The Psalms are Messianic
"No book of the Old Testament is more Christian in its inner sense or more fully attested as such by the use made of it than the Psalms. Out of a total of 283 direct citations from the Old Testament in the New, 116 have been counted from this one book. Much of Christianity by its preference for the psalms reverses the custom of the Synagogue, which judged the psalmists' inspiration inferior to that of the prophets, and set Moses on high above them all, so that no prophet might teach any new thing but only what was implicitly contained in the law...
"Seventy three of the psalms are ascribed to David, and so it was natural that the whole collection should be referred to as his... in some cases... it is certain that he could not have written [psalms attributed to him], and it has been concluded that the Hebrew titles are sometimes inaccurate." (Bible Dictionary, "Psalms")
See "Quotations" section of Bible Dictionary for an idea of how frequently the Psalms are quoted in the New Testament compared to other Old Testament books.
"In Judeo-Christian scripture, one book continues to stand out as 'the greatest book of devotional literature in existence.' It is a collection of poems known as the Book of Psalms. The Psalms capsulize Israelite thoughts, hopes, and dreams of glory and exaltation. Their poetry glows with the fire of devotion, spiritual love, and, in places, even defiance against the enemies of God. (Paul Cracroft, "A Clear Poetic Voice," Ensign, Jan. 1984, 28)
"Commentary on the psalms, like commentary on any great literature, borders on the periphery of presumption, since any great literature speaks adequately for itself. However, one might be forgiven for simply noting what appear to be some of the major recurring aspects of David's work.
"Unfortunately, we are not even certain which psalms are really David's. For many years it was generally accepted that David wrote the first 72, but scholars today are of varying opinions concerning even this. One can say, however, with a degree of assurance that several of these psalms reflect attitudes akin to those demonstrated by David in the historical books dealing with his life. Yet even this may involve unsound assumptions because of the complex nature of David's character, and because he is not only complex, but changeable as well. He exemplifies some of the noblest qualities known to man and also some of the most base. At times his capacity for life seems almost unbelievable, when one considers the full spectrum of his experiences.
"Some of the psalms reflect attitudes akin to those David demonstrated at the death of Absalom. One experiences with David the suffering of a soul torn by grief. At times one senses almost a paranoiac personality, as David cries out for protection and vengeance, calling upon God to smite and to destroy all who have wronged him or opposed him, to demonstrate that his God does exist and that he is a God of might. Yet, in other moments the psalmist is extremely compassionate, exulting over God's mercy to him in the days of his own transgression. Occasionally David reaches the heights of exhilaration, with feelings akin to those he demonstrated when he danced before the ark of the covenant as it entered Jerusalem. His exclamations of praise seem unbounded as he struggles to give words to the emotions he feels in meditating upon the blessings of God.
"Yet, through all of the psalms one theme is constant and dominant: the reliance of man upon God. This was one lesson David learned early upon the hills of Bethlehem. The Lord was his Shepherd, and having served part of his own life in the capacity of herdsman, David knew well the full implications of those words of the now famous Twenty-third Psalm. (Arthur R. Bassett, "The King Called David," Ensign, Oct. 1973, 69)
The Psalms prophecy of the Betrayal, Trial, and Crucifixion
One of the remarkable elements of the Psalms as an entire work is the Messianic focus-not just on his birth or ministry-not so much on his miracles and teachings, but on his trial and crucifixion. David, who so desperately needed mercy, seemed to have seen the atonement that made such mercy possible.
In the Psalms, Judas betrayal of Christ is foreshadowed, "yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me" (Ps. 41:9). The hymn sung at the Passover feast of the Last Supper included Psalms 115-118 and the following, "the stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner" (Ps. 118:22). The suffering and loneliness of Gethsemane are alluded to, "Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none" (Ps. 69:20). False witnesses at the trial before the Sanhedrin were predicted, "they have spoken against me with a lying tongue. They compassed about me also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause" (Ps. 109:2-3). The chief priests and scribes mocked him, saying "He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him" (Matt. 27:43) just as David had prophesied, "He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him" (Ps. 22:8). The 22nd Psalm begins with one of the seven recorded statements of Christ from the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Ps. 22:1) Indeed, the entire 22nd Psalm speaks of the crucifixion: the mockers, the dehydration, the wicked crowd, the pierced hands and feet, the lots drawn for his robe, etc. The 69th Psalm as well, is dedicated to the last day of the Savior's mortal life, "They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Ps. 69:21). Finally, another quote from the cross finishes the story, "Into thine hand I commit my spirit" (Ps 31:5, see Lu. 23:46)
Of all the Old Testament writers, only Isaiah's prophecies are as Messianic as the psalms, but none are as detailed or prophetic with respect to the Crucifixion of our Lord.
