Sunday June 28 – Saturday July 4
Psalm 43 – Psalm 56
An introduction to Book 2 of the Psalter
The final psalm of last week’s reading, Psalm 42, kicks off a second themed collection within the Psalter. Book 2 incorporates Psalms 42 – 72 and shifts away (at least at first!) from Book 1’s focus on David as the representative of God’s anointed one. Whereas Book 1 was marked by confrontation with enemies – both David’s enemies, and apparently, enemies of God’s Kingdom – the beginning of Book 2 sets a new tone. The ups and downs of the struggle to realize the Lord’s kingdom of righteousness and peace that were articulated in Book 1 will continue. Yet Book 2 includes a greater focus on God’s kingship over the nations. The psalmists indicate a desire to communicate with the nations on behalf of God’s Messiah. And the expansion of God’s Kingdom spans the world.
Book 2 is divided essentially one-third and two-thirds between a collection of psalms by the Sons of Korah or the Korahites (42-49); followed by a single psalm of Asaph (50); and then a second collection of Davidic psalms (51-71); concluded by a single psalm of Solomon (72).
O. Palmer Robertson, The Flow of The Psalms
What to look for in Psalms 43-56
Did you notice in Book 1 how often the word LORD shows up in small caps? Take the first and last psalms of Book 1 as examples. In Psalm 1:6 we read, “The LORD is intimately acquainted with the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked is destroyed.” And in Psalm 41:2-3 we read, “The LORD rescues them during troubled times. The LORD protects them and keeps them alive.”
The appearance of the small caps “LORD” indicates the personal name of God, Yahweh, in the original manuscript. Yahweh is the personal name God revealed to Moses as the name by which His people, Israel, would know Him. Out of reverence for the divine name, Hebrew people would not say the name Yahweh out loud. Instead, when “Yahweh” appeared in the text, they would replace the divine name with the word “Adonai,” which means “Lord.” Thus, when our English Bibles use the small caps “LORD,” this clues the reader in that in the original language, the particular, covenantal name of God, Yahweh, is being used in the original text.
Yet, notice at the very beginning of Psalm 42, which begins Book 2, that we don’t see “the LORD,” but instead, simply, “God.” Psalm 42:1-2 illustrates this: “Just like a deer that craves streams of water, my whole being craves you, God. My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God.” The word “God” in our English Bibles indicates that the general name for God, “Elohim,” (which simply just means, “god” in Hebrew) appears in the original manuscripts. Why is it significant that Book 1 emphasizes the covenantal name of God, Yahweh, while Book 2 more frequently employs the general name Elohim? This could indicate that Book 1 was collected in a different time period than Book 2, in which language about God was used differently in worship. Or, the editors could be making distinct points about who God is and how they understand Him. Here’s what I mean. In the personal psalms of Book 1, which unfold in the context of the covenant community of Israel, and are from the perspective of God’s anointed representative, it makes sense that the personal, covenantal name of God is frequently used. But in Book 2, the focus broadens to show God not only as Israel’s King, but as King over all the world. Yahweh, the God of Israel, is also the universal Sovereign, the God who justly rules over all the earth. And so, perhaps the use of the general name of God, Elohim, matches this broadening scope of God’s reign not just over Israel, but over all the earth.
Look for language of kingship and enthronement in these psalms. Who is being crowned king? Is it God? Or God’s anointed representative, the Messiah? (Look in particular at Psalm 45) Or both of them? And what constitutes this kingdom? In other words, who counts as a participant in God’s Kingdom? Note also the references to the city of God. The psalms that focus on God’s kingship often include references to Jerusalem, the City of God, or the mountain of the Lord. All of these describe the same place: Zion, which was the representation of the seat of God’s reign, the location of His throne, and the “capital city” of His kingdom. From Zion, God reigns. And to Zion, all the nations come to worship and to acknowledge God as God.
Questions to ask of Psalms 43-56
Read Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 together. What parallels do you notice?
Do these psalms sound different in any ways than the psalms we have read previously?
What language do you find in these psalms that beckons you into prayer? What examples of prayer, worship or conversation with God do these psalms offer?
Note the language of being rescued, of being brought to a place of safety. How has God given you safety or refuge in Him in recent days or months? Or, how do you long to find refuge with God?
What about these psalms gives you comfort or increases your hope or trust? What about these psalms indicates that your understanding of God or of who counts as apart of God’s Kingdom might need to change or expand?
O God, our refuge and strength, our help in times of trouble, with countless people from ages past I declare that You are great and so worthy of praise! You are the king of the whole world. Please align my heart and desires with Your way, so that you can be Lord over my life, too. Cleanse me and wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me of my sin against you and against others. I trust and believe that You, God, are the One who brings salvation to me, to Your people, and even to all the nations of the world through Jesus. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, may the name of the LORD God be praised. Amen.