at the very beginning, that’s a very good place to start.” (Sound of Music)
“Start at the beginning and when you get to the end, stop.” (Alice in Wonderland)
that good advice we begin a study of the Psalms, one of the most neglected
parts of the Scripture. Just why would one want to study the Psalms?
there is the “Hallmark Card” effect. Have you ever looked for the words
to say just what you mean? Psalms do just that.
are the prime source of Godly meditation (NOT the “chant your mantra”
stuff.) For those who are greatly contemplative, this is the part of the
Bible to contemplate.
who study prophecy will soon find Psalms a prime source. The seeming
randomness of the Psalms is often made clear in the New Testament.
is said that God inhabits the praise of his people. The psalms have been
used for thousands of years as the primary form of praising God.
is also this: when God withdraws from you – and he will at times – to
what do you appeal? Where do you go?
of us deal with fear, uncertainty and doubt. So did the Psalmists; there
words are a comfort in such times.
Christians must have the virtue of hope – and nowhere is hope easier to
find than in the Psalms.
of us struggles with sin; so did the Psalmists. If there is a more
elegant expression than Psalm 51, I do not know it.
Psalms also teach you to fear God and his judgment. The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of wisdom.
is, no doubt, more to be said. But this should get you through the first
side note – Hebrew poetry
will notice that the Psalms are set as if they are poetry. They are, even
though they do not rhyme in the sense we normally use “rhyme.” We are
accustomed to “rain, Spain, main, plain.” Such rhymes stick in the memory;
that is one chief use of rhyme. But the Psalms don’t rhyme that way. One
reason, of course, is that they were written in Hebrew, not English.
main reason that they work as poetry, however, is that they do rhyme – in
thought. For example,
The Lord is my shepherd,
shall not want.
a thought rhyme. You might see it as “since the Lord is my shepherd…”
to make the connection clearer.
rhymes can be quite complex. We shall not make a point of working out the
rhyme patterns, but you should be aware that this is how it works. This means
poetry, and of course poetry cannot be taken as literally as prose.
is the Man
Psalms 1:1-3 NIV
is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers. (2) But his
delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night. (3)
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
word “blessed” here has an interesting point: it’s plural. It’s an artistic
touch by one who knew how the Lord blesses such a man. It reminds one of a
story told by a former pastor. He said that when he asked people who did not
tithe, “why not?” they usually had a very precise answer. When he asked those
who did tithe why they did, they usually did not. They just look at the
ground, shuffle their feet and begin with, “Well, the Lord has blessed us so
Psalmist gives us a picture of the progression of sin in the unsuspecting.
you walk in the counsel of the wicked. Have you ever taken “good advice”
that turned out to be anything but? If you’re listening to those who are
evil, you become more like them as they “show you the ropes.” Good advice
comes from good people.
you stand in the way of sinners. Ever been in the wrong place at the
wrong time? (Hint to the women: Prince Charming will not be in the bar
tonight.) If you inhabit the bars and brothels, guess what you become?
– note well – the progression ends with pride. The mocker, the cynic, has
everything figured out. He knows the price of everything and the value of
nothing. It is a point of pride that I can sneer at you. And pride is
Satan’s own sin.
word meditate in the Scripture means, according to Noah Webster, “To dwell on
any thing in thought; to contemplate; to study; to turn or revolve any subject
in the mind.” One aspect which we must see is that this is not a five minute
exercise; rather, it is a continuing habit of mind. The Psalmist correctly
says that we should do this day and night.
understand that this is not Zen meditation, so popular these days. It is very
different. It involves conscious study; it requires bringing your mind into
focus on individual truths of the Scripture. It is the character of the
Scripture that its truths can be treated this way. It is not simply
mindless repetition of a thought – a mantra.
what are we to meditate on? God’s Law – for us contained in the precepts of
Christ. As Thomas à Kempis put it, “The teaching of Jesus far transcends all
the teachings of the Saints, and whosoever has His spirit will discover
concealed in it heavenly manna.”
You will know you are successful when you meditate on his words and hear
yourself responding, “That is so true.”
is always important to distinguish results from causes. If you do these
things, the results will be as promised. But the results are not the cause;
the meditation causes, and these things result.
tree planted…” Notice the verb – “planted.” God chooses where he wants
you; if you are his true follower, it will be a good place. (I will
admit to some difficulty in knowing a good place when I see one.)
in season…” Think of the fruits of the Spirit. Each of those fruits is a
good thing – but each has a proper season. Patience is most cherished in
affliction, for example. These things will be there when you need them.
does not wither…” It’s not just the important stuff, the fruits, that God
provides. Even in the trivial matter of a leaf, God sustains the
righteous man who contemplates God’s words. God cares for the hairs on
your head, and all other small and scarce items too.
a man prospers. For some, that’s monetary prosperity; for others, it’s much
deeper than that.
So The Wicked
Psalms 1:4-6 NIV Not so the
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away. (5) Therefore the
wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. (6)
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
you ever seen a dust devil? Students in the western United States will be
familiar with these things. There are two things these are noted for: first,
they produce confusion. Stuff gets picked up, whirled around and eventually
dropped someplace else. Next, you can be sure the dust devil has no
destination, no orbit – it’s just going along at random. The comparison is to
that stuff the dust devil picks up. Bricks are immune.
there is more. Like its World War II synonym, chaff also has the function of
concealing that which is behind it. So often we make the mistake of assuming
that the dust devils of the church really are harmless. We should ask what
they conceal as well as what they reveal.
however, like the chaff of the desert, the wicked are gone. In the church in
every age we see those who whirl the flighty around, causing chaos as they go.
But where are the chaos makers of yesterday? Man is designed to be eternal,
not whirling garbage.
God is just. He is righteous. Therefore we know two things about the wicked:
will not be able to stand on the Day of Judgment. The righteous judge
will give them what they deserve. (Remember, you’re eternal.)
the righteous wind up in the end, the wicked won’t be there. There are no
visitor passes for heaven.
Lord, He Knows
have, as a church, forgotten what our ancestors knew well: the Providence of
God. God the all-knowing is also the sustainer of the universe. As Paul puts
Romans 8:28 NIV And we know
that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who
have been called according to his purpose.
Lord knows the wicked and the righteous, and he has told you what he will do.
God is righteous; that righteousness will be brought home to the wicked. His
righteousness applies to all of us; those who accept Christ for salvation,
those who reject him for everlasting judgment.