Bible Highlights Psalms 1 to 41
The Psalmist Sings Jehovah’s Praise
“Praises.” This is the meaning of the Hebrew name for the book of Psalms, and how appropriate it is! The whole book is, in effect, one long shout of praise to Jehovah God. The Psalms recount Jehovah’s qualities and mighty acts. They contain prophecies and also tell us the feelings of the inspired writers as they endured persecution, betrayal, discouragement, and even a bad conscience. Many Christians suffering similar trials have drawn strength from the words of the Psalms.
The book of Psalms is divided into five sections. Here we discuss the first of these, Psalms 1 to 41.
Submitting to Jehovah’s Purposes
Please Read Psalms 1 to 14. This group of psalms introduces some of the major themes of the book of Psalms: the importance of the Law, prophecies about the coming Messianic King, and prayers for help in the face of severe pressures. Additionally, we learn that, despite the temporary ascendancy of the wicked, the righteous will be blessed.
◆ 2:1—What “empty thing” did the nations keep “muttering”?
The nations kept “muttering” (or, “meditating on”) the perpetuation of their own authority, instead of accepting Jehovah’s Anointed One. These words had an application in the first century C.E., when Roman and Jewish authorities worked together to kill Jehovah’s anointed King, Jesus Christ. (Acts 4:26-28) However, the major fulfillment has been since 1914, when all the nations have rejected God’s enthroned King and have tried to promote their own sovereignty.
◆ 2:12—Why the command, “Kiss the son”?
In Bible times, kissing was an expression of friendship and was used to welcome guests into the hospitality of one’s home. In this verse, Jehovah commands the nations to kiss, or welcome, his Son as his anointed King.—Psalm 2:2, 6-8.
◆ 9:12—Why does Jehovah go “looking for bloodshed”?
Like a judge sitting in judgment, Jehovah seeks out those who are bloodguilty because of shedding the blood of his innocent people. (Genesis 9:5, 6; Luke 11:49, 50) He also punishes the guilty. But his punishments are not indiscriminate. The psalmist David assures us: “He is sure not to forget the outcry of the afflicted ones.”—Compare 2 Peter 2:9.
◆ 11:3—What are “the foundations” that are torn down?
The foundations are justice, law, and order—the foundations on which society rests. When there is a breakdown in the social order, with no possibility of justice, what should the God-fearing person do? Trust in Jehovah. He is on his heavenly throne, sees everything that is going on, and will not fail us.
Lesson for Us: Psalm 4:5 urges God-fearing ones to “sacrifice the sacrifices of righteousness.” In David’s day, the Israelites had to offer sacrifices on Jehovah’s altar. But they also had to have the right motives and be genuinely repentant. (Isaiah 1:11-17) When Christians offer their spiritual sacrifices, they, too, need to have the right motives and must live up to Jehovah’s high standards.—Hebrews 13:4, 5, 15, 16; 1 Peter 2:1, 5.
The Unmatchable God
Read Psalms 15 to 24. This group of psalms contains a number of expressions of praise to Jehovah. He is the Protector of his people (18), Creator and Lawgiver (19), Savior (20), Protector of his chosen King (21), the Great Shepherd (23), and the Glorious King (24).
◆ 16:10—Who is the “loyal one” mentioned here?
Some Bible scholars apply this verse to faithful ones in general, citing as support the fact that in some Hebrew manuscripts the word for “loyal one” is in the plural. However, when this verse is quoted in the Christian Greek Scriptures, the word is in the singular, indicating just one “loyal one.” Who is he? In the first instance, probably David himself. But prophetically, both Peter and Paul apply this verse to Jesus.—Acts 2:25-32; 13:35-37.
◆ 21:3—What was the “crown of refined gold”?
Perhaps this was a literal crown, such as the one removed from the idol Malcam. (Compare 2 Samuel 12:29, 30.) Or perhaps the crown is simply figurative, a symbol of the fact that David’s victory had given further adornment to his glorious kingship. Prophetically, though, this psalm points to how Jehovah gave Jesus the crown of rulership in 1914. The “crown of refined gold” points to the fact that his rule is of the very highest quality.
◆ 22:1—Had God forsaken David?
No, but when David was under intense pressure from his enemies, it appeared so. However, David’s human reaction to his dire straits did not reflect lack of faith, since he goes on to pray confidently for deliverance. (Verses 16-19 of Ps 22) Interestingly, Jesus quoted from this psalm before dying on the torture stake. By asking “why?” Jesus expressed the extreme pressure he was under, while at the same time proclaiming his innocence of the false charges that led to his execution.
