Our practice this year has been to read the Psalms, which contain 5 books, book by book. Now we return to Book V (Psalms 107-150) . The first series of psalms 111-118 are the “Hallelujah Psalms”. The “Egyptian Hallel (ps 113-118) was sung for the three great pilgrimage festivals, Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. The “Psalms of Ascent” (ps 120-134) were used by pilgrims to or from Jerusalem. Psalm 136 is the “Great Hallel” for Sabbath services. Psalm 146-150 end the book with “Praise the Lord”. Psalms 107 and 119 may be introductory psalms. 107 introduces the fifth book and 119 introduces the psalms of ascent. Psalm 137 is untitled and unclassified. There are psalms of David in this book, 108-110 and 138-145.
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 127: A wisdom psalm. The reference to building a house may refer to a house, a family, the Temple, or a dynasty. Notice the stop parallelism with “unless”, “in vain”, and “sons”.
Psalm 128: A companion piece to psalm 127. The reward for faithfulness is that family life(v3), national life and religious life (v5-6) flourish. Verses 1-4 are a statement of trust and verses 5-6 build on that statement.
Psalm 129: A group lament. God is asked to punish those who persecute Israel. Notice the step parallelism. Verses 1-4 tell the history of suffering and verses 5-8 express confidence in God’s ability to end oppression. Verse 8 may be a standard blessing from the time after the exile or perhaps a blessing given to reapers.
Psalm 130: An individual lament. This is one of the seven Christian penitential psalms ( also 6;32;38;51;102;143). It is an individual petition for help. Verses 1-2 are a cry for help. Verses 3-6 are a statement of trust. Verses 7-8 extend the individual’s hope to the community.
Psalm 131: A song of trust and humility. This psalm uses uncommon feminine imagery for God.
Psalm 132: A Royal psalm. This psalm recalls David’s desire to build a sanctuary for God, Gods’ choosing of Zion. Verses 1-5 recall David’s vow to build a sanctuary for God. Verses 6-10 recall the finding of the Ark and its being taken to Jerusalem. (1 Sam 7:1-2; 2 Sam 2-15) The fields of Jaar were where David found the ark. Recall that the ark was the footstool of the divine throne. Verses 11-12 tell of God’s promise of a Davidic dynasty. Verses 13-18 link God’s choosing of David with God’s choice of Zion as God’s resting place on earth. A horn symbolizes strength and a lamp, a person’s presence before God.
Psalm 133: A wisdom psalm celebrating the unity of the pilgrims at Jerusalem. Oil was used for washing and anointing.
Psalm 134: The final Psalm of Ascent is a blessing. It evidently is for a night service. The reference to “servants of the Lord” may refer to priests but could also refer to the gathered people.
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.