Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
Understanding the Psalms - Part 1 - Psalms 27, 31, 91 and Romans
By: Michael Anderson
The Divided Kingdom Era
How Much Do You Know? (Answers at the end of the lesson.)
the rest of the Scriptures?
I wonder what it was like there at the beginning? What would it have been like to have been there as the Lord created Adam and formed Eve into His Own image! I wonder what it might have been like in Heaven as the Lord finished creation and began the first Sabbath! The Sabbath is not intended by the Lord to be a day of doing nothing. It is to be a day of rest from the labors of life and a time to celebrate and worship the Lord Almighty! What do you think was happening on that first Sabbath? Did God need to lay down and rest because He was tired as a man gets tired? God is not like us! His greatest accomplishment was finished and it was not a planet or stars or plants or animals! It was the man and woman who were the walking, talking image of God! Placed there in the garden for all of creation to see! In Job 38 we have the Lord’s own eyewitness account of that moment “When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy”! And then God made the most glorious announcement “It was very good” (Gen. 1:31).
The two Hebrew words for “very good” are pronounced Meh-ode' tobe. To gain a better understanding of what was happening in that moment, we need to understand the full meaning of these two words. A good way to understand them is: “meh-ode” -“exceedingly abundant muchness” of “tobe” - “happy rich valuable pleasant goodness”! Yes, that’s a mouth full! But even that cannot express the celebration or the full wonder of the proclamation of God at the creation that we so easily skim right over with just two English words as we read Gen. 1:31.
“IT WAS VERY GOOD!” Such a wonderful time of celebration must have occurred as all of Heaven and maybe even creation itself worshipped the Lord God Almighty! Remember, Jesus said even the rocks would cry out…? The Creator of the Universe who created everything by and for Jesus Christ, His Son, finished His work and pronounced it “VERY GOOD!” The words here describe the way God felt as He looked at what or rather, who He had made. The man and woman! God was pleased on that first Sabbath day! His goodness, love, life and liberty were all represented in the man and the woman He had made in His own image. The Creator gave eternal existence to the created! Think about that for a moment! God’s Grace had been made known by His life giving breath that He breathed into Adam. Then the Lord Himself walked and talked with those created in His Own Image - Adam and Eve.
How does all of this connect to Psalms? Sining is something that God made and instituted from the beginning! He told Job about it. And he has given us 185 songs in the Scriptures to get us started singing to Him! To worship Him at least one day in seven! That’s why the Book of Psalms needs to be studied…
The Book of Psalms is a book of songs. The word psalm is not actually found anywhere in the Scriptures. It is a word taken from the Latin and Greek that both mean “song with plucking or twanging strings”. If we translate it into English it would just be “songs accompanied by instruments”. There are over 185 songs listed in the Scriptures. Some of them were very spontaneous and were created as a result of a miracle like Mary’s song that she sang just after being told she would give birth to the Son of God. Some songs in the Scriptures were sung in response to victories after great battles like Samson’s jawbone poem, which he probably sang as a tuanting chant similar to more modern day songs like The Marine’s song - “From the Halls of Montezuma to shores of Tripoli…” The longest song in the Scriptures is Ps. 119! It is 1,732 words in the original Hebrew. The two shortest songs are only seven Hebrew words long each and both of them are in 2 Chronicles (5:13 and 20:21). As we have studied, we have looked at the things that separate the man created in the image of God and the rest of creation. One of the things that make us uniquely human is our desire to sing about life. And our need to sing about Him!
In this lesson, we are going to be looking at Ps. 91. Maybe we can gain a better understanding for the Book of Psalms and maybe we can gain a better appreciation for the opportunity to sing and worship Him in private and in public? At the conclusion of this lesson, students should be able to better study this song for themselves as we grow in our abilities to learn, understand and teach the word of God.
Human beings were created with the ability to sing to and worship the Lord through song.
The Lord alone is worthy of songs of praise!
The Lord inspired over 185 songs found in the Psalms and the rest of the Scriptures showing us how important music is to Him!
