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25. Wisdom Literature: The Psalms, Part I


Today just happens to be my sister’s birthday. In addition, Easter (perhaps it would be better to say “Resurrection Sunday”) is just a week away. This is a time when the greeting card section of the supermarket will be busy with folks looking for just the right card. We purchase greeting cards because someone else is better at putting words to our thoughts than we are. Strangely, though, many of the greeting cards are not the traditional “Hallmark Card” – the card for those “who care enough to send the very best.” Nowadays, people are just as inclined to send a humorous card as they are to send a serious one, especially for birthdays, anniversaries, and even sweetheart cards. When relationships ran deeper, people had strong feelings, and they struggled to find just the right words to express them. Now, many do not want truly intimate relationships, and so they send humorous cards instead, cards that never get below the surface of the relationship.

The Book of Psalms is something like the “Hallmark Cards” section of the Bible. Here we find words that express our deepest and strongest emotions, no matter what the circumstance. Some psalms express joyful praise for God’s acts of deliverance; others express repentance and confession of sin; still others cry out to God because He appears to be oblivious to the writer’s plight. The whole spectrum of human emotions is expressed in the psalms. It is for this reason that men and women have turned to the psalms over the centuries. The psalms express the deepest emotions of the heart.

I have a very daunting task – I must attempt to deal with the Book of Psalms in two lessons. In this lesson, I will attempt to give a very broad overview of the psalms, seeking to persuade you that this book is worth a great deal of your time and attention. I will attempt to show why the psalms are so important and what unique contribution they make to the Holy Scriptures. I will endeavor to summarize some of the characteristics of the psalms. Then, we will briefly look at one psalm, Psalm 73. Finally, I will seek to show how the psalms apply to us and to our worship today.

Why Are The Psalms Important?

After Isaiah, Psalms is the most frequently quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament. Jesus indicated that the psalms spoke of him:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44).193

On the cross of Calvary, Jesus cried out the words of Psalm 22:1. The apostles used the psalms to prove that Jesus was the Messiah (see Acts 2:24-36; 12:29-39). Psalms also played an important role in the early church:

What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each one has a song, has a lesson, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all these things be done for the strengthening of the church (1 Corinthians 14:26).

18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18-19).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).

The psalms have been important throughout church history. Chrysostom and Augustine are among those who have written commentaries on the psalms. John Calvin had this to say about the psalms:

“This book I am wont to style an anatomy of all parts of the soul; for no one will discover in himself a single feeling whereof the image is not reflected in this mirror. Nay, all griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, anxieties – in short, all those tumultuous agitations wherewith the minds of men are wont to be tossed – the Holy Ghost hath here represented to the life.”194

Luther said of the psalms:

“The Psalter is the favorite book of all the saints … [Each person], whatever his circumstances may be, finds in [the book] psalms and words which are appropriate to the circumstances in which he finds himself and meet his needs as adequately as if they were composed exclusively for his sake, and in such a way that he himself could not improve on them nor find or desire any better psalms or words.”195

Bernhard Anderson reminds his readers that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazi regime, was a man deeply influenced by the Psalms.196 His last publication before his death was The Prayer Book of the Bible: An Introduction to the Psalms (1940). On May 15, 1943, he wrote these words: “I am reading the Psalms daily, as I have done for years. I know them and love them more than any other book in the Bible.”197

What Is The Unique Contribution of The Psalms?

(1) The psalms are poetry. Psalms are poetry, but not the kind of poetry to which many of us are accustomed. When you look at the psalms in the King James Version of the Bible, you will discover that the format of the Book of Psalms is no different than that of Genesis. It was not until over 100 years later than Bishop Robert Lowth rediscovered the genius of Hebrew poetry.198 Hebrew poetry is not like our poetry. When we think of poetry, we think of lines that rhyme:

Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.

Hebrew poetry does not rely heavily on rhyme; it is based upon repetition and development of thought from one line to the next. This repetition is known as “parallelism.”199 In synonymous parallelism, the first line is echoed in the second, with only a slight change of terms:

Why do the nations cause a commotion?
Why are the countries devising plots that will fail? (Psalm 2:1; see also 3:1).

In antithetical parallelism, the words of the first line are affirmed in the second, not by repetition, but by contrast:

Certainly the Lord rewards the behavior of the godly,
but the behavior of the wicked is self-destructive (Psalm 1:6; see also 40:4).

