Sunday School on the Psalms Nov. 12, 2017 Book V, Part One: Psalms 107-119

Book Five of the Psalms (Psalms 107-150)    Part One: Psalms 107-119          Nov. 12, 2017

Pastor Louis Prontnicki       Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

    As we come to the fifth and final book of the Book of Psalms, we note that we have moved in the first four books from David struggling against his enemies (Book I), to reigning as the anointed king in Zion, as he rules over enemy nations (Book II), to the dwelling place of God, the throne of David, and the Lord’s covenant with David being devastated (Book III). Then in Book IV we saw that even while God’s people were either in exile or at least under foreign domination, the Lord gave them faith to believe that “the Lord is King” “over all gods” and there is an exuberant worship and rejoicing by God’s people, who now see the Lord as their eternal dwelling place and the Lord Himself as their eternal king.

Here in Book V we come to the climax of praise to the Lord, the consummation of the Lord’s promises to His people and of His covenant with David, ultimately fulfilled in the person of God’s Son, who is also David’s son, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Book V consists of four parts:

Psalms 107-119 (including a Davidic triad, seven Hallelu-YAH psalms, and a Torah psalm.)

Psalms 120- 134 (Psalms of Ascent, with a pinnacle Psalm of Solomon)

Psalms 135-145 (Including the final psalms of David)

Psalms 146-150 (Hallelu-YAH grand finale of praise)

Ps. 107 As with the other four books, this book also starts with an introductory psalm.

It is a psalm that shows great joy in God and it is full of grateful praise to Him. For He has gathered His people from the nations, which is an answer to prayer from 106:47 “Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we might give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.” So here is a strong link between the end of Book IV and the beginning of Book V.

Moreover, notice that this gathering has already happened in 107:3. A glorious restoration has already occurred. This idea of gathering the nations has a rich biblical significance for the prophets (Isaiah 11:10-12; Isa. 66:18-21, cp. Romans 15:15-16; Jer. 31:8-11; Ezek. 20:34-41, and Luke 13:29)

In addition to the scattered Israelites being gathered back from their places of exile, the Lord is also gathering the gentiles from their home nations and bringing them to Himself at Zion! Jesus said in John 10:16 “Other sheep have I that are not of this fold. I must bring them also.”

So Ps. 107, the opening psalm of Book V, sets the stage for the consummate realization of the gathering of the Lord’s people from all the nations – as well as all the nations themselves – to His dwelling place in Jerusalem.

Note the catchphrase, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His steadfast (covenant) love endures forever.”  (106:1 and 107:1).  This phrase, “His steadfast love endures forever” is almost entirely related in the OT to the progress in the establishment of the temple in Jerusalem, and to the worship in that locale.  (Numerous times in Chronicles, as well as in Book V; plus in Ezra 3:11, Jer. 33:11, and Ps. 100:5.) The phrase had its origin in the psalm which celebrated the brining up of the ark to Jerusalem. (1 Chronicles 16:7, 34, 36b ESV). We see this phrase again when Solomon transferred the ark from the ten to the temple in 2 Chron. 5:13 and 17, and again when Solomon consecrates the temple with sacrifices (2 Chron. 7:6). Then once more after Israel’s restoration from exile, when the new temple is being dedicated (Ezra 3:11). Still further, the pivotal Messianic psalm of Book V, Ps. 118, celebrates the establishment of the personalized cornerstone of the Lord’s temple (118:22), and it begins and ends with the same refrain: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His steadfast love endures forever.” (118:1, 29).

An antiphonal usage of this refrain in worship occurs 26 times in Ps. 136.   All this underscores the centrality of a key feature of the Lord’s covenant with David, namely the establishment of a “house,” a permanent dwelling place for the Lord’s throne in Jerusalem, (also see John 1:14, “The Word dwelt among us”) which serves as a principle reason for the nations’ giving thanks in its worship. – Robertson, pp. 185-186.

Ps. 107 gives us four pictures, each one showing people at the end of their rope, crying to God, who rescues them.  We see these desperate people of God in the desert, in a prison, in sickness, and in peril on the sea. Each of the stanzas contains the refrain “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.” (107:6, 13, 19, and 28). The lost are found, the captives freed, the sick are healed, and the storm-tossed brought to their desired haven. So this is not an historical psalm; rather it describes universal situations.

Furthermore, Ps. 107 enables us to read every story of people in distress/ peril/ hopeless situations/ etc. with more meaning and godly insight. Think about using Ps. 107 as a commentary as you read Hagar and her son wandering in the desert, doomed to die of thirst (Gen. 21), or Samson, blinded and imprisoned because of his complacency (Judges 16), or Miriam, struck with leprosy (Number 12), or Jonah in the stormy sea. (from Michael Wilcock). And we can use Ps. 107 to give deeper meaning to the Apostle Paul, in his imprisonments, sickness, and caught up in storms at sea! (2 Cor. 11:26-27; Acts 16:22ff.; 1 Cor. 11:28-31; Acts 27)

In every case dependence upon the Lord leads to deliverance by the Lord.

