Psalms is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament book. Obviously, it has much to offer. Have you ever thought about how it’s put together? With 150 psalms, you could be forgiven for not being aware of the structure of the book. Have you ever noticed, for example, that the Book of Psalms is actually made up of five books (Psalms 1-41; 42-72; 73-89; 90-106; 107-150) that most scholars believe are related to the five book of Moses? So just as we have five books of Moses to read, we have five books of Psalms to pray and sing. This is minor, though. Missing the forest for the trees in the Psalms is far more problematic in other ways because it teaches some crucial lessons about how to approach life and what to expect from it.
1. The Book of Psalms introduces the centre and focus of a life of blessing.
The psalms are not only arranged into five books, but most scholars recognize that there is a clear introduction and conclusion to the Book of Psalms. The introduction is made up of Psalms 1 and 2 and teaches us the centre and focus of a life of blessing. Psalm 1 presents two paths, one marked by blessing and the other by judgment. The thing that differentiates between the two is a person’s attitude towards God’s Word. We’re called to delight and meditate upon it day and night and promised that this is the means by which people thrive and experience strength in the face of hardship. Psalm 2 forms the second pillar of the introduction. Its focus isn’t so much on a person’s attitude toward God’s Word, but instead towards His Son. Again two paths are contrasted. Many seek to resist His rule and throw off His restraints and are warned of judgment as a result. Others are invited to serve Him, fear Him, and rejoice over Him with the promise, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12). The two things that we need to thrive in this life are a daily delight and meditation on God’s Word and a joyful submission and trust in God’s Son.
2. The Book of Psalms teaches that faith is often lived out in the context of suffering.
If we were to think that by reading the Bible and trusting in Jesus all of our problems would go away, we would be mistaken. Even in the first two psalms we get hints that all is not well in the world. In Psalm 1, we’re introduced to harsh elements of sun and wind that God’s Word strengthens us against. In Psalm 2, the world is pictured at war with the Messiah with kings and rulers leading the charge against Him. But as we read on, we see that the psalms are marked by heartache and suffering. One of the most common types of psalm is what’s known as the lament. Over 60 of the psalms fall into this category and they’re marked by deep sorrow at circumstances and cries for God to act. They teach us two things: faith is most often lived out in the context of suffering and pouring out our hearts to God, even in despair, disappointment and exasperation, can be both good and appropriate.
3. The Book of Psalms teaches that prayer gives way to praise.
While the laments teach us to expect suffering and to bring our frustrations to God, the Book of Psalms teaches us that sorrow won’t have the final word. This is brought out in several ways. As you read through the Book of Psalms, the lament psalms are inordinately weighted toward the beginning. It’s as if our prayers of frustration give way to psalms of praise as we continue to bring Him our problems and seek our refuge in Him. Then, at the end of each of the five books, there is a word of praise (e.g. Psalm 41:13) as if to punctuate the fact that, in the end, God is still good. Finally, the Book of Psalms ends with a crescendo of praise with Psalms 145 to 150, making up the formal conclusion to the book. As you read these psalms you realize that no matter what suffering and sorrow may have preceded, God’s story ends with music and dancing for God’s people as they celebrate His mercy and goodness.
May this vision of God’s victory captivate you as you face the challenges that today would bring. And may you make time to meditate on God’s Word and show your allegiance to the Son – this is where life’s true blessing may be found.
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
In awe of Him,