Psalms Reading Guide

April 20 – September 20

Join us as we read through the Psalms!

Psalms is a book of ancient prayers and praises to God. The psalms teach us how to pray, rejoice, lament, and hope. They are songs filled with comfort, truth, and worship, written by kings and worship leaders in ancient Israel. We need to hold fast to the promises God’s given us in his word, turning our hearts and minds towards him. As a church, we want to unite ourselves around these truths of God and orient our hearts around his faithfulness.

(readings are automatically checked daily)

Today's Reading Reading Guide Study Resources

Week 7

June 1-7
Psalm 43
Psalm 44
Psalm 45
Psalm 46
Psalm 47
Psalm 48
Psalm 49

Memory Verse
Psalm 46:10 — Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! (ESV)

There are 5 “books” within Psalms.

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

We don’t know exactly why the psalms are split in this way. In their book How to Read the Bible Book by Book, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart believe the psalms were arranged to “mirror the story of Israel from the time of David to after the exile.” Books 1-2 assume the early kingdom, and focus on David as king under God’s leadership. Book 3 seems to be after the fall of Jerusalem, because there are some psalms from during and after the exile. Book 4 reminds Israel that “God has been her dwelling place through all generations,” while Book 5 looks forward to God’s “great future for his people.

Also of note is that in books 1, 4, and 5 typically use the name Yahweh for God, while books 2-3 more often use Elohim. It is also possible that there are 5 books to mirror the 5 books of the Pentateuch.  In addition, the first 3 books are mostly lament, while books 4-5 are mostly praise and thanksgiving. Finally, authorship of the books may have been a reason. Book 1 is predominantly attributed to David, while the rest of the books are of mixed authorship.

Fee and Stuart state that whatever the reason the psalms were organized, the “collection as we have it now was the hymnbook of Second Temple (postexilic) Jerusalem.” Psalms 1 & 2 function as the introduction to the book and Psalm 150 is the conclusion. Additionally, each book ends with a similar doxology -- verses 41:13, 72:18-19, 89:52, 106:48, and the whole of Psalm 150, which also functions as the doxology for the entire book.

Study Notes taken from How to Read the Bible Book by Book by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, 2009; Baker Illustrated Study Bible, 2018; NLT Illustrated Study Bible, 2015; and ESV Study Bible, 2012.

Week 8

June 8-14
Psalm 50
Psalm 51
Psalm 52
Psalm 53
Psalm 54
Psalm 55
Psalm 56

Memory Verse
Psalm 51:10 — God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51 — Sin & Repentance in the Psalms

2 Samuel 11-12 recounts the story of David and  Bathsheba. David used his power as king to take advantage of Bathsheba, who was the wife of Uriah, a Hittite and one of David’s mighty men. When a pregnancy resulted, David sought to cover it up, first through schemes and finally by having Uriah murdered in battle. God sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke David for these sins. David immediately responds by confessing his sin against the Lord. Though the psalm itself offers no explicit reference to these events, the title tells us that Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of confession and repentance.

In Psalm 51, David pleads for God’s mercy as he confesses his sins and asks for forgiveness. The NLT Illustrated Study Bible summarizes the psalm well: David’s  “moving prayer for restoration asks for God’s favor, mercy, forgiveness, and cleansing. Out of a broken spirit, the psalmist confesses and accepts responsibility for his sin, then petitions God to remove his guilt and renew him inwardly. The psalmist then recommits himself to a lifestyle of wisdom and joy in the service of God and others.” (997-8)

In verse 1, David asks God to be gracious to him “according to your faithful love.” The phrase “faithful love” comes from the Hebrew word hesed (חֶסֶד). Hesed does not have an exact English equivalent and its various translations in Scripture include “faithful love,” “lovingkindness,” and “steadfast love.” A basic definition of hesed would be “demonstrated loyalty, i.e., loyalty that exhibits itself in actions rather than words or sentiments.” (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible 827) This ‘demonstrated loyalty’ was typical of covenantal love. An underlying understanding of hesed is that someone  is in need of help such that their situation will worsen if help is not given, and the other party is uniquely able to provide help. In other words, if the person able to help does not, there will be no other help available. The whole of psalm 51 hinges on God’s hesed; it is because of hesed that David is able to seek forgiveness. David knows that God is the only one able to forgive and purify him, and he calls on God to act in accordance with His hesed.

