The Book of Psalms

August 3, 2019

Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Book of Psalms

The book of Psalms is the nineteenth book of the Bible. It has 150 chapters and 2461 verses. This book and the book of Proverbs are the only two books in the Bible that say they were written by multiple authors.

The book consists of diverse themes, all being human responses to God and to situations of life. There are Psalms that are songs of praise, prayer, thanksgiving, and repentance. Some Psalms are laments over life conditions. The Psalms act as a window for the reader to get a glimpse into the spiritual frames of the authors. The writers of the Psalms were people who authentically grappled with God and with life, and didn’t mince words in describing the state of their mind.

The Psalms are divided into five books:

Book 1 covers Psalms 1 – 41. The author of the entire book is King David.

Book 2 covers Psalms 42 – 72. These had three authors: the sons of Korah, King David, and King Solomon.

Book 3 covers Psalms 73 – 89. These were authored by Asaph and the sons of Korah, Psalm 86 by King David, and Psalm 89 by Ethan who is called an Ezrahite.

Book 4 covers Psalms 90 – 106. The authors are not identified except for Psalm 90 written by Moses, and 101 and 103 by King David.

Book 5 covers Psalms 107 – 150. The writers of many of the Psalms in this section are also not named. Psalm 110 was written by King David. Psalms 113 – 118 is the Hallel, sung as a unit during the great feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, and 138 – 145 by King David. Psalms 120 – 134 are the songs of ascents sung by groups of people as they walked to Jerusalem to celebrate mandatory feasts. They are also called Pilgrim Psalms.

Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm, with176 verses, and 117 is the shortest with only 2 verses. Psalm 119 is also an alphabetical Psalm. It is divided into 22 sections and each section begins with a letter of the alphabet in successive order beginning with Alpha, the letter A, to Taw, the letter T. Other alphabetical Psalms, also called acrostic, are 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, and 145. In these, each verse starts with a Hebrew letter in sequence.

The Psalms are the darling of many people. People read the Psalms more than any other book of the Bible. They are turned to in times of sorrow and in times of joy. They are a good resource also for people who want to learn to pray. Most citations of the Old Testament in the New Testament come from the Psalms.

Many Psalms are wisdom Psalms. Such Psalms offer wise counsel on how to deal with various situations of life. By wisdom, the Bible means ordering life and society in a way that pleases God and people. True wisdom results in the fear of the Lord. The correct lifestyle is the one that results from the desire to please God and serve people.

The Psalms talk a lot about the fear of the Lord. This is a disposition of absolute submission and trust in the Lord which leads to purity of life. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the dictionary definition of fear as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat.” God is the most pleasant entity to be in the company of in the entire universe. He is not to be dreaded, but to be loved and worshiped as the closest of friends.

A discussion on Psalms cannot end without talking about the word selah which appears on the right-hand side in some Psalms after ever so many verses. Yet it does not appear in every Psalm. Bible readers are not agreed as to its meaning. Some think it was a sort of instruction to the singers or instrument players to pause. It is possible in some music pieces for the singers to pause while the instruments play on. But then the word sometimes appears multiple times in the same Psalm. In place of selah, the Amplified Bible uses the clause: “pause, and calmly think of that.” I am inclined to agree with the rendering of the Amplified Bible. Selah is an invitation to pause and reflect on what has been read and take in the meaning of it all. Enjoy the Psalms. May they nudge you to love and enjoy God whatever the cost to you in terms of earthly currency.


The Anglican Catechism (ACNA)

The catechism is a question and answer format of teaching the basic principles of the Christian faith. The catechism is not meant just to be memorized by rote. Rather, it is meant to be discussed, reflected upon, internalized, and allowed to form us. I urge every family to take the time to study the catechism at home, discussing it word for word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, without passing over any statement that is not understood or is unclear. Parents, please take the lead to teach your children and to anchor them in the Christian faith. Let everyone ask questions and get answers. Please write down any questions that arise in your discussions, questions you cannot answer locally, and pass them to the Rector. May the Holy Spirit guide your learning.

(Continued from last week…)


44. Why do you call God the Father “Creator?”

I call God the Father “Creator” because he is the sole designer and originator of everything that exists. He creates and sustains all things through his Word, and gives life to all creatures through his Spirit. (Genesis 1; 2:7; Job 33:4; John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:3)

45. How does recognizing God as Creator affect your understanding of his creation?

I acknowledge that God made for his own glory everything that exists. He created human beings in his image, male and female, to serve him as creation’s stewards, managers, and caretakers. He entrusts his good creation to us as a gift to enjoy and a responsibility to fulfill. (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:15; Revelation 4:11)

46. What does it mean that God made both heaven and earth?

It means that all things, whether visible or invisible, physical or spiritual, were brought into being out of nothing by the Word of the eternal God. (Genesis 1:1)

47. If God made the world good, why do I sin?

Adam and Eve rebelled against God, thus bringing into the world pain, fruitless toil, alienation from God and each other, and death. I have inherited a fallen and corrupted human nature, and I too sin and fall short of God’s glory. (Genesis 3, Romans 3:23; 5:12)

48. How does sin affect you?

The God-opposing, self-centered power of sin, which is present in all people, corrupts me and my relationship with God, with others and with creation. Because of sin and apart from Christ, I am spiritually dead, separated from God, under his righteous condemnation, and without hope. (Genesis 3; Ephesians 2:1-3; Galatians 5:19-21)

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