DISCOVERY for TEACHERS: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Psalms

Psalms

Book II of The Psalms

source for questions

Psalms 42:1 through 72:20

key verse for memorization

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” (Psalm 46:1-2)

background

Psalm 42 begins the second book (or subdivision) of the Book of Psalms, a collection of thirty-one chapters which ends with Psalm 72. Bible scholars think that Book II was compiled primarily during the reign of Solomon (970 B.C. to 931 B.C.), and possibly was added to the official worship collection during the reign of Hezekiah or Josiah. 

David wrote the vast majority of psalms included in Book I, and eighteen in this second section are credited to him. One is attributed to Solomon, and the remaining psalms in this group are credited to the “sons of Korah,” who were Temple musicians and assistants. 

These psalms were used in the Tabernacle and Temple services. In some cases, portions of the titles relate to how they were presented musically. For example, the word Shoshannim (a word that literally means “lilies”), which appears in the titles of Psalms 45, 60, and 69, may have referred to a specific melody, to a lily-shaped straight trumpet, or to a six-stringed instrument typically used to accompany the song. The word Alamoth, in the superscription of Psalm 46, can be translated as “young woman,” and probably indicates that the psalm was to be sung by a high voice or played upon a high-pitched instrument. Psalm 55 is designated as a Maschil (an “instructional” song) to be played by the Neginoth or “stringed instruments.”

With Jewish tradition correlating the five sections of the Book of Psalms to the first five books of the Bible, this grouping is called the “Exodus” section. Just as Exodus describes the bondage and deliverance of Israel, many of these psalms describe the nation as ruined and then calling out to God for deliverance. Psalm 42 sets the scene by crying out for God’s presence in a dry wilderness experience; many of the following psalms relate how God is able to rescue His people. 

The divine name predominantly used in Book II is El or Elohim (God). 

Suggested Responses to Questions
  1. Psalm 42 may have been written by David during his flight from Absalom, when he took refuge in Mahanaim (see 2 Samuel 17:24). Whatever the exact setting, the psalmist’s circumstances clearly prevented his attendance at public worship, and he had a strong desire to feel the presence of God among those with whom he once had worshipped. In verses 1-2, what metaphor or word picture did David use to describe his longing for God? 

    David compared himself to a hart (or deer) searching for water. (“Water brooks” are sub-terranean springs.) Point out to your group that David was not indifferent to this forced absence from the house of God. According to verses 3-4, he was moved to tears over the situation, and memories of his former free access reinforced his sadness and longing. Consider with your class: do we fully value our privilege of attending church? If that privilege were taken from us, would we experience the depth of grief expressed by the psalmist? We want to be sure our opportunity to worship never becomes commonplace. It is important that we do not come to the house of God only out of habit or a sense of duty. We want to focus on God with full appreciation of our opportunity to draw near to Him.

    If time allows, a further thought can be developed based on this passage. Point out that although David appeared to be struggling between two emotions — his faith in the Almighty God and a sense of dejection — he realized that his hope was in God. When he remembered that, his spirit rallied and he affirmed his confidence that God would “command his lovingkindness in the daytime” and that “in the night his song shall be with me.” The point should be made that at times we too may experience conflicting emotions. If that occurs, we should follow David’s example by focusing on the fact that our hope is in God.

     
  2. While Psalm 45 is a wedding song (“a song of loves”) which was composed to celebrate the king’s wedding, it is also Messianic in scope as it includes a prophetic allusion to the identity of the King in verses 6-8. Given that, who does the bride represent, and what is the bride instructed to do?

    Since verses 6-8 allude prophetically to Christ (a view supported by the fact that verses 6-7 are quoted in Hebrews 1:8-9 as applicable to Christ), the King’s bride represents the Bride of Christ, the Church. Verses 10-11 instruct the bride to “forget…thine own people, and thy father’s house” — she was to make a break with her former identity, sever her old ties, and worship her Bridegroom.

