The Use of the Old Testament in the Psalms (Part 2)

In addition to reading a few more Psalms this morning to catch up so that I can finish on April 30th, I was able to spend an extended time on this project.

Here is what I found as I scanned through the entire book of Psalms, looking for references to key elements in Israel’s history:

  1. Ps. 8: Creation (vv. 3-8).
  2. Ps. 66: Exodus (vv. 5-6).
  3. Ps. 77: God’s miracles in general (vv. 10-15), Exodus (vv. 16-20).
  4. *Ps. 78: God’s teachings from the past (vv. 1-8), Law (v. 6), Exodus (vv. 12-13), cloud and fire (v. 14), water from the rock (vv. 15-16, 20; Ex. 17), manna (vv. 23-25; Ex. 16), quail (vv. 26-29; Ex. 16), and Egypt (vv. 42-54).
  5. Ps. 80: Egypt (v. 8).
  6. Ps. 81: Egypt (vv. 5-6, 10).
  7. Ps. 89: Creation (v. 11).
  8. Ps. 95: Creation (v. 5), Meribah (v. 8; Num. 20:13).
  9. Ps. 99: Moses and Aaron (v. 6), Samuel (v. 6).
  10. Ps. 103: Moses (v. 7).
  11. Ps. 104: Creation (vv. 5-6), the flood (vv. 7-9).
  12. *Ps. 106: Egypt (vv. 7-12, 21-22), God’s judgment of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (vv. 17-18; Num. 16), golden calf (vv. 19-20, 23), Meribah (vv. 32-33).
  13. Ps. 114: Egypt (v. 1), crossing the Red Sea and the River Jordan (vv. 3, 5), water from the rock (v. 8).
  14. Ps. 135: Egypt (vv. 8-9).
  15. Ps. 136: Creation (vv. 5-9), Egypt (vv. 10-15), the desert (v. 16-22).
  16. Ps. 146: Creation (v. 6).

What a great exercise this was! I felt like I hit the jackpot with Ps. 78 and 106. I am off to a good start.

However, I was somewhat surprised there were fewer Psalms with OT references than I expected.  With Psalm 105, I only have 17 total.  I thought I would find more between Psalm 8 and 66.

I did notice that there were cross-references in the margin – “p.p.” for parallel passages. This was helpful for me to capture the original source of these direct references or allusions to these OT themes.  Most of the ones I found this morning came out of Exodus and Numbers.  I intend to go back and see what I missed. Perhaps my list will grow.

Knowing that there are a finite number (not sure how big yet) of Psalms that take the reader back to Israel’s corporate history, in contrast with the writer’s personal history, and a finite number of recurring OT themes, I can begin to make a table linking them together. The list of Psalms will be on the left side, and the OT reference will go across the top.  I think this will be a helpful tool.

I also need to mention that there are a lot of things I learned in my independent study of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament that I did in the fall of 2014 can be of use here as well. When we see an allusion to or a direct quotation of the OT in the NT, we have to try to figure out the writer’s point.  Why is he bringing this up in the context of the argument?  What is the purpose of the reference?  I learned that when an OT reference is used, you have to understand the meaning of the OT reference before you can see how it was applied in the NT.

It occurs to me that I need to better understand the meaning of all of these key OT persons, places, events, and things. I can then see how they are applied in the Psalms.  What do they teach us about God’s attributes?  What do they teach us about us?  How do they point us to Christ?

I do have some good resources available to me to assist in my research, adding depth to my own observations. I have three textbooks from the seminary class I took on the Psalms: The Book of Psalms by Robert Alter, Interpreting the Psalms: Issues and Approaches, edited by Philip S. Johnston and David G. Firth, and Seeing the Psalms: A Theology of Metaphor, by William P. Brown.  I need to see what they say about these allusions to the major themes of the OT, specifically the Pentateuch.  I have some textbooks from the OT Biblical Theology class I took.  Some of the papers I wrote for these classes may provide some additional insights.  I also have some one- and two-volume Bible commentaries that may highlight these OT themes in the Psalms.  If needed, I can always order another commentary on just the Psalms.

I am so excited about this project!

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The Use of the Old Testament in the Psalms

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I am reading through the Psalms this month.  The plan is to read five Psalms per day for the 30 days in April.  I have not done this in a while.  It is something I enjoy.

When I read Psalm 105 a few days ago, I noticed that there were nearly a dozen references to people or events found in Genesis and Exodus.  I have observed for some time that David and the other Psalmists often take God’s people back to earlier Old Testament themes, just as the New Testament writers often do.  I do not know if biblical scholars have commented on this or not; I will have to do some more research.

