I'm learning that it's impossible to exhaust the riches of the book of Psalms. Our church has been walking through the book as we close out the summer, and this short series (covering only Psalms 1-5) has opened my eyes to the depths of God's revelation through this diverse collection of poetry, prayer, and prophecy.
5 weeks. 5 Psalms. So fruitful. And we only covered 3.3% of the book.
I want our church to dive deep into the Psalms even as we move to other parts of the Bible.
So here's a list of 10 Psalms I wish every believer knew and cherished.
Key Verse: 1:1,2 "Blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the Law of the Lord and on His Law he meditates day and night."
Psalm 1 contrasts the life of the wicked and righteous man. The righteous man is blessed by God, freed from sin, in love with God's Word, and fruitful in all his ways. The wicked man is fruitless and unable to stand in judgment. Psalm 1 introduces the theme of the book, namely the blessings for the person walking in right relationship with God through the triumphs and trials of life.
Key Verse: 2:7 "I will announce the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have fathered You."
Psalm 2 is a prophecy about Jesus. The Psalmist begins by describing the nations' conspiracy against God and His Anointed, Christ. Despite opposition, God's purposes are completed, and Jesus is forever established on His throne. This Psalm is used by New Testament authors in Acts and Hebrews.
Key Verse (3,4) "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place; What is man that You think of him, And a son of man that You are concerned about him?"
Psalm 8 is the perfect Psalm to read when you're camping, looking up at a sky full of stars and reflecting on the greatness of God. The Psalmist praises God for his power displayed throughout Creation before wondering how this great God could truly be bothered to care for humans.
He finishes by praising God for His love and preservation of undeserving humanity.
Key Verse (1) "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my help are the words of my groaning."
Psalm 2 is a Psalm about Jesus. Psalm 22 is THE Psalm about Jesus. The opening verse was quoted by Jesus on the cross! The rest of the Psalm further describes Jesus' crucifixion.
Verses 7 and 8 describe the mocking Jesus would endure (Mark 15:27-32). Verse 14 describes Jesus' stabbing after His death (John 19:34). Verse 18 describes gambling for Christ's clothes (Matthew 27:35).
The rest of the passage describes Jesus' resurrection and the gathering of the people of God from all nations because of the work of Christ.
Key Verse (1) "The Lord is my shepherd, I will not be in need."
Every verse in Psalm 23 is a key verse. David is describing the comprehensive care of the Lord in his life. The Lord leads him, provides for him, walks with him, corrects him, blesses him, pursues him, and preserves him. How blessed is the man whose shepherd is the Lord!
Key Verse (1) "The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom should I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom should I dread?"
Psalm 27 is a beautiful prayer of David's confidence in God. In Verses 1 and 2, he describes God as his light, salvation, and defense. He asks the question, "Whom should I fear?" Think of all the adversaries David faced in his life: Goliath the giant, the Philistine armies, Saul's warriors, Absalom's 12,000 men... David knew that while his enemies were ever-changing, God was constant and consistent to deliver him from all harm.
Consider Verse 4: David's greatest desire was to be with the Lord and to be able to behold God's beauty. This verse epitomizes a correct pursuit of God. We should not love God for His benefits. We should love God for who He is.
Key Verse (10) "Create in me a clean heart, God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me."
Psalm 51 follows the fallout of David's heinous sin against God. In 2 Samuel 12, David is confronted by Nathan the prophet, and David responds by repenting. We have a record of his repentance in this Psalm.
Verses 1-2 teaches us that God forgives on the basis of His grace not our performance. Verse 4 teaches us that we should see all sin primarily as a sin against God.
Verse 5 teaches us that we are sinful from birth.
Verses 10-12 are David's cry for forgiveness. David understands repentance and restoration as a supernatural act of God, "Create in me a clean heart."
Key Verse (105) "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
Why is Psalm 119 so long? Because it's an acrostic poem, containing 8 verses for every letter of the Hebrew alphabet. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet... so... getting my calculator... that's 176 verses. Grab another cup of coffee and settle in!
This Psalm is worth the time to read and study. The Psalmist is using poetry and this specific arrangement of words to communicate the incredible value of God's Word. The longest chapter in the Bible is a love letter to God about the value of His wisdom. Pretty cool!
Here's a sample of the exaltation of God's Word in Psalm 119:
Verse 2: "Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart."
Verse 9: "How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word."
Verse 11: "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."
Verse 30: "I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws."
Verse 72: "The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold."
And there are still 104 verses to go!
Key Verse (1,2) "I will raise my eyes to the mountains; From where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.
This Psalm has been a tool of spiritual focus of the people of God for thousands of years. Don't look at the trouble before you. Look to your help!
Consider Verse 6. The Lord watches over His children day and night. In this time period, the sun and moon were considered by the Jews to be harmful to your body if you were overexposed to either. We understand that heat (exposure to the sun) could be harmful but why would overexposure to the moon be harmful?
They believed overexposure to the moon drove people insane. Lunar (moon) exposure was harmful for mental health. This is the origin of our terms lunatic and lunacy.
While our views on lunar exposure may have changed, the truth remains the same: our God can protect us from anything!
Key Verse (13) "For You created my innermost parts. You wove me in my mother’s womb."
Psalm 139 might be David's most intimate Psalm, describing God's closeness. God knows David's thoughts. He knows what David will do before it's done. David cannot escape the presence of God.
This flow of thought leads to Verse 13 where David describes this same intimate relationship of God's benevolent care even before David's birth. The application of this verse is clear: All life is created with value given by God and must be protected.