Psalms 51-55

This post covers Psalms 51-55, all of which were written by David.

Introduction

This post covers Psalms 51-55 from Book II of Psalms. I found myself diving a little deeper into these, so I split the post in half to keep it from getting too long. Looking at the circumstance of the each psalm really gave weight to the messages. Re-reading the passages to gather context was really meaningful, so I definitely suggest that for anyone reading through Psalms.

Psalm Summaries

Psalm 51

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba
This psalm is one of repentance; written after Nathan the prophet confronts David about his affair with Bathsheba, it follows the events of 2 Samuel 11-12. Here, David confesses that He has sinned, recognizes that he cannot fix the situation, only God can, and begs for forgiveness. This psalm of David is highly relatable, even though most of us have never committed murder or adultery (I hope!). When we fail to resist temptation, no matter what it is, and are reminded by God that we belong to Him, David's word are exactly how we feel.

A few things stood out to me when I read this psalm.

Hyssop

In Psalm 51:7, David says "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean." If we aren't deep into the Word, it's easy to miss the depth of this statement. The first time hyssop is mentioned in the Bible is in Exodus 12:22 when the Israelites are being instructed to paint the door frame of their homes with the blood of the first passover lambs. Hyssop was what was used to accomplish this. Onward, in Leviticus and Numbers, hyssop is mentioned in conjunction with sacrifices. John 19:29 tells us the vinegar given to Jesus at the cross was given to Him via hyssop. Of the 12 verses in which the word hyssop appears, only 1 is not directly or indirectly related to sacrifice.[4]

As such, David bringing up hyssop in reference to becoming clean is extremely appropriate. From his point of view, hyssop has ties to the sacrifices which were used to wash away the Israelites' sin. Little did he know that today, this would have the same meaning in reference to the Messiah, who not only represents the passover lamb and causes us to be clean, but was fed with hyssop in the last moments of His life.

About the Heart

The biggest gripe God had with the Jews was the issue of legalism. Today, people confuse legalism with keeping the commandments, but the real problem was that the Jews relied on tradition over faith. Not only did the leaders of the Jewish community add laws on top of God's laws to insure the original laws weren't broken, but they were so focused on keeping the law, they forgot about God. Today, the closest analogy I see is the idea of going to church each week being the thing that makes someone a Christian. Without putting in the work to build a relationship with Christ, going to church is no different than going to work—going to church is not going to save you.

The Jews got to the point that they were sacrificing without necessarily repenting. It was something they had likely been taught, just as we are taught to go to church, and they simply did it out of habit. However, David is reminding us that God doesn't really want us to kill the animals. He would rather us surrender our hearts to Him. This statement is basically the opposite of the saying "it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission." I say basically, because God wants us to genuinely repent and ask for forgiveness when we mess up, so asking for forgiveness is not bad. However, we shouldn't be acting with the assumption that we can do whatever and then simply ask for forgiveness (re: offer a sacrifice) to cover it later.

Music

Shane & Shane have a song inspired by Psalm 51, called "Psalm 51 (Wisdom in the Secret Heart)"

Psalm 52

To the chief Musician, Maschil, A Psalm of David, when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said unto him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech.
Photocredit: Unsplash.com/Rawpixel
Doeg, the Edomite, mentioned in heading of the psalm, is introduced in 1 Samuel 21:7, and further discussed in 1 Samuel 2. At this point in David's life, he had been anointed king, but Saul, the current king, had ordered him killed. So when David wrote this, he was a wanted man (like Jesus, Paul, and most of God's followers). As such you would think Psalm 52 would shed light on what it feels like to be wrongly persecuted. Instead, David gives us a glimpse of why people persecute us and how we should respond.

Watch Your Tongue

Proverbs already warned us to watch our tongue, but David continues to remind us here. What we say has consequences and the power of our words is much greater than we think. As such, we should always use our words for righteousness and shun evil.

