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What Are Psalms?

Link to Bibliography

Outline of Series



Psalms are songs, prayers, meditations, prophecy, and a look into the deepest heart of Christ the Son during the period of time of his incarnation. Just as the Lord inhabits the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3), so the Holy Spirit brings to life the Psalms within the hearts of believers everywhere. This Bible study is a place intended to encourage us all to read, read, and read the Psalms so that contact with Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit will be made within their words.


I recommend the little book 31 Days of Wisdom and Praise (See Bibliography, Jones) for the reasons of its NIV translation and for the special numerical arrangement of the Psalms. While it is not necessary to buy this book, the little pocket paperback is highly attractive and convenient. The special numerical arrangement, however, can be followed from any Bible. In this arrangement, the psalms are presented according to the days of the month. On the 1st of each month, for example, the reader finds Psalms 1, 31, 61, 91, and 121. Then, continuing the example, on the 14th, the reader will find Psalms 14, 44, 74, 104, and 134. Everyone who follows this sequence will read the entire Psalter in one month.

When finished, begin reading it again, and again, and again. Sooner or later, God will sometimes and occasionally speak the words of the Psalter into your heart, as he meets you in your own particular life situation, Sitz im Leben. When he does this, you will have fellowship with God the Father and God the Son through the Holy Spirit within the words of Scripture.

Why Read the Psalms?

  • To see Christ in his humanity.
  • Of greatest value to me personally has been the realization that Jesus himself prayed most of these psalms during his sojourn of trial and suffering while a man on earth. Seeing and understanding this great Love leads me to worship Jesus the Son and God, the Father who loved the world so much that he gave his Son to suffer and to be crucified by the world.
  • In addition to having fellowship with the Father and his Son through the Holy Spirit, reading the Psalms cyclically, repeatedly, and horizontally (as described in the preceding section) develops an awareness of the unity of the Psalms as a whole, the themes they develop, and the movement of content from one form to another, for example, from lament and petition to praise and thanksgiving.
  • There is a Story contained in the Psalms as a whole.
  • You will begin to recognize that God is love, that he loves his people unceasingly and without limits, and that he loves you in particular.
  • Close familiarity with the vocabulary and language of the Psalms will also help you as you read other biblical books, especially books in the New Testament. You will begin to hear echoes of particular psalms in the speech and allusions of various New Testament writers and characters.

For example, after repeated reading of Psalm 1 from a literal translation, such as the English Standard Bible, when Pilot steps out from his private chamber, points at Christ, who has just been flogged and is about to be crucified, and says, “Behold, the man…” (John 19:5), by grace of the Holy Spirit, it becomes impossible not to hear in Pilot’s words an echo of the word “man” in the phrase “Blessed is the man…” in Psalm 1:1. Christ is “the man” who is blessed both in Psalm 1 and in the vast majority of the psalms. From Psalms, we learn about the physical and especially the internal suffering of God’s Son more than we do from any other biblical book. This awareness leads to a greater depth of worship and love for the Lord, as well as a deeper comprehension of the Bible’s proclamation, “God is love” (1 John 4: 8, 16). And we ask ourselves, how is it that flogging and crucifixion lead to a pronouncement of blessing? This is theology at a deep and fine level.

Topics of Consideration in this Bible Study of Psalms:

As the weeks progress, our study will lead us into consideration of:

  • content, meaning
  • categories of people and ideas
  • theology
  • forms, such as lament, praise, and thanksgiving
  • rhetorical style, such as the presence of blocks of dialogue
  • identification of speakers
  • New Testament quotations and use of the Psalms
  • poetical devices
  • the five books within Psalms
  • the place and importance of the Septuagint in reading and understanding the Psalms

In addition to being a written study published on this blog, there is a corresponding “live” Bible study for a small group of women who meet weekly. Clearly, we will not attempt to cover all of the topics listed above for each and every psalm we study, especially since the purpose of the study is to lead us into the presence of God, rather than into an academic understanding of an ancient Hebrew book. Rather, as various of the above topics become relevant for the psalm(s) under consideration that week, topics will be introduced as aids to appreciation.

Descriptive Summary:

My intent is to make this study a devotional study with just enough academic overtones to guide and encourage devotional use of the Psalms. May the Lord bless us all.

