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Surprising Psalms

written by Ariel Blumenthal
December 18, 2020

Beginnings are important. They are foundational. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit was poured out on Shavuot/Pentecost and the church was born. Over the next 2.5 chapters, the disciples (mostly Peter) proclaim the Gospel, several times, to all the Jewish people gathered in Jerusalem. As Jews preaching to Jews, they needed to build their case for Yeshua’s right to be called the Messiah by quoting from and interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures that prophesied of Him. There was no New Testament to quote from, only the “Old” Testament (OT, Tenach, Hebrew Scriptures), and the words of Jesus that they had heard directly from Him. 

In these earliest gospel proclamations, I count nine direct quotes from the OT. Amazingly, six of them—two-thirds—are from the Book of Psalms: Not from the Torah (the five Books of Moses), and not from the so-called prophetic books; but from the Psalms, a collection of devotional prayer and songs of worship to God. 

We find the same thing in the Book of Hebrews. This epistle contains about 30-35 direct quotes of the OT, and, by my count, 14 of them are from the Psalms! Think about it: we are so used to assuming the foundational nature of the Torah and Prophets, and so they are. But when it came to proclaiming the Gospel and teaching the earliest Jewish believers, it’s the book of Psalms that takes first place!

Thinking of the Psalms in a third “catch all” category of “the writings” camouflages all the amazing Messianic prophecies that are to be found within it—more than in the Torah or books of the prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc. Yeshua, on the other hand, kept them all on equal footing:

Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44, emphasis added)

What can all this teach us? First, we must study the whole OT, equally and in its entirety, and not become overly focused on the Torah (first five books) as in Judaism and some Jewish roots movements. Second, it points to the organic connection between praise, worship and prophecy. Most of the Psalms quoted by the disciples—and in the book of Hebrews—are songs of prayer and worship to God; and then quite suddenly, the psalmist begins to prophecy, and many times God even speaks through the psalmist’s voice and pen in the first person! (For example, Psalm 16:8-11; 132:11-12; 110:1-4; 118:22-23; 2:1-2; 2:7; 45:6-7; 8:4-6; 22:2; 95:7-11; 40:6-8…)

It is a simple formula: when God’s people—both individually and corporately—devote their hearts to Him, sing and make music to Him and about Him, then the fire of the Holy Spirit comes to “consume” the sacrifice of praise. His people are filled with the Spirit, and they begin to prophecy the things of God with power and “anointing.” This formula was valid not only in Biblical times; it is just as true today as it was then. Every believer must dedicate himself to such regular times—alone, in families, and as congregations, houses of prayer, etc.—and expect the Holy Spirit to fill us with dreams, visions, words, Scriptures, insights, words of knowledge, etc. All of this is the spirit of prophecy that testifies of our Lord and Savior, Yeshua the Messiah (Revelation 19:10).

Ariel Blumenthal

Ariel grew up in a Reform Jewish home. He was searching for meaning in life in Zen Buddhism after college, when he was born again at a church in downtown Tokyo. He made Aliyah in 1998 and co-leads Ahavat Yeshua Congregation in Jerusalem.

He is the author of ‘One New Man—Reconciling Jew & Gentile in One Body of Christ’, and teaches the Bible in English, Hebrew, Japanese and Chinese.

Ariel and his wife Vered have 4 children, and live in downtown Jerusalem.

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