Introduction to the Book of Psalms

The Book of Psalms 

Introduction to the Psalms 

Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – Jan.6th, 2019


  • This morning we are opening our brand-new series on the book of Psalms that will last 11 weeks.  The Psalms are some of the most beloved words in all of history – providing promise, perspective, hope, comfort, courage, wisdom, insight and praise. They will encourage your soul, strengthen your faith and enrich your worship.  Each week God is going to speak to you through our times together in His word. 
  • Today we are going to talk about the grand overview of the bible and how the book of psalms is put together – so that we will have a good understanding of this book and how it fits into the overall story of the Bible. 
  • The book of Psalms is unlike the other books because it is a collection of writings, songs and poems written by many different people over a large period of time in the Old Testament.  Most of the other books were written by one primary author. It is important for us to understand how this book fits together and where it fits in the biblical timeline.  Also, the book of Psalms consists primarily of humans’ words to and about God, not God’s words to humans, all under the inspiration and illumination of the Holy Spirit.  

Biblical Timeline 

  • Three major valleys for Israel
    • Wilderness – wandering in the desert under Moses
    • Judges – Judges 21:25 – “everyone did what was right in their own eyes”
    • Exile – many of the psalms were written during this time. The major questions they ask are:  Has God cast us off forever?  Does He keep His steadfast love?  God, where are You?  Have You forgotten us, have You cast us off forever?  We are Your people; will You return to us?  This is the life of Israel and the life of David.  There are lots of valleys – so it is in our lives as well. The psalms help us in these times: they encourage us and give us the words to say and to pray.  
  • The Psalms speak about Jesus, along with the law and the prophets.

Luke 24:44-45 (ESV) Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scripture

  • The New Testament quotes the psalms more than any other Old Testament book. (addendum) 

Psalms overview 

  • The book of Psalms is a collection of songs/poems written by many people, many of them were written by King David.  
    • Psalms of David (3-41)
    • Psalms of the sons of Korah (42-49)
    • Psalms of David (51-65)
    • Psalms of Asaph (73-83) 
    • Kingship of Yahweh Psalms (93-99)
    • Songs of Ascents (120-134)
    • Psalms of David (138-145)
    • Hallel Psalms (146-50)
  • Various other psalms collected into 5 books Book 1 (Psalms 1–41) − Book 2 (Psalms 42–72) − Book 3 (Psalms 73–89) − Book 4 (Psalms 90–106) − Book 5 (Psalms 107–150). Each of the five books ends in a similar way. Each book ends with “Blessed be the Lord” or “Praise the Lord.”  The overall book has an introduction (Psalms 1 and 2) and a conclusion (Psalm 144–150).  If we look carefully at the book, we will notice a movement from promise to praise along a path with many high and low points. 
  • As you read the psalms, look at what is expressed in each one and then look for the progression from one Psalm to another and then one book to another. 
  • Book 1 – The first collection of David’s prayers. The book of the king.  It is about trust.  David goes into the depths – where he chooses to trust.  These are the places for us as well where we’re needing to choose if we are still going to trust God.  There are highs and lows in this first book of Psalms with the low point being Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – quoted by Jesus on the cross. It is picture of suffering that was fulfilled by Christ. Then we turn to the next psalm, Psalm 23 – the Lord is my shepherd. There are ups and downs in life – will you trust Him and walk with Him through them all?  This book is the book of the king.  It also is the book of the one true King, Jesus.  If we are following in His footsteps, we will experience similar things as well. 
  • Book 2 – The second collection of David’s prayers. This is the book of the people of Israel and their king.  David followed the path of promise to praise through some winding paths and deep, difficult valleys.   The people of Israel went through the same path.  We travel the same path as well.  In this book they go through some questioning and confusion as well.  We have been faithful to you . . . why are you allowing trouble? In Psalm 49-50 God answers and then in 51 David repents of his sin (“Against you and you alone have I sinned”).  Most of book 2 is about David’s journey, his process, crying out and trusting in God.  There is unfaithfulness, confusion and crying out to God.  God does make things clear to him and to us as to His character and His sovereign plan working in and through our lives in the big unfolding story of God. 
  • Book 3 – the book of crisis and exile – have You cast us off forever?  Has Your steadfast love failed?  How long O Lord?  77 is a key psalm – will the Lord reject forever?  Look at Ps 89:49-50

Ps 89:49-51 ESV
Lord, where is your steadfast love of old,which by your faithfulness you swore to David? 50  Remember, O Lord, how your servants are mocked,and how I bear in my heart the insults of all the many nations, with which your enemies mock, O Lord,with which they mock the footsteps of your anointed.

