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The Psalms, penned by at least eight different people over many generations, are essentially worship song lyrics or hymnals. They cover the span of human emotions in relation to God, and are generally divided into five ’books’: 1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106, and 107-150. But the New Testament seems to indicate that they also contain some prophecy, the primary topic of which is the Messiah and his coming kingdom.

Book 1 General Intro

Being poetic hymns, the Psalms make use of a literary device known as parallelism, as opposed to the English convention of rhyming. A pair of lines either expresses the same thought two ways, or the positive and negative of the thought. So we have to be careful not to misinterpret them. The Psalms of the 1st book are mostly those of David and his experiences with God.

Psalm 1

Psalm 1 contrasts the way of the righteous with the way of the wicked, which is the character of all the Psalms in general. It teaches and encourages holy living in practical terms, mainly that bad company corrupts good character. So as opposed to the practice of emptying the mind as meditation is in other religions, righteous meditation fills the mind with the instructions of God (the law or Torah), and of course for the writers it included obeying the law of Moses as well. Such a practice in daily life will be expressed in the way we live.

Psalm 2

Psalm 2 shows the folly of trying to win against God, who is no more threatened by people or angels than a boot is threatened by an ant. It’s widely held to be Messianic, which refutes the claim of critics that the Old Testament God is wicked and violent, while Jesus is holy and passive. Jesus, as Messiah, will return— not as a helpless infant but as the Lion of Judah, the Mighty God, as also stated in Isaiah 9:6. And as stated in Col. 1:16, he himself is the Creator. So it’s impossible to separate the God of the Old Testament from that of the New Testament.

Verse 7 says that this Messiah is one of the Persons of the Trinity, who also became human at a point in time called ’today’. This is the Son of God, and no son can be as old as his father! This Son will rule with an iron hand as shown in verse 9.

Psalm 3

Psalm 3 is a lament over the success of the wicked and God’s apparent inaction, but it’s coupled with confidence in God’s eventual action. Some commentators see Psalms 3-7 as describing the eventual sufferings of Israel in the Tribulation, but of course they can also apply to persecution of the righteous at any time. The word deliverance or salvation in most cases in the Old Testament refers to this life rather than eternity.

Though David had multiplied enemies, he was confident that God would rescue and vindicate him. Even today, those who see our many enemies, either personally or collectively, claim it as proof that we’re the guilty ones, because they all agree with each other. Likewise for the Jews as a people; critics say they must all be evil since many nations have driven them out.

Psalm 4-8

Psalm 4 adds to the previous one that the wicked should think twice before opposing those who call on God for help. >Psalm 5 continues the theme, adding that the wicked are liars with vain, shallow hearts. David implores God that these people would be caught in their own traps and schemes.

Psalm 6 is a personal lament and a plea for God’s discipline to come not in anger or wrath. We should never think that God disciplines us for any other reason than love and training. As for the question about Hades, David’s point is that the living need to hear the praises of God, which would be lost if the righteous were all in the grave.

Psalm 7 deals with being pursued by false accusers. As a righteous judge, God must both acquit the innocent and condemn the guilty. It is not loving or kind to deny victims the honor of being vindicated, nor to punish them twice by letting their attackers suffer no consequences for their slander.

Psalm 8 is a more general praise of God as Creator, whose existence is obvious even to children. But what exactly does it mean that God made people a little lower than the angels? The word there in Hebrew is Elohim (God), but in Greek, angelous (angel). The context is all about God, and the wonder of how we mortals have been placed in charge of everything else he made, so the meaning of angels seems out of place here.

Psalm 9-12

Psalm 9 praises God for what he has done, which we often forget to do. It also speaks of those who know God’s name and put their hope in him, which along with endurance and righteous acts was what saved a person before Jesus rose from the dead. The vast majority of Old Testament statements about salvation refer to peace and prosperity in this life, with only the most general references to eternity.

Psalm 10 pleads for God to put a stop to the success of the wicked when he seems far away. Though we should know, as in the previous Psalm, that God can be trusted to avenge and rescue us in his time, there’s nothing wrong with pleading for that, as long as it’s pleading rather than scolding.

Psalm 11 seems to have been written during a time when David was being pursued by enemies. But he is confident that even if all other allies were to fail, God will bring rescue and justice in time.

