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The readings are designed to provide a three-year cycle corresponding broadly to the years of Matthew, Mark and Luke in the Revised Common Lectionary. The sequence of readings in each series follows a broad pattern of creation, alienation, passion and new creation. The readings also give special attention to the story of Earth, which complements the story of God and the story of humanity in the Scriptures.

Year 1. Series A: The Spirit Series year of Matthew This series concentrates on those texts where the Spirit is breathing life into creation, suffering with creation and renewing all creation. Year 2. Series B: The Word Series year of Mark The second series focuses on those texts where the Word is the impulse that summons forth creation, evokes praise from creation and stirs life in creation. In his debate with the Pharisees He cited Psalm Matt. The Savior also uttered the beginning words of Psalm 22 from the cross Matt. In their preaching and writing, the apostles often quoted from the Psalms as biblical proof of the fact that Jesus was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.

Peter quoted Psalm as proof that Jesus must be raised from the dead Acts Acts Any book so prominent in the minds of the New Testament writers should also be important to us. From 1 Corinthians , Ephesians and Colossians we can safely infer that the singing of the Psalms was a vital part of the corporate worship experience of the church. Not only did the church continue to sing the Psalms, the early fathers often chose to write commentaries on the Book of Psalms. Among these fathers were Chrysostom and Augustine. In the Anglican church the Psalms are repeated once a month.

The Psalms have provided inspiration for many hymnists. There are several reasons why the Psalms have meant so much to the saints over the years. Let us take a few moments to consider these in order to stimulate our own desire to study the Psalms. We cannot read very far in the Psalms without drawing the conclusion that the psalmist seems to have been reading our mail. How is it that after centuries have passed we find a man who lived in a different time and culture expressing our innermost feelings, fears, and hopes?

The answer, of course, is that we are reading the Scriptures, divinely inspired, infallible and inerrant, so as to be a word from God to us cf. Recognizing this, it was Luther who centuries ago said,. The Psalter is the favorite book of all the saints. In the Psalms the history of Israel is not only condensed e. Bernhard Anderson suggests another reason why the Psalms speak to us.

Christians today live under similar circumstances. Our Lord expressed His grief at being separated from His Father on the cross by repeating the words of Psalm We know from Romans that the Spirit of God speaks those things for us which are unutterable. Is it not possible that some of our unutterable feelings and desires may have been spoken by the psalmists under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?

I find that the psalmist has often put his finger on a problem I have grappled with and penned what I have not been able to put into words. Consequently, the Psalms not only speak to us, but for us. We can therefore sometimes pray in the words of the Psalms more effectively than in our own words. Frankly, I always felt that these were of little, if any, value.

If there is any time when men have turned to the Book of Psalms it is in their hour of deep despair and adversity. No wonder the church fathers of the early centuries turned to the Psalms. And the Reformers did likewise. In the preface to his book, Bernhard Anderson reminds his readers that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazi regime, was a man deeply influenced by the Psalms. I know them and love them more than any other book in the Bible. It was another Russian prison camp in the same war which produced yet another student of the Psalms.

During his confinement he turned his attention to the Psalms and his writings 20 have benefited many students of these precious Scriptures. This, incidentally, explains much of the reason why the Psalms are so neglected in preaching and worship in most American congregations. The truth is that we have had it too easy. We, like the Laodicean church of the Book of Revelation, have found Christianity comfortable and we have become complacent.

It is when we are suffering and God seems strangely absent that our attention turns to this precious book. I pray that it will not take tragedy and trouble to motivate our study. I might also add that it is noteworthy that virtually every Psalm which is attributed to David is a Psalm of lament. Most, if not all, of the Psalms of David were written in the days when he was fleeing from Saul, not when he was sitting on the throne of the nation. Jonah Much of the value of the Psalms is that they speak to and for us.

I believe this helps explain why Paul instructed the churches of the New Testament times regarding the sharing of psalms 1 Cor. If I understand the Psalms correctly they provide the saints with a pattern for participation in worship, as well as with a prayer book the Old Testament psalms, which are read or repeated. In fact, the psalms of the Bible are not even confined to the Book of Psalms. The worship of individuals and of congregations often employed psalms. Deborah composed a song of praise after God rescued His people Jud.

