Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From Books Three and Four of Psalms
IN A prayer to God, the psalmist asks: “Will your loving-kindness be declared in the burial place itself, your faithfulness in the place of destruction?” (Psalm 88:11) The answer, of course, is no. Without life, we cannot praise Jehovah. Praising Jehovah is a good reason for us to keep living, and having life is a good reason to praise him.
Books Three and Four of Psalms, consisting of Psalm 73 to 106, give us plenty of reasons for praising the Creator and blessing his name. Reflecting on these psalms ought to deepen our appreciation for “the word of God” and move us to enlarge and improve our expressions of praise to him. (Hebrews 4:12) With keen interest, let us first turn to Book Three of Psalms.
“THE DRAWING NEAR TO GOD IS GOOD FOR ME”
The first 11 psalms of the third collection are compositions by Asaph or by members of the house of Asaph. The opening song explains what has saved Asaph from being led astray by erroneous thinking. He has reached the right conclusion. “As for me,” he sings, “the drawing near to God is good for me.” (Psalm 73:28) A lament over the destruction of Jerusalem follows in Psalm 74. Psalms 75, 76, and 77 portray Jehovah as the righteous Judge, the Savior of the meek, and the Hearer of prayer. Psalm 78 reviews Israel’s past from the time of Moses to that of David. The 79th Psalm laments the destruction of the temple. Next comes a prayer for the restoration of God’s people. Psalm 81 is an exhortation to obey Jehovah. Psalms 82 and 83 are prayers for the execution of divine judgment upon corrupt judges and God’s enemies respectively.
“My soul has yearned and also pined away for the courtyards of Jehovah,” states a melody of the sons of Korah. (Psalm 84:2) Psalm 85 is a request for God’s blessing upon the returnees from exile. This psalm emphasizes that spiritual blessings are far more valuable than physical blessings. In Psalm 86, David asks God to guard him and instruct him. In Psalm 87, a melody about Zion and those born there is followed by a prayer to Jehovah in Psalm 88. Jehovah’s loving-kindness as expressed in the Davidic covenant is emphasized in Psalm 89, composed by Ethan, perhaps one of four wise men in the days of Solomon.—1 Kings 4:31.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
73:9—How is it that the wicked have “put their mouth in the very heavens, and their tongue itself walks about in the earth”? Since the wicked have no regard for anyone in heaven or on earth, they do not hesitate to blaspheme God with their mouth. They also slander humans with their tongue.
74:13, 14—When did Jehovah ‘break the heads of the sea monsters in the waters and crush to pieces the heads of Leviathan’? “Pharaoh, king of Egypt,” is called “the great sea monster lying stretched out in the midst of his Nile canals.” (Ezekiel 29:3) Leviathan may represent “the strong ones of Pharaoh.” (Psalm 74:14, footnote) The crushing of their heads likely refers to the crushing defeat of Pharaoh and his army when Jehovah delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.
75:4, 5, 10—What is signified by the term “horn”? The horns of an animal are a powerful weapon. Hence, the term “horn” figuratively denotes power, or strength. Jehovah raises up the horns of his people, causing them to be exalted, whereas he ‘cuts down the horns of the wicked ones.’ We are warned against ‘exalting our horn on high’ in that we should not take on a proud or arrogant attitude. Since Jehovah does the exalting, assignments of responsibility in the congregation are to be viewed as coming from him.—Psalm 75:7.
76:10—How can “the very rage of man” laud Jehovah? When God allows humans to vent their rage against us because we are his servants, a positive outcome can follow. Any hardship we may experience can discipline us in some way. Jehovah permits suffering only to the extent that it provides such training. (1 Peter 5:10) ‘The remainder of raging by man, God girds upon himself.’ What if we suffer to the point of death? This too can laud Jehovah because those who see us faithfully endure may also begin to glorify God.
78:24, 25; footnote—Why is manna called “the grain of heaven” and “the very bread of angels”? Neither expression means that manna was angels’ food. It was “the grain of heaven” in that its source was heavenly. (Psalm 105:40) Since angels, or “powerful ones,” dwell in heaven, the phrase “the very bread of angels” may simply mean that it was provided by God, who dwells in heaven. (Psalm 11:4) Jehovah may also have used angels to provide the manna for the Israelites.
82:1, 6—Who are called “gods” and “sons of the Most High”? Both expressions refer to human judges in Israel. This is appropriate, since they were to serve as God’s spokesmen and representatives.—John 10:33-36.
83:2—What does the ‘raising of one’s head’ denote? The gesture signifies readiness to exercise power or to take action, usually to oppose, fight, or oppress.
Lessons for Us:
73:2-5, 18-20, 25, 28. We should not become envious of the prosperity of the wicked and adopt their ungodly ways. The wicked are on slippery ground. They will surely “fall to ruins.” Moreover, since wickedness cannot be removed under imperfect human rule, our putting forth effort to eradicate it would be futile. Like Asaph, we are wise if we cope with wickedness by “drawing near to God” and by taking delight in a close relationship with Him.
73:3, 6, 8, 27. We must guard against boasting, haughtiness, scoffing, and defrauding. This is the case even though adopting such traits may seem advantageous.
73:15-17. When we are confused in our thinking, we should hold back from making our perplexing thoughts public. Telling “a story like that” would only discourage others. We ought to meditate peacefully about our concerns and resolve them in association with fellow believers.—Proverbs 18:1.
