We resume our reading of the Psalms. You will find an introduction to the Psalms, here.
A prayer for your used before reading from Gregory of Nazianus (329-389) an early Church father.
Lord, as I read the psalms let me hear you singing. As I read your words, let me hear you speaking. As I reflect on each page, let me see your image. And as I seek to put your precepts into practice, let my heart be filled with joy. Amen.
The next four psalms, 52-55 are introduced as “maskil of David”. We do not know what a “maskil” is.
Psalm 52: A lament. For the story of Doeg and his betrayal of David see 1 Sam 21.1–8; 22.6–19. The phrase “O mighty one” is often used to refer to God, but here is used perhaps ironically to describe David’s enemy. Verses 1-4 talk about the enemy. Verses 5-7 are about the fate of the enemy. Verses 8 and 9 are an expression of the psalmist confidence in God and a vow of faithfulness.
Psalm 53: This psalm is nearly identical to psalm 14, except that Yahweh (the Lord) is used instead of Elohim (God). The fate of the wicked and the evil, with a conclusion affirming that God will save Israel.
Psalm 54: A lament, an individual petition. For the story of the Ziphites and their betrayal of David, see 1 Sam 23:15-29. Verses 1-2, verse 3 the reason help is needed, verses 4-5 a prayer of confidence and verses 6-7 what the psalmist response to God’s actions will be.
Psalm 55: A personal lament. Verses 1-2 a cry for help. Verses 3-14 a description of the psalmist’s situation. Notice the emotions used. Verses 13-14 tell us this is about a personal betrayal. Verses 16-19 and expression of trust in God. Verses 20-21 the complaint. Verse 22-23 expressions of trust and confidence in God.
Psalm 56 A personal lament, see 1 Sam 21: 11-15. “The Dove on Far-off Terebinths” may be the name of the melody. Verses 1-2 and 5-6ab are about the psalmist’s situation. Verses 3-4 and 8-11 are expressions of trust. Verses 6c-7 a prayer for vindication and verses 12-13 the psalmist’s vow. Verses 8 “tears in your bottle” this metaphor may be based on a shepherd’s practice of keeping track of his sheep by putting pebbles in a bag.
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of the Psalms
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Clifford, Richard, “Psalms” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version.Coogan, Michael D.; Brettler, Marc Z.; Perkins, Pheme; Newsom, Carol A. (2010-01-20) Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
Stuhlmueller, Carroll, “Psalms” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
McCann,Jr, J. Clifton “Psalms”,in The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol 3, Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1996.