What Are The Psalms?

What are the Psalms?

Most of us spend 12-16 years in school and never learn about wisdom—what a shame. Wisdom has been right in front of us all along. God wrote it for us and gave it to us in a book.

I think we should at least read it and try to understand it. But you already know that because you’re here, so I’ll just get to answering: what are the Psalms?

What Are The Psalms?

Psalms is a book in the Bible that contains 150 individual songs. They are poetic compositions that express a full range of emotions from praise, worship, and thanksgiving to lament, supplication, and reflection.

The Psalms are mostly attributed to King David, but also include works by other authors. They express faith, sorrow, hope, and the search for God throughout the varied circumstances of life.

Synopses for Psalms 1 through 10:

PsalmSynopsis
1Contrasts the way of the righteous, who delights in God’s law, with the way of the wicked, who are like chaff in the wind. [read more]
2Speaks of the rebellion of nations, God’s establishment of His king, and the blessedness of taking refuge in Him. [read more]
3A cry to God in the face of enemies—expressing trust in God’s protection and deliverance. [read more]
4A call for God’s justice and an expression of confidence and peace in God’s care. [read more]
5A morning prayer for guidance—contrasting the fate of the wicked with the protection of the righteous.
6A plea for mercy in times of distress and sickness, and a declaration of God’s eventual acceptance of the prayer.
7A lamentation seeking deliverance from persecutors—affirming trust in God’s righteousness.
8Praise for God’s majestic name and the honor given to humanity—reflecting on God’s creation.
9Thanksgiving for God’s justice and a prayer for continued help against enemies.
10A question of why God seems distant in times of trouble and a call for God to arise and judge the wicked.
Psalms 1-10

Synopses for Psalms 11 through 20:

God is with us always.
PsalmSynopsis
11Affirms faith in the Lord’s righteousness and His love for justice, despite the foundations being under attack.
12A lament over the prevalence of deceitful people and a trust in God’s promise of protection for the oppressed.
13A heartfelt plea for God’s attention and help—expressing both a sense of abandonment and steadfast trust.
14Declares the foolishness of denying God and the corruption of humanity, yet ends with hope for salvation.
15Describes the characteristics of those who may dwell with God—emphasizing integrity and righteousness.
16Expresses a deep trust in the Lord as the psalmist’s chosen portion and the source of counsel and joy.
17A prayer for vindication and protection from adversaries—affirming the psalmist’s commitment to righteousness.
18A song of deliverance praising God as a fortress and savior—recounting His mighty acts of rescue.
19Celebrates the revelation of God through creation and the law, and ends with a prayer for purity of heart.
20A prayer for the king’s success in battle—expressing confidence in God’s anointing and support.
Psalms 11-20

Synopses for Psalms 21 through 30:

PsalmSynopsis
21A thanksgiving for the king’s victory and a prayer for his continued strength and longevity.
22A poignant cry for help that foreshadows the suffering of Christ—ending with trust in God’s deliverance.
23A beloved psalm expressing trust in God as a shepherd who provides, guides, and comforts.
24Declares the Lord’s sovereignty over the earth and describes the qualities of those who may approach Him.
25A plea for guidance, forgiveness, and protection, highlighting the psalmist’s trust in God’s goodness.
26Asserts the psalmist’s integrity and love for God’s house—asking for vindication and blessing.
27Expresses confidence in God’s protection and a desire to dwell in God’s house—seeking His face.
28A request for God to hear the psalmist’s cries for help with thanksgiving for answered prayer.
29A hymn of praise to the God of glory whose voice is powerful and majestic over creation.
30A song for the dedication of the Temple—thanking God for healing and deliverance from enemies.
Psalms 21-30

Synopses for Psalms 31 through 40:

