Book III of The Psalms

Discovery for Students

Book III of The Psalms

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Psalms 73:1 through 89:52

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11)

BACKGROUND

Book III consists of Psalms 73 through 89. The majority of them (Psalms 73 through 83) are attributed to Asaph, a priest from the tribe of Levi who served in Jerusalem as the chief worship leader during David’s reign, throughout the reign of Solomon, and into the reign of Rehoboam. He probably composed much of the music for David’s psalms; Ezra 2:41 identifies him as the ancestor of the Temple singers. According to Bible scholars, during David’s time several “guilds” were established to train musicians to carry on the musical traditions established by Asaph and others. Of the remaining psalms in this section, three are attributed to the “sons of Korah” (likely a family of Temple singers), David wrote Psalm 86, Heman the Ezraite wrote Psalm 88, and Ethan the Ezraite wrote Psalm 89.

The psalms in this section have been classified in various ways but some of the common groupings are: alphabetic or acrostic psalms, hallelujah psalms, historical psalms, imprecatory (invoking vengeance) psalms, Messianic psalms, penitential psalms, songs of ascent or degrees (sung by pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem), psalms of lament, and psalms of thanksgiving. Each of the major classifications is represented in this collection except for penitential.

As stated in previous lessons, Jewish tradition compares the five sections of the Book of Psalms to the first five books of the Bible. Book III has clear similarities to Leviticus in theme and scope. The purpose of Leviticus was to guide the people in their relationship with a holy God, and many of the psalms in this book focus on worship of God, His sovereignty, and His faithfulness.

The divine title primarily used in this section is El or Elohim (God), the first name for God used in Scripture (Genesis 1:1).

QUESTIONS

  1. Psalm 73 opens with Asaph’s comments on a perplexing subject which is also addressed in Psalms 37 and 49 and the Book of Job: How can our all-powerful God be good and yet allow the righteous to suffer while the wicked seem to prosper? According to verses 16-17, what caused Asaph to change his viewpoint?
  2. Psalm 75:2, 7 and Psalm 82:1, 8 refer to God in His capacity as the Sovereign Judge. What one word do you think best describes the nature of God’s judgment? In what ways does knowledge of God’s ultimate judgment affect us as believers?
  3. In Psalm 78, Asaph pleaded with the people to pay close attention as he recounted Israel’s history and made known the “dark sayings” (parables) of ancient wisdom imparted by Israel’s forefathers. He stressed that each generation must pass on God’s commandments to the next generation. Based on verses 6-8, list at least three reasons why this should be done.
  4. Psalms 74 and 79 are companion psalms which lament the destruction of Jerusalem. They reflect the horror the inhabitants of Israel felt as their territorial integrity was violated and their holy places desecrated. According to Psalm 74:1 and Psalm 79:8-9, what did the writer do in the midst of such devastation, loss, and outrage? What can we learn from this about how to handle our times of trial?
  5. Psalm 84 is a beautiful expression of appreciation and longing for God’s house. In verse 10, the psalmist declared that a day “in thy courts” (the sanctuary) was to be valued far above a thousand days spent elsewhere. What does this statement reflect about his priorities?
  6. Psalm 85 offers praise for Israel’s deliverance from captivity, and includes a prayer for the nation to turn their hearts back to God. Verse 6 asks the question, “Wilt thou not revive us again?” What is revival? What does verse 4 imply regarding the nation of Israel’s part in revival?
  7. In Psalm 86:11, the writer follows several verses that describe God’s nature and faithfulness with two requests: “teach me thy way, O Lord” and “unite my heart to fear thy name.” How would you paraphrase this verse? Why is it important to integrate similar requests into our prayers and daily living?
  8. Concluding the third book of the Psalms, Psalm 89 begins with the familiar words, “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever.” What is mercy, and why is it so vital in the grand plan of God?

CONCLUSION

The seventeen chapters in Book III of the Psalms contain the most profound writings celebrating the sovereignty of God in all of the Psalms. The closing verse of Psalm 89 provides a fitting benediction: “Blessed [be] the Lord for evermore. Amen, and Amen” (Psalm 89:52).