Book 3

Psalm 73

There are seventeen psalms in the third book. Eleven of these are by Asaph, one each by Heman, Ethan, and David. Four are for the sons of Korah including one (88) written by Heman. Who was Asaph? He was the son of Berachiah, a Levite, one of those set over the service of song by David, 1 Chronicles 6:31, 39. With Heman and Ethan, Asaph was appointed by the Levites to play the musical instruments, 1 Chronicles 15:16, 17. Of these Asaph became the chief, 16:4-7. His sons also shared in this service, 25:1. Asaph was one of those who sang and played a musical instrument at the time that Solomon opened the temple of Jehovah, 2 Chronicles 5:12.

We have already studied one psalm of Asaph, 50. Herein Psalm 73 Asaph faces a problem: Why do wicked men seem to succeed in this world? He knew that God was good to the pure in heart and punished the wicked. When he saw wicked men getting rich, he was filled with envy and wondered if God had changed, vs. 1-3. These men seemed to have no trouble, vs. 4, 5. They became proud and fat, vs. 6, 7. They even talked against God, vs. 8, 9.

The common people see these wicked men getting rich and they begin to wonder too, vs. 10, 11. Even Asaph thought that perhaps he had been keeping himself clean from sin without any benefit to himself, vs. 13, 14.

He knew he should not say this to others, v. 15, but could not understand it at all, v. 16. Then he went into the presence of God. There he learned again that the judgment of the wicked is still in the future, vs. 17, 18. When the time comes, they will be destroyed very suddenly, vs. 19, 20.

Then Asaph realized how foolish he had been, like an animal, vs. 21, 22. His hope in God was now strong again. He was sure that God would guide him and take him home to glory, vs. 23, 24. He might not have much in this world, but he had God in heaven, vs. 25, 26. In the last two verses he says again that those who are far from God shall be judged, but he wants to stay close at God’s side, vs. 27, 28.

There is no promise in the New Testament that Christians will be rich in this world. Some Christians have a problem because they take for themselves God’s promises given to Israel in the Old Testament. We should not be surprised when the wicked become rich in this world. By serving the Lord we can have great riches in the next world. Anyway all our problems should be brought to God. When we remember that He is on the throne, we will know that everything will finally turn out right.

Psalm 74

This is a Maskil or “instruction” like psalms 32, 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 78, 88, 89, 142. In the heading of the psalms the word “of” Asaph could mean “for” Asaph. We do not know who wrote some of the psalms, but we can be sure that they are all inspired by God.

In many of the psalms we have seen wicked enemies attacking God’s people from outside. In Psalm 74 the enemy is inside. The word sanctuary, verses 3 and 7, means the temple, 1 Chronicles 22:19. The enemy came in to destroy and burn.

Asaph himself saw David gather materials and he saw Solomon guild the temple of Jehovah in all its beauty. Why then did he write this psalm about men destroying it?

The first two verses give us Asaph’s prayer that God would remember His people. The nation was going through some time of great trouble and it seemed that God had cast them off every day. The words “forever”, vs. 1, 10, and “perpetual”, v. 3, mean day by day.

As Asaph thought about these terrible things, the Spirit of God gave him a vision of what would happen to this same beautiful temple later on. Asaph was called a seer or prophet, 2 Chronicles 29:30. Perhaps the people were trying to comfort themselves in the thought that they had God’s temple and so He would not punish them. In the days of the Lord Jesus Christ the disciples showed Him their temple, but the Lord told them that it would be completely destroyed, Matthew 24:1, 2.

The temple of Solomon was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, 2 Kings 25:8, 9, Psalm 74:3-8. God’s enemies roared in the place which should have been for quiet worship. They set up their own signs, v. 4. They cut down the beautiful wood, vs. 5, 6, 1 Kings 6:29. They burned the temple in Jerusalem and all the buildings in the land where the people gathered together to worship God.

