Psalms is a book of songs, many of which the Israelites used in corporate worship and would have been accompanied by musical instruments. Many of the psalms were written for the specific purpose of bringing praise and thanksgiving to God. These are known as the psalms of praise. Psalm 100:4 says: "Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!" These psalms show us that we can best enter God's presence from a place of thanksgiving (Psalm 95:2). King David wrote the majority of the psalms, but some other authors include Moses, the sons of Korah, Asaph, Solomon, and some unknown writers.
Not all of the psalms are for the explicit purpose of praising God. The full spectrum of human emotion is represented within these poetic songs, from joy and praise to lament and despair. In addition to psalms of praise, categories of biblical psalms include thanksgiving songs, laments, and songs of ascent.
An example of a psalm of praise would be Psalm 150, which begins and ends with a proclamation to "Praise the LORD!" and contains the word "praise" thirteen times within its six verses. It tells us to praise God for His "mighty deeds" and "according to his excellent greatness" (Psalm 150:2) and tells us to use dance and instruments to praise Him (Psalm 150:3–5).
Most psalms, even if they are filled with negative emotions such as sorrow, anger or fear, end up at a place of praising or putting trust in the Lord. In Psalm 43, the psalmist expresses great pain at feeling forgotten and rejected by God due to the injustice and oppression he is experiencing at the hands of his enemies: "For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" (Psalm 43:2). Even in the midst of his pain, the psalmist anticipates returning to a place of praise and trust in the Lord: "Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. 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" (Psalm 43:4–5).
The psalms of praise exalt God for His forgiveness and perfect character (Psalm 103:2–3), for His protection and deliverance (Psalm 32:7), for His lordship (Psalm 47:6–8), for His creation and care for mankind (Psalm 103:13–14; 139:13–15), and for the beautiful nature He has created (Psalm 19:1; 89:5; 148:3). Psalm 145 is an excellent example of a psalm of praise; it praises God for His kingship, forgiveness and care for us, and His perfect attributes.
Just as the Israelites placed a strong emphasis on praising the Lord, so should we. In fact, Ephesians 1:12 says that our salvation has a purpose within it: "the praise of his glory." We should be readily able to praise the Lord, but it is all too easy for the cares of life to invade our minds and make it feel easier for us to complain. It is important for us to keep all the reasons we have to praise God at the forefront of ours minds. Psalm 103:2–5 exhorts us:
"Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."
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