Monday, November 11, 2013

CCV - Psalms

Our lives are a series of ups and downs; highs and lows.  Most of us try to prolong and concentrate on the highs and try to avoid the lows altogether, knowing that it is not possible.  In the History of civilization as we know it, long before the birth of Christ, believers in God Almighty poured out their hearts to the Lord during the extreme periods of highs and lows, those periods of profound joy and those of deep sorrow or personal crisis.  Those extreme periods in the lives of the various writers served as the catalysts for the Psalms.  We refer to this collection of 150 hymns as the Book of Psalms.  The Hebrews refer to it as the Book of Praises.

{This introduction of the Book of Psalms does not flow at all eloquently.  I’m trying to provide you with facts and thoughts that will enhance your reading of this wonderful and insightful book, trying not to leave anything out, so please bear with me.}

I’m not certain who assembled this collection of songs, prayers, and poems, but whoever it may have been, was resolved to confine it to worshipful writings, filled with praise and adoration for God the Creator.  Many, if not all, of the Psalms are considered to have been put to music.  This is assumed because of its very name.  The word “psalm” comes from the Greek, meaning “a song sung to the accompaniment of a musical instrument”.

The Book of Psalms is different from the books we have studied thus far.  I consider the previous eighteen books as divine sources for facts and information.  They should be read to gain knowledge and understanding, which is the way I have tried to teach them.  Somewhat in contrast, the Psalms are to be read in such a fashion that would cause the reader to reflect, rather than seek to gain knowledge.  Many Jews and Christians read the Psalms not only for reflection, but also for comfort.  There are those who read out of the book of Psalms every day, being like a daily devotional.  This is not a bad idea, as it serves as a reminder of our loving and omnipotent God Almighty.  These Psalms are also heralded as some of the most beautiful poetry ever written.  If you are a lover of poetry, you will probably agree.

Also in contrast to the other books of the Bible:  We consider the Bible as God writing to man.  In the Psalms, man is writing to God.  Think on that.

About the Authors:  Many people consider David to have written all of the Psalms.  This is not true, although he wrote more of them than anyone else (73).  There are other writers of the Psalms.  Scholars generally agree on the authorship of 104 of the psalms.  The remaining 46 are unknown.  The list below is generally accepted among Biblical scholars:

David – 73
Asaph – 12
Sons of Korah – 11
Solomon – 2
Moses – 1
Ezra - 1
Ethan – 1
Heman – 1
Haggai – 1
Zechariah – 1
Unknown – 46

All of the authors listed are Levites, except David, Solomon, and Moses.  These are all familiar names with the possible exception of the “Sons of Korah”.  {I must be careful not get too side-tracked into the interestingly colorful and ironic story of Korah and his ancestors.  Korah was the leader of a rebellion against Moses (Numbers 16).  You might remember the story about the earth opening up and swallowing all of Korah, his family and followers, killing them all.  But apparently, two of Korah’s sons were not in that group and they survived.  Seven generations later the great prophet Samuel was born out of this lineage.  We learn further about these Korahites in Chronicles that David assigned them, including Asaph and Ethan, to escort the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, playing music, adding to the pageantry of the occasion.}

The Order of the Psalms

Many assume that David wrote the first 73 Psalms.  Not so.  The order of the Psalms is not by author, but rather by content or theme.  There are three basic themes in the Psalms.  I’ve always taught Psalms from the King James.  I notice that the NIV divides this book into five sections.  The first section (Psalms 1-41) tells of man’s plight on earth.  The second and third sections (42-89) deal with man’s pleas for deliverance from his oppressors.  The fourth and fifth sections (90-150) are expressions of thanksgiving and praise.

This has been a rather lengthy introduction, but Psalms is a lengthy book.  Psalms is the second largest book in the Bible (Isaiah is the largest).  However, at the risk of making this entire post loo long, I want to comment on the very first Psalm.  Please read this short psalm.  (It contains only six verses.)  Then turn back to the very first verse wherein we will find some wisdom, containing somewhat of a warning.  The entire Book of Psalms opens with, “Blessed is the one who does not walk with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers”.  Study on the progression:  When you WALK with someone, your conversation is generally casual, and influence is slight.  However, if you stop walking and STAND with that person, you are giving more serious attention to his words.  Then if you should decide to SIT with that person, you are placing yourself in a position of exchanging thoughts in a conversation, and possibly yielding to the influence of someone you perhaps should have avoided in the first place.  Isn’t the Bible wonderful?  {This warning is to urge you to stand guard, not to be confused with trying to avoid contact with the ungodly, as we are commissioned to be a positive influence on them.  This often times requires us to spend time with them.  The apostles Paul and Peter spent time with some unsavory characters in order to spread the Gospel.}

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