Hannah sang a psalm of praise to God for the gift of her son, Samuel 1 Sam. Not all the psalms of the Old Testament were psalms of praise and thanksgiving. Many were psalms of lament. There are psalms of lament in the Book of Job e. The books of Jeremiah e. This leads me to the conclusion that the Psalms provide us not only with a passage to ponder and to pray, but also with a pattern for our prayer and worship.

The number of moods which are expressed here, joy and suffering, hope and care, make it possible for every Christian to find himself in it, and to pray with the psalms. My friend, if God were enthroned upon your praises, how glorious would that throne be? If God were to be seen enthroned upon the praises of our church, how glorious would He appear to men?

I am coming to the conclusion that not only is worship more important than evangelism, fellowship, edification, discipleship or church planting, but it is really the means to these things. Acts , rather than around the coffee table or the television set. Evangelism is the outworking and the effect of worship. The most convincing witness men will ever observe is the worship of the saints. It is my hope that you will acknowledge that worship is a dimension in your life which is of the highest priority and much in need of improvement.

I pray that you will see that the Book of Psalms can do much to improve your worship as you study it and make it a part of your devotional life. I sincerely desire that this message will help you to have a sense of history as you hold the Bible and especially the Book of Psalms in your hands. The Psalms which you have before you greatly influenced the thinking of the apostles and the worship of the early church.

The Psalms have been found worthy of the study and devotion of the greatest men of the centuries, and have brought comfort to those who have suffered for their faith. Any book so revered and read for centuries is worthy of your study. Because of this, I challenge you to make a serious commitment as we begin our study of the Psalms. I do not urge you to make it casually or quickly. I encourage you to ponder it, for it is a vow, and vows should not be taken lightly cf.

But after due deliberation, if worship is as important as the Bible says it is then I would urge you to make a commitment before God to faithfully study the Psalms for your own personal growth as a child of God. If I have urged you to be wise through our previous study of the Book of Proverbs, I now exhort you to be like David, a man or woman after the heart of God. Such a course is not easy but, as our study of Psalm 1 and Psalm will indicate, it is clear.

If you have never become a child of God through faith in Christ, I urge you to acknowledge your sin, to trust fully and finally in the work of Christ on the cross of Calvary and to thus be born again. You cannot worship God except through the Lord Jesus Christ:. You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

God is spirit; and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. God only accepts worship through the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. If you would worship God, it must be through Christ. Those who will not fall before our Lord in faith and adoration now must ultimately do so as His conquered enemies:. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father Phil.

Solomon was, as we know, given more wisdom than any man who had ever lived 1 Kings If Solomon was known for his wisdom, some of which is recorded in the Book of Proverbs, David was known for his heart for God 1 Sam. It was, in fact, the whole-heartedness of David in seeking and serving God which distinguished him above his son Solomon 1 Kings Wilson, Ancient Near Eastern Texts , pp. Kirkpatrick claims there are 93 such quotations; Delitzsch, The difference in number is obviously due to the fact that it is difficult to determine whether certain statements or phrases merit the designation of a quotation.

Compare in A. Jonah with Ps. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, , p. Anderson, Out of the Depths , pp. Jim Dunham, from the Flying W Ranch, tells a story which illustrates the need for this lesson. Jim is a Christian gunslinger and fast-draw artist who has taught many western movie stars to handle a gun.

When he got married he decided to teach his wife to handle a gun. To his delight she became amazingly accurate. One day he took her deer hunting. He positioned her in a good spot, told her he would be nearby, and instructed her to shoot her rifle twice into the air if she got into any trouble. Assuming she had either shot a deer or gotten into trouble and forgotten to fire a second shot, Jim went to look for her.

When he came upon her, she was holding a man at gun point. It is important for a deer hunter not only to be able to shoot straight but to know the difference between a deer and a horse. It is also crucial for a student of the Scriptures to know the difference between poetry and prose. When we read in the early chapters of Genesis that God created Adam and Eve, we read it as history, and we believe this man and woman to be historical persons, just as the New Testament indicates our Lord and the apostles did cf. However, when we read in the Psalms that David made his bed swim and he dissolved his couch with his tears Ps.

