Book Five of the Psalms (Psalms 107-150) Part Three: Psalms 135-150 Nov. 26, 2017
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
We begin with what Dr. Robertson calls the “Three Transitional Psalms of Historical Recollection” (135-137)
Ps. 135 begins and ends with Hallelu-YAH, the only psalm that stands alone outside a grouping of this type of psalm. It is also the only psalm where Hallelu-YAH appears in the middle of the psalm (v. 3), and not just at the beginning or end.
One reason for this may be that 135 borrows from the two psalms (113 and 115) which surround the center psalm of the Hallelu-YAH collection, and that the middle section of 135 echoes the events of the exodus from Egypt, which is what 114 was about.
“As a consequence, Ps. 135 serves as a concentrated mirror of the initial collection of Hallelu-YAH psalms of Book V in all three of its segments.” (p. 221)
135 is an anthology of praise adapted from many other psalms, such as 134:1, 52:9, 147:1, and 136:10, 18-22. In addition, this psalm is a reformulation of Psalms 113 and 115:
113:1 = 135:1 (except for a reversal in the order of the phrases)
115: 4-11 = 135:15-20 (the mocking of the idols), However, 135 is even stronger than 115, in that instead of merely affirming that Yahweh is in heaven (115:3), the psalmist now affirms that the Lord is greater than all gods, and goes on to tell of His power in redemption and His power over all foreign nations (135:8-14). He also turns the three-fold “trust in the Lord” in 115:12 into a three-fold “praise the Lord” in 135:19-21. Beyond trust is praise!
Ps. 136 is arranged antiphonally, as 26 times we hear the refrain, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” The psalm proceeds from creation (5-9) to redemption (10-24) to providence (25). Each new remembrance of God’s faithfulness calls for another antiphonal response of thanks and praise to the Lord! “A recapturing of this (antiphonal) feature of the Psalter could greatly aid in the revival of worship practices in the church today.”
Ps. 137 presents the exiles in Babylon in an imprecatory psalm. We may wonder: “Why here, when we are already returning to Zion?” Perhaps it serves as an introduction to the final set of Davidic psalms in 138-145? If so, how?
It may be remembered that only a small portion of Jews who were taken into exile responded positively to Cyrus’ decree, that they could return to their native land. The great majority decided to remain in Babylon. Perhaps this psalm expresses the sadness associated with their exile from the land that was promised to them (v. 1)? Above all, they must not forget Jerusalem (vv. 5-6). Indeed, the focal point of the psalm is “the day Jerusalem fell.” (v.7) and how the Edomites cried “Tear it down!” They are also reminded that Babylon is doomed to destruction (v. 8)
Michael Wilcock writes that “The hostility between Jerusalem and Babylon was to become the symbol of the ultimate rift in the human race, between those who are for God and those who are against God, as seen in Rev. 17-21.”
Derek Kidner comments “Ps. 137 is an impassioned protest… not only against a particular act of cruelty, but against all comfortable views of human wickedness, either with regard to the judgment it deserves or to the legacy it leaves; and not least, in relation to the cost, to God and man, of laying its enmity and bitterness to rest.”
Even the harsh ending, “Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks” shows us what is in our depraved hearts, as well as picturing what suffering and grief Christ endured to procure our salvation, at Calvary.
The Eight Davidic Psalms (138-145)
Geoffrey Grogan notes that there are 14 Davidic psalms in Book V, and they occur in three groups:
First, there are two in 108-110;
Second, we have four in the Songs of Ascent: 122, 124, 131, and 133.
Third, we have a series of eight, in 138-145. In this last set, all eight make reference to troubles or enemies, although the final one only by implication (145:18-20).
A notable feature of Book V is the way it looks forward toward a great Davidic king. See Ps. 110. 132, etc. We are meant to understand these Davidic psalms in Messianic terms, in terms of God’s great King of the future.
Robertson: Why are these psalms of David reserved for near the end of Book V, as they deal with his enemies? Perhaps the editor wanted to maintain a strong dose of realism, even at the end of the book. For there is always a tension between the already and the not yet, until Christ comes again. Our struggles will continue until the final consummation.
Robertson also suggests that there are clues in 138-145 that are appropriate both to the time of Israel’s exile as well as to the times when David was a fugitive. (See pp. 225-227)
Ps. 138 – Goodness beyond Measure
Ps. 139 – God’s omniscience (1-6), His omnipresence (7-12), His omnipotence (13-18) and His holy and just judgment (19-24). “The knowledge of God’s omniscience about me evokes encouragement (5, 10), wonder (6, 14), praise (14), amazement (17), and confession and more openness before God (23-24).
