Psalms are poems. Poems are elegies of thought. Poems, often written by artistic personalities, vent emotion, thought, feeling or motive. Word pictures and couplet phrases deep in the soul spring out expressed as ideas, prayers or truth—sometimes in rhythmic meter—sometimes syncopated.
A compilation of Hebrew poems appear in the canon of scripture. David, the shepherd-king who mirrored God’s heart, wrote many of these.
The word psalm used 103 times in the King James version means “a poem written for playing upon a stringed instrument.” David is the foremost biblical palmist. Seventy-three psalms ascribe David as the composer because the original Hebrew texts include the words le dawid in the introduction. David’s peers knew him as the “sweet singer of Israel” (2Sa 23:1). David wrote during difficulty, fear, anger, sorrow, and joy. David wrote the psalms by the anointing inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Sa 23:2). Facing enemies, David wrote Psalm 40, pleading for God in heaven to defeat those who laughed at his faith. He begged God that enemies could not mock saying, aha, aha! In untold repentance and remorse for personal failure, he composed Psalm 51. In deep grief after innocently playing a part in the slaughter of the priests at Nob, he penned Psalm 52 condemning Doeg’s wicked betrayal and malicious deeds. In fear, loneliness, and fatigue, running for his life, he arranged the words of the Psalms 53-57.
Many of the biblical psalms have an introduction with one or more of the following elements: (1) the psalms’ author (2) the situation at hand (3) the type of psalm (4) for whom the psalm was written. In the original manuscripts, this introduction was included as the opening prose, but now it is printed separately just under the number of the psalm.
For example, notice these four elements in the introduction to Psalm 52: “To the chief Musician, (element 4; written to be played by David’s chief music leader) Maschil, (element 3; the type of psalm meaning a psalm for contemplation) a Psalm of David, (element 1; David composed this psalm) when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said unto him, David is come into the house of Ahimelech (element 2).”
In this psalm David depicts God plucking up and rooting out a man who loves deceitfulness and lying [Doeg]— just as one might yank up a weed and toss it onto a pile of burning trash. So God would judge and uproot Doeg’s factious thoughts and wicked deeds.
Doeg is the boasting “mighty man” of verse one. His tongue is like a sharp razor used for deceitful purposes and selfish honor. Doeg perhaps cared little about the situation as much as he loved political favor of the king [men]. He gleefully broke confidence and told Saul of what he saw.
David wrote that people would see God’s judgment upon men like Doeg. It will cause them to respond in two ways—either to righteously fear and be productive as a green olive tree or increase their trust in riches.
The holy man, David, had a personal God. He loved God with all his heart, and all his soul, and all his mind. He gave evidence of faith within by writing these sweet psalms still adored and cherished by those whose heart pants after God.