Turning to chapter 42 in the middle of today’s reading, we’ll encounter two transitions. First, you’ll notice a heading “Book Two” proceeding the chapter. Psalms was divided by its compilers into five “books,” and each has subtle distinctions that you’ll probably notice. Second, Psalm 42 is attributed to “The Sons of Korah,” Levites who served at the Temple.
In Book One, the only person connected to a Psalm was King David. Whether he was the sole author of them, or commissioned others – or whether these were commissioned by kings of David’s line, is not clear. It’s completely possible, given his accomplishment as a musician in Saul’s court, that this was just one more of David’s skills.
Psalms 38, 39, and 40, all attributed to David, have the feel of a sequential unit. Written in honor of the Memorial Offering, Psalm 38 presents the heart of one who recognizes his unworthiness when approaching the altar. In chapter 39 the author contemplates the transience of life and prays that he be delivered from his transgressions. And in Psalm 40, the triad concludes as the LORD is thanked and celebrated for His mercy and steadfast love.
Psalm 41 seems a summation – a celebration – that completes the first Book of the Psalms. There is even a benediction at the end. Finally, Psalms 42 and 43, from the Sons of Korah, form a cohesive unit built around the repeated question and answer: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
Listen for themes of guilt, repentance, turmoil and vindication throughout these Psalms. The authors are unafraid to express their fear and anguish directly beside steadfast trust in the LORD: “By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” To the Psalmist, this mixture of emotions is not a contradiction, but forms the sound of worship.
Our verses for this week are Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Psalms 38 through 43. Now let’s read it!
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.