PsalmSynopsis
31A plea for deliverance from enemies—affirming trust in God’s protection and timing.
32Joy in forgiveness is expressed, and the psalmist teaches the importance of confession and guidance.
33Calls for righteous rejoicing in the Lord—praising His creative power and sovereign care.
34A testimony of God’s deliverance—inviting others to experience God’s goodness and seek refuge in Him.
35A request for God to contend with those who contend with the psalmist—asking for justice and rescue.
36Reflects on the wickedness of man contrasted with the vastness of God’s love and righteousness.
37Advises not to fret over the wicked but to trust in the Lord for He will deliver justice.
38A lament of personal suffering and sin, seeking God’s mercy, and fearing His displeasure.
39Contemplates the brevity of life—expressing a mixture of despair and hope in God’s discipline.
40Thanks God for past help, expresses ongoing trust, and commits to doing God’s will.
Psalms 31-40

Synopses for Psalms 41 through 50:

God protect us from corruption.
PsalmSynopsis
41A prayer for healing and deliverance from betrayal—concluding with a doxology affirming God’s eternal kingship.
42Expresses deep longing for God’s presence—likening it to a deer panting for water.
43A plea for God’s light and truth to lead the psalmist back to God’s holy presence.
44Recounts past divine victories, contrasts current suffering, and appeals for God’s aid.
45A wedding song celebrating the king’s virtues and the bride’s beauty—symbolic of Christ and the Church.
46Affirms God as a refuge and strength—unshakable even when the earth gives way.
47Calls nations to praise God as the great King over all the earth who reigns with authority.
48Praises Zion as the city of God—reflecting on God’s steadfast love and protection.
49Warns against the folly of trusting in wealth and the certainty of death for all.
50God summons the earth to judgment, and calls for genuine worship rather than mere ritual.
Psalms 41-50

Synopses for Psalms 51 through 60:

PsalmSynopsis
51A penitent plea for mercy and cleansing from sin—acknowledging God’s just judgment and seeking renewal.
52Denounces the deceitful and boasts of God’s enduring love and justice.
53Echoes the sentiment that fools deny God, and leads to widespread corruption and evildoing.
54A prayer for deliverance from enemies, while trusting in God’s name for help.
55A cry to God about betrayal and the desire for escape from such treachery.
56Expresses trust in God when faced with constant attack and the treachery of foes.
57Seeks refuge in God amidst trials—praising His glory above the heavens.
58Calls for divine justice against the wicked and the vindication of the righteous.
59A plea for protection from violent enemies with confidence in God’s strength and mercy.
60Laments God’s apparent rejection in battle but ends with a prayer for restoration and aid.
Psalms 51-60

Synopses for Psalms 61 through 70:

PsalmSynopsis
61A prayer for protection—expressing a longing to dwell with God forever and trust in His enduring covenant.
62Affirms God as the only source of salvation and refuge—warning against trusting in worldly power or wealth.
63A passionate expression of thirst for God’s presence and praise for His love and kindness.
64A plea for protection from secret enemies and trust in God’s justice to prevail.
65A song of praise for God’s provision, blessings in nature, and His righteousness.
66An invitation to witness God’s mighty works and a personal testimony of His answered prayers.
67A prayer for God’s blessing and mercy—that His ways may be known on earth.
68A celebration of God’s majesty and His care for the vulnerable while recounting His mighty deeds.
69A cry for help in distress, suffering due to zeal for God, and a plea for God’s deliverance.
70An urgent request for God to save and for the swift shaming of those who seek harm.
Psalms 61-70

Synopses for Psalms 71 through 80:

PsalmSynopsis
71A lifelong plea for God’s refuge and deliverance, with a commitment to continuous praise.
72A royal prayer for the king’s righteous and just reign, and a vision for an ideal kingdom.
73A personal struggle with the prosperity of the wicked—resolved by understanding their ultimate fate.
74A lament over the desolation of the sanctuary—asking God to remember His people and covenant.
75A declaration of God’s judgment—asserting that He is the judge who sets up and brings down.
76Praises God’s renown and awe-inspiring deeds in Judah—His victory over earthly powers.
77A troubled cry to God in times of distress—reflecting on His past deeds and wonders.
78A historical psalm recounting Israel’s history, their rebellion, and God’s mercy and guidance.
79A plea for help against invading nations, and seeking retribution for the defilement of the holy city.
80A communal lament asking for God’s restoration—likening Israel to a vine brought out of Egypt.
Psalms 71-80