The Book of Psalms was written by several different people. David wrote seventy-five psalms that we know of and seventy-three are credited to him in Psalms. Ps. 2 is attributed to David in Acts 4:25 and Ps. 95 is attributed to David in Heb. 4:7. Asaph and his family wrote twelve psalms: 50; 73 - 83. The sons of Korah wrote at least eleven psalms: 42; 44 - 49; 84 - 85; 87 - 88. Heman wrote one psalm: 88 along with the sons of Korah. Solomon is credited with two psalms: 72 and 127. Moses is credited with one psalm: 90 (and probably Ps. 92). Ethan the Ezrahite wrote one: Ps. 89. That leaves forty-eight in which we do not know who the author was (forty-seven if Moses wrote 92). Ps. 45 is attributed to the sons of Korah, but it may well be Hephzibah, King Hezekiah’s wife and queen, that wrote the words for the wedding. If that is true, then she would be the only female author of a psalm in the Book of Psalms. It is also very possible that 91 was written by King Hezekiah.
The best way I know how to understand the Book of Psalms is by studying Psalms! One at a time! So let's just begin by picking Ps. 91. We can’t be sure who wrote Ps. 91, but we will zero in on it and study it in order to gain a little more insight into the music that comes to us from the Lord through His Word.
1. The Secret Place
Ps. 91 is one of my favorites! When doubts and fears arise, Ps. 91 expresses comfort and security for me when I need them most! In this psalm, I learn of the Secret Place. The place found only in the Lord. The place under the shadow of His wing. The New King James expresses it well: “He who dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Ps. 91:1). What does it mean to live in the Secret Place of the Lord? It is a deep thought and yet it is something that obviously should be true for every believer. Ps. 27:5 says, “For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.” (NKJV) That is what Ps. 91 says to me. In times of trouble, I can depend on the Lord and so can you. He will keep us in the Secret Place, safe from the enemy. The Holy Spirit dwells in us as believers and the Lord makes us into His Tabernacle. The Secret Place where the Lord dwells. It is the mystery of mysteries that people who have rejected the Lord will never know unless they believe in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ! That is exactly what Ps. 31:19-20 tells us: “How great is Your goodness, Which You have stored up for those who fear You, Which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, Before the sons of men! You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.”
Charles Spurgeon said, “Every child of God looks towards the inner sanctuary and the mercy-seat, yet all do not dwell in the most holy place; they run to it at times, and enjoy occasional approaches, but they do not habitually reside in the mysterious presence.” In other words, many Christians look toward the Holy Place - the Secret Place - and they even run to it in times of trouble! There is nothing wrong with seeking the Lord in times of trouble, but the point is that many Christians do not live in that Secret Place! So close to the Lord that they are covered by His shadow (v.1)! This psalm begins with a clear message that those who LIVE (dwell) in the Lord are close to the Lord! Not just when they are in trouble or when it is convenient or when it “feels” right… Wow! What a great question is being raised! Where do you dwell?
Charles Spurgeon also said, “This is an expression which implies great nearness. We must walk very close to a companion, if we would have his shadow fall on us.” Do you live in the Secret Place - the dwelling of the Most High? The place of closeness with the Lord? A place so close that you are covered by His shadow? If so, then how would that be reflected in what you do? It would be reflected in the priority of your worship! It would be reflected in what you are teaching the next generation about loving the Lord first and with all of your heart! Is that what is reflected from your life? Is that what others see when those certain and unavoidable times of trouble come? Do you have to run to the Holy Place - the Secret Place - to seek the Lord or, as Psalm 91 is teaching us, do you already live there? You don’t have to run there if you are already there… You won’t have to run to the Lord if you constantly live in Him! I repeat, you don’t have to run there if you are already there!
Borrowing a little more from Spurgeon - He spoke of four ways the Scripture speaks of the shadow of the Almighty.
· The shadow of the rock (Isa. 32:2).
· The shadow of the tree (Song of Solomon 2:3).
· The shadow of His wings (Ps. 63:7).
· The shadow of His hand (Isa. 49:2).
2. The Subject of the Psalm
The subject - what or who it is about - is laid out clearly in the first two verses. There are four names of God in just the first two verses! “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High (Elyon) Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Shaddai). I will say to the LORD (Yahweh), "My refuge and my fortress, My God ('Elohiym), in whom I trust!" (Ps. 91:1-2).
