Psalms 31-40

Psalms 31-40, which are all from the Book I section of psalms. Psalm 31 contains a verse that is quoted by Jesus on the cross, while Psalms 34 and 40 contain verses that may be Messianic Prophecies. In this collection, we find a psalm of repentance (Psalm 38), as well as, more psalms of praise.


This post covers Psalms 31-40. All 10 of these Psalms belong to Book I. In particular, Psalm 38 is a beautiful read when we thinking about repentance. Psalm 31, Psalm 34, and Psalm 40 have verses that are found in the New Testament either as quotes or fulfillments by Jesus.

Psalm Summaries

Psalm 31

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David
Psalm 31 is a prayer for God's blessing. The psalmist condemns the wicked, but suffers from grief. While in his state of grief, his enemies and friends criticize him. The psalmist reminds us that God is our fortress; He strengthens those who believe in Him. As such, we don't have to fear when we trust in Him, no matter our grief.

Psalm 32

A Psalm of David, Maschil
The title of this psalm contains the hard-to-define word Maschil; it appears in the title of 13 psalms. Scholars aren't sure what the word means but believe it may be derived from a word that means "insight."[1] Many interpret it to mean "with understanding," while others believe it is a musical instrument or instruction.[3]

This psalm talks about the blessing that is forgiveness. When we sin, we should not hide from God, but go humbly before Him in repentance. When we confess our sin, He forgives us. Those who do not confess their sin and trust in God will have sorrow.

Psalm 33

Praise is due to God, whether from our voices or from instruments. This psalm promotes the use of music for the purpose of praising God. In many of the passages in which we are told to praise God, a reason is given for why He is deserving of our praise. Psalm 33 invokes the fact that God created the heavens with just His voice. If that's not a reason to recognize His supreme authority, I don't know what is!

Psalm 33:11 informs us that God's counsel is forever. His counsel is indicative of His heart, and He fashions our hearts to match. Interestingly, the New Testament tells us that the law (God's counsel) has been written in our hearts.

Psalm 34

A Psalm of David when he changed his behavior before Abimelech who drove him away and he departed
The title of the psalm references the events of 1 Samuel 21:10-15. David was hiding from Saul and became entangled with King Achish (Abimelech).[1] God delivered David from the foreign king's wrath, as well as from the wrath of Saul.

If is fitting, then, that the psalm begins with praise to God. David was well aware that God takes care of His people. We should be in awe of the Lord and keep ourselves from speaking evil. The psalm advices us to "do good, seek peace, and pursue it."

Psalm 35

A Psalm of David
We are supposed to love our enemies, but Psalm 35 proves that we don't have to root for them to win. The psalm appears to be a prayer for the failure of those who come against us without reason.

David describes a situation where he treated people well and with kindness, but they mocked him. The psalm discusses the issue of people repaying good with evil. Often times, people demean, mock, and tear down those who do the right thing, just as these people did David. In his prayer, David asks for blessings for those that support God but curses for those who have mocked the servants of God.

This is a interesting psalm because it seems to conflict with the so often quoted "love your enemies." Proverbs tells us that rebuke and punishment are good things; they train us to follow the right direction. God punishes out of love... The only spanking I ever received from my dad was because I ran toward the highway. When he told me to stop, I didn't. I didn't know what a highway was or the danger that existed if I ran into it. My dad punished me because it scared him to see me so close to danger. He wanted to make sure that in the future, I listened to his instruction to stop because I didn't know enough about the world to make good decisions. God is the same way. He doesn't want us to suffer, but we don't always listen. It's a sign of love when He chastises us to bring us back into the fold. Thus, to ask that our enemies be punished could be a way of loving them. That punishment could be the instrument to lead them back to God. (Or it could make them more bitter, like Pharaoh.)

Psalm 36

To the chief Musician, A Psalm o David the servant of the Lord
Photocredit: Restifo
Lies often sound better than the truth. For that reason, if we are not fully committed to following God, we will trick ourselves into believing those lies. This is exactly what happened to Eve. When we believe these lies, we venture down paths we have no business on, getting ourselves in trouble. Without God, we can never get out of the trouble we get into.