Asaph could not believe that the enemy would triumph forever, but there was no prophet of God to tell him how long it would be, vs. 9-11. He got comfort in remembering God’s power in old times, vs. 12-14. God saved the people of Israel by dividing the sea, Exodus 14:16. At the same time God destroyed the Egyptians, Exodus 14:27. Leviathan or the crocodile was a picture of Egypt. Eating it means complete victory as in Numbers 14:9. Asaph also thought of God’s power in controlling day and night, v. 16, and summer and winter, v. 17.

So he asks God again to remember His people, vs. 18, 2, and not to leave them to their enemies like a bird attacked by wild animals, v. 19. It is GOD’S name which wicked men were laughing at. Asaph rightly expected God to defend His own name and His own people.

So we see in this psalm a time of great trouble. The psalmist asks God to remember His covenant and deliver His own. He was carried by the Holy Spirit beyond the problem of that day to the much greater difficulty when the temple would be destroyed. If God could give His people comfort and deliverance at such a time, He can surely help us in our trials day by day.

Psalm 75

The heading of this psalm is partly like the heading of psalms 57-59. This is also called a song of Asaph. Here the singers give thanks to God because of His great works, v. 1. God answers by promising to judge righteously, v. 2. Even when everything seems to be going wrong God is in control, v. 3. He tells the proud to keep humble, vs. 4, 5.

The writer explains further that God alone can raise a man up to a higher position, vs. 6, 7. It is also the Lord who will pour out judgment like wine on the wicked, v. 8. After the terrible times which Asaph had seen in Psalm 74, it is good to hear him rejoicing in the Lord, v. 9. In Psalm 73 he thought that the wicked would succeed in this world, but in Psalm 75:10 he sees the wicked cut off and the righteous exalted. We must keep our eyes on the Lord and remember that in the end everything will be right.

Psalm 76

In Psalm 76 we see that God is still in control. The city of Jerusalem on Mount Zion was in the hands of the enemy in Psalm 74 and God seemed far away. In Psalm 75:1 we see that His Name is near. In Psalm 76:1 His Name is great. God is again dwelling in Mount Zion, v. 2, having broken the enemies’ instruments of war, v. 3.

Mount Zion is more glorious because of the presence of Jehovah, v. 4. God had overcome the bravest enemies and put them to sleep, vs. 5, 6. Asaph may be looking back to the day when God destroyed the armies of Egypt, Exodus 15:1, 21. Later on the Assyrian army came to Jerusalem to destroy it. King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah prayed to God and the Assyrian army was destroyed, 2 Kings 19:34, 35, Isaiah 37:35, 36. No doubt the psalm also looks forward to the great battle of the last days, Revelation 20:9.

We can always say men should fear God. When He becomes angry, no one can stand before Him, v. 7, Psalm 2:5. God’s judgment is to save those who have been persecuted by the wicked, vs. 8, 9.

In verse 10 we see that even the wrath of man will turn out to the glory of God. For example, Pharaoh refused to obey God and persecuted His people. God remained in complete control, Exodus 9:14, 16, 29. The king of Assyria came up against Jerusalem and raised himself up against Jehovah. God was in complete control, Isaiah 37:23, 29. Perhaps this psalm was a help to Hezekiah and Isaiah when they were in great danger. We can remember in times of trouble that God is on the throne and in complete control of the whole world. The day of judgment may be nearer than we think.

Asaph tells believers to bring their gifts to God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, vs. 11, 12. This is a message for us too.

And I have brought to thee, down from My home above,
Salvation full and free, My pardon and My love;
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee,
What hast thou brought to Me?

—Frances R. Havergal

Psalm 77

This is the last of the three psalms to the chief musician, to Jeduthun. The others are psalms 39 and 62, both written by David. Jeduthun is named with Heman and Asaph, 2 Chronicles 5:12. This psalm is a prayer of Asaph in time of trouble. Day and night he cried to God, but received no comfort, vs. 1, 2. He thought about God, but was so troubled he could not sleep or speak, vs. 3, 4.

When he remembered how God helped him in early years, it was all the worse, vs. 5, 6. He asked himself six questions wondering if God would ever show him mercy, vs. 7-9. If God really changed, v. 10, it would be a great sorrow for all men. But He does not change, Malachi 3:6. The Lord Jesus Christ is always the same, Hebrews 13:8.

