Book Four of the Psalms (Psalms 90-106) Oct. 29 and Nov. 5, 2017
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Book IV focuses on the truth that God Himself is His people’s dwelling place and that the Lord is their King. Geoffrey Grogan, in Prayer, Praise & Prophecy: A Theology of the Psalms, titles Book IV as “The Eternal Heavenly King”
The devastation and exile described in Book III now lead, by faith, to a more mature perspective, in which God’s people look beyond national hopes for Israel to the global (gospel) rule of the Lord over all nations. Their faith has been tried and stretched through the hard experience they went through.
Rather than trust in frail and failing human rulers, Israel is learning to trust in Yahweh as King and Redeemer (esp. see Psalms 145-146). Yet at the same time, by faith they are embracing the promise of a human messiah from the line of David who will reign forever, as well as the permanent dwelling place of God with mankind in the midst of His people (Immanuel).
The exile has had a purifying and maturing effect on God’s people. They better grasp the truth that Yahweh’s throne and David’s throne will merge into one, even through much suffering.
Dr. O. Palmer Robertson writes in The Flow of the Psalms (p. 148) “By deprivation of kingship, priesthood, temple, and sacrifice, the faith of God’s people experienced maturation through ‘forced growth’.” This is like what persecution does, or think about the Lord’s discipline in Hebrews 12.
Grogan writes: “It would be difficult to find any book of the OT that is a greater encouragement to faith in the living and true God than is this [i.e., Book IV]. It must have been a major means of grace from God to those who first read it.” (p. 219).
When was Book IV written and when was it read?
If the people of Israel were still in exile, but aware that God would one day restore them to the land, then these psalms would have encouraged them to trust God for the future. They would believe that even under the Babylonians and Persians, God’s glory would return to Zion.
If, however, a remnant of Israel had already been restored to the land, then these psalms would spur them on in the work of rebuilding, as in Ezra, Nehemiah and Haggai.
As if usually the case with the psalms, their function as an encouragement depended more on their time of reading than on their date of writing. We always need to ask, when studying a book of the Bible: why was this written? Who were the original hearers or readers, and what was the pastoral intent of the writer?
Note that there may be a connection between Book IV and Isaiah 40-55; “You shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace”- Isa. 55:12 and “So he brought His people out with joy, His chosen ones with singing – Ps. 105:43. We can see ties between Book IV and the Exodus, with the person of Moses and the idea of the wilderness connecting them together.
There is also a strong connection between Book IV and the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles, which we will explore later.
Surely, the God who had once rescued them out of Egypt could also bring them back from Babylon!
The structure of Book IV:
Two Introductory Psalms (90-91): The Prospect of Prosperity and Long Life
Ps. 90 – in sharp contrast with the devastation and doubt of Book III, this psalm opens up Book IV with the anticipation of a long life of prosperity for God’s people. See vv. 14-17.
Ps. 91 – The Lord responds by promising in 91:16 “With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
Ps. 92 – The theme continues here as well: vv. 12-14 “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree…planted in the house of the Lord… they will still bear fruit in old age; they will stay fresh and green.” (Even in exile they anticipate the Lord’s rich blessings.)
Psalm 90 plays a pivotal role in the whole psalter, as after the devastation of the dwelling place of God on earth, now the Lord Himself is the eternal dwelling place of His people (90:1-2) “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations…. From everlasting to everlasting You are God.”
Consider how this theme develops and unfolds in the New Testament:
John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us…”
Ephesians 2:22 “And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”
Revelation 21:3 “Now the dwelling of God is with men and He will live with them.”
So we move from the Lord’s dwelling place being a city (Zion) or a structure (the temple) to being God Himself! That’s why in Jeremiah 3:16 we are told that God’s people won’t even miss the Ark of the Covenant!
Up till now in Books I, II and IIII, the focus of the psalms has been the kingship of David and his descendants. But the going back to Moses’ time, 500 years before David, refocuses our attention to a time when the LORD Himself was declared to be King among His people. Deut. 33:5 “He was king over Jeshurun when the leaders of the people assembled, along with the tribes of Israel.”
Grogan: “The placing of 90 at the opening of Book 4 is evidence of great spiritual wisdom…”
For it takes the reader right back in history, for it is a prayer of Moses. We understand that God’s purposes for His people did not begin with David, but go back to the redemption from Egypt. (Ps. 103:7 will also take us back to Moses.)
Psalm 90 also connects the Exodus (1440 BC) and the Exile (587 BC), both followed by “wilderness” experiences for God’s people; these are the two major pivotal events of the OT.
There are many connections between Ps. 90 and the Song of Moses in Deut. 32, as well as Moses’ poetic blessing on the tribes of Israel in Deut. 33. (see Robertson, p. 151)
There is also a link between Moses’ intercession for his people in Ex. 32:12 “turn from your anger and relent” and his identical request in Ps. 90:13 “Relent, O Lord.” (Only 2 places in scripture.)
Consider the strategic placement of Ps. 90 right after Book III: During Moses’ time the people were forced into exile for 40 years in the wilderness; now they are in exile in Babylon (both times because of their sin, but also so that God could mature and refine His people.)