Later in the psalm, David asks God to “purify me with hyssop.” Hyssop is a plant that was used in many of ancient Israel’s cleansing rituals (Leviticus 14; Numbers 19; Hebrews 9 ). It was also the plant used during the first Passover to put the blood of the lamb on the doorposts -- the blood that would save the people (Exodus 12:22). David makes a connection to God’s cleansing him from sin and God’s salvation. He does not express any doubt over God’s ability or willingness to purify and cleanse him.

As we read Psalm 51, we are reminded of God’s faithful love that allows us to seek His forgiveness when we sin and His unique position as the only one able to forgive and purify us. We can pray these words with David when we sin, knowing that when we confess our sins with a broken and humbled heart, God is faithful to purify us and offer us salvation.

Study Notes taken from the Baker Illustrated Study Bible, 2018; NLT Illustrated Study Bible, 2015; and Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible, 2000.

Week 9

June 15-21
Psalm 57
Psalm 58
Psalm 59
Psalm 60
Psalm 61
Psalm 62
Psalm 63

Memory Verse
Psalm 62:8 — Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before him. God is our refuge. Selah

Week 10

June 22-28
Psalm 64
Psalm 65
Psalm 66
Psalm 67
Psalm 68
Psalm 69
Psalm 70

Memory Verse
Psalm 65:4 — How happy is the one you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We will be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple.

Psalm 66, 67 — Praise and Thanksgiving Psalms

The NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes that “the Hebrew title of the book of psalms means ‘praises’ and that title accurately defines a large number of the psalms.” The authors of the psalms often praise God for who he is, how he loves, and how he cares for his people. They give thanks to him for all that he has done in history, and all he will do in the present and future.

In these psalms, you’ll notice that some seem to be praise from individuals, while others seem to be community-oriented. The people of Israel understood that God was to be praised in their personal lives and by the community. In Psalm 103, we see the psalmist write of God’s love and acts for both individuals and the  entire community.

As the psalmists praise and offer thanksgiving to God, we see that “each act of rescue and every experience of God’s mercy became part of the cumulative, ongoing story of salvation. Worship was not simply a recital of God’s deeds in earlier centuries.” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible, p 1057)

As we read and interact with these psalms of praise, we too can join with the psalmist and thank God for what he has done in our lives and how he loves our communities.

Other praise psalms include: 9, 32, 33, 47, 81, 93, 96, 98, 100, 103, 104, 113, 114, 115, 117, 122, 124, 129, 134, 139, 145, 147, 149, and 150.

Other thanksgiving psalms include: 18, 30, 38, 65, 66, 67, 75, 106, 108, 116, and 136.

Week 11

June 29-July 5
Psalm 71
Psalm 72
Psalm 73
Psalm 74
Psalm 75
Psalm 76
Psalm 77

Memory Verse
Psalm 73:26 — My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.

Psalm 73 — Wisdom Psalms

Wisdom psalms make up one of the three main categories of psalms (the other two being praise psalms and psalms of lament. See notes from week 3). Wisdom, or instructional, psalms are those where the psalmist shows that wisdom is important for living life and handling all things that come our way. The NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes that while elements of wisdom teaching are found in all the wisdom psalms, there is a significant difference between the wisdom teachings of Israel and their neighbors in the Ancient Near East. “Other Ancient Near East wisdom had to do with ordering life and society, pleasing God and other people, and carefully observing life, society, and nature.” (999)  For the Israelites, though wisdom teaching also deals with these concerns, it “is distinct in the centrality it gives to fear of the Lord.”

Wisdom literature also shows us characteristics of God’s wisdom. The Baker Illustrated Study Bible states that “as a divine attribute, wisdom signifies that God always wills the greatest goals, and the best means to achieve those goals, for his own glory and his people’s blessing.” As the psalmists teach us about God’s wisdom, they also take the time to compare the lives of the wise and the fool or the wicked (also found in Proverbs). The psalmists repeatedly tell us that the only way to live a life characterized by wisdom is by living life God’s way. We see this in Psalm 73, where the psalmist  questions the ways of the wicked, but in the end sees that the wicked and the foolish are separated from God, while those who are righteous are near to him. Wise people see life from God’s point of view and live their lives His way.