When Asaph considers God’s works of old, he gets comfort. God’s ways are holy and we can understand His greatness in the sanctuary, v. 13. Asaph had learned before that this is the place to find the answers to the problems of life, Psalm 73:17. Now he learns that God is a God of wonders, v. 14. He had redeemed Israel, v. 15. God is the God of nature: the waters, v. 16, the skies, v. 17, the earth, v. 18, the sea, v. 19. Best of all in the wilderness He led His people like sheep, v. 20.

We can learn a lesson from each part of this psalm. Even in time of great trouble when God does not seem to hear our prayers, we can be sure that He will never forget or change. When we look back to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can never doubt God’s love to us. He will surely lead us all the way.

Psalm 78

In this Maskil Asaph gives instruction to all who will hear. He goes back into the history of Israel to show that when the people followed God, they were blessed.

In the first eleven verses he gives his reason for writing this psalm. He calls on the people to listen, v. 1, while he teaches them by parable, vs. 2, 3. This means that he will explain what the people perhaps did not understand. We have seen this before in Psalm 49:4. The Lord Jesus also taught in parables, Matthew 13:35. These lessons should be passed on to the children, v. 4, Deuteronomy 4:9. The Holy Spirit speaking through Asaph did not want the children to forget the works of God, vs. 5-7, nor rebel against God as their fathers had done, v. 8. An example of this was the men of Ephraim, the leading tribe of the northern part of the kingdom. They were ready for battle but departed from God, vs. 9-11. The tribe of Judah was chosen instead, vs. 67, 68.

In the next part of the psalm, verses 12-42, Asaph tells again how God supplied Israel’s need and how the people provoked Him to anger. He led them out of Egypt, guided them and gave them water to drink, vs. 12-16. They sinned and spoke against God, vs. 17-20. They put God to the test by asking for meat to eat. This made God angry, vs. 21, 22, but still He provided the food, vs. 23-29. He gave them manna which was like a sweet seed, Exodus 16:31, and wild birds like chickens for meat. They did not pray in faith. God answered their prayer, but was angry because they did not trust Him, vs. 30, 31. They sinned still more, v. 32, but when many died then they turned back to God, v. 34. Even then their hearts were not true, vs. 36, 37. God showed mercy because He knew that men have only a short time to live, vs. 38, 39. Still they kept on putting Him to the test, vs. 40-43.

In the third part of the psalm, vs. 44-66, Asaph again goes over the story of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. In the book of Exodus we read that God struck ten blows against Egypt called the ten plagues, Exodus 9:14. Seven of the ten plagues are given in verses 44 to 51.

He killed the oldest child in every home in Egypt, v. 51, but led His own people like sheep through the wilderness, v. 52. He brought them into the land of promise, vs. 54, 55. Although God had blessed them so much, still the people turned back to worship idols, vs. 56-58. God had to punish them for this, vs. 59-61. The ark of God which spoke of His presence was at first kept in Shiloh, Joshua 18:1, 1 Samuel 1:3. Because of the sin of Israel the Philistines gained the victory and took the ark of Jehovah, 1 Samuel 4:10, 11. This brought great shame on Israel, and the name of the Lord. Many people were killed, vs. 62-64. Then the Lord delivered His people again, vs. 65, 66.

In the last part of the psalm we see that Ephraim was not chosen by the Lord as the chief tribe. Jacob had given a great blessing to Joseph and Ephraim, Genesis 49:22-26; 48:15-20. Even so Jacob was led by the Holy Spirit to give still greater blessing to Judah by saying that the King would come from his tribe, Genesis 49:8-10. In our psalm Asaph said that Jehovah chose Judah and Jerusalem, vs. 68, 69. He chose David of the tribe of Judah to feed and lead God’s children, vs. 70-72.

Many years later the Lord Jesus Christ was born in the tribe of Judah. God has chosen Him to be the King of kings and Lord of lords. In Christ we have great blessings. We have seen God’s power delivering us from sin. He has supplied every need for this world and the world to come. Let us never ask anything from God without faith. Let us never put God to the test nor turn from Him in unbelief. Why should we bring sorrow to the heart of God who has done so much to make us happy?

