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Introduction to the Psalms, Psalm 1

By Nicole Mcleod

Whether it is your first or 50th time reading these psalms I believe they will be a timely source of comfort, hope and spiritual strength to you, especially in these very challenging times in which we are living today. And may the awesome God who gave them to us, bless us and teach us as we study them together in our morning devotions. To Him be all the glory!

I. Introduction to the Book of Psalms: The Hebrew title: “Book of Praises” - in Greek: Psalmos – “song sung to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument”. This ancient book we have before us to study is a holy praise and worship songbook, devotional guide and prayer book for people of God. The key word is “Hallelujah” which translates into “Praise the Lord” which it helps us to do. No wonder it is in the heart of our Bibles, to help our hearts learn how to pray and worship God. It is said: “The psalms must be read with the heart as well as with the head”. This is because the psalmists expressed their deep devotion, tearful laments, sorrow over sin, triumphant praises – the full variety of emotions. These psalms record the inner heart history of the mighty King David and others who wrote them. Few of us have lived the heights and depths of experiences that David did, so when we find ourselves in extreme places and our own language fails us, the psalms help us express our deepest yearnings for God, and help us say what we feel, and know our prayers touch God’s heart. He knows, and He cares – he loves us so much! Some have said: “For every sigh there is a psalm”, so no matter what you are going through you can find a psalm to relate to. These are skillfully written poems/songs, which have divine power to move us from anguish to joy, from desperation to triumph, from the depths to the heights, even from fear to faith. And though these psalms were written in ancient times, in foreign languages, in another culture and part of the world, in highly sophisticated poetry, they are truly timeless – and godly people of every age all around the world relate to them deeply.

These 150 individual psalms were organized and edited strategically into five books -are each closed by a doxology – perhaps structured this way to imitate the structure of the 5 books of Moses (Genesis– Deuteronomy) which was the written law they had at the time. (First, Psalms 1-42 ; (mostly written by David) Second, Psalms 43-72 ; Third, Psalms 73-89 ; Fourth, Psalms 90-106 ; Fifth, Psalms 107-150 ) each ends with a praise doxology. They were written and compiled by different authors - Moses who wrote Psalm 90 in 1410 BC – over 3000 years ago, David wrote at least 73 psalms, the Sons of Korah (temple musicians) wrote or compiled 11, Asaph (12), Solomon (2), Heman, Ethan and there are others who have remained anonymous. This collection represents the final stage in a process that spanned centuries, and it is believed that postexilic temple personnel, who completed it probably in the third century BC, put it into its final form. There is some speculation on this, so we cannot be sure. If your study Bible has an introduction to the Psalms, I highly recommend reading it to get a good foundation and learn about the different grouping and subscriptions. You can also find many additional resources on the psalms on blueletterbible.org.

The people of God have rejoiced and lamented throughout history together by singing the psalms – they have been sung joyfully in weddings and prayed tearfully in battlefields they have been a key part of the life of faith of many great men and women throughout history. They have been a comfort and strength to people of every generation. Jesus and the early Christians sang and prayed the psalms. Quote: These prayers which became his prayers, continue to be the prayers also of those who take up their cross and follow him, and of those who suffer at the hands of the wicked.” These songs permeate the hearts and minds of believers - in a way that only music can do. We may not have their original melodies, the thing we desire is to be in harmony with the messages they carry – to be in tune with the Lord in our prayers, worship, in our thoughts of Him, in our conversations with others - to follow the beat of heart as we walk closely with Him. For truly He is God most High but He is also Emmanuel, God with us. I encourage you to read them out loud, and for those of you who are musical to sing them. Enjoy their beauty - as they are poetic and lyrical – filled with poetic language and vivid imagery to unveil truths about God. Hebrew poets do not rely on rhyme or rhythm for their power, they use a variety of poetic techniques called parallelism -matching and echoing thoughts, so in translating the psalms into diff languages, their beauty and power is not lost.

II. Lets begin now with Psalm 1 “the Psalm of Psalms” “The Psalm of 2 paths” and the “Christians handbook to the whole of the Bible and a perfect introduction to the teachings in the psalms .

Ps. 1:1 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.

4 The ungodly are not so But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Matthew Henry “T his is a psalm of instruction concerning good and evil, setting before us life and death, the blessing and the curse, that we may take the right way which leads to happiness and avoid that which will certainly end in our misery and ruin.”