    Ask your class to parallel the instruction given to the bride in this psalm to what we must do when we give our lives to Christ and become His Bride. They should conclude that we are to separate ourselves from our past, turn away from the “culture” of sin and become wholly dedicated to Christ, and to worship Him. Verses 13-17 portray the rich blessings that will be bestowed upon the Bride as she is united forever with her Heavenly Bridegroom. 

    If time allows, encourage your group to give examples of those who forsook family, a job, old friends, or old ways of life when they became Christians, and of the blessings they received as a result.
     
     
  3. Psalm 46 is an expression of confidence in God after a miraculous deliverance. It may have been composed following Israel’s defeat of Assyria (see 2 Kings 19:35-36). Three times the author referred to a “refuge” (verses 1, 7, and 11). We may never face a great invading army, but we may well face life circumstances that cause us to long for a place of refuge. What might some of those circumstances be? How will looking to God as our refuge give us comfort in such times? 

    Class responses to the first question will indicate that many types of disasters and dangers could impact our lives. Potential crises include natural disasters, criminal violence, terror attacks, combat, and many other fearful circumstances. Statistics indicate that 50-60% of human beings will face at least one traumatic event in their lifetimes.1 Even if we never experience a natural disaster or a major crime against the public as a whole, we most likely will face personal adversity of some sort: serious illness, financial distress, antagonism toward our faith, or a variety of other situations which bring distress. 

    Response to the second question should bring out that simply knowing God will be with us brings immeasurable comfort. We know He is invincible, all powerful, and well able to protect us from every eventuality. Even though at the moment of crisis we may not see His protecting hand, He will be there for every child of God; we can always have hope and faith in God, and knowledge that He can intervene. Nothing will happen in our lives that He does not allow, and He promises to work everything together for good. Ask your class for examples of crisis situations in their lives when they found God to be a refuge. 

     
  4. One of the clearest views in the Old Testament of sin and its remedy is found in Psalm 51. In it, we read of David’s response after Nathan the prophet confronted him regarding his sin with Bathsheba and his subsequent murder of Bathsheba’s husband. What steps did David take, and what attitude of heart did he exhibit that eventually brought about restoration? 

    In verses 1-4, David cried out to God for mercy and pardon. He made no attempt to avoid responsibility for his actions, but acknowledged “my transgressions…mine iniquity…my sin.” His obvious distress was not just because his evil deeds had been discovered — David deeply felt the guilt of his wrongdoing. He stated that he had sinned against God himself. 

    It is clear that David’s attitude of heart was one of genuine repentance. He did not try to make excuses for his sin. He did not avoid consideration of it: he stated that his sin was always before him. Furthermore, David recognized that his sin was rooted in a sinful nature, and in verses 5-13 he also petitioned God to cleanse his heart. The word translated purge in verse 7 is intensive, meaning “un-sin” or “purify from uncleanness.” David longed for renewed communion with God; his frequent repetition of the words “blot out,” “wash,” “cleanse,” and “purge” portray the depths of his longing. This is a good opportunity to point out that God always responds to genuine repentance. Verse 17 states, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” All that David could offer God was his broken heart, but that was enough.

     
  5. David wrote Psalm 55, a psalm of lament, during the time when his son Absalom was attempting to take his throne. Verses 12-14 reveal that David’s pain was profound because he had been betrayed by a confidant and fellow-worshiper of God. This was likely Ahithophel, David’s trusted counselor, who secretly advised Absalom regarding David’s overthrow (see 2 Samuel 15:12). According to verse 22, what is the appropriate action when we suffer hurt or betrayal?

    When we are hurt or betrayed, the best recourse is to cast (hurl or throw) our burdens upon the Lord. The Hebrew word translated burden in verse 22 literally means “the portion that is given you; your lot.” David knew that his portion — the events that had befallen him — had been allowed by God. Just as a well-rooted tree remains stable in spite of being assailed by the wind, David had confidence that God would never “suffer” (or allow) the righteous to be overcome by circumstances. When we must endure personal hurt or betrayal, we can take hold of that same truth. Like David, we will find that God upholds and sustains us in spite of the pain.
     