Psalm 79

This psalm, like Psalm 74, speaks about the defilement of the temple of Jerusalem. Asaph was troubled because unbelievers had come into God’s holy temple, v. 1. Many of God’s people had been killed, vs. 2, 3. Perhaps Asaph was speaking of some experience which is not written in the Bible, or he may have been speaking of some future time as Micah did, Micah3:12, Jeremiah 26:18.

The rest of the psalm could have been written at different times. The neighbours of Israel often laughed at them, v. 4. Asaph prayed like David, that the Lord would not be angry with His people, v. 5, but with the nations that did not know Him, vs. 6, 7. He asks that the Lord would not remember the sins that happened before, but rather that He would forgive them, vs. 8, 9. This was so that the nations round about would know there was a God in Israel, v. 10. Some of the people were prisoners, v. 1l, and the nations were mocking Jehovah, v. 12. Asaph promised that God’s sheep would praise Him and tell young people about His glory, v. 13.

No doubt believing Jews in the future will be able to use the words of this psalm when their holy city is attacked. As Christians we do not pray that God would judge unbelievers, but we can think of ourselves as His people and His sheep, v. 13. We can also pray that God will deliver those who are bound in the prison of sin, v. 11. If delivered, they too will have great reason to praise the Lord. We can also pray that those who laugh at us may be put to shame, v. 12, but still more that they might be saved.

Psalm 80

In Psalm 80 Asaph prays to God because the people of Israel have departed from the Lord. Three times he asks God to turn them again and to give them light, vs. 3, 7, 19. In verse 3 Asaph calls Him God; in verses 7 and 14 the God of hosts, or angels, and in verses 4 and 19 the Lord God of angels.

In the first part of the psalm Asaph calls upon God as the Shepherd of Israel. He had been thinking of the people as God’s sheep, 79:13. In 80:1 he refers to the ark as standing for the presence of God, Exodus 25:21, 22.

Jacob had four wives and twelve sons. Joseph and Benjamin were the sons of Rachel and Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph’s sons. Soon after Asaph’s time the kingdom of Israel was divided into two. The northern kingdom was called Israel and the southern kingdom Judah. The leading tribe in the northern kingdom was Ephraim, but there were ten tribes in all including Manasseh. In the south the only tribe with Judah was Benjamin.

In the second part of the psalm, vs. 4-7, Asaph asks God how long will He be angry with His people, v. 4. He gave them nothing but sorrow, v. 5, and strife, v. 6. Asaph knew that Israel was wrong and so he asked God to turn them back to Himself, v. 7.

In the last part of the psalm Asaph speaks of Israel as a vine. Isaiah used this picture of Israel in chapter 5, and so did Ezekiel, in chapter 15. Much work is needed to plant a vine. You should put a hedge or a wall around it so that animals or men cannot come in and take the fruit. Here Asaph says that God planted this vine and it grew very well, vs. 8-11. When God looked after Israel, the nation grew large. Now the walls have been broken down and anyone could come in and spoil it. So Asaph asked God to look down from heaven and save Israel again, vs. 14-16. He prayed that God would help the king, v. 17, and promised that the people would not turn away from God again, v. 18.

This psalm makes us think of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, John 10:11. He is also the true Vine, John 15:1. Israel did not bear good fruit for God, Isaiah 5:4. The Lord Jesus Christ as a Man bore much fruit and brought glory to His Father. If we abide in Him, we will do the same, John 15:7, 8.

Benjamin is also a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. His name means “the son of my right hand”, v. 17. The Lord Jesus, the Son of Man, was strong for God and is now sitting at His right hand, Psalm 110:1. When Christ comes back again, then God will really shine upon His people, Malachi 4:2; Revelation 21:23. Even before that God will give the light of truth to those who ask Him.

Psalm 81

This psalm, like psalms 8 and 84, is to the chief musician upon Gittith, a musical instrument. In Psalm 80 Asaph prayed that Israel might be turned back to God. In Psalm 81 we see that this prayer was answered.