Ways to Increase Personal Engagement with a Devotional Reading of Psalms

  • As mentioned above, read and reread again and again and again
  • Read the Psalms out loud with only yourself present in the room
  • Journal as you read in a simple statement/”my response ” format
  • Try different translations, including a true to text paraphrase, such as the New Living Translation (NLT)

Link to Beginning of Series               Link to Next in Series



4 Are People Writing and Singing Psalms Today?: One Popular Example


Outline of Series

Popular Psalms Written for Worship Today: One Example

Hillsong. Thank You Jesus. Accessed from http://www.hillchords.com/hillsong/thank-you-jesus/, Accessed 5/16/2017.

Thank You Jesus
You set me free
Christ my Saviour
You rescued me

You’ve given me life
You’ve opened my eyes
I love You Lord
I love You Lord

You’ve entered my heart
You’ve set me apart
I love You Lord
I love You Lord


Thank you Jesus

 ESV  Psalm 75:1 To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song. We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds.

ESV  Psalm 118:21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.

ESV  Psalm 35:18 I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you.

 You set me free

 ESV  Psalm 118:5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free.

 Christ my Saviour

 NIV  Psalm 38:22 Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.

NIV  Psalm 68:19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

 You rescued me

 NLT  Psalm 30:1 A psalm of David. A song for the dedication of the Temple. I will exalt you, LORD, for you rescued me. You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.

NET  Psalm 54:7 Surely he rescues me from all trouble, and I triumph over my enemies.

ESV  Psalm 56:13 For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

NLT  Psalm 56:13 For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.

 You’ve given me life

 ESV  Psalm 21:1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults!  2 You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah  3 For you meet him with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.  4 He asked life of you; you gave it to him, length of days forever and ever.

 You’ve opened my eyes

 ESV  Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

ESV  Psalm 146:8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.

 You’ve entered my heart

 ESV  Psalm 40:8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

 You’ve set me apart

            ESV  Psalm 4:3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.

I love you Lord

 ESV  Psalm 18:1To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, O LORD, my strength.

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1 Psalms Bible Study: Bibliography

