Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From Book One of Psalms
WHAT would be an appropriate title for a Bible book that consists mostly of praises to our Creator, Jehovah God? No name could be more fitting than Psalms, or Praises. This longest book of the Bible contains beautifully composed songs that recount God’s wonderful qualities and mighty acts and relate numerous prophecies. Many of the songs express the emotions their writers felt while suffering adversity. These expressions span a period of some one thousand years—from the days of the prophet Moses to postexilic times. The writers were Moses, King David, and others. The priest Ezra is credited with arranging the book in its final form.
From antiquity, the book of Psalms has been divided into five collections, or sections, of songs: (1) Psalms 1-41, (2) Psalms 42-72, (3) Psalms 73-89, (4) Psalms 90-106, and (5) Psalms 107-150. This article considers the first collection. All but three psalms in this section are attributed to King David of ancient Israel. The composers of Psalms 1, 10, and 33 are not identified.
“MY GOD IS MY ROCK”
After the first psalm declares happy the man who takes delight in the law of Jehovah, the second leads right into the Kingdom theme.* Entreaties to God dominate this group of psalms. Psalms 3-5, 7, 12, 13, and 17, for example, are petitions for deliverance from enemies. Psalm 8 highlights Jehovah’s greatness in comparison with man’s littleness.
Describing Jehovah as the Protector of his people, David sings out: “My God is my rock. I shall take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:2) Jehovah is praised as the Creator and the Lawgiver in Psalm 19, as the Savior in Psalm 20, and as the Savior of his anointed King in Psalm 21. Psalm 23 depicts him as the Great Shepherd, whereas the 24th Psalm portrays him as the glorious King.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
2:1, 2—What “empty thing” do the nations keep muttering? The “empty thing” is the constant concern of human governments to keep perpetuating their own authority. This is empty because their purpose is doomed to failure. Can the national groups really hope to succeed when they take their stand “against Jehovah and against his anointed one”?
2:12—In what way can the rulers of the nations “kiss the son”? In Bible times, kissing was an expression of friendship and faithfulness. It was a way to welcome guests. The kings of the earth are commanded to kiss the Son—that is, welcome him as the Messianic King.
3:superscription—What is the purpose of the heading given to some of the psalms? The heading sometimes identifies the writer and/or provides information about the circumstances under which the psalm was composed, as is the case with Psalm 3. The superscription may also explain the purpose or use of the particular song (Psalms 4 and 5) as well as give musical instructions (Psalm 6).
3:2—What is “Selah”? This term is generally thought to represent a pause for silent meditation, either in the singing alone or in the singing and instrumental music. The pause was used to make the thought or emotion just expressed more impressive. There is no need to read the word aloud during public reading of the Psalms.
11:3—What foundations are torn down? These are the very foundations on which human society rests—law, order, and justice. When these are in disarray, social disorder prevails and there is no justice. Under such conditions, “anyone righteous” must fully trust in God.—Psalm 11:4-7.
21:3—What is significant about “a crown of refined gold”? Whether the crown was literal or was symbolic of added glory because of David’s many victories is not stated. However, this verse prophetically points to the crown of kingship that Jesus received from Jehovah in 1914. The fact that the crown is made of gold suggests that his reign is of the highest quality.
22:1, 2—Why might David have felt that Jehovah had left him? David was under such intense pressure from his enemies that his ‘heart became like wax and melted deep in his inward parts.’ (Psalm 22:14) It may have seemed to him that Jehovah had abandoned him. When impaled, Jesus also felt this way. (Matthew 27:46) David’s words reflect his human reaction to his desperate situation. From his prayer recorded at Psalm 22:16-21, however, it is evident that David had not lost faith in God.
Lessons for Us:
4:5. Our spiritual sacrifices are “sacrifices of righteousness” only if they stem from right motives and our conduct measures up to Jehovah’s requirements.
9:12. Jehovah looks for bloodshed in order to punish the bloodguilty, but he remembers “the outcry of the afflicted ones.”
15:4. Unless we come to the realization that we have made an unscriptural promise, we should do all we can to fulfill our word, even if it is very difficult to do so.
15:5. As Jehovah’s worshippers, we need to guard against misuse of money.
17:14, 15. The “men of this system of things” devote themselves to making a good living, raising a family, and leaving behind an inheritance. David’s main concern in life was to make a good name with God so as to ‘behold his face,’ or to experience Jehovah’s favor. Upon “awakening” to Jehovah’s promises and assurances, David would feel ‘satisfied to see His form,’ or rejoice in Jehovah’s presence with him. Like David, should we not set our heart on spiritual treasures?
19:7-11. Jehovah’s requirements—how good they are for us!
19:12, 13. Mistakes and presumptuous acts are sins to guard against.
19:14. We should be concerned not only about what we do but also about what we say and think.