  6. Many of the psalms offer praise to God for His mighty works in nature. That is true of Psalm 65, a composition of David. Addressed to the chief Musician, this song was probably sung during harvest time. Looking at verses 6-13, in what specific aspects of nature did God reveal His awesome power?

    Class discussion should identify the following references to nature:

    • God “setteth fast the mountains” and “girded [them] with power” (verse 6)

    • He “stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves” (verse 7)

    • He “visiteth [cares for] the earth, and waterest it” (verse 9)

    • He “preparest them corn” [supplies what is needed for growth] (verse 9)

    • He makes the ground “soft with showers” and blesses the “springing” thereof [causes plants to sprout forth] (verse 10)

    • The psalmist concluded these verses by indicating that nature proves God’s abundant generosity and goodness (verses 11-13).

    Believers today will benefit by pondering the cosmic, comprehensive benefits provided by our sovereign God. Like the psalmist, we should respond to His gracious provision with gratitude and worship.

     
  7. The short hymn of praise found in Psalm 67 is separated into three parts by the refrain, “Let all the people praise thee.” The first section, verses 1-2, asks God to grant favor to Israel so surrounding nations would come to know His “saving health” (or salvation). The second part looks to the future, calling the nations of the earth to be glad because God will “judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth” (verse 4). In the third section, which begins with verse 7, the psalmist continues the thought by stating that “all the ends of the earth shall fear him.” When will this amazing event occur?

    Class response should bring out that this will occur when Jesus Christ sets up His rule on this earth during His Millennial Kingdom. Then, and only then, will all the nations of the earth praise the Lord. 

    If time allows, this question provides a good opportunity to review with your class what will take place during the Millennial Reign of Christ, a thousand-year era of peace on earth. This period will be ushered in by the Revelation of Christ when He comes back to this earth with His saints following the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. The Battle of Armageddon will take place, marking the end of the Great Tribulation. Following the judgment of the nations, when Christ will judge the great Gentile world powers, He will institute His earthly Kingdom and will rule all the earth from the seat of His government in Jerusalem. This will be a time of righteousness and peace in which the people of earth will enjoy a “Garden of Eden” existence. The curse, which came upon the earth when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, will be lifted, and the glorious and everlasting Kingdom of Christ will be established in peace and prosperity.

    Conclude your summary of Christ’s Millennial Reign by pointing out that only through divine inspiration could the psalmist have predicted this event — an event which, more than three thousand years after the psalmist composed this hymn, is still in the future.

     
  8. Psalm 71 records the recollections and prayers of an aged man who had experienced God’s sustaining help in years gone by, and who was entreating God for continuing help in the twilight years of life. In the first section of the psalm, verses 1-8, the psalmist combined a cry to God with an affirmation of trust and remembrance of how God had been a strong refuge in all of his life. According to verse 14, what was his goal in his remaining time on earth? 

    The author stated that his goal was to continue to place his hope in God, and to praise Him more and more. He acknowledged the perils of advancing years (verses 9-16), and related that his enemies had suggested that his failing physical strength proved God had forsaken him. He concluded this psalm by expressing his confidence in the One who had taught him from his youth and was the hope of his old age (verses 17-24).

    This passage should provide a good wrap-up to your study of this section of the Book of Psalms. Focus on the fact that remembering God’s blessings, whatever our age, will help us to see the consistency of His mercy and lovingkindness toward us. That will bring the assurance that no matter what we may face in the days ahead, our hope can stay anchored in God. We can have confidence that He will never fail us.
conclusion

Although David went through difficult times, he found refuge in God and was able to rejoice in the God of his salvation. The same can be true of us.
 

 

1. “Facts About PTSD,” <http://psychcentral.com/lib/facts-about-ptsd/000662> 21 July 2015.