Overview ofPsalmsPresented by Christopher R. SmithTo Capital City Vineyard, Lansing, MichiganMay 5, 2013
Dr. Peter Enns on trying toread through the Bible in a year:“Things coast along well enough for a while. Genesis is pretty interesting. . . .But if you make it through Exodus, you have to wade through Leviticus, whereyou hit a brick wall: Chapter after chapter of what to sacrifice and when, plussome very strange topics (like how to get rid of mildew).Succumbing to temptation, you skip over to the Psalms. . . . But you don’t makeit out of the teens before the Psalms all start looking the same.By this time, it’s probably close to spring, so it makes perfect sense to just skipover to the Gospels and forget the rest of the Old Testament. It’s almost Easteranyway.”Telling God’s Story, pp. 10-11
So as we go through the Bible together in a year(in a “context of grace”),our next task is to keep the psalmsfrom all looking the same.The psalms in the Bible are of three main types,corresponding to three key momentsin the life of faith.
1. PSALM OF PRAISE“God’s on the throneand all’s right with the world”(or all will become right as God’s reign is extended)BASIC FORM:• Call to Worship• Reason to Worship• Call to Worship
Psalm 117 as an example ofa Psalm of PraiseCall to Worship Praise the LORD, all you nations;extol him, all you peoples.Reason to Worship For great is his love toward us,and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.Call to Worship Praise the LORD.
Psalm 100 as an example of a Psalm of Praise(elements repeated)Call to Worship Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.Reason to Worship Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we arehis people, the sheep of his pasture.Call to Worship Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanksto him and praise his name.Reason to Worship For the Lord is good and his love enduresforever; his faithfulness continues through allgenerations.
Psalm 150 as an example of a Psalm of Praise(one element expands; the other nearly disappears)Call to Worship Praise the Lord.Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him inhis mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise himwith the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with theharp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise himwith the clash of cymbals, praise him with resoundingcymbals.Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.Praise the Lord.
PSALM OFPRAISEGod’s on the throneAll’s right with the worldPSALM OFSUPPLICATIONGod’s power and goodnesscalled into question
2. PSALM OF SUPPLICATIONElements like these will be presentin various combinations and orders• Cry for Help• Complaint• Statement of Trust• Petition• Vow of PraiseThe first 10-15 psalms “all start looking the same”because most of them are psalms of supplication.
Psalm 54 as an example ofa Psalm of SupplicationCry for Help Save me, O God, by your name;vindicate me by your might.Hear my prayer, O God;listen to the words of my mouth.Complaint Arrogant foes are attacking me;ruthless people are trying to kill me—people without regard for God.Statement Surely God is my help;of Trust the Lord is the one who sustains me.Petition Let evil recoil on those who slander me;in your faithfulness destroy them.Vow of Praise I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you;I will praise your name, LORD, for it is good.You have delivered me from all my troubles,and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.
Psalm 131 as an example of a Psalm of Supplication(one element expands and displaces the others)Statement My heart is not proud, Lord, of trust myeyes are not haughty; I do not concern myselfwith great matters or things too wonderful forme. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.In other cases another element, such as the complaint, may expandand displace all the others, as in Psalm 88.
PSALM OFPRAISEGod’s on the throneAll’s right with the worldPSALM OFSUPPLICATIONGod’s power and goodnesscalled into questionPSALM OFTHANKSGIVINGGod’s power and goodnessvindicated
3. PSALM OF THANKSGIVINGElements like these will be presentin various combinations and orders• Opening Summary• Call to Worship• Description of Troubles(recollection of cry for help)• Song of Victory• Praise and Thanks
Psalm 30 as an example ofa Psalm of ThanksgivingSummary I will exalt you, LORD,Statement for you lifted me out of the depthsand did not let my enemies gloat over me.LORD my God, I called to you for help,and you healed me.You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead;you spared me from going down to the pit.Call to Sing the praises of the LORD,Worship you his faithful people;praise his holy name.For his anger lasts only a moment,but his favor lasts a lifetime;weeping may stay for the night,but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Psalm 30 as an example ofa Psalm of Thanksgiving (continued)Description When I felt secure, I said,of Troubles “I will never be shaken.”LORD, when you favored me,you made my royal mountain stand firm;but when you hid your face,I was dismayed.(recollection of To you, LORD, I called;cry for help) to the Lord I cried for mercy:“What is gained if I am silenced,if I go down to the pit?Will the dust praise you?Will it proclaim your faithfulness?Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me;LORD, be my help.”
Psalm 30 as an example ofa Psalm of Thanksgiving (continued)Song of Victory You turned my wailing into dancing;you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.Praise and Thanks LORD my God, I will praise you forever.
A more elaborate statement of praise & thanksfrom near the end of Psalm 66Praise and Thanks I will come to your temple with burnt offeringsand fulfill my vows to you—vows my lips promised and my mouth spokewhen I was in trouble.I will sacrifice fat animals to youand an offering of rams;I will offer bulls and goats.Come and hear, all you who fear God;let me tell you what he has done for me . . .Believers today have the same opportunityto vindicate God’s power and goodnessby sharing publicly what God has done for themin answer to their cries for help.
PSALM OFPRAISEOrientationPSALM OFSUPPLICATIONDisorientationPSALM OFTHANKSGIVINGReorientationWhile the biblical psalms also include some specialized types, in general we willmeet the psalmist at some point within this movement.