We marvel at the clarity and power of the Lord's description of his own suffering some 1800 years later, "Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit" (D&C 119:18). But what was going through the Master's mind at the time. He knew he was to stand "as a lamb before his shearers is dumb" without saying a word. Can we ever know what he was thinking? The Psalms give us a peek into the mind of the Master during his Passion. We know he was relying on his Father at this crucial time. Can we imagine what his prayers were like? Psalms gives us an amazing glimpse.
Jesus silent prayer to the Father before the Sanhedrin.
I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried...
They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty...
The reproaches of them that reproached thee [Father] are fallen upon me...
Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them.
Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents
For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded
Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness.
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous (Ps. 69:3-9)
For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause.
For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer. (Ps 109:2-4)
Suffering from blood loss, dehydration, and early shock, what was Christ thinking while upon the cross? What would have been his prayer to the Father?
[Father] Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonor: mine adversaries are all before thee.
Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. (Ps. 69:19-21)
All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him...
They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. (Ps. 22:7-15)
O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;
To see thy power and thy glory... as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.
Because thy lovingkindess is better than life...
But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth.
They shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for the foxes. (Ps. 63:1-10)
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. (Ps. 22:16-18)
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? (Ps. 22:1)
The Father's answer to Jesus' prayer
Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool
[I] shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power
[I have] sworn and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. (Ps. 110:1-4)
[I have declared] the decree... Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. (Ps. 2:7-9)
In that day... shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed (Isa. 22:25).
Betrayal, Trial, and Crucifixion
Ps. 41:9: "Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me."
John 13:18: "I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me."
Ps. 55:12-14: "For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:
"But it was thou, a man ... mine acquaintance.
"We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company."
John 13:21, 26: "When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. ...
"Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon."
Ps. 22:16: "For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet."
Matt. 27:26: "And when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified."
Ps. 22:18: "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture."
John 19:23-24: "Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.
"They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be."
Ps. 22:7-8: "All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
"He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him."
Matt. 27:39-43: "And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,
"And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
"Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,
"He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
"He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God."
Ps. 69:21: "They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."
Matt. 27:34, 48: "They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. ...
"And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink."
Ps. 22:1: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?"
Matt. 27:46: "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Ps. 31:5: "Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth."
Luke 23:46: "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost."
Ps. 34:20: "He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken."
John 19:32-33: "Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
"But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs."
(Keith H. Prior, "The Greatest Story Ever Foretold," Ensign, Dec. 1991, 21-22)
Psalm 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God
Alexander B. Morrison
What, then, is the meaning of life? What are its central purposes? Can they ever be identified and understood by mortals? These are questions which in one form or another have occupied the time and attention of thoughtful men and women throughout the ages. Some believe that there is no God and that the end of all human life is personal annihilation-a dark philosophy of despair that leads to the inevitable conclusion that life is meaningless and that it matters not what one does, nor how one treats others. Such persons think that cruelty and compassion, love and hate, good and evil are all equally meaningless; there is no place in such thinking for sin or repentance or forgiveness.
Belief in God is on the wane in some countries. In one 1990 survey, 61 percent of respondents in the Netherlands professed a belief in God, compared with 80 percent in 1947. Similarly, 63 percent of respondents in the former West Germany claimed to believe, compared with 81 percent in 1947 (see Sheena Ashford and Noel Timms, What Europe Thinks , 42). In America, George Gallup Jr. has demonstrated that a significant gap exists between superficial religion (such as being religious for social reasons) and deep, transforming faith. He concluded that only 13 percent of Americans can be said to have a faith which permeates all aspects of their lives and affects how they behave (see "Religion in America: Will the Vitality of Churches Be the Surprise of the Next Century?" The Public Perspective, Oct.-Nov. 1995). Many who are not deeply rooted in their faith pick and choose those beliefs and practices that are most comfortable and least demanding, a practice the Canadian sociologist Reginald Bibby calls "religion à la carte"(Fragmented Gods , 80).