· Most High: Elyon. Literally - The King above all kings!
· Almighty: Shaddai. The Most Powerful Almighty God!
· The LORD: Yahweh. The Existing One! “I AM”
· My God: 'Elohiym. The True Divine Ruler and Judge
This psalm like all of the rest of the Scriptures is about Him! The King, the most Powerful Almighty One who is truly divine as Judge and Ruler - He is the One in whom I dwell! He is the One that is so close that His shadow covers us! Or at least it does if you live in the Secret Place! This is one of the deeper things found in the Word of God. The one thing all of this has taught me is… I still have a lot more to learn! May the Lord give more clarity on the Secret Place as we continue to study and connect the Word of God together.
The amazing thing is: The Lord gives us the benefit of having Him as our refuge and fortress! We can reap the God given benefits of living in Him by trusting Him! Not because of anything we have done, but because of what He has done!
3. Study the Psalm for Yourself!
The purpose of our Chronological Connections Study is not to give everyone all of the knowledge they need to know, but rather to encourage and grow disciples that can study the Word of God for themselves! So, read the rest of the psalm! What do you see?
“3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. 4 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. 5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, 6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you. 8 Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. 12 In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone. 13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. 15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.” (NJKV)
There just is not enough time to cover every verse of this psalm in a lesson for a class. But God has given us a wonderful song that should be read over and over! A song that speaks of deliverance from traps that we may not ever know even existed for us! It speaks of protection from pestilence and the things that dwell in the darkness. It speaks of the confidence we can enjoy as we live life morning, noon and night! The Lord tells us we are not numbered with the mass of people falling around us and we will not experience what the wicked have coming - their reward is judgment and we will see it, but not receive it! And He does all of this and more for those who dwell in the shelter of the Lord! Those who abide in His shadow for Life! Those who abide “IN CHRIST”.
This is a Messianic psalm and it does prophesy about Jesus, but it is also about us! We who dwell in the Lord! We in whom the Lord dwells! The Scriptures teach us that we are “IN CHRIST”: Faith in Christ (Acts 24:24); Grace and redemption in Christ (Rom. 3:24); We are dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ (Rom. 6:11); the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ (Rom. 6:23); there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom. 8:1); the law of the Spirit of life is in Christ (Rom.8:2); we cannot be separated from the love of God in Christ (Rom. 8:39); we are one body in Christ (Rom. 12:5); we are sanctified in Christ (1 Cor. 1:2); we are made alive in Christ (1 Cor. 15:22); we are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17); we have liberty in Christ (Gal. 2:4); also we are created in Christ for good works (Eph. 2:10) and “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).
The connections of Ps. 91 to the rest of the Scriptures go on and on! What a wonderful song! Written by the Lord through the inspired hand of some man or woman. It fits nicely into Hezekiah’s reign after the Assyrian invasion, but it is also timeless! It applied then and it applies now! What else can you learn from this great psalm?
Application - Finding Jesus on every page…
Let's connect all of the readings we're doing in Psalms to Finding Jesus on Every Page by asking the question, “Did Jesus ever sing?” The answer of course is - Yes! Matt. 26:30 and Mark 14:26 are two parallel texts picturing Jesus “singing a song of praise.” Jesus sang with the disciples at the conclusion of the Last Supper just before He went to the Mount of Olives to pray. No one knows for sure which songs they may have been singing, but it very well may have been some of the Songs of Ascent from the Psalms (120-134). If they followed tradition, they were most likely singing 114 through 118 in what we would call antiphonal. (That is - sung alternately by two groups or a leader and a group.) Wow! I learned that word back when I was a music major in college! Never thought I would ever be able to use that one in a Bible Study!! LOL!
That means that Jesus would have sung a line of the Psalm and the disciples would have responded by singing halleluia after each line. Or, Jesus would have sung a line and they would have sung the next line in the Psalm like those in 118. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Oh let Israel say, ‘His lovingkindness is everlasting.’ Oh let the house of Aaron say, ‘His lovingkindness is everlasting.”’ Oh let those who fear the Lord say, ‘His lovingkindness is everlasting’” (Ps. 118:1-4).
