- Psalm Summaries
- Psalm 21
- Psalm 22
- Psalm 23
- Green Pastures and Waters
- Restoration of the Soul
- Shadow of Death
- Cup Running Over
- Kingdom Come
- Psalm 24
- Psalm 25
- Psalm 26
- Psalm 27
- Psalm 28
- Psalm 29
- Psalm 30
- Messianic Verses
- Psalm 22
- Jesus' Words of Despair
- Pray Without Ceasing
- Mocked and Despised
- Awareness of God/Born with a Purpose
- Abandoned by the Disciples
- Lots Cast
- Proclaim His Name
- The Meaning of Selah
- References and Footnotes
- Other Pages to View
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David
There was a time when rulers were said to be divine. The Egyptians surely believed their pharaohs were gods. Though we know men are only men, kings were still supposed to be special people chosen by God. Most countries with heavy influence from one of the 3 Abrahamic religions follow this idea. It makes sense that the leader of the nation must be in a good relationship with God, otherwise the nation is being led away from God.
Psalm 21 reminds us that only when these kings remain true to God can they stay in power. All great nations in history fall, because we are only human. There's always a rebellious son (like David's son Absalom) or a corrupt politician. When these leaders seize power, destruction and sorrow follow. The only kingdom that will stand forever is the eternal kingdom because Jesus will be sitting on the throne.
To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David
The phrase Alijeleth Shara, which is found in the title of the psalm, means "The Deer of the Dawn." "The Deer of the Dawn" was a song of the time period that this psalm was set to the tune of.
Psalm 22 basically outlines Jesus' life and crucifixion. Many prophecies about Jesus were written while the Israelites were in captivity or faithfulness to God was at a low. However, if we take the title as an indication that David composed the psalm, as most scholars do, this psalm was composed as Israel was on the rise. Whether David understood exactly what would happen or only bits and pieces, the concluding lines of the psalm make it quite explicit that David is not referencing himself but the seed (Jesus) that would come. Despite being so abundant with Messianic Prophecy, Psalm 22 isn't quoted the way Psalm 23 is. I talk about the details of these prophecies in a dedicated section below.
A Psalm of David
Psalm 23 is the psalm everyone knows; you can probably recite it from memory. We used to read the psalm in church almost every week and several artists have set the psalm to music. Nothing in the Bible suggests this psalm is more important than the other, but it's pretty much the only psalm we ever read in church. I always wondered why.
Psalm 23 touches on some of the most important subjects and feelings we experience as people; this makes the passage relatable to pretty much everyone. There is powerful language within these verses! Although many people know the psalm by heart and many of us recite it often, I want to talk about what it actually means. I don't ever remember my church stopping to discuss the meaning of this psalm, which is probably why I couldn't understand why we said it all the time!
Most commonly associated with sheep, shepherds act as the guide and protector for a flock. Without a shepherd, the sheep would wander away and get lost. Predators such as wolves would attack and pillage the flock. The shepherd ensures all the sheep are accounted for. The shepherd leads them to safe places abundant with food. The sheep are so well cared for, there isn't anything more to ask for. God is our shepherd.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Green Pastures and Waters
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
As I stated earlier, the shepherd's responsibility is to make sure the flock is well fed and hydrated. The second verse of the psalm reminds us that God will provide nourishment for us. Although shepherd are tasked with literally providing food for their flock, the nourishment God provides is both physical and spiritual. Because we aren't sheep, hearing about green pastures and still waters doesn't invoke the image of dinner, it invokes an image of peace. I always imagine the Garden of Eden when I say this verse. God's spiritual nourishment is what brings this peace. If we follow His Way, we will not be overcome with worry or the hustle and bustle of life.
Restoration of the Soul
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Our souls are broken. We are born with a sinful nature and that's something we can't fix on our own. Today's society is proud to be "born this way" and desires to stay true to the nature we are born with. The Bible tells us we have to be reborn to receive salvation. When we ask God, He restores the brokenness inside us. When He restores us, He fixes our bad temper, our unfaithfulness, sexual impurity, greed, jealousy, vanity, etc. We then begin to follow His path, which is the path of righteousness.
Shadow of Death
The valley of the shadow of death sounds like a terrifying place; that's probably why the phrase is followed by the declaration that psalmist will not fear evil. Death is the penalty for all sin—from small sins like eating the forbidden fruit to atrocities like murder. We are all walking in the shadow of death because we've all sinned. As such our deaths (and the deaths of those around us) constantly loom over us. Jesus conquered death, though. Which means we can walk through the valley of death without the fear of being trapped there. We will experience life after death, therefore we don't have to fear. Evil will happen in our world, but as long as we keep our focus on God, we have no reason to fear that evil.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
It's important to remember that both the rod and staff of God comfort us. The rod was used for punishment (Proverbs 13:24); God loves us, so He doesn't let us wander astray. Discipline is a good thing, it is part of the shepherding process. The staff is possibly a symbol of authority. We all recognize a shepherd by his staff, just as we recognize a police officer by a badge, or a serviceman by his uniform. Everything around us testifies to God's role as King. It is comforting when we remember that He is in charge.
