Understanding Psalms 1-10

‘Psalms 1

The purpose of Psalms one is to encourage individuals to follow Yahweh. A contrast is drawn between someone who follows God and someone who follows the wicked. The psalm concludes with a blanket warning of coming Cosmic Justice:

Psa 1:5  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

Psa 1:6  for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

The wicked, although they currently exist, will soon perish. They will be judges on their actions.

Psalms 2

Psalms 2 begins in with a global scope. The “nations” rage (v1). The kings conspire against God (v2). But Yahweh laughs; He plots the destruction of these arrogant nations. The chapter ends with a warning of a coming Cosmic Justice:

Psa 2:12  Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalms 3

Psalms 3 is attributed to King David. David’s enemies doubt that Yahweh will save him. But David prays for salvation, and God answers. Although this Psalm is limited to the lift and times of King David, Cosmic Justice is found in David’s call for God to execute judgment on the “wicked”. The wicked live and threaten God’s people. David, almost challenging God’s reputation, notes that the wicked doubt God’s capacity to save. The Psalm uses standard language calling on God to act: “Arise”.

Psa 3:7  Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.

Psalms 4

Psa 4:3  But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.

Psalms 4, another psalm of David, is a call for other men of his time to place their trust in God. The psalm begins with recounting that God has acted before, has saved David in times of need. This serves as evidence of God’s power and righteousness. Other men are called to follow suit. David assures his listeners that Yahweh protects the righteous. David sleeps safe knowing God is protecting him (v8).

Psalms 5

Psalms 5 begins, as many psalms do, with a call for God to listen to the prayers of His people (in this case David). In this psalm, David alludes to being oppressed by the wicked. King David appeals to God’s character in consistently punishing the wicked. The implication is that God should now act in the same fashion and punish David’s oppressors. Because God hates evildoers (v5) and abhors the bloodthirsty (v6), God should not let the actions of David’s enemies go unpunished.

Psa 5:10  Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.

The psalm ends with assurance that the righteous will be protected by God. As with the prior implication that if God does not punish the wicked, He is violating His character, David further implies that if God does not protect His people, He is violating His character.

Psalms 6

Psalms 6 is enigmatic. The author, David, is being punished by God for some unknown reason. David calls on God not to punish him in God’s wrath. The idea is that if God waits, His wrath will subside, and the punishment will not be as strong. When God is angry, the punishment will be harsher.

David describes his situation. He is close to death (v2). His enemies surround him (v8). He cries to the Lord day and night (v6). There is an element of bargaining with God. If God were to let David die, David would not be able to praise God.

Psa 6:5  For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?

Praise is David’s bargaining chip. It is something God values, and might regret to remise.

The psalm ends with a reversal of fortune, either an anticipated reversal or a post-script. Yahweh responds to David’s prayer, and David predicts a coming judgment of the wicked.

Psalms 7

Psalms 7, much like Psalms 6, is a call for God to act. David is again in conflict with his enemy. But David believes he is in the right. There is no call for God to forgive sins before salvation. Instead David challenges God to let his enemies kill him if he has done wrong (v5).

David calls on Yahweh to “Arise… in anger” (v5). God is called upon to “awake” (v5) as if God was not in action and is spurred to act.

The psalm descends into a general description of Cosmic Justice. God judges all men everywhere. He tests them to see if they are good or evil, and then acts accordingly.

Psa 7:8  The LORD judges the peoples; judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me.

Psa 7:9  Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous— you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God!

Yahweh is then praised for judging righteously, using a “sword” (v13), “arrows” (v13), and even using the enemies’ own traps against them (v15). The psalm ends in praising Yahweh’s righteousness.

Psalms 8

Psalms 8 is a general psalm of praise. Yahweh is praised for silencing His enemies (v2). His glory fills the earth and heavens (v1). Compared to Him, man is nothing (v4). But God still cares enough for man that He blessed man and gave dominion over the Earth. This act of condensation is amazing and praiseworthy. The psalm ends how it began, praising Yahweh’s name:

Psa 8:9  O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalms 9

Psalms 9 begins with a callback. Often in Israel’s speech about God, they reference His earlier acts to emphasize His power. This shows God is real, and acts in decisive ways. The act of recalling God’s actions are a way to sing His glory.

David says that he will “recount all your wonderful deeds” (v1). These deeds include enforcing Cosmic Justice. David’s enemies “perish” (v3). God has defended the righteous (v4). God has judged the nations (v5). God destroyed evil cities (v6). David’s view is that God is currently judging the world in righteousness, as evidenced by justice being performed:

Psa 9:7  But the LORD sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice,

Psa 9:8  and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.

Psa 9:12  For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

The psalm then subverts itself. David moves from describing a world ruled by God to asking for deliverances from the “gates of death”. David has faith in God’s sovereignty over the world, so God should now act inspired by David’s faith. David, like in Psalms 6, reminds God that if he lives he will sing praises to God. Although Psalms 6 is more explicit, the argument is that if David dies then God will forgo the praise.

With a second reversal, David changes his speech to declaring that God’s judgment has been executed. The wicked are killed (v17) and the poor are saved (v18). But perhaps this is hope. The next verse calls on God to act. God is commanded to “Arise” and judge the nations (v19). God is to put the wicked in their place (v20).

Psalms 10

Psalms 10 is an anonymous psalm. It begins by challenging God:

Psa 10:1  Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Psa 10:2  In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.

Psa 10:3  For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the LORD.

As is common in the Psalms, the poor are positioned as those who do not deserve punishment. God’s enemies oppress them. The psalmist wonders why God does not act.

The wicked are positioned as evil foes, and a long list of ills are described. In verse 5, the prosperity of the wicked adds insult to injury. Not only are these people evil, but they live charmed lives. They defy God in their actions (v4) and words (v6).

God is called to “Arise” (v12). The implication is that the wicked are defying God and God’s character is at stake. Open defiance cannot go unpunished. The wicked say “You will not call to account” (v13). If God does not act, He will prove them right.

The verse ends with general praise. God is the king of the earth (v16), not man. God responds and protects His people (v17), just as a king would. His job is to execute justice and ensure there is no more terror on Earth (v18).’

source: Christopher Fisher (godisopen).

Read also “Understanding Psalms 11-20” by  Christopher Fisher.


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