Wisdom psalms include: 1, 13, 14, 15, 19, 25, 31, 34, 36, 37, 39, 49, 50, 53, 73, 78, 82, 90, 92, 94, 107, 111, 112, 119, 127, 128, 146.

Study Notes taken from Baker Illustrated Study Bible, 2018; and NLT Illustrated Study Bible, 2015.

Week 12

July 6-12
Psalm 78:1-36
Psalm 78:36-72
Psalm 79
Psalm 80
Psalm 81
Psalm 82
Psalm 83

Memory Verse
Psalm 79:9 — God of our salvation, help us – for the glory of your name. Rescue us and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake.

Psalm 83 — Imprecatory Psalms

Imprecatory psalms are among the most difficult psalms to understand. An imprecation is a curse, and the imprecatory psalms are ones where the psalmist curses their enemies and seeks God’s vengeance upon them.

The psalmists are concerned with justice and righteousness, and these psalms are prayers that arise from this concern. The NLT Illustrated Study Bible states that the “psalmists argued that evil is inconsistent with God’s nature and that the removal of evil is the only way for his kingdom to thrive.” (1086)  In addition, these prayers also arise out of the psalmists’ experience with oppression. Their prayers are “full of faith and hope, asking how long the Lord would tolerate their suffering and confessing that the Lord alone could rescue them from evil. They expressed deep longing for his redemption.” (NLT, 1086)

But as Christians, how do we respond to these “cursing” psalms in light of Christ’s teaching that we love our enemies? It is clear in the New Testament that followers of Jesus are known by their love, and cursing is more like hatred.

The Expositor's Bible Commentary notes that both the Old and New Testaments “hold in tension the requirement of love and the hatred of evil.” (953)  As Christians, we acknowledge that evil exists and that it stands opposite of who God is. In our prayers, we cry out to God for justice in the face of this evil -- that evil will come to an end -- but we are still to love our neighbors and pray for our enemies.

Finally, as the psalmists prayed for justice, they better understood that even in the face of evil, they could wait on God for deliverance and redemption, because they could trust His character. When we read through these prayers, the psalmists’ words help us pray through any evil we face, our anger and frustrations. And just as they did, we too come to the place where we trust God’s character and know we are safe with Him while we wait for Him to bring evil to an end and ultimately bring redemption to all things.

Imprecatory psalms include: 5, 12, 35, 52, 54, 56, 58, 79, 83, 88, 137, 140.

Study Notes taken from NLT Illustrated Study Bible, 2015 and The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms, Volume 5, 2017.

Resources for Further Study on Psalms

If you would like to dive deeper into Psalms, here are some resources. There are resources for all ages, babies to adults.

Books:
  • The Songs of Jesus, by Timothy Keller
  • Life Lessons from Psalms, by Max Lucado
  • Reflections of the Psalms, by CS Lewis
  • Psalms, the Prayer Book of the Bible, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life, by W. David O. Taylor
  • https://fullerstudio.fuller.edu/resources-exploring-psalms/ (includes a vast list of books about the Psalms)
Online Resources:

These websites allow you to read Scripture and to study it by providing access to a variety of commentaries, concordances, and dictionaries.

Study Bibles:

A Study Bible is a great way to learn more about Scripture while you are reading it. Study Bibles contain notes on context, original languages, hard to understand concepts, and connections to other parts of Scripture. Here are some we like.

  • ESV Study Bible
  • CSB Study Bible
  • CSB Baker Illustrated Study Bible
  • Life Application Study Bible
  • NLT Illustrated Study Bible
  • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
For Kids:

We want your kids to join with us in reading the psalms too! Here are a few books and resources for them, for kids of all ages.

  • Psalms for Young Children, by Marie-Helene Delval and Arno
  • Psalm Prayers for Kids: A 40-Day Prayer Journey, by Sarah Keeling
  • Psalms of Praise (Baby Believer Series), by Danielle Hitchen
  • Spark Story Bible Psalm Book:Prayers and Poems for Kids, by Naomi Joy Kreuger
  • Psalms for Little Hearts, by Dandi Daley Mackall
  • The Psalms: A Study for Kids, by Joe Mally
  • Psalms for Teens, by Concordia Publishing House
  • Prayers Before an Awesome God: The Psalms for Teenagers, by David Haas
Kinds of Psalms:

NLT Illustrated Study Bible, Tyndale House, 2015

(click to enlarge)