Read the Bible in a Year
This week, read: Psalms 51-75
At Least Know This
The Book of Psalms is the beautiful poetry of the Jews. Some psalms were sung in public services. Some psalms were sung for private edification. Some follow the rules of various kinds of Hebrew poetry. All Psalms proclaim the greatness of God.
Author and Date
The date of the psalms probably stretches the whole length of Jewish history. Some psalms are easy to date; for example, Psalm 137 dates from the time of the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC). Others are not easily dated.
Many of the psalms have a superscription (an explanatory note at the beginning of the psalm). Some of the superscriptions are “A Psalm of David.” This does not mean that David wrote the Psalm. It can also be translated “A Psalm about David,” or “A Psalm Dedicated to David.” Probably, many people wrote psalms that were dedicated to the king or describe events in David’s life.
There are also superscriptions such as “To the Choirmaster.” Sometimes there are musical terms, like “Selah”; it is unclear what these terms mean—possibly something like “Now there will be a musical interlude.”
Many of the psalms are written about famous events in the history of the Jews. Some are more personal. Sometimes the psalms are called the “prayer book of the Bible.”
All the psalms are beautiful, and will speak to you differently depending on your life situation.
Some of the more famous chapters are:
Psalm 51 is a beautiful psalm of repentance.
Psalm 62 is a song of resting in God.
Psalm 66 is a wonderful song of praise.
Watch for psalms (for example, Psalm 52) that reflect the Deuteronomic code: “Obey God’s law, and you’ll be rewarded; Disobey God’s law and you’ll be punished.” Some of those songs talk about “the wicked,” and how they’ll be punished.
You might recall that the prophets, and then Jesus in the gospels, rejected the Deuteronomic code.
The Psalms reflect all kinds of situations. And the Psalms are typically songs to God. Some are thanksgiving, some are praise, some are comforting, some are pleas for help, some call curses down on enemies, some are laments (yelling at God).
Over and over, the psalms reflect the unabashed confidence of the authors that God will be with us in any situation. In the good times, in the lonely times, and in the life-threatening times—God is walking with us. Psalm 57 talks about being surrounded by enemies and being in despair, but then: But I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning, and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice (57:16-17). The psalms are a constant reminder that God is always with us—regardless of whether we feel like he is close or not. Psalm 55:22 says it beautifully: Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you. He will never let the righteous fall.
If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to email the question to me.