Synopses for Psalms 81 through 90:

Psalms are an expression of emotion.
PsalmSynopsis
81A call to celebration and obedience by reminding Israel of God’s provision and the importance of heeding His voice.
82Calling for justice for the weak and fatherless.
83A plea for God’s intervention against hostile nations conspiring against Israel.
84The deep longing and joy of pilgrims yearning for the courts of the Lord.
85A prayer for restoration and revival—reflecting on God’s past mercies and the hope for salvation.
86A personal supplication for God’s mercy, guidance, and strength—praising His gracious nature.
87Celebrates Zion as the city of God, the birthplace of His people, and the focus of His love.
88A somber prayer of one who suffers greatly—feeling as if life is near to the grave.
89Recounting God’s covenant with David—questioning why it seems forsaken despite God’s eternal promises.
90A meditation on the eternal God and the brevity of human life—praying for wisdom and favor.
Psalms 81-90

Synopses for Psalms 91 through 100:

PsalmSynopsis
91Assurance of God’s protection for those who trust in Him while promising deliverance and refuge.
92A song for the Sabbath day—praising God’s works and the just fate of the wicked versus the righteous.
93Proclaims God’s majesty and eternal reign—His strength and holiness enduring beyond time.
94A call for God’s vengeance against the wicked, and comfort in God’s law for the afflicted.
95An invitation to worship and bow down before God, but warning not to harden hearts as in the past.
96A call to sing a new song to the Lord—declaring His salvation and glory among the nations.
97Celebrates the Lord’s reign, His justice, and the joy of the righteous in His righteous judgments.
98A song of victory for God’s marvelous deeds and His just rule over the earth.
99Exalts the Lord as King, holy and just, and responsive to the prayers of His people.
100A joyful summons to all the earth to serve the Lord with gladness and enter His gates with thanksgiving.
Psalms 91-100

Synopses for Psalms 101 through 110:

PsalmSynopsis
101A commitment to lead a life of integrity and godliness—avoiding wickedness and injustice.
102A plea of an afflicted person who is overwhelmed with sorrow—seeking God’s enduring mercy.
103A call to bless the Lord for His mercies, forgiveness, and compassionate love.
104A hymn to the Creator—celebrating His wisdom in the order and richness of creation.
105A recounting of God’s faithful deeds and promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and His care for Israel.
106A confession of Israel’s repeated rebellions despite God’s steadfast love and miraculous deliverance.
107A thanksgiving to the Lord for His enduring love—recounting the redemption of people from various distresses.
108A song of steadfast faith and a prayer for deliverance and victory over enemies.
109A plea for justice against an accuser, with a trust in God’s help and vindication.
110A royal psalm that speaks of the Messiah as both king and priest—prophesying His eternal priesthood.
Psalms 101-110

Synopses for Psalms 111 through 120:

The blood of Jesus washes us clean.
PsalmSynopsis
111Praise for God’s great works and enduring righteousness—urging the faithful to study them.
112Blessings for the one who fears the Lord and delights in His commands—contrasted with the fate of the wicked.
113A call to praise God who is exalted yet stoops to care for the lowly and needy.
114Recounts the miraculous power of God in leading Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea.
115A contrast between the living God and lifeless idols, with trust in God’s blessing and care.
116Gratitude for God’s deliverance from death and a vow to continue calling on Him.
117The shortest psalm—calling all nations to praise the Lord for His steadfast love and faithfulness.
118Thanksgiving for the Lord’s enduring mercy and the joy of salvation, with a procession to the temple.
119An word puzzle, or acrostic meditation, on the beauty of God’s law, precepts, and commandments—their role in guiding life.
120A cry for deliverance from deceitful tongues—reflecting the distress of living among hostile people.
Psalms 111-120

