Reading the Psalms

Reading the Psalms can be a spiritually rewarding exercise. The Psalms contain rich examples of the proper attitude towards: (1) God — “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1). (2) Scripture — “More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is the great reward” (Psalm 19:10-11); and (3) Worship — “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD’” (Psalm 122:1).

The Psalms can also help enrich one’s prayer life. A church in Texas once had a spring series entitled “Prayers of the Heart.” It was based on the following Psalms: (1) Psalm 1 — “Praying our inattention”; (2) Psalm 2 — “Praying our intimidation”; (3) Psalm 3 — “Praying our trouble”; (4) Psalm 8 — “Praying our creation”; (5) Psalm 51 — “Praying our sin”; (6) Psalm 103 — “Praying our salvation”; (7) Psalm 23 — “Praying our fears”; (8) Psalm 137 — “Praying our anger”; (9) Psalm 6 — “Praying our tears”; (10) Psalm 73 — “Praying our doubts”; (11) Psalm 90 — “Praying our death”; (12) Psalm 150 — “Praying our praise!”

The purpose of this writing is to give you a “table of contents” to aid you in your use of the Psalms.

1. Affliction Psalms: 3, 4, 5, 7, 11, 13, 16, 17, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 31, 35, 41, 42, 43, 44, 51, 55, 56, 57, 59, 60, 62, 63, 64, 69, 70, 71, 74, 77, 79, 80, 83, 84, 86, 88, 89, 94, 102, 109, 120, 123, 129, 137, 140, 141, 142, 143

2. Didactical (Teaching) Psalms: 1, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 24, 25, 32, 34, 36, 37, 39, 49, 50, 52, 53, 58, 73, 75, 82, 84, 90, 91, 92, 94, 101, 119, 121, 125, 127, 128, 131

3. Historical Psalms: 78, 105, 106

4. Intercessional Psalms:  20, 67, 122, 132, 144

5.  Penitential Psalms:  6, 25, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143

6. Praise Psalms: 8, 19, 24, 29, 33, 47, 50, 65, 66, 76, 77, 93, 95, 96, 97, 99, 104, 111, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 134, 139, 146, 147, 148, 148, 150

7. Prophetical Psalms:  2, 16, 22, 40, 45, 65, 68, 69, 72, 87, 97, 110, 118

8. Thanksgiving Psalms:

A. For goodness to Israel – 21, 46, 48, 65, 66, 68, 76, 81, 85, 98, 105, 124, 126, 129, 135, 136, 149

B. For goodness to mankind —  23, 34, 36, 91, 100, 103, 107, 117, 121, 145, 146

C. For goodness to individuals —  9, 18, 30, 34, 40, 75, 103, 108, 116, 118, 138, 144

 9. Alphabetical Psalms (Based on the Hebrew alphabet):  9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145

 10. Imprecatory Psalms:   2, 5, 7, 35, 37, 58, 59, 69, 79, 83, 109, 137, 139, 143

Note: I claim no originality for this list. This list was composed from lists produced by others.

Other odds and ends: (1) The term “Selah” appears 71 times in the Psalms and 3 times in Habakkuk. This seems to have been a musical instruction. “Many, moderns derive Selah from a root meaning, ‘to raise,’ and suppose it to be a sign to the musicians to strike up with louder accompaniment. Possibly the singing ceased for a moment. A few think it is a liturgical direction to the congregation to ‘lift up’ their voices in benediction. It is unwise to dogmatize as to the meaning of this very common word” (ISBE vol. 4, p. 2488). “While many explanations have been given for this word, the most plausible is that which derives it from the root salal meaning ‘to lift up’. The LXX renders it diapsalms, which means musical interlude. Selah then is not a word to be read aloud …” (Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, p. 459).

(2) The fact that instrumental music is mentioned in the Psalms (33:2; 43:4; 49:4; 57:8, 71:22; 81:2; 92:3; 98:5-6; 108:2; 147:7; 149:3; 150:3-6) in no way means that such is authorized for use in New Testament worship. Remember animal sacrifice is also mentioned in the Psalms (66:15; 118:27-28).

(3) It is best to regard Psalm 137:9 as a predictive statement. Kyle Butt has said, “This is a predictive statement. He is talking about Babylon. And he says that the Persians are going to come in and take your children and dash them against the stones. The way he uses the word happy is the same way that Jeremiah uses it in Jeremiah chapter 12 verse one” (A Christians Guide to Refuting Modern Atheism, p. 27). Indeed such was to happen to Babylon (Isaiah 13:16-19). The ESV Study Bible points out, “The vile practice of destroying infants of a conquered people is well attested in the ancient word (e.g., 2 Kings 8:12; Hosea 10:14; 13:16; Nehemiah 3:10; Homer liad 22.63), and was therefore foretold of the fall of Babylon (Isaiah 13:16). Further, the Babylonians had apparently done this to the Judeans (as the connection with Psalm 137:8 suggests) and the prophets led the people to await God’s justice” (Isaiah 47:1-9; Jeremiah 51:24). The NIV Study Bible reads, “The author may have known the Lord’s announced judgment (Isaiah 13; 21:1-10; 47: Jeremiah 50-51; Habakkuk 2:4-20). War was cruel then as now; women and children were not spared (see 2 Kings 8:12; 15:16; Isaiah 13:16, 18; Hosea 10:14; 13:16; Amos 1:13; Nahum 3:10)”. I think this to be correct.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
This entry was posted in Bible Study, psalms, Word Study and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Reading the Psalms

  1. Emuje says:

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  2. Richard Farleigh says:

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