As belief in God wanes, so too does the view that life has real meaning. The contention that the aim of life is to "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die" is widespread in Western societies. This philosophy, which seeks to maximize pleasure and minimize pain, ultimately too is a philosophy of despair. But faithful adherents to the religions of the Abrahamic tradition-Christianity, Judaism, and Islam-do not in general share the pessimism so pervasive among other views of human existence. They unite in their understanding that God, the Supreme Creator, gives meaning to human life. The Psalmist sang, "For thou hast made [man] a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet. ... O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!" (Ps. 8:5-6, 9).
Perceptions about the nature of mankind influence our understanding of the meaning of life. If, as the scriptures teach, we are imbued with divinity, with infinite power and capacity to grow and progress, eventually to become as God Himself, our lives are innately important and meaningful. When we understand who we are and who we may become, then and only then will the full meaning of life unfold to us. ("Life-The Gift Each Is Given," Ensign, Dec. 1998, 15)
Psalm 16:10 thou wilt not leave my soul in hell
The only souls who are left in hell are the sons of perdition. After their suffering in spirit prison, "all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection from the dead through the triumph and glory of the Lamb" to inherit one of three kingdoms of glory (D&C 76:39). David fell from his exaltation, but he was not a son of perdition (see commentary for Psalm 51, Lesson 24).
Psalm 16:10 thou wilt not... suffer thine Holy One to see corruption
Remember how Christ waited until the fourth day to raise Lazarus from the dead? This was because the Jews felt that after three days in the grave, the spirit had forever left the body and the body had become corrupt. David's psalm has reference to the fact that the Messiah would be resurrected within that three day period. (see Acts 2:25; 13:30-37) James E. Talmage noted, "It was the popular belief that on the fourth day after death the spirit had finally departed from the vicinity of the corpse, and that thereafter decomposition proceeded unhindered." (Jesus the Christ, note 5., p. 500).
Russell M. Nelson
There is great significance to the four-day interval between the death of Lazarus and his being called forth alive from the tomb. A portion of that significance was that, according to some Jewish traditions, it took four days before the Spirit finally and irrevocably departed from the body of the deceased person, so that decomposition could then proceed. The Master, in order to demonstrate His total power over death and His control over life, knowingly waited until that four-day interval had elapsed. Then He raised Lazarus from the dead! (Perfection Pending, and Other Favorite Discourses [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1998], 180)
This expression of the Psalmist evidently refers to the resurrection of the Son of God. It is so quoted by Paul in his sermon at Antioch:
And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,
God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.
Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption, But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. Acts 13:32-37. (Mediation and Atonement [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1882], 17 - 18)
Psalm 19:2 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork
(Astronaut Don Lind) "To look down on the earth from space is absolutely incredible. I knew ahead of time just exactly what I was going to see. I was intellectually prepared, but I was not prepared emotionally for what I saw. The world is very large. I knew that. But to see this huge, magnificent sphere slowly rotating beneath me was overwhelming. I have no ability to describe what it was really like, and no photographic emulsion can even start to do it justice. The visibility, of course, was excellent. But I was amazed at the intensity of the colors. I estimated that there were twenty shades of intense blue as the earth's atmosphere changes from the gray of the curved horizon into the incredible black void of space. And when you look at an archipelago of islands, there are hundreds of shades of blue and green and yellow tan that are just beyond description.
"The first time I had a minute to stop and just look at the earth, the absolute beauty of the scene brought tears to my eyes. In weightlessness tears do not just quietly roll down your cheeks. They stay in front of your eyeballs and get bigger and bigger and in a few moments you feel like a guppy looking up through the surface of the aquarium.
"Now, try to imagine what it was like for me to have that scene in front of me and then have the fragments of half a dozen scriptures pop into my mind. "The heavens declare the glory of God." (Ps. 19:1.) If you have seen the heavens, you have "seen God moving in his majesty and power." (D&C 88:47.) I am sure you can imagine the closeness I felt to my Father in Heaven as I looked down at one of His beautiful creations. I was really stirred by an increased awareness of what He did for us as the Creator of our earth. That was one of the most moving experiences of my life." ("The Heavens Declare the Glory of God," Ensign, Nov. 1985, 38-39)
Gordon B. Hinckley
Can any man who has walked beneath the stars at night, can anyone who has seen the touch of spring upon the land doubt the hand of divinity in creation? So observing the beauties of the earth, one is wont to speak as did the Psalmist: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge." (Ps. 19:1-2)
All of beauty in the earth bears the fingerprint of the Master Creator. (Conference Report, Apr. 1978, p. 90)