  • This is a Psalm of Ethan the Ezrahite – they go from confusion to desperation in their calling out to God.  This happens because of sin and rebellion, sometimes of the person writing, sometimes because of others.  This is both individual and corporate.  Why? So that we will understand, persevere, trust and mature.  So that we will see who we are and understand who God is.  
  • Book 4 – the book of hope.  The Lord reigns!  The book starts with Moses who wrote this psalm (90) at the end of the wilderness wandering.  

Ps 90:1-2 ESV
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.

  • Book 4 ends with Psalm 106. This Psalm is the story of Israel during their time in the desert where they looked back at Egypt with longing, not remembering the love of the Lord. In verse 24 they despised the pleasant land – Canna. They mixed with the people of the land again.  They did not destroy the people, they followed what they thought best and did not follow the instruction of God– they sacrificed their children to the idols of Canaan.  God gave them into the hand of the nations.  Then He looked upon their distress and remembered his Covenant.  This is where they return with hope that God has remembered.  
  • Book 5 – His steadfast love – the return of the King!  This is where we have the sections that talk about what the Lord has done via His Covenant with His people.  He has remembered!  He has returned, He has redeemed!  The book starts out with Psalm 107

Ps 107:1-3 ESV
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story, those he has redeemed from trouble 3 those he gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

  • It continues with Psalm after Psalm of praise and thanksgiving for the goodness, faithful and love of the Lord. 

Types of Psalms

  • Psalms of Lament:
    • Address and introductory petition (or cry for help or turning to God), Lament, Confession of trust, Petition (Assurance of being heard -Wish or Petition for God’s Intervention), Vow of Praise (Praise of God when petition has been heard)
  •  Other comments:
    • The largest category of psalms in the Psalter. They are found mostly in Books 1–3. They express fear, pain, grief, complaint, but even laments have an inward movement toward confidence and praise
  • Psalms of Praise:
    • An appeal to praise God; often Hallelujah or “Praise the Lord!”  Often has the theme of God’s work of creation or God’s work in Israel’s history
  • Other comments:
    • They dominate Books 4–5.  They extol the Lord for what He has done in creation and in history.  They engage in the praise of God and then give reasons for praising Him
  • Psalms of Thanksgiving:
    • An introduction – an intention to worship and the reason why, Report of a crisis, Deliverance as an accomplished fact. Conclusion – maybe of a vow or continued praise
  •  Other comments:
    • The opposite of lament: thanksgiving because of God’s deliverance in a situation
  • Psalms of Trust:
    • Declaration of trust, Invitation to trust, Basis for trust, Petition, Vow of praise
  • Other comments:
    • These psalms declare a trust in God, invite the listener to trust in Him and give a basis for trusting in Him.  “Somewhere in the shadows of the psalms of trust trouble is lurking.”
  • (Royal) Psalms of the Earthly King :
    • The common thread is the subject of kingship. Mention of “king” or “anointed” or David. Two levels of understanding: historical and eschatological. They refer to the historical king or kingdom, yet they lay out the hope for a future, greater person and institution than history could deliver
  • (Royal) Psalms of the Heavenly King:
    • They announce and proclaim the kingdom of God. They emphasize the themes that the Lord is sovereign in righteousness and justice, the Lord is sovereign in creation, and the Lord is sovereign in judgment
  • Wisdom Psalms:
    • Reflections rather than prayers. They instruct readers on an issue or on the way they should live.  Literary features such as proverbs, admonitions, the occurrence of “blessed”; thematic features are the two ways of life, retribution for good and evil deeds, and the fear of the Lord.
  • Psalms of Torah:
    • Focus on the Torah (God’s law) with emphases on God’s ways, God’s works, and God’s words
  • Imprecatory Psalms:
    • Express cursings against enemies
    • Ps 35, 69, 109 (as well as parts of other Psalms: 137:7-9; 139:19-22)

* Types of Psalms adapted from the “The Psalms Leadership Resources TNT Training Manual.”


  • Understanding the timeline of the Bible and the book of Psalms as a whole will enrich our reading and give us greater understanding of the story of God and His people.  
  • This understanding will give us perspective of our lives as well as we journey from promise to praise as we follow the great King. 
  • Prayer