In climactic parallelism, the second line refines, develops, and completes the thought of the first:

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the nations,
ascribe to the Lord splendor and strength! (Psalm 96:7)

There are other types of parallelism, but this gives you some examples of how parallelism is the backbone of Hebrew poetry. How wise and gracious God was to use Hebrew poetry, rather than the kind of poetry to which we are accustomed. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to translate “Mary Had a Little Lamb” into the Hebrew language so that it rhymed? Hebrew poetry is the most easily translated form of poetry I know of, and this is the poetry God chose for the Book of Psalms.

Poetry is a medium of expression that facilitates the communication of deep feelings and emotions. When my father was in the Navy during World War II, he wrote poems to my mother. (In fact, until recently, my father wrote a poem to each of his children and grandchildren for their birthdays.) During my years of prison ministry, I was shocked to learn how many prisoners write poetry. For some reason, this is considered an acceptable way of revealing one’s feelings (something that is not done very much inside a prison).

Because the psalms are poetry, they must be interpreted in a different manner than historical narrative. We expect figures of speech and what appears to be exaggeration. We know better than to take every word literally. For example, in the psalms we read,

Let the rivers clap their hands!
Let the mountains sing in unison (Psalm 98:8).

(2) The psalms are songs. The Hebrew word Tehillim that is the title of the Book of Psalms in the Hebrew Bible means “songs of praise.” The terms found at the heading of many psalms are often musical terms. Sometimes there will be a reference to the “choir director” in the first verse of psalm (e.g., Psalms 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, etc.). Various musical instruments are mentioned, such as the flute (Psalm 5) and stringed instruments (Psalms 4, 6, 54, 55).

Music played a vital part in the worship of ancient Israel, just as it has in the church through the ages and down to the present. Martin Luther once said,

“He who despises music … does not please me. Music is a gift of God, not a gift of men … . After theology, I accord to music the highest place and the greatest honor.”200

Music is not an incidental part of our worship; it plays a fundamental role in our lives. David’s music somehow calmed the demonically troubled spirit of Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23). Prophetic revelations through God’s Spirit were closely linked with music in at least a couple of instances (1 Kings 10:5-6, 9-11; 2 Kings 3:15).

The ancient Israelites knew the tune to at least some of the psalms:

For the music director; according to the tune of “lilies;’ by the Korachites, a well-written poem, a love song (preface to Psalm 45).

Somewhere along the line the musical score for the psalms was lost, and I am inclined to think that this was no accident. It means that in order for us to sing the psalms we must put them to music, our own music. It would have to be this way. Can you imagine what it would have been like trying to match the words to the notes when the psalms were translated? Sometimes, due to the nature of translation, there would be twice as many words as notes, and at other times just the reverse. Some Hebrew words MUST be translated with a phrase,so more words are required.

God knew that the psalms would be translated into many, many languages, and that each language group would have its own culture, its own music, and its own preferences. The psalms encourage us to write the musical score which we find appropriate to the psalm and to our culture.

I am sometimes amused when someone stands and says, “Can we please sing hymn number 256, and can we sing it worshipfully?” Worshipfully means different things to different people. To some, it means singing a cappella; to others it means singing softly and slowly; to still others it means singing loudly, perhaps with the clapping of hands. The psalms do not contain any prescribed music so that we can put these inspired words to music in a way that fits our own cultural grid. This is, of course, within the limits of propriety, but there is a considerable range of freedom here.

(3) The psalms are expressions of worship. The psalms are an expression of man’s response to God in the light of his circumstances. The range of precipitating circumstances is very wide in the psalms. Ron Allen has, with some words of caution, divided the Scriptures into three major categories: revelation, reflection, and response.201 Revelation would include the narrative accounts of the Bible, for example. Reflection would include some of the wisdom books, such as Proverbs. Response would be expressed in the psalms.

Often, the psalms are one’s public response to God as an outgrowth of a more private encounter with God. We see the psalmists expressing their worship to God as the fulfillment of their vow to praise God publicly for His intervention in their lives in answer to their petitions:

I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
before all his people (Psalm 116:14).