Was singing and making music important to Jesus? Yes it was (and still is)! As Jesus is about to face His most trying time, He does three things. 1. He keeps His closest friends close to Him. 2. He prays! A Lot! 3. He sings worship songs! In fact, if they are singing these Psalms, then the songs that He is singing are actually sung as prayers! They are also very Messianic! “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see. This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:22-24 NLT). Jesus is gaining strength through these songs as He is reminded that all of this is part of the Father’s will and it is His plan.
Music is important to God! Voices and instruments! But sometimes, some of us as humans, want to protect our ego and avoid any discomfort at the thought of singing or playing music in front of other people! Isn’t that the sin of pride? So, many of us avoid truly expressing worship of our Lord through music! Something He made! Something He desires! And something He commands! To lay music aside as a form of worship is to say to God that He is worthy of being Lord of everything… Except that! I can’t sing! I don’t think music is that important! I just can’t stay on time…”BUT… You are Lord of everything else in my life!” I hope that is not you!
Ok, so I am a little passionate about this subject and you may think that is a little harsh, but I will challenge you to find any place in the Bible that downplays the importance of music! John Maxwell said, “A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision is his passion, not his position”. I don’t know that I will ever be a great leader, but I do have a vision! To get believers into God’s Word looking for truth! And here is what I think you will find… To refuse to make a joyful noise unto the Lord is to disobey the commands of Christ. The Apostle Paul told the Colossians (and us), "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father" (Col. 3:16-17). In fact, Ps. 149:3-6a says, “Let them praise His name with dancing; Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre. For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation. Let the godly ones exult in glory; Let them sing for joy on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth…” How does that affect your comfort zone boundaries? And Ps. 149 ends with, “This is an honor for all His godly ones. Praise the Lord” (v. 9)!
Sometimes, Jesus, as our Lord, will force us out of our comfort zones. If that is never true for you, then I would ask… Is He Lord of your life? If you put thirteen men together, singing some of the Psalms, I would think not everyone could carry a tune? I would think not everyone could stay on the beat? I bet none of them knew anything about the theory of music or how to write or read music notes? But I would also think that they all worshipped the Lord while they sang these Psalms together! What a night of worship that must have been as they walked across the bridge over the Kidron Valley and up the path on the side of the Mount of Olives as they came to the grove where there were olive trees that may have been up to 2,000 years old at the time! And as Jesus goes to pray… He sings...
When is the last time you sang and worshiped or made worship music with your voice? Your hands? With an instrument? When is the last time you worshipped the Lord with all of your heart? You can and should do that everyday! And you definitely need to let others see you worshipping as you worship with the church. The Lord gave us so many beautiful songs to sing to Him. They are praise songs and they are called the Book of Psalms! That’s how important music is to Him!
God speaks through the 185 songs contained in His Word
God acts by designing and instituting music as a part of worship.
God reveals his desire to hear from us in song and in prayer in the Book of Psalms and the rest of the songs in the Bible.
How important is music to God?
How important should worshiping God through music be to you?
How important do you think the Book of Psalms is compared to the rest of the Scriptures?
Here's the list of Bible readings that you and your students can read the week before you teach this lesson:
Monday, PSALM 33, PSALM 71
Tuesday, PSALM 91, PSALM 92, PSALM 93
Wednesday, PSALM 94, PSALM 95, PSALM 96
Thursday, PSALM 97, PSALM 98, PSALM 99, PSALM 100
Friday, PSALM 102, PSALM 104
Saturday, PSALM 105
Sunday, PSALM 106
Here’s the list of Bible readings that you and your students should be reading the week after you teach this lesson:
Monday, PSALM 107
Tuesday, PSALM 111, PSALM 112, PSALM 113, PSALM 114
Wednesday, PSALM 115, PSALM 116, PSALM 117
Thursday, PSALM 118, PSALM 119:1-16
Friday, PSALM 119:17-64
Saturday, PSALM 119:65-112
Sunday, PSALM 119:113-160
Answers to “How Much do you Know?”
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