Psalms (intro)

Value of the Psalms

Fee and Stuart (How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth) outline three benefits of the Psalms for both their ancient and modern readers:-

1. ‘The psalms can serve as a guide to worship. By this we mean that the worshiper who seeks to praise God or to appeal to God or to remember God’s benefits can use the psalms as a formal means of expression of his or her thoughts and feelings. A psalm is a carefully composed literary preservation of words designed to be spoken. When a psalm touches on a topic or a theme that we wish to express to the Lord, it can help us express our concerns in spite of our own lack of skill to find the right words.

2. ‘The psalms demonstrate to us how we can relate honestly to God—how to be honest and open in expressing joy, disappointment, anger, or other emotions. On this point they do not so much provide doctrinal instruction as they give, by example, instruction in the godly articulation of even our strongest feelings.

3.  ‘The psalms demonstrate the importance of reflection and meditation on that which God has done for us. They invite us to prayer, to controlled thinking on and discussion of God’s Word (that is what meditation is), and to reflective fellowship with other believers. Such actions help shape in us a life of purity and charity. The Psalms, like no other literature, lift us to a position where we can commune with God, capturing a sense of the greatness of his kingdom and a sense of what living with our heavenly Father for eternity will be like. Even in our darkest moments, when life has become so painful as to seem unendurable, God is with us. “Out of the depths” (Ps 130:1) we wait and watch for the Lord’s deliverance, knowing we can trust God in spite of our feelings. To cry to God for help is not a judgment on God’s faithfulness but an affirmation of it.’

Laments

The lament is the most common type of psalm. More than sixty laments are found in the psalter. These include both individual (such as Ps 3; 5-7; 13; 17; 22; 25-28; 31; 38-40; 42-43; 51; 54-57; 69-71; 120; 139; 142) and corporate (such as Ps 9; 12; 44; 58; 60; 74; 79-80; 94; 137) laments in which the person or nation cries out its anguish to God. David uttered two outside the psalms, for Saul and Jonathan (2 Sam 1:17-27) and for Abner (2 Sam 3:33-34). Such hymns both agonize over the situation and petition God for help. (Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral)

Christ in the Psalms

The primary meaning of the psalms is always to be sought first of all in their immediate, historical context. But this does not exhaust their significance.  No one can read the psalms without becoming aware that certain psalms and individual verses have a deeper, future significance beyond the simple meaning of the words. The Messiah is not mentioned by name, but his figure is foreshadowed, as later generations of Jews came to realize. And the New Testament writers are quick to apply these verses to Jesus as the prophesied Messiah.

Some psalms, particularly the `royal psalms’ (of which Psa 2, 72, 110 are the most striking) picture an ideal divine king/priest/judge never fully realized in any actual king of Israel. Only the Messiah combines these roles in the endless, universal reign of peace and justice envisaged by the psalmists.

Other psalms depict human suffering in terms which seem far-fetched in relation to ordinary experience, but which proved an extraordinarily accurate description of the actual sufferings of Christ. Under God’s inspiration, the psalmists chose words and pictures which were to take on a significance they can hardly have dreamed of. Psalm 22, the psalm Jesus quoted as he hung on the cross (verse 1, Matthew 27:46), is the most amazing example. Compare verse 16 with John 20:25; verse 18 with Mark 15:24. (See also Psalm 69:21 and Matthew 27:34, 48).

There are also many other verses in the psalms which New Testament writers apply to Jesus as the Christ:

Psalm 2:7, `You are my son’: Acts 13:33;

Psalm 8:6, `everything under his feet’: Hebrews 2:6-10;

Psalm 16:10, `not give me up to Sheol . . .’: Acts 2:27; 13:35

Psalm 22:8, `let him deliver him’: Matthew 27:43; Psalm 40:7-8, `I delight to do your will’: Hebrews 10:7;

Psalm 41:9, `my close friend . . . has lifted his heel against me’: John 13:18

Psalm 45:6, `your throne endures for ever’: Hebrews 1:8;

Psalm 69:9, `zeal for your house has consumed me’: John 2:17

Psalm 110:4, `a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek’: Hebrews 7:17;

Psalm 118:22, `the stone which the builders rejected . . .’: Matthew 21:42;

Psalm 118:26, `blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’: Matthew 21:9.

Bibliography

Commentaries by Kidner, Plumer, Spurgeon (Treasury of David), Wilcock, Barnes, Calvin, Broyles, Mays, Williams, Grogan, Boice, Craigie/Tait/Allen.