You are the reason I offer praise in the great assembly;
I will fulfill my promises before the Lord’s loyal followers. (Psalm 22:25; see also 66:13-16)

The psalmist frequently urges his fellow-Israelites to join him in worshipping God. In Romans 12:15, we are exhorted to,

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

The psalms actually facilitate this. We are enabled not only to enter into the experience of the psalmists, but also to enter into their inner thoughts, especially their thoughts about God:

1 As a deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God!
2 I thirst for God,
for the living God.
I say, “When will I be able to go and appear in God’s presence?”
3 I cannot eat, I weep day and night;
all day long they say to me, “Where is your God?”
4 I will remember and weep!
For I was once walking along with the great throng to the temple of God,
shouting and giving thanks along with the crowd as we celebrated the holy festival.
5 Why are you depressed, O my soul?
Why are you upset?
Wait for God!
For I will again give thanks
to my God for his saving intervention.
6 I am depressed,
so I will pray to you while I am trapped here in the region of the upper Jordan,
from Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
7 One deep stream calls out to another at the sound of your waterfalls;
all your billows and waves overwhelm me.
8 By day the Lord decrees his loyal love,
and by night he gives me a song,
a prayer to the living God.
9 I will pray to God, my high ridge:
“Why do you ignore me?
Why must I walk around mourning
because my enemies oppress me?” (Psalm 42:1-9)

(4) The psalms are prayers:

This collection of the prayers of David son of Jesse ends here (Psalm 72:20).

At the moment, a great deal of attention is being given the “prayer of Jabez:”

Jabez called out to the God of Israel, “If only you would greatly bless me and expand my territory! May your hand be with me! Keep me from harm so I might not endure pain!” God answered his prayer (1 Chronicles 4:10).

I am not trying to fault those who would have us model some of our prayers after this “prayer of Jabez,” but I would point out that the psalms are prayers that were specifically designed to be repeated. I’m not quite as certain about the prayer of Jabez. In fact, it seems to me that most of the psalms are the prayers of men who have found themselves in very difficult circumstances. They are often prayers for deliverance from danger and death, not prayers for prosperity. I would be inclined to say that the prayer of Jabez is narrow in its focus (on Jabez and his well-being), while the psalms focus more on God, and they are definitely much more “broadband” in terms of their content.

(5) The psalms are instruction. The psalms are a summation, a condensation, of Old Testament theology. The psalms are rich in their content so far as doctrine is concerned. We find the attributes of God to be a constant theme in the psalms. We see the law the way it was meant to be viewed in the psalms. The psalms also summarize the history of God’s dealings with man in the Old Testament (see Psalms 78, 105). The psalms contain a great deal of prophecy, as we shall point out in our next lesson. The psalms make it easier to learn God’s Word and to memorize it. Psalm 119, for example, is arranged alphabetically. Each segment of the psalm begins with the next letter of the alphabet. The psalms are rich in instruction. What incredible insight we are given concerning the Old Testament law:

97 O how I love your law!
All day long I meditate on it.
98 Your law makes me wiser than my enemies,
for I am always aware of it.
99 I even have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your rules.
100 I am more discerning than the older men,
for I observe your precepts.
101 I stay away from the evil path,
so that I might keep your instructions.
102 I do not turn aside from your regulations,
for you teach me.
103 Your words are tastier
in my mouth than honey!
104 Your precepts give me discernment.
Therefore I hate all deceitful actions (Psalm 119:97-104).

(6) The psalms speak for us. We know that the psalms speak to us, but they also speak for us. The psalms may express our hearts and our thoughts better than our own words can. On several occasions, I have been asked if Romans 8:26-27 is a prooftext for speaking in tongues:

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will (Romans 8:26-27).

Without seeking to engage in a debate over the gift of tongues, I would say that whether or not one believes this gift exists today, I don’t think Romans 8:26-27 is referring to the gift of tongues. This text tells us that the Spirit helps us to communicate with God, especially when we can’t seem to find the words to express our hearts to God. We know that the Spirit of God also communicates from God to us things that our natural minds cannot comprehend:

14 The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to advise him? But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).

This communication from God is not by means of the gift of tongues. Indeed, without interpretation, we don’t even know what has been spoken in tongues (see 1 Corinthians 14:6-19). Furthermore, the Scriptures are very clear that the gift of tongues is only given to some, but not to all of the saints, just as any other gift (1 Corinthians 12:29-30). If the gift of tongues is the means by which we are enabled to communicate our inexpressible thoughts to God in prayer, then not all saints are thus enabled, because not all saints speak in tongues.

