Hymns of Praise
Col. 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
We continue in the second part of the introduction to the Psalms. The Book of Praise as it is literally called in the Hebrew language. As we study through the pages of the Psalms I sincerely pray that you too, with me, will come to the realization just how great and just how compassionate and just how merciful God is towards those who love Him, and also towards those who are seeking Him. In the previous message we looked at four aspects that are part of the Psalms, and they were:
1. The Horror content.
2. The Glory content
3. The Mystery content.
4. The Romance content.
Let us go a bit further and see what else we get out of the Psalms in general. The Scriptures are divided up into various sections and the Psalms fall into the Poetical Section which consists of 5 books, namely:
1. Job – which tells us of holiness through suffering.
2. Psalms – which tells of the devotional religious life.
3. Proverbs – which tells us of obedience to God in daily life.
4. Ecclesiastes – which tell us of the vanity of worldliness.
5. Song of Solomon – which tells us of the union and communion with the Bridegroom: The Messiah.
Herbert Lockyer’s book “All the Books and Chapters of the Bible” has an interesting comment on the Books of the Psalms and he indicates them divided up into 5 sections that correspond to the 5 Books of the Pentateuch. Is is only given in very short 5-point form, but I am led to discuss it in more detail than is given. The reason is, that if we can grasp in broad detail what the Psalms mean to us today and then, as we read them in our own devotional period at home, we will begin to understand them much better and get more out of them to apply to our daily life. And that is what the Psalms are all about.
As we apply them and work them out in our life, we will grow and God will be glorified. Our own life should become a Book of praises! Let us put on our thinking-caps and consider this 5-fold division I quoted from Lockyer’s book. A few years ago I paged through the Psalms and, although I had preciously noticed that they were divided into books, I had not fully realized that the Psalms in the RSV, Good News, NEB and the NIV Bibles were in fact also divided into 5 Books, and exactly the same Psalm divisions as in Lockyer’s book that was published in 1966, which I believe he took from the Hebrew Scriptures, as these have these 5 specific divisions in their Book of Psalms. As the Hebrew Psalms have these divisions I have peace of mind that we also have the same division, even if the KJV and others translations do not.
BOOK I. PSALMS 1-41 CORRESPOND TO THE BOOK OF GENESIS.
The sub-heading given is “Generation – Degeneration – Generation”. In a simpler way this means the Creation, then decline or falling away, and then the revival of what once was. God created man first in His own image. Adam had all the attributes that God had, but after the fall, all that came from Adam were not in God’s image but in Adam’s image, ie, the Holy Spirit was now not with man. In the Old Testament times God gave His Holy Spirit to certain men and only for a specific time and only for a specific task. In the New Covenant period, the period of grace we are now living in, God gives His Holy Spirit to all who become born-again in and through His Son Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is a permanent resident in the believer’s heart unless Jesus is rejected. I won’t get into details about the Psalms right now as I intend to talk about specific Psalms later on.
BOOK II. PSALMS 42-72 CORRESPOND TO EXODUS
The sub-heading is “Ruin and redemption”. In this section there are many Penetential Psalms, ie, Psalms on the theme of forgiveness. When we come to the realization that we need forgiveness for sins committed, it is then that God can do something in our lives. The Psalmists knew full well that forgiveness was an essential ingredient to their own spiritual growth. Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51 are such Psalms
We praise the Lord that He does not let us stay in the gutter. When we call upon Him He lifts up up, and therefore, in the Psalms, God’s Redemption is sung and praised. In this section we have the majority of what is called the Messianic Psalms. 2, 8, 22, 23, 24, 40, 41 are some of a few. The prophecies of and about Christ come out very strongly here and as you read them the compassion of God for the lost is really prevalent. No wonder the Psalms are a favourite with so many people. Those of us who love God’s Word are attracted to the writings of the Psalms, because here we can identify with others who had the same problems as we have.
BOOK III. PSALMS 73-89 CORRESPOND TO LEVITICUS.
The sub-heading is “Saints and the Sanctuary”. Book 3 starts off with Psalm 73:1, saying, “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” The Book of Leviticus is all about the laws the children of Israel had to obey. Leviticus was given to make the people of Israel a holy people unto the Lord, to make them different to the surrounding sinful nations. With the coming of the New Covenant the law is put into the heart of the believer, and consequently, he or she knows immediately, or should know, when sin is committed or contemplated.
God is good to those who are pure in heart. We are also to be different to the people of the world around us who reject the working of God in their lives. Obedience is the key word to God’s goodness in the believer’s life. The Psalms give many exhortations to be pure in heart. Are you persuing a path of righteousness and purity is Jesus? If not, why not? This section gives us songs of deliverance, thanking God for His hand in saving them from evil. Do we thank God for saving us? Psalm 76 is on such Psalms and in verses 8-9 the Psalmist said, “From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet when you, O God, rose up to judge, to save the afflicted of the land.”
BOOK IV. PSALMS 90-106 CORRESPOND TO THE BOOKS OF NUMBERS
The sub-heading is “Peril and Protection”. The Book of Numbers contains not only the numbering of the tribes, but more so the record of the murmurings of the people in the desert. This is a peril that the Christian has to guard against, with all his might. It happens so easily that we complain about all sorts of trivial things. We get caught up with the things of the world instead of being content with what God gives us. Murmuring just leads to greater sins. We have to ask for God’s protecting hand over us. That is what the psalmists did in the Psalms. They realized that without God in their lives, they could not win the battle. Read the Psalms when you need protection and consolation, and you will receive it!
BOOK V. PSALMS 107-150 CORRESPOND TO THE BOOK OF DEUTERONOMY.
The sub-heading is “Precepts and Praise”, A precept simply means an instruction to moral conduct. The Book of Deuteronomy does not contain new laws, but is only a repetition of those in Leviticus. This 5th Book of Psalms sums up all the other Psalms in that God is to be praised. When we praise God, we put all the problems behind us and as we do so God becomes bigger than the problem. The problem must never ever become bigger than God. God inhabits the praises of His people. Praise takes the mind off the problem and places the believer right into the presence of God.
This then is a short preview of how the Psalms are set out, yet in these there are still many other groups. I am still busy working out an outline of what I intend bringing you through the leading of the Holy Spirit. As I research and study the Psalms I too am learning things about the Psalms I did not know! I am being led to bring the Psalms to you not by staring from the beginning and going on through to the end, but by presenting them in various groups such as, the teaching Psalms, the Thanksgiving Psalms, the Intercession Psalms, Psalms on God’s Goodness, on His Mercies, the Psalms of Ascents and the Messianic Psalms or Christ in the Psalms. This way nobody will anticipate which Psalm or Psalms I will be talking on. Each message will be a surprise. There is a lot more that can be said about the Psalms as an introduction, but as from the next message we will get right into the Psalms themselves and see what God has to say to us in our own personal circumstances.
Of great importance is the fact that we are to be servants of the Most High God. We are to give ourselves to Him. Jesus is to be our Saviour. If, during these studies on the Psalms, someone comes to know Jesus as Saviour, and also if a believer is being built up in faith and a purified lifestyle , then these messages have been more than worthwhile. God Bless you until we meet again in Jesus’ name.