Lesson for Us: The apostle Paul quotes Psalm 22:22 and applies it to the way Jesus Christ takes the lead among his anointed brothers in declaring Jehovah’s name. (Hebrews 2:11, 12) Psalm 22:27 points to the time when “all the families of the nations” will join Jehovah’s people in praising him. Today, a vast, international crowd worships God along with Jesus’ brothers. (Revelation 7:9) We should stay close to this divinely organized arrangement.
Jehovah’s Great Power
Read Psalms 25 to 34. In Psalms 25 and 26, David declares his desire to walk in his integrity. There then follow expressions of courageous trust in Jehovah and, in Psalm 33, a magnificent description of Jehovah’s power.
◆ 28:8—Who is Jehovah’s “anointed one”?
In this verse the “anointed one” is Jehovah’s chosen people, as seen from the parallel line “Jehovah is a strength to his people.” These words have a prophetic import similar to those of Habakkuk 3:13. They point to Jehovah’s saving his anointed remnant at the battle of Armageddon.
◆ 29:5, 6—How does the voice of Jehovah break the cedars?
In this psalm the power of Jehovah is graphically portrayed by likening his voice to a thunderstorm. The storm travels from Lebanon in the north to the southern desert regions, inspiring awe as it goes. (Verse 9b of Ps 29) Its winds agitate the cedars of Lebanon, making them “skip about like a calf,” and its lightnings strike some trees down, ‘breaking them.’ Similarly, the storm winds ‘make the wilderness writhe’ (verse 8 of Ps 29), whipping up the sands of the desert so that they seem to be writhing in agony.
◆ 33:6—What is ‘the spirit of Jehovah’s mouth’?
The spirit, or breath, here meant is Jehovah’s holy spirit, or active force. As our words and breath issue from our mouths simultaneously, so Jehovah’s word, or command, is here coupled with his breath, or spirit. God used his holy spirit when creating the sun, moon, and stars, that is, all the figurative army of the material heavens.—Compare Genesis 1:1, 2.
Lesson for Us: At Psalm 26:5, David said he had hated the congregation of evildoers. Jehovah’s Witnesses today similarly avoid association with evildoers. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Just as David showed great interest in God’s house, these true Christians are delighted to associate with one another in Jehovah’s organization.—Psalm 26:6-8; 122:1.
“Blessed Be Jehovah”
Read Psalms 35 to 41. Outstanding in this group are Psalm 36, identifying Jehovah as the Source of life, and Psalm 37, assuring us of the eventual rewards for the teachable ones. Especially noteworthy, too, is Psalm 40, containing expressions prophetic of Jesus Christ.
◆ 35:19—Why would David’s enemies “wink the eye”?
The Hebrew text literally calls them “my enemies [in] falsehood.” That is, their hatred stemmed from impure motives. David had done nothing to deserve their enmity, and he prayed that they might have no occasion to rejoice or exult over him. (Verse 19a) Then, he asked that his malicious foes would have no reason to “wink the eye,” for such literal winking would give evidence that they were gloating over the success of their evil schemes. (Proverbs 10:10; 16:29, 30) Jesus quoted this verse and applied it to those who hated him.—John 15:24, 25.
◆ 36:3—Did such wicked ones once have insight?
The implication is that there was a change in such a person’s conduct and that he no longer was what he once professed to be. Perhaps he once displayed wisdom and did things that were good. But he had left that behind, becoming apostate. King Saul was one who left the course of wisdom, showing hatred for David. (1 Samuel, chapter 18) Some scholars even feel that David made this reference in Psalm 36 with Saul in mind.
◆ 40:6—What is meant by the words, ‘My ears you opened up’?
This could mean that Jehovah caused David’s ears to be attuned to God’s directions, or even that Jehovah created ears with which David could hear His commands. Interestingly, in the Septuagint these words are rendered: “You prepared a body for me.” Whatever the source of this translation, it carries the same basic idea as the Hebrew. That is, it stresses the need for obedience. (Compare 1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6.) Paul applied this verse to Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 10:5-10) Since Paul used the Septuagint rendering, the phrase “you prepared a body for me” is now a part of “all Scripture” that “is inspired of God.”—2 Timothy 3:16.
Lesson for Us: Psalm 37 contains many lessons for us, living as we do in the midst of a wicked generation. Even though evildoers prosper, we should not be envious and try to imitate them. Rather, we should “keep silent before Jehovah,” not finding fault but, rather, calmly trusting in him to act in our behalf in his own time.—Psalm 37:5, 7.
Yes, the Psalms offer many inspiring and comforting words. These first 41 psalms have shown repeatedly that, however difficult our circumstances may be, Jehovah will not abandon us. Surely, after reading them, we should be moved to echo the words that conclude Psalm 41: “Blessed be Jehovah the God of Israel from time indefinite even to time indefinite. Amen and Amen.”