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Intro to Psalms, Wisdom Psalms, and Psalm 1

As the united monarchy of Israel is ending, following the lives of David and Solomon, I am taking a detour to look at their other books in the Bible, starting with the Psalms.

In an attempt to try and keep some sort of context, and hopefully be able to draw more meaning and application, I will be looking at them in batches, organized in my chronological bible, then cross referenced with my NASB translation and supplemented by my Wiersbe commentary.

First up, Psalm 1 and the Wisdom Psalms.

Introduction to the Psalms

NASB Ryrie Bible Intro notes:

  • Jews refer to it as the Book of Praises.
  • It is the hymnal of the Jewish people.
  • The majority were written in the time of David and Solomon (73 are attributed to David in the superscription; 2 to Solomon)
  • 12 to the Sons of Korah; 12 to Asaph; and one each to Heman, Ethan, and Moses.
  • Types of psalms include laments, thanksgiving or praise, psalms of trust in God, Yahweh enthroned, Jerusalem, royal (messianic), and wisdom. Also by theme: creation, exodus, imprecation (judgement), penitence, pilgrimage.
  • Psalms that include prophesy: 2, 8, 16, 22, 40. 45, 72, 110, 118
  • 150 Psalms divided into 5 books, each book ending in a doxology.

Wiersbe Intro notes:

  • The 5 book include:
    • 1-41
    • 42-72
    • 73-89
    • 90-106
    • 107-150
  • In the New Testament, there are over 400 allusions or references to the Psalms!

Wisdom Psalms

According to the explanation in my NIV Chronological Bible, there are several categories of psalms and they changed over time. After the exile and return, the people who returned were more strongly encouraged to attend to their Torahs and God's Word. And although you see that idea in many psalms, a few of them are categorized solely as wisdom psalms because that is their primary focus.

Psalm 1

Producing Fruit

This psalm has no superscription, providing us no historical heading.

Verse 1: Don't take counsel from the wicked, put yourself near them, or sit with them.

Verse 2: In the opposite vein: Delight in the LAW of the LORD and meditate on it day and night.

The benefit of avoiding the first and committing to the second comes in verse 3:

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:3

What an amazing promise. Yes and Amen.

This promise makes sense. It may just appear as a "carrot" to entice good behavior, "Do the right thing and get a cookie." But upon further reflection, I think it just more of an explanation for how life works.

By definition, wicked and evil are destructive. And sinners are rebelling against the will of God. And scoffers, I'm sad to know well firsthand, spend all of their time practicing an artform described by C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters as flippancy:

...every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it.

Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis

All three of these are negative influences. They cause the person to pursue, however briefly, the wrong path. And often the wrong path becomes the whole path, leaving behind the life God had ordained for you.

Compare this outcome with the one described between verses 2 and 3:

"Delight in the law" and "meditate on the law day and night". At a glance, they are even the same topic. The first one is about the people you associate with and the second one is an admonishment to read your Bible. But, of course, they are the same topic. The topic is influence. Where do you derive your influence?

And why does it matter? Because we are not our own. We have a creator and a redeemer who have a plan for us:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

Not only do the wicked, sinners, ands scoffers want to drag you off of your path, but the want to impede the will of God by destroying the good works meant for your life.

Look again what was promised to the one who continues to seek God day and night in His Word. The tree is growing by a stream (the Word), and is able to receive what it needs to live. In exchange: yields its fruit in its season. What a contrast to the poor shmuck who was drawn away from the stream and is dying of thirst a hundred miles away--unable to take care of itself, let alone produce fruit and prosper.

To me, being able to produce the fruit for which I was created is the biggest blessing. We all need a purpose. People lose hope when they don't have one. And, I think, we all know when we're flying firmly in our designated purpose. When are are where we are supposed to be, doing the thing we're supposed to do- we thrive.

That's the choice and there are only those two choices, no third option is offered. Either we dig deep with our roots into the stream of His Holy Word, leading to the life for which we are created...or we don't.

Verse makes it clear what their future holds: chaff blown away by the wind. The fruit has been harvested and the useless left overs are discarded. Not a pretty picture of a life wasted.