Note in Mark 4:35-5:43, we have four stories of people being delivered from humanly impossible situations, by Jesus Christ. Here we also find mariners (the disciples on the Sea of Galilee) in danger, a story of bondage (the chained demoniac), a healing (the sick daughter dies and then is raised from the dead), and perhaps the woman with the flow of blood who wandered among every doctor, without a cure, parallels the wanderers in the wilderness.

Furthermore, each one concludes with this exhortation:

“Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wonderful works to men.” (107:8, 15, 21, and 31)

Note at the end of this introductory psalm (to Book V), we are given a reminder of what we are to learn from the psalm: v. 43 “Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.” That is, each of us needs to see ourselves in this four-fold picture of need and salvation.

This appeal to the wise and for wisdom leads into the wisdom of Psalms 108-110, the David triad… but it is picked up again at the end of Ps. 111, v. 10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise.”   We see a similar tie-in at the beginning of Ps. 112, v. “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in His commands.”

Therefore the first five psalms of Book V focus our attention on godly wisdom which comes through a fear of the Lord and a meditation upon His Word.

 

Let’s consider the structural elements in Book V. What hints did the editors of the Psalter give us in this section of the psalms to help us understand the way they arranged it?

First, the joining of a messianic focal psalm (118) to a Torah psalm (119) serves as a pivotal point in Book V.  (We’ve already seen this in Psalms 1 & 2 and in 18 & 19.)

Second, the four acrostic psalms also provide division markers. Psalms 111-112 introduce the first “Hallelu-YAH” section of psalms in Book V (111-117). Psalm 119 serves as the grand example of alphabetically arranged psalms, with 22 stanzas (one for each letter in the Hebrew alphabet) of eight verses each. Then the last acrostic psalm, 145, concludes the final Davidic section and comes just before the last Hallelu-YAH collection in 146 -150.

Third, two distinct sets of psalms come just before and after the pivotal markers of 118 and 119:

Before them comes the Initial Hallelu-YAH collection in 111-117, (or we could say that the collection of Egyptian Hallel psalms come first (113-118), and the pivotal marker is followed by the Songs of Ascent (120-134).

 

The First Collection in Part One of Book V: The David Triad, Psalms 108-110

Michael Wilcock writes: “108 is notable as a straight duplication of material found elsewhere in the Psalter; 109 as perhaps the most shocking of the imprecatory psalms, and 110 as the psalm most often quoted in the New Testament.” These Davidic psalms are not here because they didn’t fit into one of the other Davidic collections. Rather, each of these psalms goes beyond the level of redemptive revelation found in the three previous Davidic psalms.

Ps. 108 is comprised of Ps. 57:7-11 (108:1-5) and of Ps. 60:5-12 (108:6-13). The endings of these two psalms from Book II have been joined to form Ps. 108 in Book V. But it is what is omitted that is significant, for Ps. 108 omits the agonizing struggle of David with his enemies featured in the earlier collection. See Ps. 57:4 and 60:1-3. Robertson: “the omission indicates that God’s people have made significant progress beyond their status in Book II. The psalmist paints a brighter picture for the nation… the earlier struggles will indeed recur…but the overall flow of the book of Psalms clearly moves in Book V toward the ultimate triumph over all the enemies of Messiah’s kingdom.” (p. 191) Therefore this psalms encourages us to move forward in faith!

Ps. 109 is the most extensive and intensive of the imprecatory psalms. This psalm, like the other imprecatory psalms, expresses a passion for justice and righteousness. It is not a plea for personal revenge, but rather a call for the Lord’s holy and righteous judgment.

The tone of the psalm includes vivid language and hyperbole (e.g., vv. 8-15), used to express the outrage of the author, as well as to startle us out of our lethargy and to feel what the speaker is saying. [Like seeing pictures of aborted babies or a video of Christians being beheaded.]

How do these imprecatory psalms translate into the New Testament?  While the gospel brings forgiveness and transformation of the worst sinner via repentance (like Saul of Tarsus), the NT also shares the immensity and intensity of God’s final judgment on sin and sinners. (Compare Ps. 6:8 and Matt. 7:23)

Robertson: “The justly deserved repudiation of this person (described in this psalm) finds ultimate fulfillment in Peter’s judgment over Judas, the self-cursed betrayer!”  Ps. 109:8 is quoted by Peter in Acts 1:20.  “The seed of Satan among humanity finds its consummate realization in this singular enemy of the Anointed One.”  {Ps. 109:29 is picked up in both Matt. 27:39 and Mark 15:29 with reference to Jesus on the cross: “When they see me they shake their heads.”}

Ps. 110 is a Psalm of David, assigned to him both by the title and by the argument of Jesus in Matthew 22:41-46. It is a messianic focal psalm which incredibly “unites the two separate offices of king and priest together in a divine Messiah to come… which points Israel in exile to a new and different day in the history of redemption!”

