Historical sanctions in the Psalms

The Psalms is one of the largest books in the Bible (At least, it has the most chapters!) It can be the most wonderful book to read or the most tedious book to read, depending on how you look at it. However, it is the opinion of Gary North that everyone should read all the Psalms at least once in their lifetime, and I wholeheartedly agree. One of my favorite parts about reading the Psalms is recognizing lyrics to modern Christian songs!

I saw the main themes in the psalms quite accurately illustrated in a meme once 😉

But all kidding aside, there is an overwhelmingly large variation of themes in the Psalms. The Proverbs are pretty straightforward – the wise, the glutton, the fool, and the righteous. But when it comes to David, we get the picture. The WHOLE picture.

– Judgement upon the wrong

– Salvation for the righteous

– God’s decision to keep his covenants

– How wonderful and perfect God’s law is

– How amazing God’s creation is

– How supernatural God’s works are

– How God is capable of anything

But there are some main themes that come into every single psalm, namely: The desire for right and the presence of God being sovereign.

1. God – Sovereignty
2. Man – Authority
3. Law – Command
4. Causation – Sanction
5. Time – Inheritance

To bring up Mr. North’s model again, we will be focusing on Sanctions.

In many of the psalms, David praises God’s law and puts a positive emphasis on the righteous and on righteous acts. At the same time, he will often tear the reputation of the evildoers to pieces, beg God for their destruction and shame, and praise God when his enemies are dead. (I’m glad I wasn’t David’s enemy!) This shows us (although we could find plenty of examples elsewhere) that David had a heart that really sought after righteousness, and was grieved to see lawlessness.

The main kind of sanctions in the Psalms were that the sanctions of the righteous were prosperity, health, etc, whereas the wrongdoers got exactly the opposite. The inheritance of the righteous was God himself and long life, but the inheritance of the wrong was (and is) death.

It is important that no civilization have anarchy, otherwise it isn’t a civilization. So if there’s a law to be followed, (a) it must be followed, and (b) the people who don’t follow it must be punished, so other people don’t see the “no consequences” rule and also try to get away with it.

Obviously David wasn’t trying to write a self-help book to say, “Hey there Israelites, listen up! Sing all the time, cry your bed into an ocean when you’re sad, and float clear up into the sky when you’re happy!” He was writing songs and poems TO Yahweh to illustrate his feelings and values, and we can learn from these. And the most important thing to learn is (1) David loved and obeyed the law of God. We should do the same.

The second thing to understand is (2) Everybody gets what they deserve … but for those who repent, the consequence of death eternal is taken away, and we have a chance to be redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. This is the importance of historical sanctions in the Psalms.

Thanks for reading!



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