Synopses for Psalms 121 through 130:

PsalmSynopsis
121A song of trust—affirming that help comes from the Lord—the Maker of heaven and earth.
122A joyful song about going to the house of the Lord and praying for the peace of Jerusalem.
123A plea for mercy from the Lord, and looking to Him as a servant looks to their master.
124A recognition of God’s past deliverance, stating that without the Lord, the people would have been overwhelmed.
125A reassurance that those who trust in the Lord are secure like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved.
126Reflects on past joys and times of being rescued by the Lord while praying for restoration and renewed joy.
127Teaches that labor is in vain without the Lord’s blessing—emphasizing the value of children as a heritage from Him.
128Blessings pronounced on those who fear the Lord and walk in His ways, including prosperity and family happiness.
129A lament over the afflictions of Israel from enemies, yet they have not prevailed.
130A cry from the depths for God’s mercy, with a hopeful waiting and trust in His redemption.
Psalms 121-130

Synopses for Psalms 131 through 140:

PsalmSynopsis
131A humble and contented trust in the Lord—like that of a weaned child with its mother.
132A prayer recalling David’s devotion to finding a dwelling for the Ark and God’s promises to David’s lineage.
133Celebrates the goodness and pleasantness of brethren dwelling together in unity.
134An exhortation to bless the Lord, directed at the Levites, who stand by night in the house of God.
135Praise for God’s greatness, sovereignty over creation, and His gracious acts toward Israel.
136A thanksgiving psalm with a refrain celebrating God’s steadfast love that endures forever.
137A lament of the Israelites in exile—yearning for Jerusalem and remembering their captors’ cruelty.
138A thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness and answered prayers—asserting that God cares for the lowly.
139A profound meditation on God’s omniscience and omnipresence, and a plea for guidance and purity.
140A plea for deliverance from evil and violent men—trusting in the Lord as a protector.
Psalms 131-140

Synopses for Psalms 141 through 150:

PsalmSynopsis
141A prayer for the Lord to guard the speaker’s actions and keep them from wickedness.
142A cry for help when the psalmist is overwhelmed and feels deserted—trusting God as a refuge.
143A plea for mercy, guidance, and deliverance from enemies—desiring God’s spirit to lead to a land of uprightness.
144A prayer for victory and blessing—praising God as the rock who trains hands for war.
145A hymn of praise for God’s greatness, compassion, and the everlasting kingdom, with a commitment to extol God’s name.
146An exhortation to trust in God, the creator and just ruler, rather than in mortal princes.
147Praise for God’s care over Jerusalem, His power in nature, and His provision for the earth.
148A call for all of creation, celestial, earthly, and all living things—to praise the Lord.
149A song of joy for God’s people—celebrating God’s victory and the honor He bestows on His faithful.
150A closing doxology (liturgical praise)—summoning everything that breathes to praise God with music and dance.
Psalms 141-150

FAQ

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What are the purpose of the Psalms?

The Psalms are passages of worship, prayer, and instruction. They are full of praise, gratitude, and show us God’s character. We can use the Psalms for devotionals and wisdom.

Who wrote the Psalms?

The Psalms were written by several authors—many of them are unknown. We do know many of them: King David, Asaph the temple musician, the sons of Korah (singers), King Solomon, Moses, Heman the Ezrahite, Ethan the Ezrahite.

What are the 3 main points of the Psalms?

The 3 main points are awe and reverence for God’s power, human emotion from joy to sorrow, and wisdom through living a life that’s faithful to God.

Why do Christians read the Psalms?

Christians read the Psalms for spiritual enrichment, comfort, and guidance. The Psalms give us a model for how to express praise, thanksgiving, and sorrow. We also see reflections of Christ’s life and His teachings all over the Psalms.

Each psalm is a unique composition that fits into the larger work, which collectively expresses the breadth of human emotion and the depth of devotion to God.

You should also check out our exploration into the meaning of Proverbs.

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