Blessed is the man: Oh the blessednesses” (is the actual translation) the spiritual happiness and the favor of God, for the man or woman that choose to walk God’s way! (^Ashrey, Heb.) a plural, describing the fullness ofhappiness with a deep sense of well being contentedness. God loves to bless His people. Blessedness is woven into the fabric of the psalms, and throughout scripture we see that God above who is a blessing God! (do a word study on this word), I know you will be blessed!

Ps. 1, like a signpost stands at a crossroad and points mankind to the path of God’s blessings –It is no coincidence that Jesus did this same thing as He began to teach His sermon on the Mount in Matt. 5:3-11. He begins with this same word, “Blessed” – (in it’s Greek form in the NT) and he uses this same form of Hebrew parallelism – points His listeners to the narrow road – to the blessed way – God’s way! Matt. 5:3-11

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Ps. 144:15 “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord”.

Happy are we to have the scriptures to tell us the way to go and to warn us of the way not to go… We are so blessed!

Ps. 1:1 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

1. God cares deeply about what we think about, what we take in, whom we associate with, and our life decisions. He wants us to listen to His Word as it teaches us and guides us in His ways. I think you would agree with me that what we think is so important! we don’t need ungodly counsel or advice in our lives, nor do we need to hang around with people who pull us away from God, who influence us to compromise or to sin, nor to settle in with people who ridicule faith in Christ, take the name of the Lord in vain or make tasteless jokes about things that are holy to God. We do not need to fit in with or be accepted the “in crowd” of our times A wise woman knows that it’s not the big compromise that poses the biggest threat – it is all of the little subtle ones. Temptations that lead us to be weak and ineffective may come through well-meaning sources – but if the counsel is not Biblical and we are weak, we are in trouble. You and I well know the pressure today to conform to this world – it’s messages and agendas are opposed to God and to His truth in His word. When we need help, He is our “Wonderful Counselor” – and the counsel we seek should be Biblical.

  • Proverbs 8:34 Blessed is the man who listens to me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at the posts of my doors.
  • Prov. 3:13 Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding;
  • Ro. 12:1-2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed – how do we do that practically? He gives us His Word to teach us how to live and walk so that God’s blessings will be upon us.

I think about Eve in who listened to the snake in the garden – a master deceiver, and we will battle against his lies until the day we go be with the Lord. We deal with lies about God, Lies about ourselves, …Lies that could lead us to make poor choices, which hurt ourselves and those we, love. Women are hurting from the lies they believe – maybe you are too – Lies like God can’t forgive me, or I am not worth anything or if I just had this or that I would be happy. Paul had this Psalm 1 concern for the early churches as he wrote in his letters:

Paul: 2 Cor. 11:2-3 “ 2 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” The truth is that God is good, God loves you, God is enough, God can be trusted, His plans are good, and His grace is sufficient and we are to listen to the Truth. And we stand in the truth - we do not:

2. stand in the path of sinners We know we do not belong on that path – and should be careful to avoid it. A prudent man sees evil afar off and avoids it – says proverbs. “He who walks with the wise grows wise but a companion of fools suffers harm.” We live in a very sinful world, where moral and spiritual decline happens by degrees - the initial steps seem almost harmless, but they lead to entrapment in sin. Eph 4:23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

3. thirdly - Nor sits in the seat of the scornful: Where God is mocked and the truths that can save a soul are ridiculed – it is a seriously dangerous place to be spiritually – and a person arrives there progressively. We have something infinitely better to draw us away from there.

Vs. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
a. Don't you love to be around people who meditate on and delight in the law of the Lord? They are refreshing, having been refreshed themselves, by the living water of God’s word. That is why I love our morning devotions – you are those people in my life. From our devotions together there is an overflow of blessing. Delight is a response of the heart to the beauty and value of something or someone—in this case, to God’s Word. Which brings to mind Ps. 37:4 Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

b. And in His law he meditates day and night – at all times. Meditation is internalizing – it involves careful sustained thought—it takes work and involves the will. This is very different from eastern forms of meditation which tells people to empty their mind – this means to fill our mind with it’s wisdom, to think about it all the time, absorb all we can and ponder it all day and night – and this word means to mutter it to ourselves, letting it move from our minds to our hearts and into our actions. Meditation is to the spirit what digestion is to the body. When we meditate on the truth of the Word, we allow the Spirit of God within us to "digest" it for us so that it nourishes us to wards godly living. Paul tells us:

Phil 4:8-9 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever thingsare noble, whatever things are just, whatever thingsare pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever thingsare of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things, which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. It helps to set a consistent time, place, and plan. Try reading out loud (which is implied in the Hebrew word) if your mind wanders, Read prayerfully with a pen and your prayer journal in hand. Talk about what you read with each other. Luke 11:28…blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Moving from a place of duty to delight is our goal - to delight in the Lord and in His Word, which teaches us all about how to be blessed

VS3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.

a. A tree grows upward and reaches heavenward - needs fresh air, sunlight, water and good soil to grow .