When we read in Psalms that the rivers clap their hands and the mountains sing for joy Ps. In Reflections on the Psalms , C. Lewis emphasized the importance of studying the Psalms as poetry, with its unique forms and characteristics. He wrote:. What must be said … is that the Psalms are poems, and poems intended to be sung: not doctrinal treatises, nor even sermons. They must be read as poems if they are to be understood; no less than French must be read as French or English as English.

Otherwise we shall miss what is in them and think we see what is not. This is not only true with biblical literature; it is true of all literature. Every literary work must be interpreted in view of its literary form. The Old Testament Psalms are not just poetry; they are Hebrew poetry. It has a unique style and structure of its own, very different from the poetry of our time. While there are various types of Psalms in the Psalter and great diversity among the Psalms, all have several characteristics in common.

The purpose of this message is to consider these common characteristics in order to prepare us for a more detailed study of particular Psalms in future lessons. Poetry is not particularly popular these days.

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Consequently, for many of us the fact that the Psalms are poems may be something we need to overcome, rather than an incentive to study. How many of you, for example, have penned or pondered a poem in the last month? As a college student I had a literature course in which I was supposed to read certain works of T. I found the particular selections that were assigned to be obnoxious and offensive. Naturally, when final exam time came the teacher would have the major essay question on Eliot.

Summer Psalm Sermon Series – Westminster Presbyterian Church

Until recently one would hardly have realized that the Psalms are poems. This is due in part to the fact that the translators of the King James Version of the Bible overlooked the poetic structure of the Psalms as well as other poetic portions of the Old Testament. If you have a copy of the King James Version handy, look for a moment at the Psalms. Do you see that the printing format is virtually identical to that of the Book of Genesis?

Who would have thought that he was reading poetry in Psalms from the form in which they were printed in this most revered version of the Bible? We should not be too hard on the translators of the KJV, however, for Hebrew poetry is much different than the poetry we know today. When I think of poetry I think of such lofty works as,. Mary had a little lamb, Its fleece was white as snow. And everywhere that Mary went, The lamb was sure to go. Ron Allen 25 reminds us of another work of art:. A flea and a fly in a flue Were imprisoned so what could they do? The poetry with which we are most familiar is based on rhyme and rhythm.

Hebrew poetry is very different—so different that the translators of the King James Version possibly did not recognize it as such. This relationship is most frequently referred to as parallelism, although stereo vision and stereo sound have been used as illustrative analogies.

Psalm 104:19 NIV

See Addendum at the end of this lesson for a summarization of the major types of parallelism. Since the Psalms are poetry, we should not approach them in the same way we would prose. We must expect figures of speech, for example, and interpret expressions in the Psalms in the light of their literary use. In Psalm 1 the godly are likened a simile to a tree planted by streams of water, while the wicked are described as chaff vv. In Psalm 23 the Lord is portrayed as a shepherd, caring for us as His sheep a metaphor. These poetic images and devices stimulate meditation and encourage the reader to probe the meaning of the passage.

At this point I do not wish to dwell on the details of Hebrew poetic style as much as I desire to describe the blessing the Psalms can be to us as poetry. In the first place, poetry is much more vivid, catching our attention and stimulating our thought. Enough is said to stimulate the imagination, but much is left for us to fill in. The excitement is often experienced by what the reader himself supplies, what he or she brings to the passage and takes from it.

Poetry is therefore a more intense form of communication. Poetry is a special use of language. It is powerful in its communicative ability. It is not just the style of poetry which makes it more meaningful to the reader; it is also the sacrifice which poetry demands of the author. Good poetry, like anything else of quality, does not come easily.

Any who have tried their hand at poetry know how true this is. Poetry should mean more to the reader, knowing that the writer has spent considerable effort in the expression of his thoughts. In recent years my father began writing a poem to each member of our family on their birthdays. Since the Psalms are poems addressed primarily to God, He, I believe, delights in the sacrifice involved in the composition and expression of our adoration and praise. The Hebrew psalm is especially significant because, in the providence of God, it is the most universal form of poetry. A word-for-word translation is virtually impossible, let alone to find words which would rhyme.

