our Daily Lives
As Believers we are to read the Psalms. We must sing the Psalms. We must pray the Psalms. Some of the Psalms need to be shouted! The Psalms encourage us to lift up holy hands, sometimes to clap and dance, to look upwards and to kneel in humility before God. We are commanded in the New Testament to use the Psalms in corporate worship (Ephesians 5).
Psalms are for Soldiers
When I served in the South African Defence Force, we would begin our days with a reading of the Psalms and prayer at Battalion parade, Company parade, or even just as a platoon. Psalms were read before and after Operations. Frequently commanders would have a Psalm printed on a card and distributed to all soldiers before crossing the border in the Operational area.
Psalms for Every Occasion
There is nothing we can do that is more meaningful and beneficial on hospital visitations, than to read the Psalms. At sick beds, at gravesites, before travel, on sad days and on days of rejoicing, there are Psalms designed for each occasion.
Our Devotional Guide on the Adventure of Discipleship
It would be a good habit to read one Psalm a day. There are 150 Psalms, so it would take you just five months to pray your way through the Psalms. Perhaps you could read a Psalm before breakfast, or at lunch, or after supper. The Psalms are for all in danger, trouble and need. They are for the soldier, the nurse, the fireman, the doctor, the teacher, the parent and the child, for the king and the queen, for leaders and workers, for prisoners and exiles, for the persecuted, the sick and the dying, for farmers and fathers. At all times and in all situations, the Psalms are our Prayer book and our songbook.
Revelation Leads to Relationship
Revelation leads to relationship, discipleship, missions and worship.
Read the Psalms.
Meditate on the Psalms.
Pray the Psalms.
Sing the Psalms.
Delight in the Psalms.
Proclaim the Psalms.
"These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me. And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures." Luke 24:44
On the Road to Emmaus
On the first day of the week after the crucifixion of Christ, two of the Lord's disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus, 7 miles from Jerusalem. As they talked together of all the things which had happened, the Lord Himself drew near and walked with them. But they did not recognise Him. He asked them: "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?" Cleophas answered: "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have you not known the things which happened there in these days?" He said to them: "What things?"
Jesus of Nazareth
So they told him: "The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet, Mighty in deed and Word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but Him they did not see."
In All the Scriptures
Then Jesus said to them: "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the Prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His Glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Later, as he gave thanks for the food at the table in Emmaus, "Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him. And they said to one another, 'Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?'"
The Lord Has Risen Indeed!
So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem to find the eleven who were gathered together declaring: "The Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon!" They told about the things that had happened on the road and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.
The Psalms Fulfilled
Then Jesus Himself stood amongst them and said to them: "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me."...He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures." Luke 24:13-45
From Genesis to Malachi, we can see the progressive Revelation of the coming Messiah, the Redeemer, the Saviour, the Anointed One, the Son of David, the Suffering Servant, the Prince of Peace. Twenty of the Psalms are identified as Messianic by the New Testament writers. Jesus Himself, declared that the Psalms spoke of Him (Luke 24:44). These include those Psalms that reveal Christ as King: Psalm 2:45, 72, 110 & 132; those that speak of the sufferings of the Messiah: Psalm 22, 41, 55 & 69; the Resurrection of the Messiah: Psalm 16; and the Ascension of the Messiah: Psalm 69:18. Messiah means "Anointed One". Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew title: Messiah.
Written 1,000 years before Christ, these Messianic Psalms prophecy that God will declare the Messiah to be His Son. A friend will betray Him. False witnesses will accuse Him. He will be hated without a cause. He will be given vinegar and gall to drink. He will be forsaken by God, scorned and mocked by men, His hands and His feet will be pierced, His clothes will be gambled for, but none of His bones will be broken. He will pray for His enemies. God will not let Him see corruption in the grave. He will rise from the dead. He will ascend into Heaven. His betrayer's office will be given to another. God will place all things under His feet. His enemies will be His footstool. He will be a High Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. He will be the Chief Cornerstone and Eternal Judge.<
The Nature of Christ
The Names for God: Elohim and Yahweh are applied to Christ by the Father Himself: "Thy Throne, O God is forever and ever." (Psalm 2; Psalm 110; Psalm 45:6-7; Hebrews 1:8-9).