Psalm 12 is another expression of despair at the times when God seems distant, but again David also expresses his confidence that God will come to his aid. Though he was chosen by God to be king, the path to his destiny was anything but smooth. So we shouldn’t give up on God; it’s a test of our faith and loyalty, the plan of God to make his enemies overconfident.

Psalm 13-16

Psalm 13 continues the theme of despair and desperation, and it shows us that there is nothing wrong with honestly admitting this to God. David, like many of the patriarchs before him, appeals to God to defend his own honor by delivering his people. Though God already knows our words before we think them (Ps. 139:4), we see many instances in the Old Testament of God waiting for the people to cry out before he acts, which teaches us that God is one in whom we can confide and be close to.

Psalm 14 begins with the familiar phrase, The fool has said in his heart, ’There is no God’. But this could apply as easily to the one who hates God as to the one who believes no God exists. It’s followed by statements also seen elsewhere in the Psalms, that some take out of context to mean everyone who ever lived is a vile sinner deserving of eternal torment. But this is a lament over unrestrained evil, a cry for kindness and compassion, not a dissertation on eternal salvation. Consider the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19:10, who whined to God that he was the only prophet left in Israel, and God told him in verse 18 that he had 7,000 reserved. Elijah was in the depths of despair then, and so was David here.

Psalm 15 is another list of contrasts between the godly and the wicked, and in Psalm 16 David shows how he has lived a righteous life, though of course not a perfect one. Verses 6-11 were quoted by Peter on Pentecost as a Messianic prophecy, but of course it also applied to David, in that he would be spared from his present struggle. Paul also quoted verse 10 in Acts 13:35 as a prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection.

This is the nature of Biblical prophecy, like a spiral. If you look at a spring on-end, it looks like a circle, but you can see by looking at the side that the circle moves as it revolves. So though there is an immediate fulfillment, there may be others as time goes on. But we don’t know how long the spring is until the end.

Psalm 17-19

Psalm 17 is another lament for God to act quickly on his behalf. Just as the wicked had David in the center of their vision, so also David pleads for God to do the same. And at the end, David expresses his confidence that he will one day see the face of God.

Psalm 18 was, per the title in the Psalm itself, written after God had subdued all David’s enemies, so it’s a hymn of gratitude and relief. There’s no peace without gratitude, and no gratitude without humility. Just as God treats the merciful with mercy, so also he treats the treacherous with treachery. Many who fault God for this are all too willing to practice this themselves.

Psalm 19 begins with familiar praises to God as the Creator. As also Paul wrote in the first chapter of Romans, people are without excuse for acknowledging that this realm was designed by an intelligent and powerful being. And the identity of this Creator is made clear in fulfilled prophecy, and especially Jesus rising from the dead.The one true God created the heavenly bodies other people worshiped as gods. The rest of the Psalm then compares the instruction of God to the glory of creation, which in comparison to both, should make us humble and respectful of God.

Psalm 20-24

Psalm 20 is basically a pep talk before battle, and an intercessory prayer, and Psalm 21 expresses gratitude for God’s deliverance.

Psalm 22 returns to lament the times when God seems far away. This is one Jesus quoted on the cross, so we can’t think that he was actually saying God had actually forsaken him, but that it’s an expression of deep pain and loneliness. The details here are clear evidence of divine prophecy, since David could not possibly know as a mere human that this would be literally and physically fulfilled in the Messiah. Even so, the Psalm ends in confident hope of victory, restoration, and rest.

Psalm 23 is one of the most familiar and memorized passages of scripture. It teaches us to rest confidently in God, whether in good times or bad, and that we are assured that he will keep us close to himself. The sheep are safe, but only if they follow the trustworthy Shepherd.

Psalm 24 begins with a phrase used in 1 Cor. 10:26 to teach that Christians are not bound by dietary laws. God, as the supreme sovereign of the whole world, can change rules for people without his own nature changing. But the message of the Psalm overall is that only the righteous can approach God, and as Christians our righteousness comes only from belonging to Jesus.

As noted in Constable’s Notes, Psalm 22 is about the cross, 23 the Shepherd, and 24 the crown.

