10.1 The Theology of the Psalms
“The Lord is the Creator (8, 104). It is the ground of his present sovereign rule over all things as King (29, 96–99). The righteousness of his rule is predominant (11, 75) in his divine Kingship (145) righteousness is only one strand in a threefold cord along with greatness and grace. The goodness of God (34) is inseparable from his holiness (103) and finds its counterpart in his wrath (38). He is universal in his rule (67) and particular in his choice of Israel (87), as shown by the messianic David, king of Israel and of the world (2, 72, 110). Both to his people as a whole (80) and to the individual (23), the Lord is Shepherd, the basis of confidence in looking to him for deliverance (16, 25, 31), recognizing his attentiveness to his people’s needs (e.g. 3, 27).”
(taken from J. A. Motyer, (1994). The Psalms. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 487).
GOD IN THE PSALMS. Yahweh is creator, warrior, king, judge, saviour and redeemer, shepherd and covenant Lord. God is our Rock and Stronghold/Fortress.
God is Creator Psalms 8:3; 24:2; 104:1–35, 135, 136 (In creation 136:4-9 leads on to covenant 136:10-15.) Theophanies Psa 18, 29.
God is King Psa 47, 96, 97, 98, 93:1, 95:3, 89:11 incomparable 18:32, 35:10, 71:19
God’s wonderful deeds in Creation and Salvation 105:2, 106:7, 145:12, 86:10, 65:5, 78:4, 66:3, 26:6,139.
God is all-powerful 102, 2, 44, 11.
God ways reveal God’s character: 25:4, 95:10, 103:7.
God is our Rock (14x) our Stronghold and Fortress (18x)
God is God of the Covenant Psalm 89 “God of Israel” 41:13, 59:6, God of the Patriarchs 46:7, 11 and God of David. See also Psa 105, 44, 89, 132. And personally the God of the Psalmist “my salvation” 18:46, 25:5.
God is the loyal and FAITHFUL God The most important aspect of God’s character in the covenant is HESED: unfailing loyalty and faithfulness mentioned 100 times in Psalms – “the power which guarantees a covenant and makes it strong and durable” Psa 31:21, 17:17, 107:8, 108. God’s loyalty is the basis of confidence in prayer.
God is the God of GRACE in the Psalms
Exodus 34:5-7 Man is weak Psa 103, 90 and a sinner Psa 130, 143, 19, 69, 90, 51. Grace is revealed through the Law Psa 1, 19, 119. God is present in the Temple. Psalms of Ascents 120-134, 5:7 27:4.
10.2 Prayers: Psalms of Lament 22, 38, 59, 69, 109, 143
Lament. Laments may be personal statements of despair, such as that found in Psalm 22:1–21, dirges following the death of an important person (David’s elegy for Saul in 2 Sam 1:17–27) or communal cries in times of crisis, such as Psalm 137. Lamenting personal suffering 69, 38, Complaint against enemies 109, Complaint against God 22. Describing distress/misfortune Psa 22:6-18 and crying out for deliverance. Protesting innocence Psa 59, expressing wishes or curses Psa 55:15, 61:4, 106:6, 30, and invoking the character and deeds of Yahweh in pleas for help e.g. Psa 143:1. God’s power helps the poor and needy Psa 113:7. God is my strength, my stronghold, my tower, my rock. Psalms of Lament call out to God for help.
10.3 Prayers: Petitions in the Psalms
Requests for physical deliverance/rescue, mercy/ forgiveness, healing, help in war, guidance, rain/harvest, future blessings, to see God, to dwell in the Temple. e,g, asking God to be attentive 130, and to intervene 3:7. The grounds of petitions include Yahweh’s Name 79:9f, 42:10, Yahweh’s Character 86:15
10.4 Prayers: Psalms of Confession 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143
These seven penitential Psalms have been adopted by the church since Augustine (5th Century).
10.5 Imprecatory Psalms 35:1–8; 59; 69; 109, 137 Are they a problem?
In contrast to a background of faith and obedience some feel that the imprecatory psalms (especially 35:1–8; 59; 69; 109) pose a moral difficulty. The underlying idea in these passages in the Psalter, where curses and revengeful punishments are invoked upon the enemy, is expressed in 139:21f., ‘Do I not hate them that hate thee, O Lord? … I count them my enemies.’
“The vigour with which enemies were denounced within the Psalms has ever been a source of difficulty. Has the desire for the sudden destruction of foes (35:8), their death (55:15), the breaking of their teeth (58:6), the destitution (109:10) and massacre of their children (137:9) anything in common with the mind of Christ? There are about 25 psalms which contain such passages. … In almost every case the imprecation which we find objectionable sits alongside a spirituality we would envy, e.g. Psalm 139. … They are all prayers. There is no suggestion that the psalmists planned vengeful action, nor even that they entertained vengeful thoughts. Their reaction to hurt was to commit the matter to the Lord and leave it there. As J. R. W. Stott remarks (The Canticles and Selected Psalms [Hodder & Stoughton, 1966], pp. 11ff.), ‘I do not find it hard to imagine situations in which holy men of God do and should … cry to God for vengeance … and that without any feelings of personal animosity.’” J.A. Motyer, (1994). The Psalms in IVP New Bible commentary 488
10.6 “The Poor” in the Psalms
READING FOR UNITS 10 and 11
J. A. Motyer, (1994). The Psalms. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), IVP New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 487).
IVP New Bible Dictionary 3rd edition article on Psalms, Book of
Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart How to Read the Bible Book by Book Zondervan 2002 pp 130-143
Tremper Longman III Old Testament Essentials Creation …. IVP 2014 chapter 13
John Goldingay An Introduction to the Old Testament IVP 2016 pages 288-323
Good commentaries on the Psalms include
F. D. Kidner, Psalms, 2 vols, TOTC (IVP, 1975).
P. C. Craigie, Psalms 1–50, WBC (Word, 1983).
L. C. Allen, Psalms 101–150, WBC (Word, 1983)
See also B.S. Childs Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (1979)