As human words to and about God, the psalms instruct us in myriad ways about how to worship God. They teach us how to sing, dance, rejoice, give thanks, confess sin, grieve, express anger, make requests of God, proclaim God’s name far and wide, and much more. They are a rich resource both for individual and corporate use. There is a theology of the Psalms to be uncovered.

“Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD—that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” —Psalm 83:18


As God’s Word to us, the book of Psalms engages almost all of the great themes of the Bible. Beginning with the introductory Psalms 1–2, the Psalter lays out the two ways (that of the righteous versus that of the wicked). It also shows us the importance of relying on God and His Word, God’s sovereignty and rule over all people and nations (and his attendant concern for them), the interplay between divine and human kingship, and God as a place of refuge for all.

The Psalter’s overarching theme celebrates God’s sovereign rule as the great King over all things. The climactic declaration is that “the LORD reigns.” God rules over creation itself and over all nations and people groups — including his own chosen people Israel — down to each individual person. He is a good God: holy, loving, merciful, protective of his people, faithful, a keeper of promises, a giver of good gifts. And He is a just God: vindicating his people, punishing evil, caring for the marginalized. He is a great and powerful God: the Creator and Sustainer of all things, mightier than any god humans can conjure up, more powerful than all the nations and armies of the world.


As the sovereign King, God asserts his control over the most powerful forces in nature. He proclaims his authority over all the false gods of the nations. These gods were such a temptation for his own people time and time again. Also, He opposes the wicked, whether individuals (e.g., 1:4 – 6) or nations (e.g., Psalm 2), and will mete out justice for their wickedness. He protects the vulnerable in society. He cares for the widow, the fatherless, the outsider, and the poor — and expects his representatives on earth to carry out this mission.


God’s plan for the nations is that his people Israel be a testimony to them, causing them to turn to God; it is an inclusive vision that shows God’s desire for all peoples to know him. So, God chose Jerusalem (i.e., Mount Zion) to be the earthly “capital” of God’s kingdom; this was the site of the temple, which was God’s dwelling place on the earth. He anointed David and his descendants to be his royal representatives on earth — his vice­regents — and so the Davidic kings had great responsibility for leading the nation in following the Lord and defending the cause of justice in society. In all of this, God himself is the source of ultimate refuge for those who are troubled.

The psalms represent a priceless treasure trove of resources for relating to God in all circumstances. They instruct us in how to live. And they teach us great truths about God the great King, his sovereign rule over all things. They teach us his plan for reconciling the world to himself through his Son Jesus, the Christ.

What’s your favorite Psalm and why?

NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible

NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible Theology of the Psalms

This blog is a post in our NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible blog series! See the firstsecondthird and fourth blog posts by following the links.

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  1. Omodona banto

    Psalm 23…. It’s an assurance of God’s faithfulness to us and his comfort in our lives in all times

  2. Christina Freeman

    My is psalms 91 and 33rd psalm
    Protection, safety

  3. Richard Edwards

    Psalm 138
    I will praise the lord with all my heart strength and mind. No matter who is judging me. No matter what people may say. I will praise the lord

    • This is an important verse to momurize. But what if someone in same faith is opressing you should say a word to him, or keeps your mouth shut?

  4. Psalm 84
    “They go from strength to strength til each appears in Zion…The Lord bestows favor and honor, no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” I find that very encouraging.

  5. When I was growing up I liked Proverbs, but throughout the years Psalms have become part of me in so many ways … God is my refuge… ready sword … though walk through valley…. words rise up within changes how respond and react to things facing…. Praise God, heart thankfulness, Word lives, living Word within us. Psalm 91, 51, 27, 23, 139, 1…….

  6. Grace Gatt

    My favourite psalm is psalm 139 because it is like a personal prayer for me.

    For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
    15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

  7. Psalm 1
    A sharp dichotomy between the just and the wicked: … They are like trees planted along the riverbank, …, ….But not so for the wicked! They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind. …

  8. Daliri Bismark

    Psalm 119 vs 105
    Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

  9. Psalm 119:11
    Thy word have I hid in mine heart , that I might not sin against thee.