The framework for this psalm is the Lord’s covenantal promise to David in 2 Sam. 7:14.  “As Son of God, David’s descendant naturally inherits the office of king (v. 1). Likewise, as Son of God, David’s descendant possesses immediate access to His Father, which is the essence of priesthood (v. 4b)      V. 4 also alerts us to the potential for another priesthood, comparable to the ancient order of (king and priest) Melchizedek, which combined kingship and priesthood. (Gen. 14:18, Josh 10:1; Heb. 7:17).

“This psalm is uniquely suitable for Israel’s exilic and postexilic period. The messianic expectation of this psalm introduces a new and different day in the history of redemptive revelation.”  For when the nation struggled with no temple, a truncated priesthood, and no Davidic king, “a single individual who combined both offices would provide the ideal solution to the people’s challenging situation. In fact, a similar combination of offices may be found in the postexilic prophecies of Zechariah.” In Zech. 6:9-15 there is a symbolic joining of the high priest and the king. “He will be a priest on his throne” (v. 11).

This idea is reinforced in the book of Hebrews, where Jesus rules as king and intercedes as priest (Heb. 1:2-3). The writer of Hebrews then cites Ps. 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14 as his first two of seven OT scriptures to support his grand thesis in 1:5 “Today you are my Son; today I have become your Father.”

Robertson, p. 195: “Ps. 110 along with Ps. 118 brings to a climax the psalms of a focal Messianic character in the Psalter. For this reason, they are located in the final book of the Psalms. If foundational Ps. 2 is properly positioned as one of the twin pillars providing entrance into the “temple” of the Psalter, then Psalms 110 and 118 are properly positioned as consummative messianic psalms in Book V. These two consummative Messianic psalms, along with Ps. 2, and quoted in the NT more than any other of the psalms.”

 

Seven Psalms featuring Six Hallelu-YAH Psalms Arranged in a Chiastic Form (111-117)

  A chiasm is a literary technique which employs a repetition in a reverse or X pattern, such as A-B-B-A.  

Three such psalms (111-113) balance another three such psalms (115-117), centered around the only non Hallelu-YAH psalm (114) in the arrangement.

Note that the first two psalms begin with Hallelu-YAH (111:1 and 112:1), followed by a psalm that both begins and ends with Hallelu-YAH (113:1, 9)

Then after the non Hallelu-YAH psalm in the middle (114), we have two psalms ending with Hallelu-YAH (115:18 and 116:19), followed by a very short psalm that begins and ends with Hallelu-YAH (117:1, 2).

This balanced chiastic arrangement of these Hallelu-YAH psalms is remarkable, especially when you consider that the term Hallelu-YAH is completely absent from Books I, II,  III, and almost all of Book IV (see 104 and 105) of the Psalter, as well as the rest of the Old Testament! We will see these special phrase again in 135 and then in the grand finale of praise at the end of the whole Psalter, in 146-150 (where Hallelu-YAH appears at the end and the beginning of each one of those five psalms!)

But why this explosion of Hallelu-YAH psalms here? Why not save them for the end of the Psalms?  Perhaps because they provide a fitting conclusion to the end of this part of Book V, just before the structural markers of 118 and 119. If so, then both major sections of Book V end with a grand finale of Hallelu-YAHs.

Note that the one non Hallelu-YAH psalm in this collection, Ps. 114, focuses on God’s power to deliver- out of Egypt (v. 1), through the Red Sea and Jordan River (vv. 3 and 5), so that the mountains skip/ shake (vv. 4 and 6), at the presence of the God of Jacob (vv. 2, 7). The record of this deliverance from Egypt could easily foreshadow a similar deliverance of Israel out of Babylon.

Now we also note that the first two Hallelu-YAH psalms in this initial collection (111 and 112) are both acrostic psalms, with each half-verse beginning with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. (Note: in both psalms, vv. 9 and 10 contain words beginning with three consecutive letters of the Hebrew alphabet, instead of two. That’s how all 22 letter are fit in.)

We need to ask: what is the origin of the poetic abbreviation for YHWH as YAH, and what is its significance?

It appears the first time in Exodus 15:2 “My strength and song (is) YAH and He has become my salvation.  (Also see Ex. 17:16; Ps. 68:4 and 18; Ps. 77:11, 89:8, 94:7, 12102:18. Isa. 12:2, 26:4, 38:11) These are concerned with the LORD being their salvation, dwelling place, etc.

