Biblical Information: Introduction To The Books Of Psalms

The Psalms is actually five books of poetry compiled into one book for the Bible. Some find Psalms confusing but there is order to them and there are important messages for us in them.

The Book of Psalms can actually be divided into five categories of poetry compiled into one book for the Bible. Many people find the Psalms confusing but there is order to them and there are important messages for us in them. The Psalms can be looked at as the hymnbook of the Israelites. They are poems intended for public presentation, usually accompanied by music.

Since they were intended to be performed, the themes of the Psalms are ones that would have been important to their audience. The themes are emotions, causes, and plights common to the group but are also prayers and praises to the same God.

The first book of the Psalms consists of Psalm 1 through 41. These are attributed to David, they are either written by him or for him. Most of these Psalms deal with the condition of man. Their themes show man as blessed by God, separated by sin and redeemed by God.

The hymns are not ordered by theme, but the predominate themes within each group do shine through. In the first Psalm we see that our blessing comes from obedience. "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night." (Psalms 1:1-2)

By our sin, we are separated from God. All of humanity carries the disease of sin. "The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. 3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one." (Psalm 14:2-3) The psalmist isn't saying that we aren't capable of any good, only that we are not capable of the perfect good that God originally intended. Because of the fall, all of us are separated from Him.

Despite our sin, God still desires a relationship with us. In His mercy, He provides us with salvation. We are redeemed from death by His grace. "O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit." (Psalms 30:3)

The second book of Psalms consists of Psalm 42 through 72. There are varied authors for these Psalms, David, the Sons of Korah (the temple musicians), Asaph and one by Solomon (Psalm 72). These Psalms deal with the condition of the nation of Israel. Repeated themes appear showing Israel as God's chosen people, Israel as a ruined nation and Israel as a restored nation. Keep in mind that Israel often serves as a metaphor for the Church and individual Christians.

Chosen by God as His people, the nation of Israel is favored by Him. "For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favor unto them." (Psalms 44:3) God provides Israel a homeland, a place of their salvation.

Yet, the Israelites have short memories (as do we) and they forget by Who's Grace they have been saved. Over and over again the Israelites suffer ruin because they turn away from God. They cry out to God while suffering under oppression. "I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" (Psalms 42:9)

God is faithful to forgive a repentant Israel. "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit." (Psalms 51:12) When the Israelites repent, God restores them. "O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God." (Psalms 68:35)

The third book of the Psalms contains hymns dealing with themes about the Tabernacle and God's holiness. These include Psalm 73 through 89. They were written for the most part by Asaph.

The Tabernacle is the House of God and sacred. Spending time working in the Tabernacle is a joy, just as working for our churches should be a joy. That joy is expressed in many of the Psalms of this section. "For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." (Psalms 84:10)

The fourth book of Psalms are concerned with Israel's relationship with other nations. They remind Israel that its people are citizens of God's Kingdom, which is greater than any kingdom on earth. They are composed mostly by unknown authors and encompass Psalm 90 through 106. Seeing God on the ultimate throne and as our Ultimate Ruler keeps earthly problems in perspective. "For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods." (Psalms 97:9)

The fifth book of Psalms is about God and His precious Word. They are hymns of praise, worship and thanksgiving. Composed mostly by David, they include Psalm 107 through 150. These Psalms are uplifting and joyous but remind us too that without God, we have nothing.

Songs of praise and worship fill this fifth section. In praise our spirits are uplifted and the peace and joy that can be found only in loving God are found. Perhaps this is why the Psalms include so many verses of praise. "O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. 2 For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth forever. Praise ye the LORD." (Psalms 117:1-2)

Thanksgiving is our act of gratitude to God for all that He has done for us. In giving thanks, we acknowledge His mercy, protection, provision and love. The Psalms are filled with songs of thanksgiving, prayers of gratitude that enumerate God's mercy and forgiveness. "O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever." (Psalms 136:1) No matter what we are going through, we shouldn't forget to thank God. Giving thanks, like praise and worship, fill us with joy and peace.

The Psalms are the hymns of Israel and they can be our personal hymns, too. No matter what life holds for us at any particular moment, we can find a Psalm that soothes, strengthens, encourages, enlightens or uplifts us. This introduction is only one way of categorizing the Psalms. They may be sorted by theme, they can be sorted by author or they can be sorted by significance to any situation. One thing is certain though, as you explore them, many will become personal and favored, offering peace at every recollection.

(All Scripture is KJV)

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