The book of Psalms consists of 150 Hebrew songs used for worship and to commemorate various emotions or events. David contributed the majority of these songs. If you are at all familiar with a modern hymn book (used very rarely now in many churches), it looks something like this.
I’ve highlighted a few elements which are not part of the hymns themselves, but which describe some things about them. The red boxes are categories used to organize the hymns in similar content. The blue boxes identify the authors of the text and composer of the music, and the green circles identify the names of other tunes which are associated with this particular hymn. In the same way, the Psalms have identifying textual information, not part of the scripture itself, but which tell something about the context or origin of the psalm.
As I reviewed the psalms from this week, I noted the “title” which was placed in my ESV bible to help identify or summarize each psalm. This was helpful in recalling major themes or key phrases associated with each. The “titles” for each of this week’s psalms are shown below.
- The faithful have vanished
- How long, O Lord?
- The fool says there is no God
- Who shall dwell on your holy hill
- You will not abandon my soul
- In the shadow of your wings
- The law of the Lord is perfect
- Trust in the name of the Lord our God
- The king rejoices in the Lord’s strength
- Why have you forsaken me?
- The Lord is my shepherd
- The King of Glory
- Teach me your paths
- I will bless the Lord
- The Lord is my light and my salvation
- The Lord is my strength and my shield
- Ascribe to the Lord glory
- Joy comes with the morning
- Into your hand I commit my spirit
- Blessed are the forgiven
- Great is the Lord
- How precious is your steadfast love
- He will not forsake His saints
- Do not forsake me, O Lord
- What is the measure of my days?
- My help and my deliverer
- O Lord, be gracious to me
- There is none who does good
- Cast your burden on the Lord
- God who judges the earth
- Lead me to the Rock
- My soul waits for God alone
- Hide me from the wicked
- O God of our salvation
- How awesome are your deeds
- Make your face shine upon us
- God shall scatter his enemies
- Save me, O God
- O Lord, do not delay
- Great is your steadfast love
- I will walk with integrity
Notice the variety of “titles” or themes. Just as a modern hymn book lists hymns by theme, there are some common themes among the Psalms as well. Some Psalms, such as 24 “The King of Glory” are just songs of praise and worship of God. Some express confidence in God as our protector (see Psalm 23). Some ask hard questions of God, wondering when he’s going to act or why he doesn’t seem to be doing so (e.g. Psalm 22). I’ve always found it interesting and encouraging to see how so many of these types of Psalms ask those hard questions, but still come back around to praising God and voicing trust in him anyway, even through the tough times.
Some Psalms are assertions of intent to walk faithfully with God (Psalm 101). This is a good model for daily recommitment to obedience to God. Some Psalms are entreaties for God to act in a specific way (Psalm 70).
Like a hymn book, the Psalms can be useful in corporate (group) worship. But they can also be useful in individual worship of God. Use them to help you voice your praises, frustrations and petitions to God!
Next week the readings will finish the Psalms attributed to David, including 103, 108-110, 122, 124, 131, 133, 138-141, 143-145. David also appointed music leaders named Heman, Ethan, and Asaph, to whom the following Psalms are attributed: 88-89, 50, 73-82. We’ll also pick back up with the historical narrative storyline in 1 Chronicles 29, 2 Chronicles 1, and 2 Kings 2-3.