John 15:1 Jesus said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” He is the gardener caring for us who have been -“planted” by the Lord to the glory of God. Planted – a word implying re-planting – from the soil of this world into the Lord. ( Isaiah 61 …That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified

He plants us by a continual source of living water so that its roots can reach towards and sink in the water to sustain its life. So it becomes a blessing to God and to others, as trees gives shade, life and oxygen to breathe, a cool place to rest, and in season, fruit for the gardener and others to enjoy – the fruit of the spirit – love, joy , peace, patience… in it’s season!

Jeremiah 17:7-8 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord , And whose hope is the Lord.
8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

b. Our root system is our meditation system in the word. It is a picture of the time we spend alone with God in private worship and prayer. May our roots would go deep in the love of God, for where our roots go down, the fruit will come upbringing forth its fruit in its season – a picture of prosperity because our actions and choices are guided by God’s word. Because of it’s roots it gains stability and strength, and can withstand the buffeting and storms, which come against it. The leaf does not wither even in the dry hot winds, because the source of life is the water. The believer who abides in Christ stays fresh, green and fruitful”

4 The ungodly are not so But are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Chaff is the husk of the wheat, which at the harvest-time when winnowed blows away in the wind. It has no life in it, no worth to anyone, no weight or value -it blows it away and it is gone. The point here is in the contrast to the strong living tree.

5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous” a. The Hebrew word “Rasha”, translated “wicked” or ungodly – refers to those not in covenant relationship with God – who live according to their own passions – this can be criminal and evil people, but the term also includes people all around us who are oriented around the world’s values instead of Gods and who reject us and the gospel when we reach out to offer it to them.

Psalm 10:4 “ In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”

No room for the things of God in his thoughts – pride is one of the oldest strongest sins – and still keeps people from the saving work of God in Christ. God is the sovereign ruler of all creation and all are under his good and gracious rule. To be a human being in the world is to be responsible to him. To proudly deny that fact is considered to be wickedness.

Jeremiah 6:16-17 “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it. 17 Also, I set watchmen over you, saying,‘ Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’

b. God wants the lost to be saved:

  • Luke 19:10 “ For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."
  • 1 Tim 2:4-6 … God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,
  • 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord … is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Ps. 1: 6 For the Lord watches over (is always knowing in the present tense) the path of the godly but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. What a great promise, comfort to us.

a. The way, or the path, is the manner of life, including what directs it and what it produces… How comforting that as we go about our lives – the Lord knows everything about where we are what is going on and the way we are taking. God knows we will have trials, problems and pressures in our lives, but He leads us and is with us as we go

  • Psalm 37: 23-24 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand.
  • Job 23:10 “But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”

b. At least four times in the Book of Acts Christianity is calledthe Way. Certainly, it is theway of the righteous, not the way of the ungodly. When we feel unsure of the way we should take, rather than being overwhelmed, we can trust in knowing THE WAY (as in the way, the truth and the life). Jesus is always the answer. We see in this psalm the way the truth and the life – Jesus the perfect man, The righteous man, Jesus of Nazareth, the sinner’s savior. He stands at the portal of this book to show us the way into living, and we are in Him to live it out. It stands like a signpost at the fork in the road to call everyone to look up and consider Gods Amazing Grace to examine their hearts and decide whom they will spend their life serving and pleasing. Jesus used a similar picture in Matthew 7:13-14 where he counseled his listeners: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. .

The choice is the same today, as God does not change with the times. 1.The path of Blessedness - the “narrow” way of The Word honoring the Sovereign rule of God or 2. The “broad” path of wickedness the way of the world that will not submit to God’s rule – one way points towards blessing and the other to judgment. By God’s grace in Christ, we must choose one of the two – no door #3.

In this confusing world, we live in Psalm 1 lays things out so clearly. It shows us the way to be happy and blessed, by soaking up the word of God and letting it transform us and lead us into living a life God can bless.

“In all I think and say and do, I long, O God, to honor You; But may my highest motive be To love the Christ who died for me .”

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