As Derek Kidner has observed:. It is the striking fact that this type of poetry loses less than perhaps any other in the process of translation. In many literatures the appeal of a poem lies chiefly in verbal felicities and associations, or in metrical subtleties, which tend to fail of their effect even in a related language. Above all, the fact that its parallelisms are those of sense rather than of sound allows it to reproduce its chief effects with very little loss of either force or beauty. If a Psalm is a poem, it is also a song. The Book of Psalms, while it is many things, is a hymnal.

The various titles of the Book of Psalms are one indication of the role of the book as a hymnal. The verb form of this Greek word originally referred to the plucking of strings with the fingers. In addition to the titles used for the Book of Psalms there are numerous musical terms in the book which indicate that the Psalms were written to be sung. These terms may be instructions to the various sections of the choir, such as the sopranos and the basses. We must, therefore, conclude with Bernhard Anderson that the Psalms are songs:.

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For the truth is that every psalm, whatever its literary type and whatever its relation to the cult, is actually a song which extols and glorifies God. The fact that the Psalms are songs should serve as proof of the important role which music has to play in our spiritual lives and particularly in our worship.

Music is a gift of God, not a gift of men. I personally believe that many of us in Protestant, evangelical churches have failed to grasp the significant contribution of music to our worship, something which is not only inconsistent with the Psalms, but which flies in the face both of the Old and New Testament Scriptures. It is obvious to anyone that while the words of the Psalms remain, the notes do not. The tunes are lost to us, but the lyrics are what God has preserved. Why has God preserved so many indications of the musical character of the Psalms if this has no relevance to us today?

And why have the saints down through the ages composed music by which the Psalms have been sung?

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You see, music is woven into the culture of our times. Have you ever listened to a foreign student playing a tape recording of his native music? Have you really enjoyed or appreciated it as much as he? Even in our own culture and within our own church there are cultural differences which are expressed by different musical preferences and tastes. I believe that God kept men from preserving the original musical notes of the Psalms because this would enable, indeed, it would cause, each culture down through the ages to compose its own music. In the composition of musical accompaniment to the Psalms, many have come to know them much more intimately than they would have, had the musical score been preserved.

The words have been given us, but the music is ours to compose. Each generation and each culture must come to the Psalms and compose afresh the musical forms which best facilitate worship and praise. If poetical form engages our creativity and meditation in the interpretation of the Psalms, the musical character of the Psalms yet without the notes excites and enhances our creativity in the expression of our worship through the Psalms as music. I am indebted to Ronald Allen for a very helpful three-fold distinction he has made in the Old Testament Scriptures, one which he warns us not to carry too far.

Some ring with the exuberant thrill of praise; others reverberate with the throes of human desperation. The heights and the depths of human life resound through its poetry. Some of the responses of the psalmists do not seem to be a model for us, even if they mirror our own inclinations and actions. Allen helps us see that while the Book of Psalms reflects the full range of responses man may have toward God in the light of his circumstances, not all of these are necessarily based on an accurate estimation of the situation, especially when the psalmist complains to God. We would be greatly mistaken if we regarded these statements as revelation in the strictest sense of that term.

For in these Psalms the initial complaint is proven to be wrong. These are expressions of how they—and we! These are real to them, and they may be real to us as well. God uses these expressions of doubt and despair to magnify His name as He leads the troubled believer to a new sense of confidence in His matchless character. While many maintain that they wish to worship God privately and in their own way, the Psalms were compiled primarily for use in public worship, not private. To use a modern illustration, one may take home a hymnal which also contains responsive readings to use in their private devotions, but the principal purpose of that hymnal is for corporate singing and responsive reading by the congregation.

The experience which prompted the composition of a Psalm may have been personal and private, but the Psalm was included in the Psalter for corporate praise and worship. Worship in the Psalms should always be meaningful to the individual, but it is assumed to be public in nature.

The Psalms of the Bible are not individualistic poems such as a modern person might compose to express his own thoughts and feelings. A psalmist, looking up at the starry skies, marvels that the God who holds the cosmos within his creative grasp actually visits and cares for man and, moreover, invests him with the noble responsibility of being his representative who exercises dominion over the earth Ps. Yet the individual finds himself in the community which God has called into being. All of the Hebrew terms for praise … have about them a public and vocal nature.

