Before digging into the first verse of this amazing Psalm, I think it’s important to have a brief study of what this phrase means,
“To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.” (ESV).
“For the choir director. A Psalm of David.” (NASB).
“For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.” (ASV).
Music has played a huge role in the worship of the people of God since the time of Moses until today. Exodus 15 gives the account of the people of Israel being delivered by God from the hands of the Egyptians. We see Moses leading the people into worship by song, and in vv. 15:20-21 Miriam the prophetess, Moses’ sister, leads the women of Israel into praising God for the destruction of the Egyptians and His mighty deliverance of His people. In 1 Samuel 10:5 Saul meets a group of prophets prophesying with, “harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre” (ESV). In Isaiah 26 we read a song composed by the prophet praising the faithfulness, forgiveness, and protection of God to be sung by God’s people.
In 1 Chronicles 24-25 we read the account of the division of roles for the descendants of Aaron, who would be in charge of the priestly office of the worship of the Lord. In chapter 25 we see David assigning priests to the specific duty of worship and prophecy with instruments.
All through the Old Testament we see the prominent role music played in prophecy and the worship of the Lord and how the Lord is to be praised and worshiped in an orderly and magnifying fashion; so there were officers appointed for the specific task of worship. Here we see how king David took it as his responsibility to set this Psalm to music through the chief director. The magnificence with which David praises the omniscience, omnipresence, sovereignty, and creative nature of Yahweh is simply too grand not to be put to music!
As Charles Spurgeon says on this point,
“This sacred song is worthy of the most excellent of the singers, and is fitly dedicated to the leader of the Temple Psalmody, that he might set it to music, and see that it was devoutly sung in the solemn worship of the Most High.” 1
As far as authorship goes, I will, once again, quote Spurgeon,
“A Psalm of David. It bears the image and superscription of King David, and could have come from no other mint than that of the son of Jesse. Of course the critics take this composition away from David, on account of certain Aramaic expressions in it. We believe that upon the principles of criticism now in vogue it would be extremely easy to prove that Milton did not write Paradise Lost. We have yet to learn that David could not have used expressions belonging to “the language of the patriarchal ancestral house.” Who knows how much of the antique speech may have been purposely retained among those nobler minds who rejoiced in remembering the descent of their race? Knowing to what wild inferences the critics have run in other matters, we have lost nearly all faith in them, and prefer to believe David to be the author of this Psalm, from internal evidences of style and matter, rather than to accept the determination of men whose modes of judgment are manifestly unreliable.” 1
As Spurgeon says, the whole body of the Psalm is unmistakably David’s, it has David painted all over it. The intimacy, grandeur, and prose of this Psalm is simply characteristic of David and cannot be attributed to anyone else but to the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1, ESV).
Next week we will begin studying this Psalm by looking at verse 1,
“O LORD, you have searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139:1, ESV).
1 Spurgeon, Charles H. “Treasury of DavidPsalm 139.” The Spurgeon Archive. Philip R. Johnson. Web. 05 Jan. 2012. <http://www.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps139.htm>.