My point here is that the provision spoken of in Romans 8:26-27 must be a universal provision for all saints, and not just for some. The psalms are one means by which the Spirit of God helps us to articulate the thoughts and groanings of our hearts. Our hearts trouble us, but we can’t quite seem to put our finger on what it is that is causing our distress. Then we turn to the psalms and find a particular psalm that precisely describes our own struggle. I am not saying that the psalms are the only “universal” provision the Spirit of God places at our disposal, but I do think the psalms are one of the Spirit’s provisions that help us to express the deep feelings of our hearts.

It was Athanasius, an outstanding church leader in the fourth century, who reportedly declared “that the Psalms have a unique place in the Bible because most of the Scripture speaks to us, while the Psalms speak for us.”202

Martin Luther found the Psalms to be a school of prayer:

“The Christian can learn to pray in the psalter, for here he can hear how the saints talk with God. The number of moods which are expressed here, joy and suffering, hope and care, make it possible for every Christian to find himself in it, and to pray with the psalms.”203

A Brief Look at Psalm 73204

I have chosen Psalm 73 to demonstrate the manner in which the psalms teach theology. Psalm 73 addresses the problem of evil, as does Psalm 37 and others. Psalm 73 is one of those psalms that ends on a happy note. Not every psalm ends this way. In some psalms, the psalmist cries out to God for deliverance or divine intervention because God has not already acted. In such cases, the psalmist must simply cast himself on the God of the Bible and trust in Him in spite of his circumstances, based upon His character, His covenant promises, and His actions in the past (see, for example, Psalms 6, 13, 34, 44, 74, 79, 80, 89, 94). In Psalm 73, however, the psalmist reaches a resolution to his problem beforehand, which he expresses in his psalm. Let us briefly consider the psalmist’s problem, the solution he reaches, and his response to God.

The author of this psalm is Asaph, the author of 12 of the psalms.205 Asaph is the chief “worship leader” who ministered before the ark of the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:4-5). I can imagine that much of his agony came from looking out upon those who came to worship, knowing how hypocritical some must have been. Asaph’s dilemma is based upon this fundamental premise, believed by every faithful Israelite:

Certainly God is good to Israel,

and to those whose motives are pure! (Psalm 73:1)

The Mosaic Covenant assured God’s people that He would bless those who were righteous and that He would punish the wicked. As Asaph observed men in the course of his ministry, this did not seem to be happening. Indeed, it seemed as though just the opposite was happening – it looked as though God was blessing the wicked, or worse yet, that the wicked were prospering and God didn’t seem to know or care!

2 But as for me, my feet almost slipped;
my feet almost slid out from under me.
3 For I envied those who are proud,
as I observed the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For they suffer no pain;
their bodies are strong and well-fed.
5 They are immune to the trouble common to men;
they do not suffer as other men do.
6 Arrogance is their necklace,
and violence their clothing.
7 Their prosperity causes them to do wrong;
their thoughts are sinful.
8 They mock and say evil things;
they proudly threaten violence.
9 They speak as if they rule in heaven,
and lay claim to the earth.
10 Therefore they have more than enough food to eat,
and even suck up the water of the sea.
11 They say, “How does God know what we do?
Is the sovereign one aware of what goes on?”
12 Take a good look! This is what the wicked are like,

those who always have it so easy and get richer and richer (Psalm 73:2-12).

Asaph makes it clear that he has sinned by doubting God’s goodness and by envying the wicked due to their prosperity. The context of the entire psalm should make it clear to us that Asaph’s perception was far from accurate. Not everyone who was prosperous was wicked, nor were all the righteous poor and oppressed. Neither has it ever been true that the wicked are entirely free from pain and suffering. Asaph saw some who were wicked who were also prosperous, and they seemed to be getting away with it. What made matters worse was that these same folks were arrogant about their sin, boasting about it (verse 8). They seemed to act and speak as though they were God. They were so arrogant that they even spoke against God (verse 9). They dared to think and to say that God must not know or care how they acted (verses 10-11). To sum it all up, as Asaph looked at the wicked, he envied their prosperity, and he began to doubt the fundamental premise that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. He nearly denied one of the fundamentals of the Jewish faith:

Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

Asaph confesses how close he came to “throwing in the towel” and giving up:

13 I concluded, “Surely in vain I have kept my motives pure
and maintained a pure lifestyle.
14 I suffer all day long,
and am punished every morning” (Psalm 73:13-14).