“BECAUSE OF MY INTEGRITY YOU HAVE UPHELD ME”
What heartfelt desire and strong determination to keep his integrity David expresses in the first two psalms of this group! “As for me, in my integrity I shall walk,” he sings. (Psalm 26:11) In his prayer for forgiveness of sins, he admits: “When I kept silent my bones wore out through my groaning all day long.” (Psalm 32:3) To Jehovah’s loyal ones, David gives the assurance: “The eyes of Jehovah are toward the righteous ones, and his ears are toward their cry for help.”—Psalm 34:15.
How valuable the advice given in Psalm 37 was to the Israelites and is to us, living as we do in “the last days” of this system of things! (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Speaking prophetically of Jesus Christ, Psalm 40:7, 8 states: “Here I have come, in the roll of the book it being written about me. To do your will, O my God, I have delighted, and your law is within my inward parts.” The final psalm of the collection is about David’s request for Jehovah’s help during the turbulent years following his sin with Bath-sheba. He sings: “As for me, because of my integrity you have upheld me.”—Psalm 41:12.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
26:6—How do we, like David, figuratively march around Jehovah’s altar? The altar represents Jehovah’s will in accepting the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the redemption of mankind. (Hebrews 8:5; 10:5-10) We march around Jehovah’s altar by exercising faith in that sacrifice.
29:3-9—What is portrayed by likening the voice of Jehovah to a thunderstorm that inspires awe as it travels? Simply this: Jehovah’s awesome power!
31:23—How is a haughty person rewarded exceedingly? The reward here is punishment. A righteous one receives his reward for his unintentional mistakes in the form of discipline from Jehovah. Since a haughty person does not turn back from his wrong course, he is rewarded exceedingly with severe punishment.—Proverbs 11:31; 1 Peter 4:18.
33:6; footnote—What is “the spirit,” or “breath,” of Jehovah’s mouth? This spirit is God’s active force, or holy spirit, which he used in creating the material heavens. (Genesis 1:1, 2) It is called the spirit of his mouth because, like a powerful breath, it can be sent forth to accomplish things at a distance.
35:19—What is the meaning of David’s request not to let those hating him wink their eye? The winking of an eye would indicate that David’s enemies were deriving pleasure from the success of their spiteful plans against him. David requested that this not happen.
Lessons for Us:
26:4. We are wise to avoid association with those who hide their identity in Internet chat rooms, those at school or at our place of work who pretend to be our friends for devious reasons, apostates who put on a mask of sincerity, and those who live a double life.
26:11. While expressing his determination to keep his integrity, David also made a request for redemption. Yes, we can maintain our integrity despite our imperfection.
29:10; footnote. By sitting upon “the deluge,” or “heavenly ocean,” Jehovah indicates that he is in full control of his power.
30:5. Jehovah’s dominant quality is love—not anger.
32:9. Jehovah does not want us to be like a mule or an ass that obeys because of a bridle or a whip. Rather, he desires that we choose to obey him because of our understanding of his will.
33:17-19. No man-made system, regardless of how strong, can bring about salvation. Our trust must be in Jehovah and his Kingdom arrangement.
34:10. What reassurance this is to those who put Kingdom interests first in their lives!
39:1, 2. When the wicked seek information to bring harm to our fellow believers, we are wise ‘to set a muzzle as a guard to our mouth’ and remain silent.
40:1, 2. Hoping in Jehovah can help us cope with depression and come “out of a roaring pit, out of the mire of the sediment.”
“Blessed Be Jehovah”
How comforting and encouraging are the 41 psalms in the first collection! Whether we are suffering trials or are plagued by a bad conscience, we are able to draw strength and encouragement from this portion of God’s powerful Word. (Hebrews 4:12) These psalms contain information that provides sound guidance in living. We are repeatedly assured that regardless of the difficulty we find ourselves in, Jehovah will not forsake us.
The first collection of psalms ends with the words: “Blessed be Jehovah the God of Israel from time indefinite even to time indefinite. Amen and Amen.” (Psalm 41:13) After considering them, are we not moved to bless, or praise, Jehovah?
Psalm 2 has an initial fulfillment in David’s day.
[Blurb on page 19]
If inanimate creation gives glory to Jehovah, how much more so should we!
[Picture on page 17]
David composed most of the first 41 psalms
[Picture on page 18]
Do you know which psalm portrays Jehovah as the Great Shepherd?
[Picture on page 20]
Do not let a day go by without considering spiritual matters
[Picture Credit Line on page 17]
Stars: Courtesy United States Naval Observatory
[Picture Credit Line on page 19]
Stars, pages 18 and 19: Courtesy United States Naval Observatory
[Picture Credit Line on page 20]
Stars: Courtesy United States Naval Observatory