Coherent Connections

Coherent Connections

by Bryant Bailles

I found something extremely fascinating that you may find helpful in the Psalms.

Psalms is divided into five books:

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

The first Psalm of each book of the Psalms (1, 42, 73, 90 and 107) sets up the overall theme of each book like a cornerstone. Here is something simple that is extremely neat: Psalm 90 begins book 4 (90-106). Moses wrote Psalm 90 - the only Psalm written by him, and also making it, by far, the oldest Psalm. Book 4 has a theme of seeing man's frail nature in contrast to God's eternal unchanging nature - but God bringing man into His nature.

Moses' name is used eight times in the Psalms, once in Book 3 (Psalms 77:20) and seven times in Book 4. Psalm 90, written by Moses, which begins Book 4 and sets up the book's major themes, focuses on the futility of man's nature in view of God's wrath. Moses is begging God to establish us, in view of our condition being in contrast to God's nature. The next time Moses' name is mentioned in Book 4 is in Psalm 103:7. I would encourage you to read that Psalm and see how incredible it is, how closely tied into Psalm 90 it is, and how it is a direct answer to Moses' appeal to God in Psalm 90. It is, to me at least, deeply astonishing. The Psalms are just unfathomably deep in their own unique way. After Psalm 103, Moses' name is then only mentioned in Psalms 105 and 106, concluding Book 4, with his name never mentioned again in the Psalms afterward.

Here is a sample of the connections:

"You turn man back into dust and say, "Return, O children of men." ... "You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; in the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; toward evening it fades and withers away" (Psalms 90:3, 5-6).

"For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer" (Psalms 103:14-16).

 

"Do return, O Lord; how long will it be? And be sorry for Your servants. O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days" (Psalms 90:13-14).

"Who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle" (Psalms 103:4-5).

"He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him" (Psalms 103:10-13).

"But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children, to those who keep His covenant and remember His precepts to do them" (Psalms 103:17-18).

On the thought of Books of Psalms ending and then beginning in a connected way. Check out Psalms 106:47 being related to Psalms 107:1-3. 

The Psalms are most definitely teaching a coherent story with a beginning, middle and conclusion. It's just organized in such a brilliantly, divinely inspired way -- much different than any other book in existence, I think, even in Scripture. This organization can be very hard to understand or discover.

It's interesting that David only authored one Psalm in Book 3, and it is fascinating how that one Psalm speaks to one of the most subtle but important themes of Book 3. God drawing all nations, through judging His people, followed by exalting them to a greater position they ever were before. It is the same story of the overall plan of God. Note Psalms 86:9, all nations would come and worship God. Then, Psalms 87 is about all these enemy nations of God, one day, being born in Zion. This is not an accident. Then Psalms 88-89 are perfect. It's like Jesus in the grave at the lowest, darkest place; yet, clinging to God's promise of salvation. Then in Psalms 89:29, God's promise was to establish the servants of David forever, which is exactly what God is doing in the Psalms, and it is exactly what Books 4 and 5 are about in a very focused and direct way.

Not only that, the Psalmist in Psalm 89 has perfect faith in God's promise. The ending of the Psalm is just an acknowledgment of the apparent reality the Psalmist is living in. Psalms 89:1-37 is the beginning because the Psalmist knows that even in these hopeless circumstances, God will magnify the glory of His promise to David in a way that later generations will see forever. Books 4 and 5 show the faithfulness of God, not just to David, but even beyond David. God's lovingkindness extends much further than any one promise made to any one person, and the promise is fulfilled in a way that no one could have anticipated, which is why Books 4 and 5 erupt in so much praise.

The Psalms of Ascents are not in Book 5 by accident. Because in book 4 the "blessed man" has been exalted and is reigning (ultimately, he is Jesus). In Book 5 all the peoples can now ascend and join Him. Book 3, I think, is the major shift in the story of the five books. Book 3 is the necessary triggering point for Books 4 and 5 to happen.

Book 3 talks a lot about the destruction of Jerusalem. In God's overall plan, the world was not prepared to receive the Messiah until after Jerusalem endured complete desolation by Babylon.