In the first part, vs. 1-5, the Holy Spirit calls on Israel to sing with joy to God, v. 1, with musical instruments, v. 2. This was to be done specially at the time of the new moon, Numbers 10:10, or when the moon was full in the middle of a month. The feasts of Jehovah are described in Leviticus 23. One of these was at the beginning of the month, Leviticus 23:24. Others were in the middle of the month, vs. 5, 34. This command was from the Lord, Psalm 81:4, and the keeping of the Passover was commanded as a testimony to the people of Egypt, v. 5, Exodus 12:14.

In the next part of the psalm Jehovah speaks, vs. 6-12. He wants Israel to remember that He delivered them from the bondage of Egypt, v. 6, and took care of them in the wilderness, v. 7. His purpose was that the people of Israel would love Him. God cannot let His people serve any other god, v. 9. This is still true today. Anything that keeps us from loving God is really an idol, 1 John 5:21, Colossians 3:5. Jehovah had brought Israel out of Egypt and He would still supply all their needs, v. 10.

Instead of that Israel rejected God, v. 11, and for this reason God rejected them, v. 12. It is a terrible thing when God gives anyone up, Romans 1:24, 26, 28. As His children He will never cast us off, but He may leave us alone for a while.

In this psalm the Lord wished that His people had been willing to obey, v. 13. This was always true, Deuteronomy 5:29, Isaiah 48:18. If Israel had obeyed God, He would have given them the victory, vs. 14, 15. He also would have given them the best of food to eat, v. 16. God has promised to give us enough to eat, Matthew 6:26. He has also given us His Word which is food for our souls, Psalm 19:10. True joy can only come to those who obey God.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
When we do His good will, He abides with us still
And with all who will trust and obey.

—J. H. Sammis

Psalm 82

This little psalm of Asaph is addressed to the judges. We have seen God sitting in heaven on His throne, Psalm 2:4; 9:4; 29:10; 47:8. The word god means one with power. In verse 1 God takes His place to judge the judges. The great men of this world should remember that God will one day judge them also.

These judges of earth have not been fair and righteous. They show favor to the wicked, v. 2. God tells them to give justice to the weak and the poor, vs. 3, 4. This command is still necessary because most of the judges of the earth do not walk in the light of God’s Word. Righteousness is the ground of good government and without it nothing is right, v. 5.

These gods or judges have been given their authority by God, Romans 13:1. They are great in this world, but still only creatures and of course some day will have to die and stand before God, vs. 6, 7. These words are also addressed to the judges of Israel because the Word of God was given to that nation. The Lord Jesus Christ used these words in speaking to the Jews, John 10:34, 35. Even in Israel the judges who did have the law of God were not judging righteously. No wonder Asaph calls upon God Himself to arise and judge the nations, v. 8.

There will never be true righteousness in this world until the Lord Jesus Christ comes to rule as King of kings. We have not been commanded to try and make things better in this world, but to preach the Gospel to every creature. Those who are children of God should in their own lives and their own work do what is right.

Psalm 83

This is the twelfth and last psalm of Asaph. Here he sees the enemies of Israel joining together and asks God to destroy them as He has done in the past.

He asks God not to remain quiet, v. 1, because the enemies are making a great noise, v. 2. Asaph understands that by planning to destroy God’s people, vs. 3, 4, they are showing their hate against God, vs. 2, 5.

Ten nations or cities joined together against Israel, vs. 6-8. They came from every side: Gebal, Tyre and Assyria were in the north. Ammon and Moab lived east of Israel, Amalek and Edom to the south, and the Philistines to the west. It is sad to note that six of these enemies were related to Israel in old times. Hagar was the servant of Abraham and Ishmael was his son, Genesis 16:15. Ammon and Moab were the sons of Lot, Genesis 19:37, 38. Edom was a son of Isaac and Amalek a son of Edom, Genesis 36:1, 12. The people of Assyria and the Philistines belonged to a different family, the family of Ham, Genesis 10:11, 14. Tyre and Gebal were cities and are mentioned in Ezekiel 27:8, 9.

