Psalms

The Book of Psalms and the Biblical Covenants (Part 2)

Read Part 1.

The Theme of Covenant

One would expect the covenants to have a marked presence in the Psalms, and indeed they do.1 Psalm 25:14 announces “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” Although the covenants are for the most part clearly set out in Scripture, they are overlooked by the human parties. Those who fear God know that these covenants direct history behind the scenes. Even if they do not connect what the covenants are saying to the hermeneutical flow of the Bible, many of God’s people realize that the world’s hopes are fastened to them.

We don’t see much of the covenant with Noah in the Psalter, but Psalm 74:16-17, with its recollection of God’s governance over the seasons, certainly seems to allude to it (especially the preamble in Gen. 8:21-22). The Mosaic covenant is featured in Psalm 135:4, where it says, “The Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure” (cf. Exod. 19:5; Deut. 7:6; Psa. 114:2; Zech. 9:16), although the Lord’s choice has its roots in the promises to Abraham (Gen. 17:7-8).

Abrahamic Covenant

This is seen in the recounting of history in Psalm 105:

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The Book of Psalms and the Biblical Covenants (Part 1)

Vows made to You are binding upon me; O God… (Psalm 56:12)

I will go into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows, which my lips have uttered… (Psalms 66:13-14)

The heaven, even the heaven of heavens; are the Lord’s; but the earth has He given to the children of men (Psalms 115:16)

In addressing the contribution of the Book of Psalms to the Creation Project and the biblical covenants it is vital to notice those places where the psalmist is grounding his remarks upon the covenants or looking forward to the New covenant kingdom (e.g. Psa. 2, 22, 24, 31, 45, 50, 72, 89, 110, 132).

We also must be alert to the many Messianic passages, always trying to locate the coming King and His promised earthly kingdom within the correct covenantal timeline. That timeline is in continuity with the covenantal picture that has its roots in the Book of Genesis.

The Church’s reading of the Psalms has not always paid attention to the future fulfillment of some important passages, preferring to see fulfillments almost totally within the light of the first coming and the realization of the Body of Christ.

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Review: Allen Ross on the Psalms (Vol.3)

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Finally we have the third and final volume of the Kregel Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms by Allen P. Ross, Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School. This one covers Psalms 90 through 150 and brings the complete set to three thousand pages. The first two volumes were outstanding. I have found that I turn to them first for exegetical and even homiletical material (alongside VanGemeren in the EBC).

Although this review is on Volume 3, I want to say something about the other volumes. Ross’s introduction in Volume 1 is a very helpful orientation to the Psalter, its forms, its themes, and its theology. As with his outstanding book on worship, Recalling the Hope of Glory, he concerns himself in these books with the Divine-human encounter. Take a look, for instance at Ross’s comments on Psalm 8 and Psalm 23 in the first volume, and Psalm 42 in the second, and see how Ross brings you into the context of the human author. The author is a Bible conservative. He is not interested in winning friends in the critical academy, although he is a first rate Old Testament scholar.

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Power in the Psalms

What the Psalms do to us

The Psalms teach us to be deeply occupied with our God. They magnify and exalt Him as the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of the universe. What is it to be much occupied with God? It is to treasure His Word, to delight in His worship, to reflect on His glorious attributes, to rehearse His great acts in history, to trust in His care, to glory in His gospel and to anticipate His final victory. The more we are occupied with God, the more strength we find for living.

The Psalms teach us to praise our God and also show us how to praise Him. There are few lessons that we need more. So very often we mumble mechanical praise from hearts that are crowded with unworthy loves and occupied with earthly concerns. The need is for robust praise from hearts that are deeply schooled in the stunning truths of the Sovereign Lord who not only made us but pours from his bounty countless blessings, the chief of which is eternal salvation through his Son.

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What Should We Do with Those Psalm Headings? A Theory

Reposted with permission from Toward Conservative Christianity.

Thirtle’s Theory

I have been among those who committed the error of publicly reading a psalm and omitting to read the title. I reasoned that these titles probably belonged in the same category as the chapter and verse numbers of our Bibles: helpful, but by no means inspired.

I’ve since been divested of that view, and now see these titles as God-breathed, like all Scripture. One sees evidence for this in several ways. For example, the title of Psalm 18 is found within the text of 2 Samuel 22:1, showing the psalm title’s authenticity. It was not a later rabbinic interpolation. Further, some of the psalm titles (e.g. 46 & 58) were merely transliterated by the translators of the Greek Septuagint (c. 300-250 B.C.). This suggests that their meaning had already been lost by the time of the Septuagint, which in turn suggests great antiquity. They are much older than a post-exilic rabbinic commentary. Finally, Scriptures like Luke 20:42 quoting Psalm 110) take the title as true, for nowhere else is it stated that David himself wrote the psalm.

I was recently introduced to the fascinating theory of James Thirtle regarding the psalm titles. To quote the ISBE, Thirtle’s hypothesis is that

…both superscriptions and subscriptions were incorporated in the Psalter, and that in the process of copying the Psalms by hand, the distinction between the superscription of a given psalm and the subscription of the one immediately preceding it was finally lost. When at length the different psalms were separated from one another, as in printed editions, the subscriptions and superscriptions were all set forth as superscriptions. Thus it came about that the musical subscription of a given psalm was prefixed to the literary superscription of the psalm immediately following it. (John Richard Sampey, “Psalms, Book of,” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939. 4:2487-94.)

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Psalm Singing: Why and How

PsalmsFirst appearance at SharperIron posted 2/12/09.

In many conservative gospel-preaching churches, the only thing rarer than drums is Psalms singing. This seems particularly odd in view of the fact that most of these churches insist on musical worship that is biblical, that is deeply rooted in history, and that has stood the test of time. What songs are more biblical, more historically rooted, and more timeless than the 150 songs that God Himself breathed out more than 2,000 years ago?

Why sing Psalms?

Every worship leader should serve with the conviction that the flock he leads needs to be singing the psalms regularly in corporate worship services. This conviction is rooted in three realities.

First, the psalms are songs. In other words, they were originally written as poetry to be sung. As songs, then, these compositions cannot be fully appreciated or experienced as God intended them to be apart from singing. Experiencing the psalms in a non-musical way would be like trying to experience Handel’s Messiah by simply reading the text. So while the psalms need to studied, prayed, and preached, we also need to experience them as worship songs.

Second, the psalms are God-breathed songs. The book of Psalms is the only God-breathed hymnal in existence. That fact should carry some weight when we make decisions about which songs to include in corporate worship!

Third, by example and command the New Testament urges believers in Jesus Christ to sing psalms. Apparently Jesus led His disciples in singing a psalm after the last supper (Matt. 26:30). Worship in the early church included Psalms singing (1 Cor. 14:26). Also, the Bible clearly urges New Testament believers to sing psalms as an evidence of Spirit-controlled living (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).

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