Ultimately, the full completion of what Psalm 150 portrays is yet to come to pass, when Jesus comes again. On that day, the wicked will not stand. But if you kiss the Son; if you trust in Jesus Christ to save you from your sins, then God will declare you righteous. And on that day, when Jesus comes again, the upright shall behold his face. But in the meantime, we don’t flee from the hard realities of this wicked world.
For the past couple months I have been engaged in a series on the foundational principles laid out in the Book of Psalms. I identified three core principles introduced in Psalms 1 and 2, and then we noticed one example of a psalm that returns to these very principles—Psalm 11. Those principles are:
- The Lord reigns.
- The Lord has determined the destiny of the wicked and the righteous.
- Take refuge in the Lord.
Forming our image of the world by these principles is what enables us to praise God, even in the midst of a world filled with wickedness and adversity. And this is why Psalm 1 and 2 introduce those foundations for the entire psalter. This is the image of blessedness under God’s rule in the midst of wickedness that the Book of Psalms is meant to form within our hearts as we meditate upon it. And you will find these foundational principles reaffirmed over and over and over again through the entire Psalter, rebuilding what might have cracks in it now and then, reforming an image that might be distorted by wicked counsel around us.
And so in this final post, I’d like to just briefly show you how the entire 5-volume book of Psalms does this, because the more we understand the large-scale progression that this book presents, the better we will understand how to use individual psalms or groups of psalms to form our hearts in proper ways.
I’ve already mentioned on a grand scale how the Psalter moves from laments about the wicked to unhindered praise to God, like we find in the final five psalms. But I want to briefly show you more specifically how this develops.
Almost every psalm in Volume 1 of the Psalter—Psalm 3–41—was written by David. David is clearly the focus of this Volume. And most of this volume is characterized by psalms like the ones we looked at in Psalm 11. Laments about the wicked. Uncertainty. Conflict. The wicked are prospering and the righteous are suffering.
And when we remember when the psalms were organized this way—shortly after Israel’s exile—this makes sense. David was God’s anointed king. David was the one to whom God had promised, “your house and your kingdom shall be made sure before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” But it hasn’t quite worked out that way. The foundations are destroyed. The nation of Israel is in crumbles while the wicked nations prosper.
But notice the final psalm in this volume—Psalm 41. It begins with “Blessed is the one…,” deliberately hearkening back to that introductory psalm, and then in verse 11 David affirms, “I know that you delight in me”—that word “delight” is the same word in Psalm 1—”my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.” In other words, it looks like things are bleak, but in reality, the promises made in Psalms 1 and 2, the promises made to David the anointed one are coming to pass. Verse 12:
But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.
And then look at how Volume 1 ends: with a brief doxology that anticipates the full-throated praise that’s coming:
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.
Volume 2, Psalms 42–72, continue along similar themes, but just like Psalm 1 is more individual and Psalm 2 expands to the nations, so Volume one focuses on David more individually and Volume 2 is more corporate. The opening 8 psalms are by the sons of Korah, a psalm by Asaph, and then another group of psalms by David, all focused on the conflict between the righteous and wicked, but from a more corporate perspective and with a strong affirmation that the Lord and his Anointed will rule over the wicked nations.
And then notice the final psalm of this volume, Psalm 72. Who wrote this psalm? Solomon, David’s son. The next in line of God’s anointed kings. Notice verse 8:
May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!
This is what Psalm 2 promised, a fulfillment of the Davidic covenant in which the rule of the Anointed one would stretch over the whole earth. This sort of imagery and confidence continues and climaxes in verse 17:
May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!
Again, exactly what Psalm 2 promises. And then this volume, too, ends with a doxology:
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen! The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.
There is conflict and wickedness in the world, but nevertheless, we reaffirm the foundations: God is on the throne, the end is certain.
But then we enter the darkest Volume of the Psalter, psalms 73–89. There is only one psalm by God’s anointed, David, in this volume. David is missing. There are several references throughout to the Assyrian invasion and the Babylonian invasion. Psalm 88 in particular is unique in that, while every single lament in the Psalms ends with some sort of expression of trust in the Lord, Psalm 88 does not. It ends with, “my companions have become darkness.” This is the darkest point in the psalms.