Trust in the Lord

Many people trust in Earthly things, things that are tangible and in our control. People store food and money for emergency situations because it makes them feel prepared and in control. David warns us against trusting in money and wealth to get us through any situation, and reminds us that we will only prosper when our faith remains in God. Now, this isn't saying that when the weather channel announces a category 4 hurricane barreling toward your city you should do nothing to prepare. It's reminding us that even if we board up our house, stock up on batteries and non-perishable food, it's only God that can get us through the storm.

David was rightfully king at this point, and he had loyal supporters—even Saul's children were on David's side. However, David knew that God was in control. He trusted that if God had ordained him king, God would place him on the throne in the time and manner God saw fit. So instead of storming Saul's home and assassinating him, David simply stayed out of the way trusting God to fight the battle. In our life, we have to remember to turn our battles over to God!

Psalm 53

To the chief Musician upon Mahalath, Maschil, A Psalm of David.
A reproach for non-believers, much of Psalm 53 is repeated from Psalm 14. You can read my initial thoughts in that post.

Psalm 54

To the chief Musician on Neginoth, Maschil, A Psalm of David, when the Ziphims came and said to Saul, Doth not David hide himself with us?
This psalm discusses deliverance. We give freely to God because He has saved us in our troubles. He protects us from our enemies and uplifts us. The psalm is a powerful one to repeat in our times of trouble. Remember, David wrote this as he was being pursued by Saul, who was seeking to kill him.

Psalm 55

To the chief Musician on Neginoth, Maschil, A Psalm of David.
The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords. Psalms 55:21 KJV
This pslam touches on the depth of betrayal. When we are wronged by strangers, or people we know are against us, it is almost expected and we go on as usual. However, when we are hurt by those we consider friends or family, the sting of the action goes much deeper. The severing of trust and heartbreak of knowing that someone you thought you could count on is not actually in your corner can bring out depression-like feelings within us. David captures this beautifully in the psalm. Ultimately, he reminds us, all battles, even those among our brothers and sisters in Christ, must be given over to God.

Praying 3 Times a Day

This psalm also introduces the idea of praying morning, noon, and night. Growing up, I think I was taught to pray before bed (and of course blessing food before eating). Prayer is our time to talk with God, and communication is important in a relationship. So although it is important to pray, there's no set number of times or specific hours that we are required to pray, unlike in Islam where followers are required to pray 5 times a day.[5] However, I understand why David specifies these specific 3 times a day.

When you're dating someone (or married to them), isn't the first thing you do when you wake up telling them good morning? Everyone loves good morning texts, right? Knowing that you were the first thing on that person's mind when they awoke? Is it not the same at night before you go to bed? And throughout the day, aren't you bursting at the seams wanting to share your day or see how their day went? This is why God constantly compares our relationship with Him to that of a bride and groom. When we truly love God and are pursuing a relationship with Him, we can't wait to talk to Him.

Translation Changes

An interesting fact is that Psalm 55:17 actually reads "evening, morning, and noon" in Hebrew.[6] As given by God in Genesis 1:5, a day starts in darkness and finishes in light. Unlike today where we go from midnight to midnight (which really doesn't make much sense if you think about it), the Israelites' day starts and ends at sunset per God's definition. Thus, the first part of the day to David would be evening, followed by morning, and then by noon.

Messianic Verses

Psalm 55:12-14

In Psalm 55:12-14, David talks about being betrayed by a friend and brother in faith. Many draw parallels from this to the fact that Jesus was betrayed by Judas. I did not read it as a prophecy, but it is listed by some as a prophetic verse.[7]

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]

The Meaning of Maschil

The title of some of these psalms contain 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]

References

  1. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 938,940. 2014
  2. "What does selah mean in the Bible?". GotQuestions.org; visited June 2017
  3. "Maschil". Bible Hub; visited July 2017
  4. "Bible Search: Hyssop". Bible Gateway; visited November 2018
  5. "Five Pillars of Islam". Wikipedia; visited December 2018
  6. "Psalm 55:17". Bible Hub; visited December 2018
  7. "365 Messianic Prophecies". Bible Probe; visited December 2018

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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