No wonder Asaph was worried. It is bad enough to face one great enemy at a time. When they all join together against us, it is plain that we cannot stand in our own strength. God allows these things to happen so that we will put our trust fully in Him.

Asaph prayed that God would deal with them as He had dealt with the Midianites and the Canaanites in the past, vs. 9-12. Jabin was the king of the Canaanites and Sisera the head of his army. Israel was far from God and when there was no man to lead them in the right way, God raised up a woman, Deborah. When the people got right with God, He raised up Barak to overcome the Canaanites. This victory was at the river Kison. Sisera ran away, but was put to death by another woman, Jael, Judges 4:4, 6, 13, 18-21.

After a while the people of Israel fell into sin again. This time the Lord raised up Gideon to deliver them. After teaching him many lessons God gave him the victory over Oreb and Zeeb, two princes of the Midianites, Judges 6:1, 12; 7:25.

Asaph prayed that his enemies might be made like the waste of the wheat, v. 13, and burnt with fire, v. 14. He wants them to be filled with fear, v. 15, and shame, v. 16. His purpose is that they might seek the Lord, v. 16, and if not, they will be punished forever, v. 17. This should have the effect of making men know that Jehovah is the Most High, v. 18.

Here we see God’s reason for punishing men. As long as a man is still alive, he can repent and turn to the Lord. Others should learn the lesson when they see God judging wicked men.

Psalm 84

This is the first of four more psalms of, or for, the sons of Korah. Seven of these psalms are found in the second book, Psalms 42-49. This one is about the house of God. There are three parts, the first two ending in the word Selah, vs. 4, 8.

First we have the blessings of the Lord’s house. The writer with all his heart desires to be with the living God, vs. 1, 2. It was so peaceful in the temple that birds could make their nests there, v. 3. The word altar does not mean where the fire was burning, but the whole temple. The sons of Korah were doorkeepers of the temple, 1 Chronicles 26:1. They also served in time of war, 1 Chronicles 12:6. In Psalm 84:4 they thought it was a great blessing to dwell in the house of God. Later on they were called on to praise God with their voices, 2 Chronicles 20:19.

There is also a blessing for those who have a desire to go to the temple in Mount Zion, vs. 5-8. They get strength for the journey. They may have to go through valleys of sorrow. The word Baca means weeping and the valley may speak of sorrow, Psalm 23:4. Those who trust in the Lord get more strength from these difficult experiences, v. 7.

Then they asked God to look on His anointed one. Aaron was anointed as high priest, Exodus 28:41. David was anointed as king, 2 Samuel 5:3, and Elisha as prophet, 1 Kings 19:16. We have seen that the word anointed is the same as Christ, Psalm 2:2, and so this verse makes us think of Him.

One day in the temple of the Lord is better than a thousand any other place. To be a doorkeeper there is better than living at home with wicked people, v. 10. The Lord saves His own, gives them honour and every good thing, v. 11. There are many blessings for the man who trusts in Him, v. 12. Verses 4 and 5 also give us other blessings in this psalm. The Lord will give us everything that is good and will take us home to glory, v. 11, Romans 8:28, 30. Here on earth we should learn the joy and blessing of waiting in the Lord’s presence in prayer and worship. From Him we will get strength for the journey even if it means going through the valley of sorrow. We can be sure that soon we will be in glory.

Psalm 85

Psalm 85 gives us a lot of truth about God. In the first three verses the writer praises God because He has been good to the people of Israel, v. 1. He has forgiven their sins, v. 2, and turned from His anger, v. 3. These verses show the mercy and love of Jehovah.

In the next part of the psalm, vs. 4-7, we have a prayer that God would turn Israel back to Himself and not be angry with them, v. 4. Three questions are asked, vs. 5, 6, and another prayer is found inverse 7. From these seven verses we learn that God is ready to forgive, but the people need to be turned back to Him. God has always loved man, but is righteously angry with our sins. If man is separated from God, it is because he is not willing to receive God’s forgiveness.

For himself the writer is ready to listen to God’s words, v. 8. These are words of peace to those who turn to God with their heart. God is ready to save and when man believes, it brings glory to Him, v. 9.

