John T. Willis

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Meditation on the Law of the Lord--Psalm 1

With this blog, we begin a long study of the Psalms. We will attempt to deal with each psalm with notes and thoughts.

The Book of Psalms contains 150 psalms. The Psalms fall into many different categories. Major genres are lament, praise, thanksgiving, history, king and kingship, wisdom, confession, and forgiveness. The Book of Psalms falls into FIVE BOOKS: I--1-41; II--42-72; III--73-89; IV--90-106; V--107-150. A doxology appears at the end of each Book: 41:13; 72:18-10; 89:52; 106:48; 150:6. These doxologies are not a part of the psalm after which they are attached. One should study the Psalms in order. We will call attention to many of the connections that join Psalm 1 to Psalm 2, Psalm 2 to Psalm 3, and throughout the Psalter.

Psalm 1 contains two contrasting parts, emphasizing sharply the difference between the righteous and the wicked: A--verses 1-3; B--verses 4-5; A--verse 6a; B--verse 6b. The composer of Psalm 1 emphasizes the importance of God's Law in the lives of every person who wishes to follow God.

1. God's Law is a Life-Giving Stream in the human heart. Psalm 1:1-3.
    a. Many passages in the psalms and elsewhere begin with the ejaculation: "HAPPY" or "BLESSED." The Hebrew word here='ashre, is equivalent to the Greek makarios, meaning "Blessed" as in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:1-12. 1a.
    b. The psalmist defines the righteous as those who:
         1. Do not follow the advice of the wicked.
         2. Do not take the path that sinners tread.
         3. Do not sit in the seat of the scoffers.
Righteous people avoid the influence of the wicked. Proverbs 4:14-17 contains this same admonition:
    "Do not enter the path of the wicked,
           and do not walk in the way of evildoers.
      Avoid it; do not go on it;
           turn away from it and pass on.
      For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
           they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
      For they eat the bread of wickedness
           and drink the wine of violence." 1b-d.
    c. The psalmist defines the righteous as those who delight in the law of the Lord, and on his lay they MEDITATE DAY AND NIGHT. This same message appears in Joshua 1:7-8. The Bible, Old and New Testament, ALWAYS present God's Law in a very positive way. Throughout history, people have abused the Law of God by misunderstanding it, misusing it, using it for selfish purposes, putting it in wrong perspectives. But one cannot avoid the inseparable connection between God and God's Law. To reject God's Law is to reject God HIMSELF. Jesus Himself emphasizes this truth at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:17-20. 2.
     d. The Law of God is like a life-giving, life-sustaining stream to give spiritual strength and endurance and perseverance and growth in the heart and life of each person. God's people are like TREES PLANTED BY STREAMS OF WATER. God's true followers are like trees, the Law of God is like streams of water who give fruit in the hearts and lives of believers. This figure is very similar to Jeremiah 17:7-8:
         "BLESSED are those who trust in the Lord,
                 whose trust is the Lord.
           They shall be like a TREE PLANTED by WATER,
                 sending out its roots by the STREAM.
            It shall not fear when heat comes,
                  and its leaves shall stay green;
            in the year of drought it is not anxious,
                  and it does not cease to bear fruit."
In Jeremiah 17:7-8, GOD HIMSELF is the STREAM OF WATER which provides energy and growth to any follower of God who is like a healthy growing tree. In Psalm 1:3, the LAW OF GOD is the STREAM OF WATER which provides energy and growth to any follower of God who is like a healthy growing tree. Biblically, it is contrary to God's will to divorce or separate God from His Law.  
     The account of Yahweh's denunciation of David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged for the murder of her husband Uriah on the battlefield at Rabbah makes the same point about the inseparable connection between God and the Law of God. In 2 Samuel 12:9, Yahweh asks David: "Why have you despised THE WORD OF THE LORD, to do what was evil in his sight?" [obviously referred to Exodus 20:13-14=Deuteronomy 5:17-18]; then in 2 Samuel 12:10 [the very next verse], Yahweh says to David: "you have despised ME, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife." To despise the Word of the Lord is equivalent to despising the Lord. 3.

II. The Wicked have no Substance at all. Psalm 1:4-5.
     a. The Psalmist declares that the wicked are like chaff that the wind drives away. They have no substance. They cannot survive. 4.
     b. Thus, the wicked will ultimately not stand in the judgment nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. This is a God work, not a human work. History has shown that the wicked APPEAR to have the upper hand. But God in his own way and time ALWAYS defeats and overthrows the wicked. 5.

III. Ultimately Yahweh will sustain the Righteous and destroy the Wicked. Psalm 1:6.
      a. Because of the hearts and lives of the righteous, God assures them they he will protect and sustain them in all circumstances. The New Revised Standard Version translates: "the Lord WATCHES OVER the way of the righteous." The Hebrew has the verb "KNOW." The word "know" has numerous meanings throughout scripture. In Psalm 1:6, this verb must be the opposite of perish or destroy. Thus "watch over" or "protect" is a good English translation.
     b. Because of the hearts and lives of the wicked, God declares that He will destroy them, or they will perish. This same contrast appears in many New Testament texts like Romans 2:1-11.

Share YOUR thoughts and experiences and feelings and concepts and dreams with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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