In contrast then, thanksgiving may be silent and private; praise is vocal and public. But both must be intense and genuine. Because praise in the Psalms is public and corporate, the author becomes almost anonymous:. As an individual he recedes into anonymity. Here is an area where many of us could use some instruction. Our intentions may be good when we stand to lead the congregation in worship, but all too often we find the spotlight shifting to us and our experience, and not on God and His goodness and grace.

We need to become much less conscious of ourselves, and even of others, and more conscious of God, who is the object and the audience of our worship. This indicates that the author of this verse who was likely the compiler of this book of the Psalms viewed the Psalms as prayers. When the author of each Psalm composed his work he did so as to God.

When the congregation of the Israelites sang, repeated, or prayed the Psalms, they did so to God, and, in the broadest sense, they prayed. If prayer is more than petition which it should be , then it is not difficult to see how the Psalms could be regarded as prayers. Westermann says of the Psalms:. They are prayers words directed to God in petition or praise , poetry poetically formulated language , and song they go beyond the mere speaking or even recital of a poem and become music. Some Christians make a habit of praying the Psalms as a part of their devotional life.

This was a common practice of the early Christians; it could be a beneficial spiritual exercise for all of us as well. Ron Allen surveys the various Hebrew words that refer to the activity of praise in the Old Testament. This is the wonder of praise. True praise elevates God, not the speaker. True praise magnifies God in the community, not just in the thoughts of the one speaking. Praise is constructive worship. It should be a part of everyday living.


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Praise is a matter of life and breath. As long as the believer has life and breath, praise is due from his lips to our incomparable God. Praise is not merely the predominant theme of the Psalms, it is the keynote of the Scriptures. In the introduction to his book, Old Testament Theology , L. But they are not lacking even in the oldest pages, and each act of praise is a confession of the ever-present sentence—that God is. As we conclude this message I would like to focus our attention on three critical areas of deficiency in our worship which the Book of Psalms challenges us to correct.

We tend to minimize our experience. We often fail to see God in our experience. When things are going well, we are inclined to believe that it is because of our diligence, skills, and superior intelligence. When things go badly, we feel it is because we have done something wrong. In either case, we do not see God in our everyday experiences. Accordingly, the faith of the psalmists does not rest upon glittering generalities about the nature of God or upon a numinous awareness of his majesty in the remote reaches of the universe; rather, it is founded upon the good news that God makes himself present in the midst of history to help his people.

No wonder some theologians of recent days have concluded that God is dead. For all practical purposes our worship or its absence would seem to betray our acknowledgment that He has passed from the scene of our history. The more I study the Psalms the more I recognize the skill and effort the psalmists put into expressing their worship. Today, our adoration of God is cheap and unbecoming. We use trite phrases, which require no thought and almost no effort to utter. Is the God of glory not due a great effort on our part? Our expressions of worship fall far short of the standard which is set before us in the Psalms.

If we can do no better, let us at least worship Him in the words of the Psalms.


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  8. But better still, let us compose our own hymns and music to glorify the Almighty God. What contribution is made by these two forms? May I suggest that both poetry and music touch the heart. Much of Christianity, in my opinion, has become so intellectualized that our emotions have all but been placed on the shelf. Perhaps we have arrived at this out of overreaction to the emotional excesses of some of our brethren, but what are we to say about the worship we witness in the Psalms?

    If we are to worship the Lord our God with our whole being, as the Scriptures command Deut. While those of us who are truly saved may find ourselves deficient in these three areas, others might find themselves virtually dead if their spiritual life was to be measured by their response to God in these terms. You may profess some kind of relationship with God, but do you find Him consistently active in the world and especially in your life? Then perhaps it is you, and not God, who is dead.

    Then again, you may say that you know God and serve Him, but in what ways have you expressed this? Do you regularly read His Word, the Bible? Do you pray in any words which come genuinely from your own heart, or do you merely rattle off the forms which you have learned. Do you really communicate with God or just recite words? If God were your spouse, would He be content with the quality of your communication? Finally, how has your profession of faith touched your heart? Does the presence of sin in the world cause you grief? Do you shed tears when you pray?