Psalm 25-30

Psalm 25 is a plea for God to guide us, to forget our shortcomings, and to remember his promises and the honor of his name. Some wonder why we should bother to pray, since per Mat. 6:8 God already knows what we’ll say. But not only is it for our own benefit since it reminds us of our humble position, it also seems from scripture that God sometimes waits for us to ask before he acts.

Psalm 26 is another plea for vindication, for justice against false charges, while Psalm 27 goes from confident trust, to despair and lament, then back to confident trust and encouragement.

Psalm 28 is a cry for immediate rescue from dire circumstances, as well as an imprecatory prayer against evildoers. We need to remember that the love of God is not in conflict with the holiness of God; both good and evil must be paid their wages.

Psalm 29 teaches that though the heathen believed storms and other natural events were caused by local gods, the real God was in command of all the forces of nature.

Psalm 30 is a praise song for the dedication of the temple, along with relief that God had rescued David once again. The temple had not been built, so it probably refers to the tabernacle, though it could also have been intended for the time when the permanent temple would be finished. Verse 5 is familiar to most Christians; though we may experience either persecution from enemies or discipline from God, it won’t last forever, but God’s love will.

Psalm 31-34

Psalm 31 is yet another plea for vindication, and it includes expressions of revulsion for those who worship false gods. David’s teachings, such as not to be quick to think God has abandoned us, come from his own experiences good and bad, not from dry philosophy or imagination.

Psalm 32 expresses David’s relief that forgiveness came, but only after he admitted his sin. To forgive the unrepentant is to encourage more sin and deny justice to the victim, which in this case was God.

Psalm 33 is filled with praise, especially for God’s creative power. The use of instruments was clearly encouraged, as opposed to the belief of some that worship should only ever be with our voices. As for the familiar phrase in verse 12, it likely only refers to Israel in context, as only Israel had a covenant relationship with God and the church is not a nation. A similar phrase is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, and again, it’s in the context of the people and land of Israel.

Psalm 34 is another praise song for God’s deliverance. But can we take verse 10 as a guarantee that godly people never suffer lack in this life? Even David lamented at other times that this is not the case at all, so it reminds us that this is poetry, not systematic theology. And of course, verse 20 is clearly another Messianic prophecy, cited in John 19:36.

Psalm 35-41

Psalm 35 is another plea for help and vindication, as well as for paying back the wicked, who had repaid David’s compassion with violence and treachery.

Psalm 36 is primarily an appeal to wisdom, and Psalm 37 continues with an emphasis on keeping faith in God when all seems lost.

Psalm 38 revisits the theme of repentance and appeals to mercy after sin, and Psalm 39 adds the determination to keep from returning to sin.

Psalm 40 is another look back at how God had always delivered David through all his trials, as a testimony for others. Psalm 41 is a practical lesson in kindness, which matches up with some of the Beatitudes. But then David cries out to God against those who keep wishing for his demise. And verse 9 is clearly prophetic of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, as cited by Jesus in John 13:18.

Book 2 General Intro

The Psalms of the second book were written by the descendants of Korah 42, 44-49, Asaph 50, David 51-65, 68-70, and Solomon 72, but the rest are anonymous 43, 66-67, 71.

Psalm 42-49

Psalm 42 is a lament familiar to many Christians. Critics of the faith taunt us by asking, Where is your God? But again, after lamenting, we should remember verse 5: wait for God, and in time he will vindicate us. Psalm 43 continues the theme of waiting for God’s vindication, and the strong desire to be home with God. How many of us today have this same desire, rather than being attached to this world?

Psalm 44 is a reminder that our battles are not our own but God’s. This hardly means we should do nothing, just as God almost always had the armies of Israel fight battles. But those battles were only won with God’s help, and so it is with our personal battles today. Yet we shouldn’t think that every lost battle is our own fault, because sometimes, as expressed in verse 18, God has other reasons for allowing us to be defeated.

Psalm 45 expresses admiration and respect for the king as God’s representative. But it also applies to God himself as the king of kings, since the writer of Hebrews cites this Psalm and applies it to Jesus. But some commentaries introduce an insidious false teaching in the section about the bride of the king, which starts in verse 10. They cite the creation account in Gen. 2:18 and 22 as the basis for making wives subservient to husbands, yet no such hierarchy is to be found in the cited verses. This was purely a societal tradition in a patriarchal culture, not the mandated will of God. While society only viewed women’s worth in terms of their beauty and bearing children for their husbands, God values women as made in his image Gen. 1:27, and as co-heirs with men 1 Peter 3:7.