Note: All references in the Psalms to Moses are found in Book IV, [90:1; 99:6; 103:7; 105:L26; 106:16, 23, 32] with one exception (Ps. 77:20).
So Psalm 90 functions as a transition between the devastation of Book III at the hands of pagan nations and the expectation of living out their lives in the intimacy and fellowship with the Lord.
Ps. 91 displays the same tone: “In the shelter of the Most High”; “In the shadow of the Almighty”; covered “with His feathers” and “Abiding under His wings.” Indeed, the person who trusts in the Lord will find his refuge in the intimate presence of the Lord Himself (91:1-4).
Ps. 90 tells us that God is the dwelling place of His people and the Creator of all things…
Ps. 91 exhorts the people to dwell in the shelter, the dwelling-place, of the Most High.
“The LORD is King” Psalms (92-100) Yahweh Malak.
The phrase “The LORD is King” is found repeatedly in these psalms: 93:1; 96:10; 97:1; and 99:1. This specific wording as an independent, self-contained phrase occurs only in Book IV; but it also appears in a psalm celebrating the historic moment when David brought the Ark of the Covenant, the Ark of God, to Mount Zion, as recorded in 1 Chronicles 16:31 “Let the heavens rejoice, Let the Earth be glad; Let them say among the nations, “The LORD is King! (Yahweh Malak)”
What this tells us is that this was the moment in which Yahweh’s throne was effectively joined to David’s throne. It was as significant as the Exodus from Egypt and the triumph at the Red Sea. See Ex. 15:18 “Yahweh will rule as King forever and ever.”
When the ark was brought to Mt. Zion, Yahweh’s rule as King was affirmed once and for all.
(Robertson, pp. 154-155)
These psalms are celebrations of the universal scope of the sovereignty of Israel’s God.
Psalms and Chronicles
It appears that the book of Chronicles and the book of the Psalms were written/ edited at about the same time, and that they share a number of the same themes. There are at least ten passages in Chronicles which record incidents involving worship which closely compares to that in the Psalms.
Notice that the Psalm of 1 Chronicles 16 is dispersed across Book IV of the Psalms”
Ps. 96:1-13 = 1 Chr. 16:23-33
Ps. 105:1-15 = 1 Chr. 16:8-22
Ps. 106:1, 47-48 = 1 Chr. 16:34-36
The merger of God’s Kingship with David’s Messianic rule is see here in these psalms. Yahweh is now to be worshipped as our King, and as the King of all nations. See Robertson, p. 156 and pp. 160-164
Ps. 96 is poised at the center of the Lord is King Psalms.
There is a second distinct phrase that is found only in Psalms 95-97, and it is “over all gods.” These precise words occur only here and in 1 Chr. 16:25, all of which celebrate the bringing up of the Lord’s ark and the Kingship of Yahweh over all the nations.
In this collection, the psalmist is summoning the Lord’s people – as well as the entire earth! – to sing for joy, to come with thanksgiving, to extol the Lord with music and song, to sing a new song to the Lord, to declare His glory among the nations, and to rejoice before him!
“Possibly no other grouping of psalms so directly and so consistently summon God’s people to worship, to praise, and to thank Him as their Sovereign King.” (Robertson, p. 159)
And amazingly, these declarations and praises of Yahweh’s Kingship over the nations are made directly in the face of the domination over God’s people by the conquering Assyrian and Babylonian empires. Therefore even under the worst circumstances, we can and we should worship God and declare His sovereignty over all! (Robertson, footnote, p. 159)
Ps. 93 and 94 deal with this challenge, portraying the enemy nations as seas/ rivers that have lifted up their voices and their pounding waves (93:3). But the Lord on high is mightier than the thunder of the great waters and waves (93:4). [Note: the seas are the symbol of worldly power, as we note in Ps. 46 and Rev. 13 as well.]
Note: there are at least five groupings of psalms which present the LORD as King:
Book I – Psalms 20-24
Book II – Psalms 45-48
Book III – Psalms 75-76
But the concept of the Lord as King comes to fruition in Book IV, as it depicts Yahweh as the permanently established sovereign over the nations. His perpetual kingship should cause heaven and earth, nature and the nations, to worship and rejoice [Note the hymn Joy to the World! The Lord is Come! Hymn #196; based on ps. 98]
Psalms 101-103 are a triad of psalms reaffirming Davidic Kingship
While there is no explicit mention of David or the messianic kingship in Book IV, these three psalms reaffirm the ongoing significance of the David Kingship.
For Yahweh rules not only in heaven but also in Zion, the place where Yahweh’s kingship merges with David’s (102:13, 16, and 21)… even as David wrestles with the temporal limitations of his own life span (102:3, 11; 103:15-16).
Hebrews 1:10-12 applies the statements of Ps. 102:25-27 to Jesus, God’s Son and our King.