    What real emotion is conveyed in your religious activities? It is then that you will have a personal faith and worship God in spirit and truth cf. John Below I have summarized the major types of parallelism, following the description of Ron Allen:. Synonymous parallelism : the first line is echoed in the second, with only a slight change of terms:.

    Antithetical parallelism : the words of the first line are affirmed in the second, not by repetition, but by contrast:. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish Ps. Climactic parallelism : the second line refines, develops and completes the thought of the first:. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength Ps.

    Synthetic parallelism : the second line develops the thought of the first, but without quoting words from the first line as does climactic parallelism :. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker Ps. Emblematic parallelism : the first line introduces a figure of speech which is explained in the second:.

    As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God Ps. Formal relationship parallelism : the first and second lines have only a formal, structural relationship—more a relationship of proximity neighbors, so to speak , than of logic or sequence of thought:.

    O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent Ps. Anderson, The Book of Psalms , I, pp. Louis: Concordia, , vol. Allen, pp. For additional study of Hebrew parallelism, cf. Eerdmans, , I, pp. Never before in history has so much biblical scholarship been available to Christians. In days gone by and in some lands today , merely to possess a copy of the Bible in your native tongue was considered a rare privilege. Now we have more than a dozen translations and paraphrases at our fingertips.

    The Bible is even available on cassette and on computer as well! In spite of these marvelous aids to Bible study, I seriously doubt that the average Christian is much of a student of the Scriptures. It would seem that saints of earlier periods in the history of the church were better versed in Scripture than we are. A part of the reason may be that good preaching is so readily available, both on radio and television, on the printed page, and by means of audio and video recordings. More than anything else, however, I am convinced that the reason why you and I are such poor students of Scripture is that we are not convinced of the value of personal Bible study.

    This study should remove all doubt as to the value of personal Bible study. Since Psalm 1 the first Psalm of the Psalter and Psalm the longest both exhort the reader to become a student of Scripture, this must be a matter of high priority. What more appropriate way to begin a study of the Psalms than to consider the importance of such a study, not just from the pulpit, but from our personal time in the Word of God throughout the week. Having just completed a study in the Book of Proverbs, we can easily see that Psalm 1 is remarkably similar to Proverbs in form and content.

    This Psalm is not strictly a prayer, nor would it be quickly identified as worship. Yet, as an introduction to the Psalter, it addresses several areas which are prerequisites to worship and prayer. As introductory Psalms, both Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 are somewhat unique when compared to the others which make up Book I of the Psalms Pss. The structure of Psalm 1 is straightforward. The entire Psalm extols the blessedness of one who avoids the path of the wicked and walks in the way of wisdom and life. Verses describe the way of the righteous, first in negative terms v.

    In contrast, verses 4 and 5 describe the wicked, who are likened to chaff v. Verse 6 is a summary and conclusion, explaining the reason for the blessings of the righteous and the destruction of the wicked. Whatever he does prospers. The way of the righteous is depicted in verses , in terms of what it prohibits v. From the perspective of the righteous man these three verses describe his peril v.

    Let us consider each of these elements more carefully. The psalm begins by describing the way of the righteous in terms of three things which the godly will avoid. As I currently understand them, they build to a climax, showing a kind of backward progression, as the words walk, stand, and sit suggest. In other words, the godly will not adopt a humanistic world view which is the source of ungodly actions.

    Let me attempt to illustrate this. This point of view has become an intellectual and moral foundation for a great variety of moral evils. To mention but one, situation ethics holds that it is possible, in certain situations, for a man or woman to commit adultery and be right in so doing. In the first instance our attention is drawn to the principles by which wicked men live; in the second, we take note of the practices which stem from worldly principles.

    If we should not think the way the wicked do, neither should we act as they do. So the righteous is not to walk in the way of the wicked. Our lifestyle must not imitate that of the wicked. The Corinthian church was far from spiritually mature. When Paul sought to correct the evils in this church which had been reported to him , he first dealt with the errors in their thinking.

    The first three chapters of 1 Corinthians concern the vast difference between merely human wisdom and the wisdom of God. The Corinthians were guilty of worldly reasoning, rather than using godly wisdom. The wisdom of the apostles was the wisdom of God and totally different from worldly wisdom The wisdom of God can only be known through revelation and can only be understood through the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit From the belief of the Corinthians, Paul moved to their behavior. The subjects of marriage and divorce are dealt with in chapter 7.

