Sabbath School Lesson for December 30-January 5, 2024

Just a reminder for new readers…the Bible verses referenced in these articles are hyperlinks and can be easily accessed by clicking and/or hovering over them.

Overview of Lesson 1, How to Read the Psalms

Memory Text: “Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ And He opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” Luke 24, 44, 45 NKJV

The New Testament contains many quotations from Psalms. According to Jesus, they were a significant part of the Holy Scriptures, as noted in Luke 24:44. Jews and Christians alike continue to use these hymns and prayers in their worship services. They are valuable for our communal praise and instruction, but also in our personal devotional time with God.

This  study of Psalms will help us develop an enhanced appreciation for what the psalms can do for us spiritually. From them, we will learn more about what God has done, what He is doing for us now, and what He will do in the future.

Reading or reciting from the book of Psalms strengthens us immeasurably on life’s journey. These songs and prayers allow us to meet God heart to heart, until the joyous time when we will see Him face to face.

What to expect from this study…

  • Sunday: The Psalms in Ancient Israel’s Worship–purpose of Psalms
  • Monday: Meet the Psalmists–who wrote the psalms
  • Tuesday: A Song for Every Season–why and how were they written
  • Wednesday: Inspired Prayers–who inspired the psalms
  • Thursday: The World of the Psalms–how does God fit in

Sunday: The Psalms in Ancient Israel’s Worship

The title itself, Psalms, is the Hebrew word tehilim, which means “praises”. The main purpose, therefore, of these hymns and prayers is to magnify our praise of God. They have been used for over 25 centuries, not only in temple dedications and religious feasts and processions, but in the personal prayer and praise life of individual believers.

Matthew 27:46, the last-recorded words of our Savior as He was dying on the cross, came from a prayer in the psalms. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” are the exact words of Psalm 22:1, a prayer about the suffering Messiah.

The early church was comfortable with the use of psalms. Both Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 mention teaching and admonishing each other through “psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs”. Thankfully, they remain just as relevant for our private and corporate worship today.

Bible Verses:

  • Matthew 27:46 and Psalm 22:1

How does this example show us the inspired nature of this and other Messianic songs and prayers found in the book of Psalms?

  • Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16

Why should we study the psalms and share them with fellow believers?

Monday: Meet the Psalmists

King David, called “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1), is the major contributor of Psalms. He played a major part  in writing and organizing the liturgy, or public rituals of worship, based on these psalms.

However, there were many other contributors, mainly temple musicians from the tribe of Levites, who added to the writings of the book of Psalms. In addition, King Solomon, David’s son, wrote Psalms 72 and 127. Moses even has a prayer recorded in one of the psalms, Psalm 90.

All these psalmists represent devout people who had profound faith, but were not immune to discouragement and struggled with temptation just like the rest of us. Their hardships and joys alike reach out to us, as they at times cried out to God, praised and glorified Him, and offered their loyal pledges to follow Him. Their words resonate with many of the experiences we all encounter, as we strive to know God better.

Bible Verses:

  • 2 Samuel 23:1

Why do you think David was called the “sweet psalmist of Israel”?

  • Psalms 72 and 127

How is Solomon’s voice heard in the subject matter of these two psalms he wrote?

  • Psalms 90 and 71

Although Psalm 90 was written by Moses, how does it relate to Psalm 71, written by David?

What can we learn from both these psalmists about our senior years?

Tuesday: A Song for Every Season

To help us become more comfortable with the book of Psalms, it should be noted that they consist of these main categories:

  1. Hymns that glorify God for His majesty and power
  2. Thanksgiving psalms that express our immense gratitude for His blessings
  3. Laments, or cries to God for our deliverance from enemies
  4. Wisdom psalms that outline practical ways we can live righteously
  5. Royal psalms that point to Christ, our Sovereign King and Savior
  6. Historical psalms that encourage us not to make the mistakes of our ancestors

Here are just a few of the many poetic devices commonly used in the psalms that might be most familiar to us. Keep in mind, that some of these devices will unfortunately be lost in translation.

  • parallelism, combining symmetrically constructed words, phrases, or thoughts
  • imagery, otherwise known as figurative language
  • wordplays that use the sound of words to make a pun or highlight a message

In addition, many wonder about the word “selah” that is occasionally seen within a psalm. This word may point out a brief interlude in the reading, calling for us to reflect on the message of the passage, or it could indicate a change of musical accompaniment.

Bible Verses:

  • Psalm 1, Psalm 23, and Psalm 33:1-3

In what categories would each of these psalms be found?

  • Psalm 103:1 and Psalm 17:8

What poetic devices are used in these verses?

Wednesday: Inspired Prayers

The entreaties to God found in the Psalms beautifully express all the feelings of man, as he pours out his heart to his Creator/Redeemer. These vivid conversations are actually inspired by the Spirit of God, and are therefore considered part of God’s holy word. Romans 8:26 says the Spirit “makes intercession for us with groanings which can not be uttered.”

These moments of intimacy with God, as we read them throughout Psalms, touch us on every level. They easily cross cultural, ethnic, and gender boundaries. They testify of our common need for God and allow us to feel the same close connection with the divine that inspired the psalmists to write them.

David, the anointed king of Israel, told us that the Spirit of the Lord spoke to him. His word was on his tongue as he became the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1, 2).

Bible Verses:

  • Romans 8:26, 27

What part does the Spirit of God play in all of our prayers, including those in the book of Psalms?

  • 2 Samuel 23:1, 2

How close did David feel to God as he prayed and sang to Him?

Thursday: The World of the Psalms

By submitting all their life experiences to God, the psalmists show us that His presence is within every aspect of our being. Nothing that happens to us is beyond God’s understanding. He is concerned about everything that concerns us.

These psalms fit perfectly in the worship rituals, as they were read and sung in the temple setting. All our worship practices benefit from these reminders of God’s loving interventions. He is constantly near us, and yet beyond our full comprehension.  Majestically remote and worthy of our worship, and yet thankfully within our reach when we call out to Him.

Worship at its best in biblical times was natural and heartfelt. It was the center of a community’s life. Everything that happened to them was expressed in their communal worship gatherings. It provided a time for reflection and renewal. It was a time to praise the worthy character of God, and promote redemptive compassion toward each other.

Bible Verses:

  • Psalm 16:8, 44:8, 46:1, 47:1, 7, 57:2, 62:8, 82:8, and 121:7

How do these verses give you a sense of God’s presence and meaning in our lives?

How important are they to our worship of Him?

  • Psalm 11:4, 10:1, and 41:12

How and why is God sometimes seen in His temple, maybe even hidden from us, and yet, other times right there with us? What determines how and where we see Him?

  • Psalm 24:7-10

How did the Israelites understand and explain God’s closeness and His remoteness from them?

Friday: Final Thoughts

The 150 psalms have been grouped into these five books:

  1. Psalms 1-41
  2. Psalms 42-72
  3. Psalms 73-89
  4. Psalms 90-106
  5. Psalms 107-150

Early Jewish tradition compares these five books of Psalms to the five books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy), called the Pentateuch.

It is also interesting to note that the combined divine-human qualities of Psalms, and the Word of God as a whole, remind us of the divine-incarnate nature of Christ. The God-given truths of the Bible, including Psalms, are expressed in the language of men. Just as Jesus’ dual nature works for us, with His being both the Son of God and the Son of Man.

Next Week: Teach Us to Pray

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