Cup Running Over
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
The fifth verse talks about blessings. When we follow God, He prepares for us. Despite people trying to tear us down or turn us on the path of evil, God will ensure we have what we need, and they will see us fulfilled. My great-grandfather used to say we shouldn't worry when people wrong us, because we will live to see them fall. Verse 5 is telling us that we shouldn't worry about those people because they will live to see us rise. It does no good to watch them fall; why should we be happy to see the downfall of our fellow man? However, when they see the righteous rise, guilt and awe will overcome them. It provides an opportunities for them to commune with God and repent of their ways.
To be anointed is to be consecrated for office. This means God has placed us in a position of responsibility and power once we choose to follow Him. We choose Him and He chooses us in return!
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
The final verse of Psalm 23 comments on the reward we receive for following God. Our lives will be blessed and full because of God's mercy—note that this doesn't mean nothing bad will ever happen (see
A Psalm of David
About 6 years ago, someone told me that Jewish people don't believe in an afterlife. Chabad.org suggests this person was incorrect about this assumption and as I've been rereading the Old Testament, I find so many passages that suggest the early Jews did believe in an after life. In Psalm 24:3, David asks who will ascend to the holy place where God is. While this could be a reference to occurrences like that of Moses, it seems to be in line with the concept of Heaven and afterlife.
Psalm 24:7-10 concludes the psalm with words that had to be lyrics to a song. When I first read them, I was convinced they were written with a tune in mind and people stood before God to sing them. I often wonder why we wrote new songs for church; why not just set the psalms to music?
A Psalm of David
Psalm 25 starts with a prayer we should all be praying: for God to show us His way and teach us His path. This is something we have to build a relationship with God to understand. Otherwise, we wander aimlessly following our own way.
Because it's impossible to know this off the bat, and even harder to understand God's path for us when we are just beginning our relationship with Him, we tend to mess up a lot when we're young. That's not to say we don't mess up as we age, but part of growing in Christ is putting sinful behavior behind us. Lucky for us, God forgives us for our past sins.
If God can redeem and forgive an individual, He can redeem a nation. If He can redeem a nation, He can redeem an individual. The psalm concludes by leaving the focus of individual and praying for the redemption of the nation. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be in Heaven alone and I certainly don't want our nation to crumble because it lost it's way. This is why we pray for ourselves, those around us, and for God to redeem our nation.
A Psalm of David
In the previous psalm, David was asking for forgiveness and mercy, but here, David is asking for judgement. We already know that the wages of sin are death, so you have to be pretty confident in your behavior to tell God you're ready to be judged. You also have to be in the place where you are ready to be corrected by God. Often our problem is that we don't want to be told we are wrong. This is what pushes us away from God.
David tells us that he hasn't been associating with the wicked. This goes back to the saying "you are who your friends are." I used to hate this phrase as a kid, but the older I've become, the more I understand it. We want to think that our Godliness is just as likely to rub off on people as sinfulness is to rub off on us. However, placing good apples in the bin with a rotten one usually creates more rotten apples... The problem isn't just that their behavior is likely to rub off on you, but that you become tolerant of sin.
Let me elaborate. I have plenty of friends who drink excessively and/or are not waiting until marriage for sex. Their behavior didn't cause me to change mine, but it did mean I co-signed their behavior. You're not going to be friends long if every time these topics come up you're criticizing their behavior, which means you probably don't say anything at all. Meanwhile, everyone (including your friend) assumes that even though you've chosen not to partake in the festivities, you approve of the actions. From the outside looking in, you're just like them. The closer I became to God, the more my close friend circle started homogenize. I feel more comfortable around people who are following God because 1) I can trust their advice and opinions, and 2) I don't have to feel conflicted when I witness behavior that I know displeases God.
In this psalm, David advises us not gather with sinners. Since we're all sinners, I assume David is speaking of people who deliberately sin and are not actively building a relationship with God to improve themselves. It makes sense; who wants to be friends with someone who isn't trying to become a better person?
A Psalm of David
I remember someone once told me the people closest to you have the hardest time watching you change. Parents know you inside and out, sometimes better than you know yourself. On top of that, who you are is a reflection of who they raised you to be. Some of us have parents that raised us to follow God, but some of us have parents that don't believe in God or cling to false ideals about God. When we veer away from their ideals, it often becomes hard for them to accept.
Psalm 27:10 reminds us that even though some may push us away, God is always there for us. We experience many obstacles in life, but we can rest easy knowing that God stands with us through these obstacles. Much like "Footprints," we are told that when we walk with God, He will not abandon us in our times of trouble.
A Psalm of David
The worst thing that could ever happen is to be separated from God. Even Jesus became emotional when he took on the sins of the world and was separated from the Father.
Psalm 28:1 is a prayer asking for deliverance from separation from God. The pit was where the dead went and there, they could not commune with God. The psalmist wants to be able to communicate with God always. The psalmist's prayer is that God not only hear his cries, but that God will not lump him with the wicked. God is to be our rock and our shield, whom we are to hold on to through every storm.
