What has 150 chapters and one chapter with 176 verses?
You guessed it. The book of Psalms.
The Psalms are filled with beautiful songs and poetic scriptures which transcend centuries of lived experiences. Praise, worship, joy, adoration. Anguish, lament, confusion, questions. Repentance, sorrow, doubt, despair. Dancing, singing, hope, trust. The Psalms contain within them every possible human experience known to man.
A number of Psalms have been attributed to and/or inspired by the chief psalmist and chief musician himself, David. Described by the prophet Samuel as a man after God’s own heart in 1st Samuel 13:14, also referenced in Acts 13:22 by the apostle Paul as an attribution by God, David was no stranger to the power of music. The scriptures remind us that “whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him” (1 Samuel 16:23). Now you may be wondering why would Saul need to be relieved from an evil spirit if the spirit was from God? And how does David’s lyre fit into all of this?
1 Samuel 19:9 adds to our vantage point in another scene between Saul and David. David had just finished striking down the Philistines with a “mighty blow” to the point where they all retreated from him. Women had already started to sing David’s praises (i18:6-9) ascribing greater honor to David over Saul. Not to mention David had already become a folk hero of sorts based on his unexpected victory of the previously undefeated Philistine champion Goliath of Gath. Naturally, Saul began to grow jealous of David and all of his very worthy feats. Apparently, David’s return in 1 Samuel 19 is just too much for Saul to bear: “Now the distressing spirit from the LORD (YHWH) came upon Saul as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand. And David was playing music with his hand. Then Saul sought to join David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away from Saul’s presence, and he drove the spear into the wall. So, David fled and escaped that night.”
Regarding this distressful spirit that came over Saul, the assertion that it was from God only serves to denote the sovereignly of YHWH much like we see in the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart by YHWH. It’s not that God is the one to blame for the spiritual predicament of these men. No, God wants nothing more than to deliver us all from our bondage, heaviness, and pride. However, God knows in His sovereignty that in order to accomplish His divine will we must be willing to humble ourselves before Him. Saul and Pharaoh were men who, in their pride, refused to humble themselves to God’s commands and desire to save His people. In both stories, the spirit of God coming upon Saul, and the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, are de facto consequences of God simply trying to accomplish His will by telling Pharaoh through Moses to, “Let My people go”, and anointing David to become the 2nd and rightful king of Israel. And since nothing happens without the spirit of God and none of us can exist without the spirit of God, then God by default is indispensable to all of our choices. Both good and bad.
But we do get a choice in the matter. And that’s why I believe the Psalms are incredibly important to our understanding of life. If we allow them, they can bring sweet relief to our spirit. Or we might find ourselves driven in ways that we may not please God.
The stories in the Psalms are the ultimate novel. The arc of human passion is captured throughout each of the major five subdivisions. If we read the Psalms carefully, we can recognize a wide range of emotions and expressions. Similar to the few I outlined above which are by no means an exhaustive summation of the human experience. Think about it. In life, we fall in love. We feel happy. We feel sad. We get upset. We make mistakes. We go through troubles. We pray. We cry.
But the interesting thing about these different situations is the background music that accompanies it all. No, you may not literally hear the soundtrack that’s being scored as you transition the different scenes in your life. But I’m sure you can recall a song or two by a favorite artist that helped you celebrate those good times and/or get through those tough times. And that’s why music is so powerful!
“If we’re honest,” some of us would have struggled to mend a broken heart or survive a dark season if it wasn’t for a timely song. That’s kind of the point with David and Saul. David’s lyre was a timely song whenever Saul was in distress. In fact, putting on the right song can be like putting on that “garment of praise” Isaiah speaks about in 61:3, “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”
The Psalms have always been a huge draw in my life. The first Bible passage I committed to memory as a young boy was Psalm 23. Throughout my life, I have committed many other scriptures to memory including my favorites: 1, 24, 27, 51, 63, 90, 100, 103, 121, and 150. In my first professionally recorded and produced choir music project, called “Mindset”, I incorporated Psalm 100 as my theme chapter to open the cd. In fact, a couple of the songs I wrote and arranged featured verses take directly from Psalm 27 and Psalm 51. In the case of the former, Psalm 27 was the actual title of the song. Later on, I wrote another tune titled “Song of Peace and Love” with words found in Psalm 119. I’ve always loved this particular chapter of Psalms because of the great song I used to hear on the radio all the title called “Thy Word” written by Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith.
Folks, I could go on and on writing about the book of Psalms and the many beautiful songs that they have inspired over the years. But perhaps it would be better now to share a few of those Psalms in a special curated Spotify list of songs that have encouraged by heart and soul over the years. We’ll do that in just a moment.
No matter what stage of life you are in right now, the Psalms should be a reminder to us all that God is still there, God is still good, and God is still worthy of all the praise. “Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the LORD’s name is to be praised. The LORD is high above all nations, and His glory above the heavens.” Psalms 113:3