Psalm 46 portrays God as like a strong fortress, and Psalm 47 calls all the world to worship him. While Constable’s Notes went completely off the rails in Psalm 45, it makes a good point here: that though Israel certainly didn’t exist in a cultural vacuum and had similarities to others, the modern belief that Israel only copied other religions and cultures with mere cosmetic changes is complete nonsense.

Psalm 48 is filled with admiration for the places God chose as his own, and Psalm 49 begins with encouragement to trust in this God. But starting in verse 7 it explains why only God in the flesh could redeem us, and that the fleeting nature of this life will not prevent the high and mighty from being humbled when it’s over. Verses 14-15 reveal that they knew there would be life after death, though they had no detailed understanding of what that would be like.

Psalm 50-70

Psalm 50 is a rebuke from God to Israel for breaking the covenant he had with them. He explains that the sacrifices are not for his need or benefit, since every living thing belongs to him already. He also rebuked those who say the words of worship but practice the deeds of wickedness. Like King David who had to be rebuked by his general for weeping when his army was victorious, Israel showed more love for God’s enemies than for his friends. We all need to pay attention to our own actions and the message they send, which is much louder than our words.

Psalm 51 states plainly that David wrote this in deep remorse after his sin with Bathsheba, which also led to his murder of her husband Uriah. Though his sin was against this godly couple, David admits that the ultimate offense was against God. But though this lament, like most others, is expressed with great exaggeration, some such as Constable’s Notes take verse 5 as a prooftext for us all being born evil. Yet that belief comes from Gnosticism, not scripture. Besides, David has not mentioned his father, without whom his mother couldn’t have conceived him. It is most unwise to derive Christian doctrine from highly emotional laments. Notice also in verse 11 that David pleads with God not to take the Holy Spirit from him; this shows that before Pentecost, no one was guaranteed the Holy Spirit for life as we are in the age of grace. At least Constable’s Notes gets this right.

Psalm 52 describes once again the fuitily of opposing God, and that justice is what a holy God demands. Psalm 53 begins the same as 14, and the first few verses are quoted in Rom. 3:12. Psalm 54 is another plea for vindication against false accusers, and Psalm 55 ends the lament once again with David expressing his trust in God in spite of everything.

Psalm 56 continues to cry out to God for immediate help, and trusts him to respond. This same theme continues through >Psalm 57, but in Psalm 58 the focus turns again to corrupt leaders in Israel. Psalm 59 returns to pleading for deliverance from enemies, but notice verse 11, where David asks God not to strike them too quickly or the people might forget the lesson. Every experience in life can be a lesson, if we pay attention and try to see what that might be.

Psalm 60 is, per its own title, a teaching prayer, and the lesson is about reliance on God and trust in his timing. Psalm 61 continues the lesson, and Psalm 62 stresses the need for patience. Psalm 63 once again expresses David’s longing to see God and find rest, and Psalm 64 contines on the theme of justice and vindication.

Psalm 65 is a song of praise for God’s provision of food, even though we’re sinners, and Psalm 66 continues the theme, with references to such provision in times past, including the miracles that took place as Israel left Egypt. Psalm 67 still continues on the same theme, while Psalm 68 returns to praising God as a great military leader, but also a father and champion of widows and the homeless. Then it turns to the fate of those who oppose God, then back to more praise.

Psalm 69 is another cry for help against false accusers, and verse 9 is quoted in John 2:17 as a Messianic prophecy. The vinegar mentioned in verse 21 is also Messianic, refering to Jesus being offered vinegar when he was on the cross. But in the immediate context, David goes on to ask God to punish rather than forgive.

Psalm 70 continues this prayer for vengeance, while Psalm 71 turns back to a cry for help and vindication, when the psalmist was old and tired. Psalm 72 is another royal psalm and a plea for wisdom to rule properly, as we know Solomon did when God handed the kingdom of Israel to him. It looks forward also to the time of the Millennium, when the ideal kingdom becomes a reality on earth.

