Oct 21, 2018: Psalms Overview*

We are in our final stretch of the Bible reading of this year. For those of you who have been faithfully following the Bible Reading Plan for the year, you should have read through all of wisdom literature of the Old Testament (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) and two-third of the Psalms. This week we began reading Book V of Psalms (Psalms 107—150) which will take us all the way into the middle of December. May the Psalms help us to continue to know God, abide in Him and love him.

As an overview of the book of Psalms, it is helpful to see the big picture of how the 150 Psalms are organized into five books. The structure of the book of Psalms—with its many individual psalms coming together into collections of likeminded psalms that ultimately were joined into the five “books” of psalms—is not a random structure. Rather an unfolding story line reflects the great, overarching theme of God’s sovereign rule as the great King.

In the introductory Psalms 1—2, God the King installs his chosen, anointed king on Mount Zion as his royal representative (Ps 2) and the exemplar of the righteous man (Ps 1). David is the OT symbol of the righteous king, and his psalms dominate Book I (Pss 3—41), where the prevailing note is one of lament, arising out of David’s distresses.

In Book II (Pss 42-72), other voices join David’s (the son of Korah, Asaph), and it occasionally notes national concerns alongside individual ones. The book ends on a high note, speaking of the ideal human king as one with a universal reign (Ps 72).

Book III (Pss 73—89) is one of crisis, both personal and national. It begins with doubts about God’s justice (Ps 73) and ends with two despairing psalms (Pss 88-89), the final one questioning God’s commitment to the Davidic covenant.

In Book IV (Pss 90-106) marks a major turning point in the Psalter. The focus turns to a time when there was no human king: the time of Moses (Ps 90). It celebrates God’s role as the great King (Pss 93—99). Book IV answer the despair at the end of Book III. It says, in effect, that if people were tempted to look for their security in the Davidic king, then they would end up disappointed; they needed to look to the Lord as their refuge and strength and as their great King.

Book V (Pss 107—150) shows that God’s commitment to his promises to David remained unwavering and David therefore returns to prominence in this book, especially at the beginning and end (Pss 108—110; 138—145) and in the important Psalm 132. The books ends by extolling David, the Lord’s anointed king (Ps 144), and the Lord himself, the divine King (Ps 145), echoing the beginning of the Psalter  (Pss 1—2), which also features the Lord and his anointed king. And in the final climax of praise (Pss 146-150), Ps 149 anticipates God’s victory over the rebellious nations and rulers introduced in Ps 2.

Jesus, the Son of God and son of David, embodies and fulfills the promises of the psalms, which are rooted in the promises God gave to Abraham and David concerning the blessings he would give their descendants, and through them, all peoples. Jesus is the ultimate example of the righteous person in Ps 1 and of God’s anointed son, the King Messiah in Ps 2. Jesus also experienced most of the same travails that David and other psalmist did, so their laments and prayers anticipated his own. May we draw near to Jesus, our Lord and King, who is able to sympathize with our weakness. And as we meditate and pray the Psalms, may we receive mercy and find grace in Christ throughout this week.

* Adapted from NIV Zondervan Study Bible.