To understand the passover Psalms, we start with Jesus. Every Sunday we profess in the Creed our belief in Jesus as “true God and true man”. So how do we apply this understanding of Jesus to The Psalms of Praise? As true man, Jesus had grand-parents and ancestors, see the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew for a comprehensive genealogy. The ancestors of Jesus were Jewish slaves in Egypt. These ancestors of Jesus were freed from slavery and told by God (through Moses, Exodus 12:14) “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever.” So Jesus, being Jewish, observed the feast of the Passover every year. Jesus prayed these Psalms because they became part of the religious ceremony known as the passover meal.

Jesus chooses the passover meal (typically called the last supper) as the event to institute the sacrament of Holy Communion.

A simple eight part division of the passover meal

  • The first two Psalms, 113-114, are recited before the meal
  • Cup 1 of wine is drunk at the beginning of the meal
  • Cup 2 of wine is drunk in the middle of the meal
  • Cup 3 of wine is drunk at the end of the meal
  • The Grace after the Meal
  • The remaining Psalms of the Hallel proper, Psalms 115-118, are recited
  • Then followed by Psalm 135 (This psalm is known as the great Hallel)
  • Last, cup 4 of wine is drunk, and a brief grace for the “fruit of the vine” is said

In Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians 10:14 “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”. “Cup of Blessing” is the traditional name for the third ritual cup of wine at the Jewish passover meal. John 6:54 “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,” See also 1 Cor. 11:23. Jesus gives us his Precious Blood in Cup 3 of the Passover meal, and that is the importance of these Psalms.

Note: Hallel is the Hebrew word meaning “to praise”. Hallel is the first part of a compound word Hallelu-Yah. This word is typically mistaken to mean “Praise the LORD”, this is technically incorrect. The term LORD for God is a circumlocution for the real name of God “Yahweh”. For the Jewish people, the name of God is so Holy they never say it, or write it, they use the word LORD. The psalms are filled with the term Hallelu-Yah, which means “Praise Yahweh”, using the first half of God’s name. Alleluia is the Latin translation of the Hebrew. When praying with this word, you should know its exact meaning, and have that meaning in your mind and in your heart whenever you hear or say Hallelu-Yah!

Perhaps the Psalms of praise are the most valuable type of prayer that the Psalms contain.For praising the Lord here on earth is practice for what we will be doing in heaven for all eternity.