“This statement of God’s omniscience is not formulated as a doctrine, but as befits a psalm, confessed in adoration.” This divine knowledge is not some comprehensive, all-seeing spy station (like a Muslim view of Allah), but rather it is personal and active, caring for us, watching out for us. “God not only sees the invisible and penetrates the inaccessible, but is also operative there. He inhabits all space and all of time.” (vv. 4, 16)
Ps. 140 – Rescue me, Lord from the Poison of Sheer Malice. It is a prayer for God’s servants to be protected (1-5); a prayer for God’s enemies to be punished (8-11); and each prayer is followed by the psalmists’ confidence in the Lord (6-7 and 12-13). We should use Ps. 140 to pray against social evil and against spiritual evils (Eph. 6:10-18). This is not a personal vindication; rather it is a prayer for the sake of a society that groans under the weight of cruel evildoers.
Ps. 141 – No Compromise. Notice all the parts of the human body: voice, hands, mouth, heart, head, bones, and eyes. Lord, keep me from giving in to the temptation of those who are powerful, prosperous, and unrepentant (v. 4)
Ps. 142 – “A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.” Same setting as Ps. 57. In Ps. 57 David was bold and animate. In Ps. 142 David seems somewhat desperate and fainting.
Ps. 143 – Crying to the Lord in times of trouble. Mercy (1-2), Misery (3-4), Meditation (5-6), and His prayer… for guidance, rescue, etc.
Ps. 144 – A King’s Song; a mosaic of other psalms, esp. Ps. 18.
It ends with “Blessed are the people of whom this is true; blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.” (v. 15)
Ps. 145 – This could have been the final psalm, before the grand finale of praise was added on.
It is an acrostic psalm of praise; He is Lord of all!
Trinity Hymnal # 5 “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing”
Here his personal praise mingles with that of all generations and of all creatures!
None of David’s 72 other psalms are titled “a Psalm of Praise.” This final Davidic psalm is placed just before the grand finale of praise psalms as an introduction to them. Furthermore, for the first time since Book I, a Davidic psalm hails Yahweh as King (145:1)
Ps. 145:21 “and all flesh will bless His Holy Name for ever and ever” would make a fitting ending to the whole book; compare with 150:6 “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”
Note that the five psalms that precede 145 are all prayers, and that the heartfelt response to answered prayer is heartfelt praise.
Ps. 145 could also be a text for the OT study of God, as it is so full of what the Bible teaches about Him in the OT.
Note the interesting contrast between the opening (107) and the closing (145) psalm of Book V.
107 focuses on Yahweh’s saving goodness to Israel, 145 extends that saving vision to all creatures.
The climax of the whole book of Psalms (Psalms 146-150)
The last six psalms (145-150) are all praise psalms, with no laments or complaints!
Each psalm in 146-150 begins and ends with Hallelu-YAH.
This ending focus tells us that the Psalter is primarily a book of praise to the Lord.
Note that with the exception of 146:1-2, all the rest of 146-150 are completely communal. We are called to praise the Lord as His redeemed people – together! This is what we see in Revelation 4 and 5.
Ps. 146 – The covenantal blessings of trusting in the Lord and not in man.
Ps. 147 – The LORD is Lord of the Covenant and of Creation. He is the God who redeems (1-6); the God who cares (7-11); and the God who commands (12- 20)
Ps. 148 – “The Choir of Creation” Praise from the heavens, from the earth, from Israel.
Ps. 149 – The church jubilant (1-5) and the church militant (6-9). “The actual battle for Canaan under Joshua becomes a spiritual conquest under Jesus, but in the end, it will be an all-out war (see Revelation).
Ps. 150 – Every verse is an invitation to praise the Lord! (13x). See 2 Samuel 6, with the bringing of the Ark. The angels and saints above (1-2) and the church below (3-5) join as one to praise the Lord, for this is what we were created and redeemed for. The theme of our worship is the greatness of God displayed in all His works.
“Here is the uninhibited exuberance of lives devoted to God, expressed in worship.” – Stott.
Music, dance, and singing are to be outward expressions of our redeemed hearts.
This is a grand climax of praise, yet it expresses an unrealized vision: “Would that it was so, now!” Therefore the question to us is “What do we intend to do about the discrepancy, between what is and what ought to be?”