What good had being righteous done him, Asaph questioned. This assumes, of course, that he truly was righteous – a very dangerous assumption:

We are all like one who is unclean,
all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight.
We all wither like a leaf;
our sins carry us away like the wind (Isaiah 64:6).

Asaph honestly confessed his sin and the dangers it posed for himself and others:

If I had publicized these thoughts,
I would have betrayed your loyal followers (Psalm 73:15).
21 Yes, my spirit was bitter,
and my insides felt sharp pain.
22 I was ignorant and lacked insight;
I was as senseless as an animal before you (Psalm 73:21-22).

The solution to Asaph’s quandary came when he went to the sanctuary of God and was able to see the wicked from a divine and eternal perspective:

16 When I tried to make sense of this,
it was troubling to me.
17 Then I entered the precincts of God’s temple,
and understood the destiny of the wicked.
18 Surely you put them in slippery places;
you bring them down to ruin.
19 How desolate they become in a mere moment!
Terrifying judgments make their demise complete!
20 They are like a dream after one wakes up.
O sovereign Master, when you awake you will despise them (Psalm 73:16-20).

I remember the one time my brother and I went salmon fishing on a charter boat off the coast of Oregon. The fishing wasn’t that good on that particular day (that’s how it usually is with me and fishing). But there was a fellow on the boat who was pouring over a dirty magazine as he waited for the fish to bite, and they did – at least for him. I said something to my brother about the injustice of this (surely God could have directed just one salmon to my hook), and he wisely responded, “This is all the pleasure this fellow will ever get; we’ve got heaven to look forward to.” Of course he was right. That is what Asaph came to realize also, as he now looked at the prosperity of the wicked from an eternal point of view.

Asaph now looks at the same people, but from a divine perspective. He sees not only their present prosperity, but their eternal doom. Do the wicked prosper? If so, their prosperity is but for a moment. But in spite of their arrogance and apparent security, their future is far from secure. God will someday bring down the wicked, and they will pay for their sins. Their prosperity will suddenly vanish like a dream. When God “awakens,” He will deal with them for their sins.

Asaph now views his own circumstances from a divine perspective:

25 Whom do I have in heaven but you?
I desire no one but you on earth.
26 My flesh and my heart may grow weak,
but God always protects my heart and gives me stability (Psalm 73:25-26).

In their prosperity, the wicked have arrogantly spoken against God (see verses 8-12). Prosperity has not drawn them closer to God. Asaph, on the other hand, is now keenly aware of the blessedness of his intimacy with God. While his life may not be marked by affluence and ease, he knows that God is with him. His “poverty” (at least when compared with the prosperous who are wicked) has drawn him nearer to God. And so his earthly life, with God, is better than that of the wicked. And to top it all off, his earthly relationship with God is only the beginning. He is assured of eternal fellowship with God in His presence.

If Asaph were to have concluded that the wicked “have it best” for now, but that he will “have it best” in eternity, he would have been wrong. Asaph has it best, now and forever. Asaph has now arrived at a very different definition of good:

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Thy works (Psalm 73:28, NASB).

Asaph began with the statement, “Certainly God is good to Israel” (73:1a). To Asaph, as to others, this meant that God would materially bless those whose motives were pure. Asaph now sees things differently. He realizes that his motives were not pure (see 73:15, 21-22). He did not deserve God’s blessings. And furthermore, God’s goodness was not to be measured in terms of dollars and cents, but in terms of nearness to God.

How many of us are guilty of thinking in the same mistaken terms? When we think of heaven, we often think of the streets of gold, or that there will be no more tears, no more suffering and sorrow, no more death. While this is true, the greatest blessing of heaven is that this is where God is. Heaven is blessed because there we can enjoy unhindered intimacy with God for all eternity. Our sufferings are meant to loosen our grip on this world and its material goods and to enhance our hunger for heaven:

16 Therefore we do not despair, but even if our physical body is wearing away, our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Many books have been written about the problem of pain and human suffering. This one psalm says it better than many other noble efforts to tackle the issue of human suffering. It is a distillation of biblical truth. It corrects some very popular misconceptions about Christians and suffering (and prosperity). It does so in just a few words. What a marvelous treasure chest of truth is to be found in the Book of Psalms. No wonder the Psalms played a significant role in the New Testament churches:

18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18-19).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).