Psalm 37

A Psalm of David
Psalm 37 testifies to the concept of having the law of God in our hearts; this concept is repeated in Hebrews 10:16 and Romans 2:15. David basically tells us not to pay any attention to those living counter to God's way. We are not to envy them or be angry with them. Often the wicked seem to prosper while we struggle. This is a lie the devil wants you to believe; we have no reason to be jealous of them and anger is a waste of our time. God will serve justice in due time. If we stay true to God, He will allow us to survive the horrors of life.

This psalm also reminds us to be mindful of the needy; it is the wicked that shun, mistreat, and ignore the plight of those less fortunate. Those who follow God should, conversely, have a heart for the poor. David reminds us that our steps should be ordered by God. "Order my steps" has always been one of my favorite gospel songs and perhaps Psalm 37 served as it's inspiration.

Psalm 38

A Psalm of David to bring to remembrance
Psalm 38 explores being separated from God by sin. The heaviness of the guilt weighs on the psalmist. The psalm is his repentance and prayer to God for forgiveness.

Psalm 39

To the chief Musician, even to Jeduthun, A Psalm of David
When you're growing up, people tell you if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. David tells us to watch what we say, which is similar by not exactly the same. The childhood adage basically bars you from saying anything the critical of a person. Telling someone they need to repent is not nice, but it's exactly what some are called to do! I think the psalmist's philosophy would be closer to "is it kind, is it true, is it necessary?" and if a topic meets at least 2 of these criteria, it's probably worthy saying.

Knowing that we never really know how our actions (and words) will turn out, David reminds us to be aware of our own frailty. We should constantly be asking God for the humbling information that we have faults. We should also be seeking His guidance on how to improve and navigate the world.

Psalm 40

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David
Once again, we see the Old Testament discussing New Testament topics. We are told that God saves us from death (referred to as the pit in the KJV) and wants us to delight in doing His will more than He wants sacrifices. The law is not to be kept like a checklist of things to do, but because we love and respect God. We are to be compelled to live in manner that reflects Him. As such we shouldn't be refraining from ceremonies/behaviors simply because we were told to, but in our hearts desire to carry them out, nor should we be participating in required ceremonies/behaviors unwillingly. David tells us the law should be written in the heart, which is part of the new covenant, as told in Hebrews 10:16.

Messianic Verses

Psalm 31:5

According to Luke 23:46, just before Jesus dies on the cross, He quotes Proverbs 31:5. The only difference (in the KJV, at least) in Jesus' quote and the verse in the psalm is the word commit vs commend. Although commend is generally used to indicate praise, commend can also mean to entrust something to someone.[4] Commit can also mean to entrust.[5]

Psalm 34:20

Psalm 34:20 speaks on the bones of the righteous being unbroken. Some suggest this actually a Messianic Prophecy about Jesus, who's bones were not broken on the cross (John 19:32-33).[6]

Psalm 35:11-12

In these verses, the psalmist laments that his enemies have spread a false narrative about him. This has been damaging to the point of "spoiling [his] soul." When the Pharisees began plotting to have Jesus killed, they knew they needed witnesses to carry out the death penalty. However, all the witnesses were false witnesses—their stories didn't match (see Mark 14:55-65). This occurs just before He is spat upon and brought low before suffering death for our sins.

Psalm 40:7-8

Psalm 40:7-8 mirrors John 5:30. The psalm describes someone who has already been defined in a book, who delights in doing the Will of the Father, and has the law written in their heart. In John 5:30, Jesus reminds us that He can only do what is in God' Will. In John 5:39, Jesus tells us the scriptures testify him.

The Meaning of Selah

Scholars are unsure what selah means; it appears frequently in Psalms and occasionally in Habbakuk, but no where else in the Bible. It is thought that the word was derived from Hebrew words meaning "to praise," "to lift up," and "to pause." Since the psalms are often prayers and songs, it is possible that selah was a musical instruction for performers.[2]


  1. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 938,940. 2014
  2. "What does selah mean in the Bible?".; visited June 2017
  3. "Maschil". Bible Hub; visited July 2017
  4. "Commend". Merriam Webster; visited July 2017
  5. "Commit". Merriam Webster; visited July 2017
  6. "Psalms 27-77". Messiah Revealed; visited July 2017

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