Life After Life

So far, it seems like the psalmist is focusing on the outcomes in life: producing fruit or being chaff. But in verses 5 and 6, it seems like the topic has shifted to the bigger picture and life you have lived your life.

Verse tells us they will not stand. Their lives will not hold up under the righteous judgement of the Lord.

None will apart from Jesus.

Verse 6 closes out the theme of wicked versus righteous as an outcome, a destination- and the righteous have a way known by God while the wicked perish.

I know this seems so simple. Do good. Be good. Don't be a jerk. But I think it's more nuanced than that.

Why be good? For a cookie? For a carrot? Is that all there is, the life of a small child running for rewards and to avoid punishments?

Maybe. If that's what you distill your walk with God to. If you're only walking with Him for cookies and carrots.

But this Psalm encourages DELIGHTING in His WORD. MEDITATING day and night. Not, "Read His word so you can know the carrots from the sticks." There's a huge difference there.

How do you delight in a book? In a story you already know? By seeking the Lord in that book and asking the God of the universe to use it to reveal His will for you. If you seek Him, He promises to be found. And if you ask Him for wisdom concerning your life, He'll share it. His promises are yes and amen.

Redeem your days. Understand the Will of God by digging your roots deep into His stream of living water. Bear fruit. Spend eternity with Him.

Wiersbe Commentary, Psalm 1

  • Genesis 13-14: Lot Looked toward Sodom; then pitched his tent toward Sodom; then moved to Sodom. This is an example of Verse 1. Your way gets diverted with what you surround yourself with.
  • Another example was Peter. Jesus told him to flee when Jeus was arrested. Instead, he followed the crowd and stood with them. then sat with them. And then sinned in a way he swore he never would, he denied Christ. That's the same progression as verse 1: Stand, sit, and then stop caring and mock it all.

It's worth pointing out that Lot and Peter were both men of God. This advice isn't for that neighbor you think is evil, it's for you and me. This can happen to anyone at any time and in the blink of an eye.

It Vanity Fair from Pilgrim's Progress.

More from Wiersbe:

  • Yikes. In the footnote on verse 1: the mockers are clowns. I had already been convicted by the scoffers/mockers portion; but this reminds me even further why I have to let go of my desire to make people laugh. It's almost impossible to do without making light of important things.
  • "Meditating" is translated as muttering in an undertone. That really changes that for me. It's not a quiet, personal zen moment in a field of daisies while your mind wanders a bit. It's an active, audible action which is constant and without end. His word should constantly be coming out of my mouth...which should maybe help with all of the other stuff that shouldn't be. (and maybe even stop some of the food which shouldn't be coming in)
  • We cannot nourish ourselves. We need external nourishment. It's either life-giving from the Lord when we're in the place we are supposed to be- or we're not going to last. That nourishment can come from meditating on God's Word, the Holy Spirit, Fellowship, and prayer.
  • We don't eat the fruit, others do.
  • We don't have to worry about results. Fruit has seeds in it that can lead to more fruit apart from us.
  • Wiersbe divides the Psalm in half, with verses 1-3 describing a godly person (with warnings) and the second half an ungodly. He points out that they are need of our witness to draw them to godliness through salvation. He also points out that the wheat and the chaff are close together and seem to be part of the same thing, but they are different and the chaff is easily separated and thrown in the fire.

I really like how Wiersbe focused on the wicked as actually being the lost. Not just a cautionary tale to scare us into taking the right path, but those to be grieved for and prayer for and witnessed to to try and bring them to the right path.

It's makes me sad that my heart doesn't always see that. When I see the truly wicked in our society, such as those rioting, looting, and spreading hate and division in our nation, my heart is hard toward them. I want them to see how wrong they are and most of all, I want to stay as far away from people like that as I can. I assume that they cannot be reasoned with or even reasonable at all.

But Jesus Christ might see a lost sheep. One that needs to hear the right message at the right time and they could be brought back to their creator.

Lord, please make my heart softer for the wicked. To pray for them and pray for the right seed planter, waterer, and harvester to bring each lost sheep to you, that none should perish. Amen.

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