“David’s longing for a permanent merger of his messianic throne with Yahweh’s eternal throne finds its consummate realization in the enthronement of Jesus the Christ.” (Robertson, p. 169-70)
Grogan, p. 224: “The trust of the people was never meant to be in the monarch himself, but only in the God who placed him where he was and who promise to support him.”
Indeed, the song of Mt. Zion in Books I- III is not forgotten in Book IV, but rather it is transposed to a new key… to be sung in anticipation of the more glorious Zion to come, on both comings of Christ!
Ps. 103 emphasizes the forgiveness (103:8-12) and covenantal faithfulness (“hesed”) of the LORD to His people.
In Book IV, we see the LORD’s kingly functions expounded:
- As Creator (90:2; 95:6; 100:3; 102:25; 104:5-9)
- As the Rock (92:15; 94:22; 95:1)
- As the Judge (94:2; 96:13) – over His own people and over all the nations. The LORD enforces His righteous judgments by rewarding the righteous and by destroying the wicked. Note that both His people and all of creation sing for joy as the LORD executes His role as Judge (Ps. 96:13; 98:9) “The overriding response of the earth will be joy in the LORD as he climaxes His great work of redeeming His people in righteousness.” (Robertson, p. 172)
- As the Gracious LORD Who forgives all His people’s sins (90:13-14; 103:3, 8-10, 12; 106:6, 8, 30-31, 44-46)
- As the One who exercises His providential care over the whole world (104:10-30)
- As the Sovereign LORD of the Covenant who directs the lives of His people (105-106)
Yet Ps. 102 is different. It is the cry of one whose sufferings are unexplained, like Job’s.
“Zion’s dwelling is glorious, yet painfully slow in coming to fulfillment.” Like Ps. 90, it reminds us of the eternity of God and the brevity of human life. Also, Ps. 102 pictures the suffering of the Messiah
Psalms 104-106 are the first triad of Hallelu-Yah psalms
How often do you think the expression “Hallelujah” occurs in the psalms, and where do you think we first see it in the psalms? Strangely, the phrase doesn’t appear in the Psalter until the end of Ps. 104, and we see it only in Pss. 104-106 of Book IV; then in Book V (especially in the grand finale of praise in 145-150); and then only in Rev. 19 (four times) in the New Testament.
The NIV sometimes translates the Hebrew “Hallelu-jah” as “Praise the Lord”, as in 103:1 and 20-23, but the Hebrew there is actually “Barak” or “bless the Lord.”
Note that Ps. 104 ends with “Hallelujah” (ESV: “Praise the LORD”), 105 ends with the same, and 106 begins and ends with this expression. [We will see the same pattern in the other triads of “Hallelujah” psalms, in Book V, in Pss. 111-113 and in 115-117.
The term serves as a mean of bringing whole of the Psalter to a worshipful and joyful conclusion.
Note that Book IV ends with four psalms that all begin and end with praise and thanksgiving to the LORD:
103:1 and 20-22 (Bless the LORD)
It is worth noting that Pss. 103 and 104 are probably placed together to show the LORD’s sovereignty both in redemption (103) and in creation (104), in history and in the visible universe.
104:1, 33, 35
Indeed, throughout Book IV there are numerous summons for all creation and all peoples to sing for joy to the LORD, especially because “The LORD is King!”
We can say that God’s Royal Sovereignty receives special attention in Book IV. “The principal thrust of kingship now centers on the eternal, unthreatened, universal dominion of YAHWEH. He has rules as King, He is ruling as King, and He will rule as King, from eternity to eternity!” (Robertson, p. 179) He is king over all nations, over all the earth, and we are encouraged to, exhorted to, and even commanded to SING about His Wonderful, Gracious, and Sovereign Kingship! (As the old saying in Judaism goes, “As a person sings, so is he.”)
Psalms 105-106 are contrasting psalms of historical recollection.
The two psalms are linked together in a number of ways: (1) their opening calls; (2) both quote from David’s psalm in 1 Chr. 16; and (3) both are “Hallelujah” psalms, ending on that note.
Yet the two have different perspectives:
Ps. 105 gives praise to the Lord for His great faithfulness in fulfilling His covenant promises down through Israel’s history (8-9; 42-43)
Ps. 106 is an historical record of Israel’s great unfaithfulness to her God; her spiritual failures, right up to the present time, and yet also records the gracious forgiveness of the Lord (see esp. vv. 45-46 “For their sake He remembered His covenant and out of His great love he relented. He caused them to be pitied by all who held them captive.”)
Repeatedly throughout Ps. 106, sin is confessed (106:6, 13, 16, 21, 24-25, 29, 32-33, 37, 43)
Let us recall that as Pss. 105-106 are connected to 1 Chronicles 16 and the return of the Ark of Covenant to Zion, the Ark represents not only the LORD’s kingship, but the atonement cover on the ark symbolizes the LORD’s gracious forgiveness of sin, through the sacrificial blood offering sprinkled on the cover, the “mercy seat.”
As Book IV ends with a prayer to the Lord to save us and gather us from the nations (106:47), that they might give thanks and praise to Him, the reader of the Psalter is prepared for the themes of restoration from exile that will emerge in Book V.