Outline of Series


  • 31 Days of Wisdom and Praise: Daily Readings from the Books of Psalms and Proverbs, New International Version. Arranged by R. Dean Jones. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990, by International Bible Society.
  • Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.
  • Aland, Barbara, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce Metzger, Editors. The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition with Greek Text of Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014.
  • Allen, Leslie C. Word Biblical Themes: Psalms. Waco: Word Books, 1987.
  • Anderson, Bernhard W. with Steven Bishop. Out of the Depths: The Psalms Speak for Us Today, 3rd Edition, Revised and Expanded. Louisville: Westminster John Know Press, 2000.
  • Archer, Gleason L. and Gregory Chirichigno. Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 1983.
  • Arndt, William F. and F. Wilbur Gingrich, Editors. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literrature, 2nd Edition. Revised and Augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker from Walterr Bauer’s Fifth Edition, 1958. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979.
  • Barclay, John. The Psalms of David, and the Paraphrases and Hymns: With a Dissertation on the Book of Psalms, and Explanatory Introductions to Each. Edinburgh: James Gall, 1826. Reprinted Digitally by Forgotten Books, registered trademark of FB &c Ltd., London, 2017. Available at http://www.ForgottenBooks.com, 2017.
  • Belcher, Richard P. Jr. The Messiah and the Psalms: Preaching Christ from All the Psalms. Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, Ltd., 2006
  • BibleWorks. BibleWorks 9 Software for Biblical Exegesis & Research. Norfolk, VA: BibleWorks, 2011.
  • Bonar, Andrew A. Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms: 150 Inspirational Studies. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1978.
  • Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1974 in paperback.
  • Brenton, Sir Lancelot C. L. The Septuagint Version: Greek and English. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970.
  • Broyles, Craig C. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999.
  • Brueggemann, Walter. The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984.
  • Bullock, C. Hassell. Encountering the Book of Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.
  • Clowney, Edmund P. Preaching Christ in All of Scripture. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003.
  • Crossway. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright © 2001,2007 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. This publication contains The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2007 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. It includes the January 2008 Update. See also English Standard Version Bible Online: http://www.biblestudytools.com/esv/psalms/ .
  • Darby, John, John Darby’s Synopsis, Whole Bible, Psalm 102, Available at Christianity.com, “Psalm 102 Bible Commentary: John Darby’s Synopsis,” https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=drby&b=19&c=102#%5B1%5D, Accessed on November 17, 2017.
  • Feinberg, John S. and Paul D. Feinberg, Editors. Tradition and Testament: Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg. Chicago: Moody Press, 1981.
  • Friberg, Timothy, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller. Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. Baker’s Greek New Testament Library. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000. BibleWorks, v.9.
  • Futato, Mark D. Edited by Howard, David M. Jr. Interpreting the Psalms: An Exegetical Handbook. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2007.
  • Gingrich, F. Wilbur and Frederick William Danker, Editors. Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 2nd Edition. Copyright © 1965 by The University of Chicago Press.
  • Horne, George, Lord Bishop of Norwich. A Commentary on the Book of Psalms: In Which Their Literal and Historical Sense, as They Relate to King David and the People of Israel, Is Illustrated; and Their Application to Messiah, to the Church, and to Individuals as Members Thereof, Is Pointed Out; With a view to render the Use of the Psalter pleasing and profitable to all orders and degrees of Christians. Philadelphia: Alexander Towar, 1822.
  • Jones, R. Dean, Arranger. 31 Days of Wisdom and Praise. International Bible Society. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990.
  • Lewis, C. S. Reflections on the Psalms: The Celebrated Musings on One of the Most Intriguing Books of the Bible. Boston and New York: Mariner Books, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1958, 1986 and 2012.
  • Nestle-Aland, Editors. Novum Testamentum Graece, 26th Edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1979, 1987.
  • Rahlfs, Alfred, Editor. LXT – LXX Septuaginta (LXT) (Old Greek Jewish Scriptures), Copyright © 1935 by the Württembergische Bibelanstalt / Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft (German Bible Society), Stuttgart.
  • Rahlfs-Hanhart. Septuaginta: Editio altera. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006.
  • Reardon, Patrick Henry. Christ in the Psalms, 2nd edition. Chesterton: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2011.
  • Saphir, Adolph. The Divine Unity of Scripture. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1896. Public Domain.
  • Saphir, Adolph and Cortesi, Lawrence. The Epistle to the Hebrews: An Exposition. Public Domain.
  • Spurgeon, Charles. The Treasury of David: Containing an Original Exposition of the Book of Psalms; A Collection of Illustrative Extracts from the Whole Range of Literature; A Series of Homiletical Hints upon Almost Every Verse; And Lists of Writers upon Each Psalm in Three Volumes. Peabody: Henrickson Publishers, No Date.
  • Thayer, Joseph. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Abridged and Revised Thayer Lexicon). Ontario, Canada: Online Bible Foundation, 1997. BibleWorks, v.9.
  • The Holy Bible: New International Version®.  NIV®.  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.  All rights reserved worldwide. See also (New International Version Bible Online): http://www.biblestudytools.com/colossians/. See also http://www.biblestudytools.com/esv/psalms/.
  • Tournay, Raymond Jacques. Seeing and Hearing God with the Psalms: The Prophetic Liturgy of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Translated by J. Edward Crowley. Sheffield, England: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (JSOT) Supplement Series 118, 1991.
  • Waltke, Bruce K. and James M. Houston with Erika Moore. The Psalms as Christian Lament: A Historical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014.
  • Waltke, Bruce K. and James M. Houston with Erika Moore. The Psalms as Christian Worship: A Historical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

Next in Series

Psalms First Series: Outline

1.   Bibliography Bibliography for Psalms Bible Study

2.   Outline (this page)

3.   Introduction to the Series

4.   Are People Writing and Singing Psalms Today?

5.   Psalm 1: Introduction to the Psalter

6.   What Do Other Authors Write about Christ in the Psalms?  

7. Psalms and the Message of the Bible: A Word about Themes

8. Psalm 2: A Royal Psalm, Psalmic Prophecy, and Speech

9. Engaging Spiritual Battle

10. Psalm 22, 38, and 88: Which Are Messianic?

11. Psalm 18: Resurrection

12. Psalm 18:1 Devotional 

13. Psalm 21: A Structural Analysis

14. Psalms 12, 42, 72, 102, 132: Reading Across Psalms for a Complete Messianic Portrait


Link to the New Series on Psalms


Next in Series

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