Book 3 General Intro

The Psalms of the third book were written by the descendants of Korah (84-85, 87), David (86), Herman (88), Ethan (89), and the rest by Asaph. This book of Psalms is considered dark overall.

Psalm 73-89

Psalm 73 describes the difficult life of the righteous in a world of wicked people. But at least it expresses what we all know to be true: that in this life, the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. Yet hope and strength to endure come from knowing that a loving God loves the victim more than the oppressor.

Psalm 74 continues, but notice verse 13-14 regarding Leviathan; the wicked are compared to the creature, which would be a meaningless analogy had the creature been mythical. It’s also described in Job 41 as a real thing.

Psalm 75 is another song of God’s eventual judgment against the wicked, who have become overconfident that God will never act after so much time without consequences for their deeds. This same concept is seen also in 1 Peter 3:4, and Psalm 76 is a song of praise for when God finally did deliver his people.

Psalm 77 is an expression of restless worry, which is relieved by meditating on God’s promises. Psalm 78 is a long piece of advice on learning lessons from the past, good and bad, and to pass on those lessons to the next generation.

Psalm 79 returns to pleading on behalf of Israel. Though they deserved the calamities that came upon them because of their sin, God waits for them to cry out to him before ending the punishment.

Psalm 80 continues pleading for God to act, and then Psalm 81 praises God when he does. God has to restrain himself from blessing his people at times, because they haven’t learned the lesson and humbled themselves. Psalm 82 revisits the theme of unjust judges who must report to God who is judge over all. In the midst of the gods is a common expression in the OT in reference to even earthly rulers, which is fairly obvious in this context. Jesus quoted this Psalm in response to being accused of blasphemy in John 10:33.

Psalm 83 is another imprecatory prayer, but also a prophetic one according to many commentators. Whether it only came true in the distant past, or perhaps the 6-Day War, or in more recent times, or is yet to be completely fulfilled, no one can say for sure.

Psalm 84 expresses longing to return to God’s sanctuary, but the idealistic language could also hint at how things will be in the future Millennial kingdom. Psalm 85 is a praise song for God’s deliverance after punishing his people, and Psalm 86 is a time when David is again pleading for deliverance. Constable’s Notes includes a chart showing that many of the verses in this Psalm are also seen in others.

Psalm 87 is another song of praise about Zion, but Psalm 88 is the exact opposite: a lament without any mention of hope. Psalm 89 is back to praise, especially concerning the king of Israel, but at the end it returns to lament. Yet it includes a Messianic prophecy, since David’s dynasty was to last forever and it has been dormant for thousands of years now.

Book 4 General Intro

The Psalms of the fourth book were written by Moses (90) and David (101, 103), but the rest are anonymous. Its themes are the fleeting nature of life, God’s future earthly kingdom, the proper attitude and actions of his subjects, and the Creator’s power.

Psalm 90-106

Psalm 90 uses that creative power of God to remind us of our place and our need for both humility and gratitude. Verse 4 might be what 2 Peter 3:8 was drawn from, though it’s in the context of patience there as opposed to here, where our very short lives can’t be compared to God’s timelessness. The phrase about the length of our lives in verse 10 is taken by many as a prophetic limiter in reference to what Jesus said in Mat. 24:34, but the context here is that not only are our lives short, they’re also filled with struggle.

Psalm 91 has the familiar theme of God as our refuge. But notice that verses 10-11 are what Satan quoted when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness in Mat. 4:6. Jesus quoted Deut. 6:16 in response, and some take it as that he was calling himself God, which of course he is. But what he was actually saying is that if he had done what Satan tempted him to do, Jesus himself would have been testing God. So the lesson for us is that we too must not test God, even by citing scripture. The popular habit known as name it and claim it is one way people test God today. Also, Jesus referenced verse 13 when he sent out the disciples in Luke 10:19.

Psalm 92 praises God for his character of love and faithfulness to the righteous, but also his judgments against the wicked. Psalm 93 is another royal psalm, focused on both the earthly king of Israel and God as the ultimate undefeatable king over all. Psalm 94 exalts God as the great avenger, who is certain to punish those who think that his patience means he turns a blind eye to their evil.