In God’s character we see His love which would bring a man to Himself. However the truth is that man has sinned. To remain faithful God in righteousness must judge all sin. How then can there be peace between God and man? Verse 10 says that these two meet together. In the New Testament we learn that God’s love and righteousness meet in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ, —John 1:17.

God can remain righteous, yet show His love to man by forgiving his sins, Romans 3:26. The work is finished and God is ready to forgive. There remains only that man should hear the message of God’s love, believe that message and turn to Him. In the future the people of Israel will indeed turn to God. Then there will be blessing in the land and in the whole earth, vs. 11-13. We look forward with joy to the blessings of the future, but right now we are commanded to tell all men the wonderful news of God’s love and forgiveness. We can rejoice even now in the wonderful wisdom of God who has given us this salvation.

Psalm 86

This is the only psalm of David in the third book of psalms. It is another prayer of David, much like many of the psalms in books 1 and 2. In this psalm he gives reasons for his prayers.

In the first part, vs. 1-5, he asks God to hear because he is poor, v. 1. He asks for salvation because he is godly, v. 2; for mercy because he cries to God all day long, v. 3; for joy because he is praying to the Lord, v. 4. David expects God to answer his prayer because of His great love, v. 5.

In the next prayer, vs. 6-10, David also asks God to hear. He knows He will answer, vs. 6, 7. He describes the Lord as One completely different from the gods of men, v. 8. All nations must bow before Him because He alone is the true God, vs. 9, 10. We have seen in Psalm 85:10 God’s wonderful plan of salvation. No religion in the world has a message like this. No god is like our God, Micah 7:18, 19.

David knew something of this truth, but prayed that God would teach him His way so that he might walk in God’s truth with an undivided heart, v. 11. He praises the Lord for His love in saving him from death, vs. 12, 13.

David’s enemies had risen against him, but David knew that the Lord had both love and truth, v. 15, Psalm 85:10. So he prays that God’s strength would be his strength, v. 16. He asks for a sign, not to help him believe but so that his enemies would know that the Lord was with David, v. 17.

God allowed David to see a great deal of trouble in his life. These experiences made him turn to God in faith. We can be glad that it happened this way because David learned more about God in time of trouble. He wrote these things down in psalms and the Holy Spirit can teach us the truth about God as it was given to David. To know the true God and Jesus Christ is eternal life, John 17:3. There is no greater joy in the world than this.

Psalm 87

This is the shortest psalm in the third book. It is a song for the sons of Korah in praise of Jerusalem. We have seen that God chose Zion in Psalm 78:68, Here in the first three verses the city is praised because God Himself founded it, v. 1, and the Lord loves it, v. 2. It is called the city of God, v. 3.

Special honour was given to those who were born in Jerusalem. The writer might refer to Rahab (another name for Egypt) and other countries or cities, v. 4. Jehovah Himself notes with favor those who were born in Jerusalem, vs. 5, 6. Those who served in the temple had special joy, v. 7.

This psalm looks forward to the time when Christ will be King in Jerusalem. Even in the time of Hezekiah people brought gifts to Jerusalem, 2 Chronicles 32:23. This will take place again in a much greater way when the Lord Jesus comes, Psalm 86:9, Isaiah 2:2, Zechariah 2:11.

As Christians we have no city here on earth, but the church itself is called the city of God, Revelation 21:2, 9, 10. The important thing is not where you were born in the world, but have you been born again.

Psalm 88

Psalm 88 is a song or psalm of instruction (Maskil) of Heman the Ezrahite. Psalm 89 is another Maskil by an Ezrahite whose name was Ethan. These two men were considered to be very wise, 1 Kings 4:31. Heman was a son of Joel the son of Samuel, 1 Samuel 8:2, 1 Chronicles 15:17. He had fourteen sons and three daughters and was called the king’s seer, 1 Chronicles 25:5. His psalm is really a prayer to God in time of deep trouble.

In the first part, vs. 1-8, he is praying day and night, vs. 1, 2. He feels that he is at the point of death, vs. 3, 4, forsaken by God, vs. 5-7. His friends have left him, v. 8.