73:21-24. Becoming ‘sour at heart’ because of the seeming well-being of the wicked is likened to reacting like unreasoning animals. This reaction is impulsive, based strictly on the senses. Rather, we should be led by Jehovah’s counsel, fully confident that he will ‘hold us by the right hand’ and support us. Additionally, Jehovah ‘will take us to glory,’ that is, into a close relationship with him.
77:6. Showing heartfelt concern for spiritual truths and carefully searching for them requires time for study and meditation. How vital that we make room for a measure of solitude in our lives!
79:9. Jehovah listens to our prayers, especially when they are concerning the sanctification of his name.
81:13, 16. Listening to Jehovah’s voice and walking in his ways lead to rich blessings.—Proverbs 10:22.
82:2, 5. Injustices cause “the foundations of the earth” to totter. Unjust acts disturb the stability of human society.
84:1-4, 10-12. The psalmists’ appreciation for the place of Jehovah’s worship and their feeling of contentment with their service privileges furnish examples for us.
86:5. How grateful we can be that Jehovah is “ready to forgive”! He is on the lookout for any evidence that would provide a basis for him to show mercy to a repentant wrongdoer.
87:5, 6. Will those who receive life in the earthly Paradise ever know the names of those resurrected to heavenly life? These verses indicate that this is a likely possibility.
88:13, 14. A delay in receiving an answer to our prayers about a certain problem may well mean that Jehovah wants us to demonstrate the genuineness of our devotion to him.
“GIVE THANKS TO HIM, BLESS HIS NAME”
Consider the various reasons for extolling Jehovah that are set out in the fourth collection of psalms. In Psalm 90, Moses contrasts the existence of “the King of eternity” with the fleeting life of man. (1 Timothy 1:17) According to Psalm 91:2, Moses refers to Jehovah as ‘his refuge and his stronghold’—his Source of security. The next few psalms speak of God’s beautiful qualities, superior thoughts, and wonderful works. Three songs open with the expression “Jehovah himself has become king.” (Psalm 93:1; 97:1; 99:1) Speaking of Jehovah as our Maker, the psalmist invites us to “give thanks to him, bless his name.”—Psalm 100:4.
How should a ruler who fears Jehovah administer his affairs? Psalm 101, composed by King David, provides the answer. The next psalm tells us that Jehovah “will certainly turn to the prayer of those stripped of everything, and not despise their prayer.” (Psalm 102:17) The 103rd Psalm calls attention to Jehovah’s loving-kindness and mercy. Referring to God’s many productions on earth, the psalmist exclaims: “How many your works are, O Jehovah! All of them in wisdom you have made.” (Psalm 104:24) The final two songs of Book Four laud Jehovah for his wonderful works.—Psalm 105:2, 5; 106:7, 22.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
91:1, 2—What is “the secret place of the Most High,” and how may we ‘dwell’ there? This is a figurative place of spiritual safety and security—a condition or state of protection from being harmed spiritually. The place is secret because it is unknown to those who do not trust in God. We make Jehovah our dwelling by looking to him as our refuge and stronghold, by lauding him as the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, and by preaching the good news of the Kingdom. We feel spiritually secure because we know that Jehovah is always ready to help us.—Psalm 90:1.
92:12—In what way do the righteous “blossom forth as a palm tree does”? The palm tree is noted for its productivity. A righteous person is like a palm tree in that he is upright in Jehovah’s eyes and keeps bearing “fine fruit,” which includes good works.—Matthew 7:17-20.
Lessons for Us:
90:7, 8, 13, 14. Our wrongdoing always damages our relationship with the true God. And hidden sins cannot be concealed from him. However, if we truly repent and abandon our wrong course, Jehovah will restore us to his favor, ‘satisfying us with his loving-kindness.’
90:10, 12. Since life is short, we should “count our days.” How? By bringing “a heart of wisdom in,” or by exercising wisdom so that our remaining days are not wasted but are spent in a way that pleases Jehovah. This requires that we set spiritual priorities and use our time wisely.—Ephesians 5:15, 16; Philippians 1:10.
90:17. It is proper to pray that Jehovah “firmly establish . . . the work of our hands” and bless our efforts in the ministry.
92:14, 15. By being diligent students of God’s Word and by regularly associating with Jehovah’s people, elderly ones continue to be “fat and fresh”—spiritually vigorous—and prove to be valuable assets to the congregation.
94:19. Whatever the cause of our “disquieting thoughts” may be, reading and meditating on the “consolations” found in the Bible will comfort us.
95:7, 8. Listening to Scriptural counsel, paying attention to it, and readily obeying it will prevent us from becoming hard-hearted.—Hebrews 3:7, 8.
106:36, 37. These verses associate idol worship with sacrifices to demons. This indicates that a person who uses idols may come under demon influence. The Bible urges us: “Guard yourselves from idols.”—1 John 5:21.
“Praise Jah, You People!”
The last three songs of Book Four of Psalms close with the admonition: “Praise Jah, you people!” The last psalm also opens with it. (Psalm 104:35; 105:45; 106:1, 48) In fact, the expression “Praise Jah, you people!” occurs frequently in Book Four of the psalms.
We certainly have reason to praise Jehovah. Psalms 73 through 106 have given us much to ponder, filling our hearts with gratitude to our heavenly Father. When we think about all that he has already done for us and will do for us in the future, are we not moved to “praise Jah” with all our might?
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Like Asaph, we can cope with wickedness by “drawing near to God”
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Pharaoh suffers defeat at the Red Sea
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Do you know why manna is called “the very bread of powerful ones”?
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What helps to dispel our “disquieting thoughts”?