Psalm 95 is another royal psalm, with more lessons from history. Verse 10-11 are quoted in Heb. 3 and 4, which points to the literal nation of Israel being denied entry to the promised land as a lesson for people today, who by their rejection of Jesus will be denied eternal rest. Psalm 96 continues to focus on God as king, and that all the nations should honor him. This had been Israel’s mission, to represent the one true God to the nations so they would want to abandon their false gods. But like many Christians today, Israel largely failed in that mission.

Psalm 97 stays with this royal theme, but focuses more on the yet-future time when God will finally establish his kingdom on earth. This is more obvious in the Greek OT, which has verse 1 as The Lord BECAME king. God has of course been king in eternity past, so anything that happens at a point in time is NOT from eternity past. Psalm 98 is yet another royal psalm of praise for respect for Israel’s God from all the nations, and Psalm 99 is another reminder of how the nations came to know him.

Psalm 100 is one of the most familiar and memorized of the Psalms along with the 23rd, being both short and happy. Notice that we should worship with joy, not always the somberness that many associate with being in God’s presence.

Psalm 101 is another of David’s songs, where he pledges loyalty to God by living a holy life. It reminds us as Christians that reaching out to a lost world doesn’t mean sinking to its level. David’s standards were much higher than that of many Christians. It’s possible that this psalm extended beyond the historical kingdom ruled by David, to the future kingdom of God.

Psalm 102 is another lament and confession, and a plea for deliverance. Psalm 103 is a praise song, and once again we should remember that the promises to deliver, forgive, and heal are not always realized in this life. The section beginning in verse 10 is a familiar description of God’s forgiveness, mercy, and love, because God remembers that we’re lowly clay pots that only last a short while.

Psalm 104 continues by describing God in regal terms, and that he is the Creator above all. Notice the descriptions of how the world was made: stretching out the skies like a tent curtain, laying the beams on clouds, setting the earth on foundations that will never move, and so on. Most take all this poetically, but nowhere in the Bible is the earth described as moving or spinning. This realm was made for us, so it seems reasonable to conclude that it is the heavens that move around us, rather than the earth worshiping the sun so to speak. Recall Genesis 1, which says the heavenly bodies serve to not only light the earth but also to tell us of hours, days, and appointed times. Was the clock made for people, or were people made for the clock?

Psalm 105 is a long praise of God for his faithfulness to Israel, which is named in verse 6 as Jacob. As stated in 1 Cor. 10:6 and 11, we should learn lessons from the history of the nation of Israel. Psalm 106 is the final one in Book 4, and it’s another reminder to learn those lessons. One of the most important lessons is the dangers of compromise and appeasement, of longing for the world instead of God.

Book 5 General Intro

The Psalms of the fifth book were written by David (108-110, 122, 124, 131, 133, 138-145) and Solomon (127), but the rest are anonymous. The overall character is praise for what God has and will do.

Psalm 107-119

Psalm 107 is a reminder to not keep silent when God has answered prayer, and that suffering should humble us. Psalm 108 is believed to be drawn from various others, and it focuses on the nation of Israel. Psalm 109 is a lament and a plea for vengeance, which should be a last resort rather than a first one. God delays his punishments, and so should we. But as Jesus said in Mat. 7:2, God will judge everyone according to how they judged others, so be careful to remember the Golden Rule Mat. 7:12.

Psalm 110 begins with a very familiar section concerning the Messiah, one Jesus quoted in Luke 20:42, and was also quoted in Luke, Acts, and Hebrews. He was telling them that the Messiah could not be a mere human, and at the same time, telling us all of the triune nature of God. Though the Hebrew text uses two different words translated Lord here, the Greek of both Testaments uses the same word for each. As for footstool, it referred to the ancient practice of the conquering king putting his foot on the neck of the defeated king. Here in verse 4 see the Messiah identified as an eternal priest in the order of Melchizedek, which is cited many times in Hebrews 5-7. The original Melchizedek, David, and Jesus have or will rule from the physical city of Jerusalem.

Psalm 111 is another acrostic poem, meaning it follows in the order of the Hebrew alphabet, which aided in memorization. And again, what needs to be memorized is the history of God with Israel. Psalm 112 continues, with emphasis on how we should live in light of that history, and Psalm 113 focuses on what God will do in the future if we learn those lessons.