Again he calls to the Lord every day, v. 9. He asks six questions to show that the dead cannot praise the Lord, vs. 10-12.

The third prayer is much the same. He cries to the Lord in the morning, v. 13. From the time of his youth he has been in danger of death, vs. 14, 15. God’s anger is like a flood of water, vs. 16, 17. God has taken away all his friends, v. 18.

What are the lessons of this psalm? One is that all men are near death because we never know what will happen next. It is a good thing to be ready to meet God, Amos 4:12. The psalmist does not show any hope that God would deliver him from death. Only in the New Testament do we clearly learn that God will raise us from the dead. Even before we are raised, to die and be with Christ is far better, Philippians 1:23.

This psalm also makes us think of the Lord Jesus Christ in His sorrow. He was taken as a prisoner, v. 8, Matthew 26. 56, 57. All His life He looked forward to His death, v. 15. He was forsaken by His friends, vs. 8, 18. But through all His troubles the Lord Jesus Christ had hope and perfect trust in God, 1 Peter 2:23. Even if we have to die for Christ, this would bring us into great joy, Revelation 2:10.

Psalm 89

Ethan was an Ezrahite like Heman. He was also a wise man. His long psalm of instruction is about the covenant which God promised to David.

Ethan’s purpose as seen in the first two verses is to sing of God’s love for ever. God’s purpose was to establish David and his sons on the throne of Israel forever, vs. 3, 4.

The next part of the psalm declares the greatness of Jehovah: in heaven there is none like Jehovah who should be greatly feared, vs. 5-7. God’s greatness in the world is explained in verses 8 to 13. He can control the sea, v. 9; His enemies like Egypt or Rahab, v. 10; the heavens and the earth, vs. 11-13. Notice God’s faithfulness in verses 1, 2, 5, 8, also in verses 24 and 33. In verses 6 and 8 Jehovah alone is God as we saw in Psalm 86:8.

God’s greatness is seen again in His dealings with Israel, vs. 14-18. They have righteousness, v. 14, light, v. 15, joy, v. 16, glory, v. 17, and strength, v. 18. God’s love and truthfulness are found in verse 14, as in 85:10 and 86:15.

The next part of the psalm, verses 19-37, tells of what Jehovah had done for David. He chose him, vs. 19, 20, strengthened him, vs. 21-23, glorified him, vs. 24-27, and established his seed, that is his son and son’s son, vs. 28-37.

The coming King is the Son of David, Matthew 1:1. God has chosen Him, Matthew 12:18, and anointed Him as Christ. How wonderful that a Man, the Man Christ Jesus, sits at God’s right hand on the throne of heaven and will some day rule in this world as King of kings! David was strong, v. 19, and made stronger with God’s arm, v. 21. The coming King has all power, Matthew 28:18. What a wonderful time is coming!

God’s promise that David’s line would be established for ever will be fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. As for Solomon and his sons, God warns them that they will be punished if they break His commands, vs. 30-32. This is what really happened, but God’s promises about Christ cannot be changed, vs. 33-37.

The last part of the psalm is a prayer of Ethan when he saw God chastening Solomon. Instead of glorifying him like David, vs. 19, 20, He cast him off, vs. 38, 39. Solomon could have had victory like David, vs. 21, 23. Instead his enemies are made strong, vs. 40-43. Instead of receiving honour, vs. 24-27, he is humbled, v. 44. Instead of establishing him forever; v. 29, God has shortened his youth, v. 45.

No wonder Ethan asks the Lord to remember him because life is short, vs. 46-48. He asks Him to remember His promise to David and to turn back the enemies, vs. 49-51. In the last verse he blesses Jehovah for ever. This verse is also the last of the third book.

We see that part of this psalm refers to David and his line, part of it to the Lord Jesus Christ, and part to both. Neither David nor any of his sons lived for ever. In 1 and 2 Kings we read of the life and death of each one. These words “for ever” can only refer to the Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand when it speaks of the sin of David’s sons, these words could not apply to the Lord. We too have been promised great blessings from God, but these come only when we obey Him. If we disobey, our joy will be gone and nothing will be right until we get back to the Lord.