As we read through the Bible this year, it’s good to have some information about what we’re reading. The Bible isn’t like other books we read: Each separate book of the Bible has a backstory and a cultural context that is critical to understanding. It’s also good to know how the Bible fits together; specifically, how the Gospel (the main message of Scripture) is found in each book. I’ve written these short previews so that you can have some basic information as you read. I hope it’s helpful. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you have!
All In Study Notes: Psalms
Psalms is the longest book of the Bible, and the only one entirely made up of songs: 150 songs, to be precise. It has been called “Israel’s hymnal.” The Jews sang these songs in corporate worship, in traveling to Jerusalem, and in times of personal devotion or crisis.
Most of the Psalms were written by King David. Other authors include Asaph, Korah, Jeduthun, Ethan, Heman, Solomon, and Moses (Psalm 90).
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It is broken into sections that each begin with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
Psalm 118:8 is the “center verse” of the Bible: It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
The Psalms fall into five categories:
- Hymns of Praise: Ex: Psalm 8:1-4.
- Lament or complaint: Ex: Psalm 12:1-2, 74:1-3. This is actually the most common Psalm.
- Imprecatory: These are Psalms which pray for judgment upon one’s enemies. To “imprecate” means to curse. Ex: Psalm 69:1-4, 22-25. You can find a great article about how as Christians we should see these difficult Psalms here: http://timothytennent.com/2012/11/01/imprecatory-psalms-are-all-the-psalms-suitable-for-christian-use/
- Royal: Ex: Psalm 20:7-9. These Psalms are asking a blessing on the King and therefore, the nation.
- Wisdom: Ex: Psalm 1. These Psalms give us wisdom about how to live.
Themes to look for in Psalms:
Worship: The fact that the longest book of the Bible is a hymnal should tell us how important our worship is to God. The Psalms teach us so much about the greatness of God.
Prayer: We think of prayer as asking God for things. But the Psalms show us how to talk to God about all of life. One way to grow in closeness to God is to re-write a Psalm in your own words.
Raw honesty: The Psalms say things to God that make us uncomfortable. We’re used to “pretending” in our Christianity. But God is not afraid of how we really feel. We should talk to Him about our sorrow, our disappointment, our anger and doubts.
Comfort: The Psalmists compare God to a shield, a rock, a fortress, and a protective shepherd. These words brought them comfort in times of stress, and they can do the same for us today.
The Gospel: All of the Psalms ultimately point to Jesus, either directly or indirectly. Psalm 22 is the Psalm Jesus quoted from the cross. Psalm 118:22-23 is the Psalm most often quoted in the New Testament.