Psalm 114 is a reminder specifically of God’s miracles in Egypt. Psalm 115 includes a warning against worshiping idols, as Israel had done even after seeing the miracles God performed to get them out of slavery. Psalm 116 is praise for deliverance, Psalm 117 calls on all the nations to praise him, and Psalm 118 describes God once again as a strong fortress.

Psalm 119, the longest acrostic psalm of all, is all about the commands (really teachings) of God. So we shouldn’t think of it so much as limited to the laws of Moses, but rather any and all that are part of the Word of God. We’ll make brief observations about each section, to highlight the differences from all the repetition.

Psalm 120-135

Psalm 120 through 136 are all songs of ascent, because they were sung as the people of Israel traveled up to Zion for the annual feasts. This one pleads with God for vindication and deliverance from liars.

Psalm 121 looks to the hills around Mt. Zion and is often quoted as a parting blessing, and Psalm 122 expresses the joy people should have at the thought of being in the presence of God. Psalm 123 reminds us of our dependence on God, and Psalm 124 is praise from David for delivering Israel from all her enemies.

Psalm 125 once again uses Zion as a symbol of God’s protection and blessing, and Psalm 126 praises God for proving it true. Psalm 127 is often quoted as a warning against forgetting God in our daily lives. But it also promises blessings for remembering God, though some twist verses 4-5 to mean Christians must have large families. Cherry-picking, which ignores context, has given birth to many heresies and damaged many lives.

Psalm 128 praises God again for his blessings, and Psalm 129 recalls the many times God delivered Israel. Psalm 130 is another cry for deliverance, and Psalm 131 urges people to follow the examples of godly people. Psalm 132 is where David expresses his frustration at being denied the honor of building a temple for God, as Solomon stated in 1 Kings 5:3.

Psalm 133 expresses the delight when people actually manage to get along, and Psalm 134 is about temple priests praising God. Psalm 135 continues by extending the call for praise from all the people, along with more lessons from Israel’s history to justify such praise.

Psalm 136-150

Psalm 136 is a responsive hymn of praise between song leaders and congregation, about the enduring love of God. In contrast, Psalm 137 is a lament during Israel’s exile in Babylon, when singing praise songs was most difficult. Notice that verse 8 says daughter of Babylon and not just Babylon, so we should be careful not to always think the word daughter means someone else, as many do when studying prophecy.

Psalm 138 is a praise from David for God’s deliverance, blessings, and empowerment, and in Psalm 139 the praise is for God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and superiority in every way. Verse 15 is proof that our spirits exist before we’re born, so it’s a strong rebuttal to abortion. Yet verse 16 is often taken out of context to teach that we have no free will, but what it actually says is that the number of our days is predetermined, not whether we’ll spend eternity with God.

But what about verses 21-22 where David expresses absolute hatred for those who hate God? We know from John 3:16 that God loves the whole world, and from Ezekiel 18:32 that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and from 2 Peter 3:9 that God doesn’t want anyone to be destroyed. Yet we also know that God will punish the wicked themselves, not just their deeds, per Mat. 25:46 and Rev. 14:11. But God’s punishment is not out of hatred but holiness, so was David wrong to hate? Notice that he follows that thought with a plea for God to examine his heart and to lead him in the right way; could it be that he knew it was wrong to hate? This seems, at least to me, to be a better solution than that the clear expression of hatred doesn’t mean what it says. The last two verses are often prayed by Christians today, but we need to make sure we really mean those words.

Psalm 140 is yet another plea for deliverance, and verse 3 is quoted in Rom. 3:13. Psalm 141 continues that theme, as also does Psalm 142 and Psalm 143. Psalm 144 continues as well, and verse 3 is quoted in Heb. 2:6. Then it turns to confident hope, which continues into Psalm 145. Then Psalm 146 reminds us that we only overcome evil by God’s power.

Psalm 147 praises God for his wisdom and provision, while Psalm 148 invites all of creation to join in the praise. Notice that verse 4, written well after the Flood, still refers to waters above the sky. Psalm 149 is a praise of victory for Israel, and finally Psalm 150 is nothing but praise, in the most loud and energetic terms.

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