Our practice this year has been to read the Psalms, which contain 5 books, book by book. Now we return to Book IV. Unlike some of the other books which make up the Psalter, the psalms in this book are mostly unassigned to a particular author.
You will find an introduction to the Psalms, here.
Here is a prayer from Gregory of Nazianus (329-389) who was 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.
Psalm 102 This is the fifth of seven penitential psalms ( Pss 6;32;38;51;130;143). It is an individual petition but contains both personal and national concerns. Notice how the fragility of mortal humans is contrasted with eternal God. What images are used to describe the Psalmist’s state? Verse 13 suggests that the Temple has been destroyed and now is the time to rebuild. Verses 25-27 are quoted in Hebrew 1:10-12. Did you notice that the words “sin” and “guilt” were not mentioned?
Psalm 103 This psalm also blends personal and national concerns, however this is a psalm of praise. Notice the parallels in the psalm.
verses 1-5 God heals individuals
verses 6-14 God heals the nation
verses 15-18 God summons people
verses 19-22 God summons heavenly beings
The opening verses (1-5) match the closing verses (19-22) in length and with the repeated “bless”.
Psalm 104 A hymn of praise. Verses 2-4 the creation of the heavens. Verses 5-9 creation of the earth. Verses 7-9 God is victorious over the waters. Remember the waters, in the ancient world, were the force of chaos. Notice the ways this psalm is another retelling of the creation story in Genesis 1. The psalm closes with a prayer. In ancient Hebrew culture, often personal and specific words were used, where today we might use more abstract and impersonal words. So where the psalmist writes “sinners” and “wicked”, we would write “sin” and “wickedness”.
Psalm 105 A psalm of praise. This psalm begins with an invitation or call to praise (v 1-6) and then moves through Israel’s history as it was traditionally described. Verses 7-11 tell us the psalmist’s theme. Can you recall the parts of history the rest of the psalm relates?
Verses 12-15 Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, v16-22 Joseph, v23-38 the Exodus and Moses. What is recalled and what has been left out or altered in this telling? Never the less, God does not forget the promise. (v 42).
Psalm 106 A communal lament. A confession of sin and prayer for help. The psalm begins with praise. The story of the Exodus and the time in the wilderness is told. Horeb (v 19) is another name for Sinai. Verses 34-39 recall the time of the Judges. Verse 47 is a reference to the Exile and was the original end of the psalm. Verse 48 was added when the Psalms were divided into five books. Verse 48 is the concluding doxology of Book IV.
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