If I sense any areas of deficiency in my own Christian life, one of these is in the area of worship. The Psalms are a gold mine of material for worship. They provide not only the content but also the format for praise and worship – personal and corporate. The Psalms enable me to praise God in any circumstance. The Psalms display an honesty, openness, and transparency in worship which is often lacking in mine. Perhaps most importantly for me, the Psalms help me to experience more than a cerebral Christianity – a kind of intellectualized faith. The Psalms engage my heart and my emotions, as well as my mind.

The Psalms are also instructive as to my public participation in the corporate worship of the church. In our church, we have an open meeting, where the men publicly lead in worship and where we observe the Lord’s Supper weekly. If my participation in this meeting is guided by the Psalms, then it is my experiences and encounter with God during the week that should provide the raw materials for my participation on Sunday. It is not quite as important where my participation starts as where it ends. Many of the Psalms were born in humbling situations, such as David’s feigning madness before Abimelech (Psalm 34:1). David’s psalm ended, however, focusing on the majesty of God’s compassion and salvation. Several men in our church have come close to death, and some have passed on to be with our Lord. Their words of worship have prompted us to draw near to God and to praise God with them. Psalms are not about us, but about God. They start with our experience, but they focus on God, and they are an expression of worship.

The Psalms remind us that we should come prepared for worship. The Psalms are not spontaneous expressions of worship, but carefully thought out and beautifully structured praises and petitions. The Psalms should caution us about being sloppy in our worship and about coming to church unprepared to lead others in worship. While some churches have their worship leaders, it would seem to me that every man who leads in worship is to carry out his task as a worship leader, to call people’s attention to God, and to challenge and inspire them to worship Him.

May God use the Psalms to enrich our lives and our worship, and may He grant us new psalms of worship as we continue to worship God through poetry and song. I close with a psalm written by the Fourth grade Sunday School class in our church in response to their study of the Psalms:

Fourth Grade Class Psalm (Chant)

I’ve been taught and I believe
Jesus is the One for me
Who’s the One we’re fighting for?
King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Who’s the One who gives us grace?
Jesus Christ, the One who saves.
One day He will come again
Take His children home with Him
Sound off

192 This is the edited manuscript of a message delivered by Robert L. Deffinbaugh, teacher and elder at Community Bible Chapel, on April 8, 2001.

193 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the NET Bible. The NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION, also known as THE NET BIBLE, is a completely new translation of the Bible, not a revision or an update of a previous English version. It was completed by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The translation project originally started as an attempt to provide an electronic version of a modern translation for electronic distribution over the Internet and on CD (compact disk). Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection will be able to use and print out the NET Bible without cost for personal study. In addition, anyone who wants to share the Bible with others can print unlimited copies and give them away free to others. It is available on the Internet at:

194 J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960), Six volumes in one, vol. 3, pp. 83-84.

195 As quoted by John H. Hayes, Understanding the Psalms (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1976), p. 5.

196 A. A. Anderson, The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1972), p. x, 2, 75-76.

197 Ibid., p. 75.

198 Ibid., p. 48.

199 The following examples of Hebrew parallelism are from Ronald Barclay Allen, Praise! A Matter of Life and Breath (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980), pp. 23-24. See also Derek Kidner, Psalms (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), I, pp. 2-4; A. A. Anderson, The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1972), I, pp. 40-42; R.K. Harrison, “Hebrew Poetry,” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), III, pp. 76-87.

200 As quoted by Allen, p. 23, from Ewald M. Plass, What Luther Says: An Anthology, 3 vols. (St. Louis: Concordia, 1959), vol. 2, p. 980.

201 Ronald Barclay Allen, Praise! A Matter of Life and Breath (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980), p. 97.

202 Ibid., p. x.

203 As quoted by Ronald Barclay Allen, Praise! A Matter of Life and Breath (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980), p. 24.

204 For a more thorough exposition of Psalm 73, see

205 Psalms 50, 73-83.

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