This confirms my observation from many years ago that the Jews look back at the Exodus just as Christians look back at the cross: it is a place of God’s deliverance from slavery (in Egypt/to sin) into freedom (found in the Promised Land/abundant life).  The Exodus and the cross both clearly demonstrated God’s love, power, and grace towards His people more than anything else did.  It is no surprise that the rest of the OT points to this critical event, as well as other key events or narratives, in order to remind God’s people to be grateful for His faithfulness, to trust Him for deliverance again, and to be obedient to His covenants.

I will begin my study by collecting observations from all of the Psalms that contain obvious OT references. Perhaps I can pick up patterns.

This is what I found in Ps. 105: Abraham (v. 6, 9, 42), Jacob (v. 6, 10, 23), covenant (v. 8), Isaac (v. 9), land (v. 11), Joseph (v. 17-22), Egypt (v. 23-38), Moses (v. 26-27), the exodus (v. 37-38, 43), quail (v. 40), and water from the rock (v. 40).

I am not sure if a list will work best for the other Psalms.  I developed a table, which I cannot display here.  I believe it might be helpful to see the frequency of certain OT references across the entire Psalter.  I would imagine that references to the Exodus will outnumber those of Abraham, but I do not know yet.

This is a new and exciting project for me, one that may keep me in the Word for a season of reading, studying, and writing.  I will update this post as my studies unfold.

Confessions of a Newly Published Author

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My book was published seven weeks ago. Life hasn’t been the same since.

It sounds reasonable, right?  Finding a new job, starting a new business, buying a new car, purchasing a new home, the birth of a child or grandchild changes everything.  We try to remain unchanged by this new thing or person, and yet it does have some kind of power to change us.  Most of the time we are better for it; sometimes we are not.

I have to admit. I am struggling with trying to manage all of this.  I am boldly going where I have never gone before.  I am making it up as I go, and sense that I am stumbling along the way.

Here is my dilemma.  This book is big news for me.  I just I want to share it with the Body of Christ.  I want these life-changing truths about what God says about human work to be read by as many believers as possible for decades to come.  I want these principles to be understood and applied so that my brothers and sisters in Christ can have the same joy that I do when they learn to consistently experience God’s presence at work, knowing that He has placed them there to glorify Him.  You have to know that my goal is not to be rich or famous.  (Although if truth were told, I would like to at least earn back my investment in getting a book self-published; it was more than I expected.)

However, I do not want to be a pest, have a one-track mind, or be a one-trick pony.  For those of my generation, I don’t want to sound like “a broken record”.  There is so much more to my life than just this book.  I desperately want to live a balanced life, and not solely focused on this one thing.

Perhaps I owe my friends and family an apology.  They have been bombarded with dozens of posts on Facebook about my book.  I am sure that every time I post something new there is a collective sigh among my friends who are on social media as much as I am.  Not another post!

But, on the other hand (reminiscent of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof), I do owe it to myself to get the word out in a variety of ways and build momentum so that the people who need this book will find it.

Why did I write it?  Because I had been given a book’s worth of knowledge on this critical subject that needed to be shared with others.  Ultimately, I envision that God may use this book to change prevailing worldly attitudes in the church about ordinary work being part of the curse and of less value than vocational ministry.  I want to replace it with a biblical perspective that ordinary work is a blessing and valued.  It is why we were created.  It is how we love our neighbor and love God.

I acknowledge that many of my friends, family, and coworkers have supported me as I have been working on this project for the last three years.  Many of them have bought this book, are reading it, and have greatly encouraged me in my new endeavor.  For that, I am truly humbled and thankful.

And yet, I have a hunch that a few of my Christian friends have no clue as to why I have been obsessed with this topic the last two or three years.  I cannot say for certain, but I also have a feeling that there may be some who think I have strayed from my evangelical roots or have been overtaken by some heresy.  Silence is deafening sometimes.  I hope they will take another look at it.  I think they will be surprised.  I am hoping this book about God’s presence at work will be widely read by Christians of a variety of backgrounds so that the truth will set many free.

One of the main things I have wrestled with is how much do I need to do, and how much do I need to just let God do.  I have been proactively sending books out to numerous friends and to several faith and work organizations, have set up a book signing, and have a marketing plan.  And yet, I know that God can do whatever He wants to make things happen, with or without my efforts.

I know that I have been blessed with family and friends around the country who know how to pray effectively.  I am asking for prayer that God will lead people around the world to this book.  (I have found it listed in online bookstores in Finland, Sweden, the UK, Australia, Germany, Portugal, France, and Japan.)  Please pray for humility if I get a rave review from someone respected in the community of interest and for encouragement if I am criticized.  Pray for discernment if I am offered opportunities to speak on this subject in the future and for patience if I am not.  Pray that I would not be anxious about anything, that I would always remember that God is in control, and that He will open and close just the right doors in His time.

Thanks for listening, giving me your thumbs up, and for cheering me on during this scary process.