As I begin to approach Psalms as my next study, I want to do some research this week to organize my thoughts and help us to read through the book with our minds placed on the setting and events of the day. Today, I want to look a little at the history of the Psalms and when they were written. I think this is important because it helps keep the Psalms in context so when we are reading them we can look at them through the eyes of the people who were hearing them for the first time.
And that brings me to my first point. The Psalms were written as songs. Each chapter in the book of Psalms is a different Psalm, or song. These songs were not like the music we hear today on the radio because they were written during ancient times. These songs were written as heart-felt cries to God with a spirit of worship, praise, despair, and at times even confusion. These were sung by the author and sometimes by a congregation. Some of the Psalms are very short and you could see how they would be quick and easy to learn and other Psalms were very long and even tell more of a story. While the songs do not necessarily tell us an entire story, we hear pieces of history in them to remind us of God's greatness and miracles. Other times, we do not hear a story in them; however, we can see how they match up with the events happening in the moment they were written. Some of David's Psalms are a perfect example of him writing while fleeing from an enemy.
As I looked up the time span of the book of Psalms, I found out that they span from approximately 1440 BC and 586 BC. This is from the time of Moses to the time of the Babylonian captivity. That is a huge time span, but it all still falls within what we would consider "ancient." When looking at the history of Israel, you would find out that so much happened within those many years. Israel went from being freed from slavery (time of Moses) to having judges rule them, to having kings rule, to dividing the kingdom between Judah and Israel, to having both kingdoms fall into captivity. In a sense, the time span of the book of Psalms sees the nation of Israel come full circle.
Even though we see a full circle of freedom from slavery to falling back into captivity, we also see in the Psalms that God still had an amazing plan of salvation. Some of the Psalms prophetically speak of the Messiah to come and that this cycle of captivity was not the end of the story for Israel or the world. God has a better plan for all of us. Understanding some of the history we find in the Old Testament helps us understand the praise and cries for help that we find in the Psalms. We cannot cover all the history of Israel in one post or even in one series; however, we can get a quick overview. And this overview can help us better understand the amazing plan of redemption.
David wrote a beautiful thought for us to meditate on in Psalm 16:11 (NLT): "You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever." The Psalms help point us continually to God even when things don't make sense. What we should strive for is expressed so beautifully in this verse - the joy of God's presence and the pleasures of living with Him forever. The hope we have of those two things as a result of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection are the very things that can sustain us through the ups and downs of life.
What does this verse say to you?
This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.