The Lord Jesus Christ is described as the Son of God: "Thou art My Son. This day I have begotten Thee." (Psalm 2:7; Hebrews 1:5).
The Messiah shall possess the nature of God and be worthy of worship: "Let all the angels worship Him." (Psalm 97:7; Hebrews 1:6).
The Psalms reveal that the Messiah will be both the Son of God and the Son of Man: "What is man that You are mindful of him? And the Son of Man that You visit Him? For You have made Him a little lower than the angels? And You have crowned Him with glory and honour. You have made Him to have dominion over the works of Your hands, You have put all things under His feet." (Hebrews 1:6-9 quoting from Psalm 8:4-6).
The Work of Christ
The Psalms anticipate the work of the Messiah as Prophet, Priest and King. "I come to do Thy will O God." (Psalm 40:7-8; Hebrews 10:7).
"Your Throne, O God is forever and ever. A sceptre of equity is the sceptre of Your Kingdom." (Psalm 45:6-7; Hebrews 1:8-9).
"The Lord said to My Lord, sit at My right hand till I make Your enemies Your footstool... rule in the midst of Your enemies... You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek... He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations..." Psalm 110:1-6.
The Messianic Psalm 110 is quoted seven times in the New Testament, by the Lord Jesus, by the apostles, Peter and Paul: Matthew 22:43-44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42-43; Acts 2:34-35; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 1:13 & 10:12-13).
The Rejection of the Messiah
In contradiction to the popular theory of Dispensational Pre-millennialism, which views the Jews' rejection of the Messiah as an unexpected setback requiring the interruption of the prophetic calendar with the Church Age, the rejection of the Messiah is consistently prophesied throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, including in the Psalms. The middle chapter of the Bible: Psalm 118 declares: "The Stone which the builders rejected has become the Chief Cornerstone." Psalm 118:22. As Christ entered Jerusalem in His triumphal entry, the crowds waved palm fronds, singing "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Highest", in fulfilment of Psalm 118. Yet those same crowds showed how fickle they were by, days later, screaming "Crucify Him, Crucify Him! We have no king but caesar! Release Barabbas! Crucify Christ!"
Zeal for God's House
When the Lord entered the Temple, He made a whip and chased out the Jewish money-changers. Recording this, the Apostle John quotes Psalm 69:9: "Zeal for Your House has consumed Me." (John 2:17).
At the Last Supper the Lord quoted Psalm 41:9: "Even My own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate My bread, has lifted up his heel against Me" (John 13:18), to refer to the betrayal of Judas.
The Suffering and Death of the Messiah
The most complete and detailed description of the Crucifixion is in Psalm 22, written 1000 years before the event. On the Cross the Lord quoted Psalm 22:1: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me..." (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:34).
Psalm 22 describes how they would pierce His hands and His feet and gamble for His robe (Psalm 22:16-18).
Psalm 22 describes the sufferings of the Messiah on the Cross: "They gape at Me... I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a pot shard, and My tongue clings to my jaws; ...the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them and for My clothing they cast lots..." Psalm 22:12-18 (Matthew 27:36-44).
The Resurrection of the Messiah
"For you will not leave My soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption." Psalm 16:10.
On the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter applies this passage in Psalm 16, to the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the Resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus, God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore, being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the Heavens, but he says himself: The Lord said to My Lord, sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." Acts 2:29-36<
The Ultimate Triumph of the Messiah
"Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take council together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying: 'Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us'. He who sits in the Heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: 'Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree; the Lord has said to Me, You are My Son. Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me and I will give you the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel. Now, therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed you judges of the earth, serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him." Psalm 2:1-12
King of kings and Lord of lords
In the Psalms we read of the Mission and Message of the Messiah, of the work and witness of our Lord Jesus Christ, of His nature, His rejection, betrayal, suffering, death, Resurrection, Ascension and final victory over all, when all His enemies will be made as a footstool under His feet.
You may know the Messianic Psalms - but do you know the Messiah?
You may know the Shepherd's Psalm - but do you know the Good Shepherd?
Our Lord Jesus Christ declared that His sheep hear His voice, they follow Him and He knows them. Does the Lord know you?
Do you hear His voice?
Are you obeying His voice?
Are you faithfully following Him?
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725