A Psalm of David
Psalm 29 reminds us of the power that rests in the voice of the Lord. We already know that God's voice is so powerful it created light; Psalm 29 says it can divide the flames of fire! The verses remind us that God is in control and with His voice, He can change everything we thought we knew about our world. Floods, disasters, abundance, new life—you name it, He can create it. Whatever He stirs with His voice, however, we will endure because He gives us strength.
A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David
...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
The title of this psalm indicates it was a song that was sung at the dedication of the house of David. It is possible that David wrote the psalm himself; but it is also possible that someone else wrote the psalm to celebrate David and his family. Once again, we see reference to the afterlife and the resurrection. The psalmist says God brought his soul up from the grave and saved him from the pit (Sheol/Hell)! The psalmist praises God, reminding us that God's anger only lasts momentarily, but when are reconciled with Him is sweet.
It is important that we proclaim the Truth of God now, because once we die, we can no longer praise.
Psalm 30:9 is important for several reasons. It could be the psalmist's plea of reason; if God killed us after our first offense, no one would live to praise God. He has to forgive us of our sins so that we can learn, grow, and spread the truth of His Word. Also, it serves as a reminder to ourselves. Many of us are procrastinators. We wait until the last minute for everything. However, if we wait to long to use our voices to proclaim God our King, we will die and be unable to do so.
Although I was able to clearly see that this verse was prophetic upon reading the text, much of my research on the prophecies outline comes from Messiah Revealed. You can see their work on Messianic prophecies in Psalms here. There are probably other prophecies in the chapter that are not discussed right below.
Jesus' Words of Despair
We all know that while suffering, Jesus uttered the words "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34). These words are Aramaic for "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" This utterance is a direct quote from Psalm 22:1.
Psalm 22:1-2 tells us that the individual discussed in the psalm (Jesus) would cry out to God.
Pray Without Ceasing
Psalm 22:2 also tells us that this person will not cease praying; they are not silent, choosing to cry out to God day and pray at night. Just before His crucifixion, Jesus spends the night in Gethsemane praying.
Mocked and Despised
Psalm 22:6 ends the discussion of trust placed in God to tell us that this man is not trusted. Instead, He is despised by the people. We know Jesus was despised; the people could have set Him free, but they chose to have Him crucified. Luke 23:21-23, Matthew 12:14, and John 7:7 are just a few verses that testify to the fact Jesus is/was despised by the people.
The psalm goes on to say that these people will mock Jesus and shake their heads at Him. Shaking our heads has always been a sign of disapproval. In our modern world, people would mock Jesus by saying "smh." The fulfillment of this is shown in Matthew 27:37-43, Luke 23:35-39 and Mark 15:29-32.
Awareness of God/Born with a Purpose
We don't learn much about Jesus prior to His ministry. His childhood is basically a mystery, but we are told that like Isaac, Samuel, and John the Baptist, Jesus was claimed by God while still in the womb. Another of the few glimpses we receive of Jesus before His ministry is when He was just a boy and had disappeared from His parents' side. Mary and Joseph found Him at the Temple going about God's business. We are told of this event to show us that Jesus knew and communed with God even in His youth. Jesus was raised in the presence of God just as it is foretold in Psalm 22:9-10!
Abandoned by the Disciples
Psalm 22:11 pours out a line I can clearly envision Jesus speaking the night before the crucifixion. There He was, with full knowledge that soon He would be tortured and left to die, but the disciples were sleeping soundly. They weren't far from Him, but they weren't helping Him—not that they could change what God ordained, but they could have provided comfort. When the authorities came for Jesus, the disciples fled (Mark 14:50). Peter followed, but from a distance and would eventually deny Christ 3 times. All of this was laid out in Psalm 22:11.
Psalm 22:14 goes into the details of the crucifixion. We are told that He will be poured out like water. John 19:34 describes blood and water pouring from Jesus after He is pierced. It says His bones were out of joint; although Jesus' bones were never broken, I can imagine hanging from a cross would cause the to feel out of joint and the weight of the body could dislocate the shoulders.
Jesus' bones were not broken. This meant they were all connected and able to receive communication from the brain. Psalm 22:17 alludes to this by saying Jesus could "tell" or communicate with all His bones.
Psalm 22:16 goes on to say that He will be pierced in the hands and feet, just as Jesus was pierced on the cross.
Proclaim His Name
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.
References and Footnotes
- Ed Hird. "Psalm 23: Why Is It Still So Popular??". Deep Cove Crier. March 1995
- Brent A. Strawn. "The Lord is My Shepherd (Ps 23)". Bible Odyssey; visited June 2017
- "What is the anointing? What does it mean to be anointed?". GotQuestions.org; visited July 2017
- Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 929. 2014
- Tzvi Freeman. "Do Jews Believe in an Afterlife?". Chabad.org; visited July 2017
- Jack Wellman. "What Is The Difference Between The Rod and The Staff? A Bible Study". Patheos. July 24, 2015
- "What does selah mean in the Bible?". GotQuestions.org; visited June 2017
Other Pages to View