A. BOOKS OF HISTORY.
Up till now we have been studying the Bible books containing the history of the world. Commencing with the creation of the heavens, earth and Adam and, Eve. It spoke of the Flood, the Tower of Babel and the history of Israel. These true stories are very interesting, informative and contain spiritually enriching teachings. Through them:
- God speaks to man and conveys facts.
- God speaks in normal speach (conversation) form.
B. THE BOOK OF THE HEART OF MAN.
We will now take a look at the Book of Psalms which is very different from the preceding books. In this book:
- Man speaks to God. Man speaks to Him from his own heart in the form of prayer, praise and worship.
- Man speaks to God by way of composed songs. These songs are handed down to us without music; as poems. (We have composed music to sing some of them.)
When we as people are emotionally stirred about something, be it anger, disappointment, love or whatever, those that are musically gifted, love to express their thoughts by way of music, especially by way of a song. Therefor most people are fond of music, favouring songs (?) Our young people download their favourite music on their cell phones and listen to it wherever they go. They even use earphones to block out other sounds. With some recordings the words of the song can be discerned. With others, the words are not clear or they are without words at all; but the tune and rythm is pleasent to listen to and stir our emotions. Most favourite songs seem to deal with love affairs (?) We also have wonderful Gospel songs.
In the Book of Psalms only the words are recorded. It does not even have the sheet music from which the music can be read and played. This may be disappointing, but we must keep in mind that God does not want to entertain us, but to change us; change our characters into the likeness of that of His Son. His words contain spiritual truths that challenge us.
Music, of course, also changes from generation to generation and more recent generations, like us, may not enjoy that which Israel enjoyed hundreds of years ago. Different cultures also enjoy totally different kinds of music.
C. BASIC CONTENT OF THE BOOK.
The Book of Psalms contains 150 songs written by several of God’s people. Most were written by King David whose life we studied earlier on. There were however also other composers like Moses, Deborah, Asaph and the sons of Korah.
All of these Psalms flow from the very hearts of the writers. In some of them, they tell their listeners about God and what He did for them or for his people. Then there are those Psalms that are directed directly at God. In these, the writers confess their sins to Him or cry out to save them from their enemies or deliver them from painful circumstances. Then again, there are songs in which God is praised, adored, worshipped and extolled.
We must however not forget that the Psalms are not just beautiful songs written by God’s people, but that every one of them has been inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. We could therefore say that just like all the other books of the Bible they have been written by God, using different human instruments to express his thoughts.
That is why we also find so many references in the Psalms to things that would only happen hundreds of years after the Psalm was written. These are prophesies. Many of them refer to Jesus the Son of God Who would, in the distant future, be born, live and die to save sinners, like you and me. A good illustration of such prophesy is found in verses 14 to 19 of Psalm 22.
- Psalm 22.
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. 18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. 19 But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.”
This clearly refers to the thoughts of Jesus as he was dying on the cross.
- Psalm 23.
It is so difficult to single out certain Psalms from a total of 150 for every one has something special. But let us also have a look at Ps 23. This probably is the most well known of all. Written by David, it is called the “Shepherd Psalm.” Let us read it:
“A psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”
We note that this really is David’s testimony of how he experienced God. He grew up as a shepherd boy and was very fond of his sheep. He always did his very best to feed, water and protect them. He even rescued them from the very mouth of a lion or bear. Now, in his heart, he sees himself as helpless as a ewe or lamb unable to care for itself. But he also sees God as his Shepherd that loves him and takes care of him in every situation. Many people know this Psalm by heart. If you do not, you may consider to try to memorise it.
- Psalm 34.
AnotherPsalm of David.
“I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. 6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. 8 Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. 9 Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. 10 The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. 11 Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. 12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. 14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. 15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; 16 the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth 17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles 18 The LORD is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 19 A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all; 20 he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.”
What an encouraging Psalm. David was a brave and mighty warrior. As a young man, hardly more than a teenager, he slew the giant, Goliath, single handed when all the other warriors were too scared to fight him.
In the first verses of this Psalm we however see another side of his nature; he calls himself a poor man, a pitiable man, a man with many troubles, a man sometimes fearing for his life. This is so different from the way that worldly people speak. They praise themselves and ascribe their successes to themselves. They will never admit that there are times when they are scared; especially not the menfolk.
Then the Psalm changes and David turns the eyes of his listeners away from himself and unto the Lord. He tells them that if they fear the Lord, they will never be ashamed but their faces will be radiant with joy. The Angel of God (the Lord Jesus with His angels) will encamp around them to protect them. As far as food is concerned, although powerful lions may go hungry, those that trust in God will never lack anything. Regarding protection: God’s ears are continually attentive and his eyes open in regard to his righteous people so that He can immediately rush to their aid when they call out to him.
- Psalm 51.
Another well known Psalm by David is Psalm 51. He wrote this Psalm and had it sung at the tabernacle after he had committed a grievous sin. We read verses 3 to 12:
“Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
Where shall we nowadays find a king that will so openly confess his sin in public. David even wrote this song about the evil he had done and it was sung in the “house of the Lord”. It is only when we are deeply convicted of sin that we can be so open about it. Then we are more concerned about the wrong we have done against God, than about the shame it brings upon us as the people begin to gossip about us.
He also realises that it is not his tears or even his confession of sin that will cleanse his heart. God has to do it, for sin is deeply rooted in the heart of man. He asks the Lord to blot out his sin. Then he goes even further and requests Him to create within him a pure heart and a steadfast spirit. Now we can see why God said that David was a man after his own heart.
- Psalm 73.
Another very special Psalm is Psalm 73, written by Asaph. It commences by Asaph telling his listeners of the inward struggle he went through. Apparently he had been suffering some shortage or pain for a prolonged period. While he, who knew and loved God was in need, he considered the ungodly people surrounding him. What he saw, was that they had everything they needed, lacking nothing. They had both money and health.
This troubled him very much: why do God’s people suffer while ungodly people prosper? God knew the thoughts that Asaph was thinking. Therefore He fetched him, brought him deep into His presence and showed him how the lives of the ungodly end up. He saw that their riches were like slippery mud that causes them to slide into destruction. He then realised that riches without God, is very bad for a person for it blinds his eyes to spiritual danger. Now let us read this Psalm:
“A psalm of Asaph. Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. 3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. 7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. 8 They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. 9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. 10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. 11 They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?” 12 This is what the wicked are like—always carefree, they increase in wealth.
13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. 14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. 15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. 18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. 19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! 20 As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, 22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. 23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterwards you will take me into glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever. 27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. 28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.”
- Psalm 103.
My personal favourite Psalm is Psalm 103. This whole Psalm is devoted to praising and worshipping God. We as human beings were created to praise, worship, adore and enjoy our Creator. Let us read it:
“Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger for ever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. 20 Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. 21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. 22 Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul.”
Comments on this Psalm will fill a book, so we cannot do that within this Bible study. However, read it over and over, reflect on its rich contents and memorise it like I did.
D. GOOD ADVICE.
There are also so many, many more beautiful Psalms that speak deeply to the heart of believers. You will do well to read them all and let their messages nestle within your heart.
Do not miss our next Bible study dealing with the very interesting sayings of king Solomon, the wisest man (apart from the Lord Jesus) that ever lived.
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