This is not a comprehensive study, nor a scholarly one that goes into little known facts or uses a lot of Aramaic and Hebrew terms. I will not be using any one commentary nor will I use only one text for the Scripture portion. I like to dig for the background and read widely though the many translations and then allow the Holy Spirit room to teach and enlighten.
Having said that I would like to : 1) offer a quote from a commentary, 2) share Psalm 1 from The Message and 3) take you on a bunny trail that I’ve been following all week.
The quote is from Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from Volume II on Psalms.
“Our greatest trouble is occasioned by the fact that the expounders are not impartial, but spend all of their love, or at least their energies, upon favorite passages of the sacred volume, passing by other passages with scarcely a remark , as if all Scripture were not equally inspired.”
And to that I would add, that so many who pass for Bible Scholars today are reworking and rewording something they have read in a commentary or text book. There is very little study done from a new perspective or from a contemplative and open heart and mind.
I am approaching the Psalms with hopes of allowing them to touch my heart and life. If you would like to come with me, please approach in the same manner. I am not making pronouncements, just viewing the familiar and asking questions, then seeking answers.
So, when a Psalm says in the heading that it is a psalm of David, I’m not going to be searching for a hidden author or try to sort out Asaph and Korah from the guilds of temple musicians. I will accept the information offered and unless it is integral to the understanding of the text, will not make more than a cursory mention of authorship.
I accept this body of work as a book of Wisdom and poetry, affirming its historicity as an anthology of liturgy and scripture, praise and prayer and instruction.
There are at least 5 types of psalms- Prayer for help; a) for individuals b) for the nations of Israel. Thanksgiving in song. Hymns. Psalms of Instruction. And Imprecatory- characterized by the calling down of judgement upon the wicked.
I will be looking at the names of God used from Elohim to YHWH and looking at the themes that are often offered – such as- The Lord God Reigns- and examine His many titles with an eye to His many attributes, i.e.- creator -saviour-warrior-judge.
Studying the Psalms is a journey through time and living- and I’m all about taking the steps on the journey.
Psalm 1 (The Message)
1How well God must like you— you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon, you don’t slink along Dead-End Road,
you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.
2-3 Instead you thrill to God’s Word,
you chew on Scripture day and night.
You’re a tree replanted in Eden,
bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
always in blossom.
4-5 You’re not at all like the wicked,
who are mere windblown dust—
Without defense in court,
unfit company for innocent people.
6 God charts the road you take.
The road they take is Skid Row.
I really love Eugene Peterson, I really love The Message, and yet this paraphrase of Psalm 1 sounds like it should be in the cowboy’s Bible. It is highly evocative of the wild west and a feeling of lawlessness and virtue battling it out with six shooters at high noon.
Most of the other renderings of this same psalm make me just as uncomfortable though, speaking of blessing and happiness that is derived from righteous behavior.
I looked up the word, Blessed, first in a Bible dictionary “God’s blessing is accompanied with that virtue that renders His blessing effectual and which is expressed by it” New Unger’s – and my response is “huh?”
Wikipedia gave me the following definition-” A gift from God- divine favor- that which make happy or prosperous- a benediction.” To which I reply- “happy and prosperous” has not been my experience.
So I looked up blessing as a word study.
First in Hebrew- Barack or Baruch- meaning kneeling or worship
Then in Greek- eulogia- spoken words- generally favorable
And English- blessing (modern usage) mainly a noun- as in a tangible gift of some sort.
And so, having looked down these pathways and alleys and still unsure of my directions, I decided to “delight” myself in the beauty of God’s word and to “meditate day and night”, prayerfully seeking to understand this psalm in a way that will allow me to follow.
And this is how I have come to read the instructions. The psalm is speaking of a very righteous man ( possibly written by David, described as a man after God’s own heart, which to me sounds like the epitome of a righteous man) and that brings to my mind the example of Job, whom God Himself describes as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil”. Job 1:8
Now, putting Job into this equation of blessed is the man opens up a map for me to read. Because, Job was a man who did not walk or stand or sit with the wicked mockers, and he certainly delighted in God’s law and righteousness, and he was definitely blessed by God. Blessed by God and yet troubled by Satan, his life was not an easy one. The blessing of God was NOT a continual noun that he held like a possession, but instead it was a place of renewal. When trouble came his way, he told his wife, “Should we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Job 2:10 And later, answering his friend/tormentor he says, ” Though he slay me, I will trust in him.” Job 13:15
He is rooted in his faith- like a tree planted by streams of water- when he finds himself in misery and trouble, he seeks the truth of God’s word and relies on the faithfulness of God. The fruit in season and the leaf that does not wither is not a condition of his righteous behavior but one of relationship. There is no promise for a trouble free life, but of eternal life. ” I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth…yet in my flesh I will see God.” Job 19:25,26
Psalm 1 is considered to be an introductory psalm- and one of instruction- to direct us in the reading of this book and allowing our lives and spirits to become aligned with God’s. ” For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous”- of course He does- the “righteous” are walking along with the Lord. It is not about our righteousness, it is about our placement within God’s company.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep (obey) it.”
So this is how the equation works out for me.
Blessing= alignment + walking with God ~ a saving relationship~Jesus, who is the Word of God= Eternal life .