Yet the majority of appearances of YAH occur in conjunction with the praise word Hallelu-YAH.

Robertson notes that (p. 201-203) this summons to Praise YAH is introduced only after the YAHWEH-Malak (The Lord is King!) psalms of Book IV, in Pss. 92-100.  That is, only after Yahweh has been clearly declared “King” – even in the context of Israel still being in exile! – are the people summoned to shout “Hallelu-YAH!” This is the only time in the OT that this distinctive call to worship YAH appears. Because YAH is Malak, His people can shout Hallelu-YAH!

Robertson goes on to say that this expression of highest praise, Hallelu-YAH, has taken the dominant position, even over the covenant name of Yahweh. For in all languages, Hallelujah prevails.  That is, instead of trying to pronounce the sacred name of YHWH, which does not seem natural in many languages, the phrase Hallelujah (or Alleluia) has found a glad and easy acceptance in just about every language!  No translation is necessary! “The Psalms consummate with Hallelu-YAH, and all nations and peoples can join in this joyful, spontaneous celebration.”

Of course we see this word near the end of the whole Bible, in Rev. 19:1-7 (four times). There the phrase is used again, in the context of the Lord’s triumph over cruel “Babylon,” and of the return of God’s people to Himself, at the wedding banquet of the Lamb!

Trinity Hymns beginning with Hallelujah:  # 10, 54, 57 (Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul, from Ps. 146), # 110 (Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah – from Ps. 148:1-13), and # 179 (Hallelujah! Thine the Glory)

But what about seeing Psalms 113-118 as the Egyptian Hallel Psalms? They are called this because of the opening of Ps. 114 “When Israel came out of Egypt.” They are also bracketed by acrostic psalms (111 -112 and 119 – and this bracketing psalm reminds the Jews of the Law given at Sinai). For centuries these psalms have been read at the Jewish Passover. Therefore it may be best to appreciate both sets of groupings, both 111-117 as the six/ seven Hallelu-YAH psalms, arranged chiastically, as well as 113-118, as the Egyptian Hallel Passover Psalms.

Psalms 118-119 The Coupling of a Messianic and a Torah Psalm

This is what we saw in the coupling of Psalms 1 and 2 and then in 18 and 19.  The significance of this coupling may mean that both the Torah and the Messiah are essential for God’s people. Law and Gospel must be joined together. God’s written Word and God’s living Word are crucial for us, if we are going to experience God’s redemptive blessings (see 1; 1; 2:12; and 119:1-2).

Ps. 118 Messianic Cornerstone

There are many similarities between Ps. 18 and Ps. 118. Both speak of the Lord’s victories and triumphs.  Compare 18:20 and 24 with 118:15, 19-20. Both 18 and 118 vividly depict deliverance from death (18:4-5; 118:17-18), and the Messiah, the Anointed King, is the focal figure in both psalms. (18:50; 118:22, 26), with the Messiah as the Cornerstone of God’s Kingdom on earth.

Ps. 119 The Grand Torah Psalm

Only Psalm 119 employs all eight of the various and rich terms for God’s word: law, statute, testimony, precept, commandment, ordinance, word, and promise. (We might also include way [3, 37], faithfulness [90], and Name [132]

This is also an acrostic masterpiece, with each stanza of eight verses beginning with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This certainly helped in the memorizing of the psalm!

Furthermore, with only three exceptions, [vv. 84, 121, and 122], every verse in Ps. 119 has a reference to the glory of God’s Word.

James Mays suggests that the psalmist “used the entire alphabet to signal completeness and the whole vocabulary (i.e., the different terms for the Torah) to represent comprehensiveness.”

Note as well that from v. 4 to the end, this long psalm is a prayer or an affirmation addressed to the Lord. This is true piety, where a love for God is fed and refreshed and expanded by a study of God’s Word.

Grogan notes that Ps. 119 stands between two great collections (113-118 and 120-134) of psalms, each celebrating feasts (the Passover and the Psalms of Ascent/ the Pilgrimage feasts, such as Succoth) which were instituted in the days of Moses and the observed during the wilderness period.   One likely reason for such a massive and grand psalm at this point in Book V is that as Israel returned from their exile in Babylon, the pious Jews substituted Torah for Temple; the study of the Law of God took the place of the offering of sacrifice. This is reflected in the establishment of synagogues. With Solomon’s temple destroyed, and a poor substitute in its place, the center of gravity shifted from the temple to the study of the Torah.

From a NT point of view, the Word replace ritual. See Stephen the Martyr’s speech in Acts 7:47-48, 53). Note that there is no mention of any temple worship, sacrifice, or priesthood in Ps. 119.

Ps. 119 forms a pivotal point in Book V, as what comes after it is quite distinct than the materials before it.