    Then, in chapters 10 and 11, Paul comes to the topic of belonging. Some of the Corinthians had no qualms about joining a neighbor in a meal which involved idolatrous sacrifices and a kind of counterfeit communion. This kind of fellowship was forbidden 1 Cor. It is little wonder that in their own assembling chaps. This sequence is not only evident in 1 Corinthians and Psalm 1, but is demonstrable in the Scriptures and in the history of the church.

    Wrong thinking leads to wrong living and loose living ultimately hinders our worship, for we will ultimately seek our fellowship with fools, rather than with the congregation of the righteous, where genuine worship takes place. As we leave this first verse, it must be pointed out that blessing comes not only from what we do, but also from what we avoid. Prohibitions are not punishment, but a divine protection. Adam and Eve were given great liberty in the Garden of Eden, but they were forbidden to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

    We now know why. Walking in the way of the righteous necessitates forsaking the way of the wicked. While the essence of our faith is not negative, some of its expressions are, and for our own blessing. Praise God for what He prohibits, as well as for what He provides! We should also observe that while the first verse is largely negative, it is not entirely so. The blessings of God are due, in part, to the obedience of His children to His prohibitions. Having dealt with the prohibitions of verse 1, the psalmist comes to the provisions of God which replace and far outweigh the negatives previously described.

    In fact, verses 2 and 3 seem to allude to Joshua We are inclined to view the law as restrictive, petty, and confining. What we fail to recognize is that the law was not only the source of specific rules and regulations, but it was also intended to teach the Israelites principles which would govern their actions. The fundamental issue underlying the Sermon on the Mount was over the interpretation of the Old Testament law. For example, the scribes and Pharisees differed among themselves over the reasons for which a man could divorce his wife.

    This particular regulation was given to men to teach them the principle of remuneration. If the ox should not be muzzled so that he could benefit from the fruits of his labors, surely men who preach the Word of God should be provided for in their labor. Since these principles are somewhat below the surface of the passage and therefore not immediately evident, we must meditate on the law in order to derive them. The law does contain rules and regulations, commands and prohibitions, but, in addition, it is fuel for meditation.

    That is the way he would finally arrive at the principle which lay somewhat beneath the particular. Here is where real blessings are to be found in the Law of the Old Testament. There is a change in the tense of the verb in verse 2 which heightens the contrast between verses 1 and 2. O how happy is the person who has not shaped his conduct after the principles of the ungodly, Nor taken his stand in the way of sinners, Nor taken his seat in the assembly of scoffers!

    But it is in the law of the Lord that he takes his delight; And on His law he keeps pondering day and night. The impression which may be intended by this change of tense appears to be that the godly man has made a firm and final decision to avoid the principles, practices, and fellowship of the wicked.

    Verse 1 only briefly introduced the subject of the blessing of the righteous. In verse 3 we find a poetic description of the blessings which the righteous will experience. The prosperity which is promised the righteous is described by comparing the righteous man to a tree which is planted beside streams of water. The righteous man is described in verse 2 as one who delights in the law of God and constantly meditates on His Word. In verse 3 a tree is used to picture his dependence on the Word of God and the blessings which flow from it.

    The life of a tree is dependent on a continual supply of water. While I know very little about trees, I am told that they absorb hundreds of gallons of water from the ground and return it to the atmosphere through their leaves. The point is thus made that just as the life of the tree is dependent on a supply of water, the spiritual life of the saint is dependent on the abundant supply of the Word of God. As our Lord Himself said, quoting from the law Deut. While this is true, it is important that we understand the nature of the prosperity that is promised.

    I personally believe that the previous lines of the verse have described prosperity in terms of the image of the tree which is planted by the waters. While the last statement clarifies the previous imagery and specifically applies it to the righteous man who abides in the Word, we need to interpret prosperity in the light of the context. In short, we need to understand that the tree prospers as a tree. So too, the saint prospers as a saint. Let us therefore consider the prosperity which is promised in the light of the imagery of the tree.

    Some have spent their energies trying to determine just what kind of tree this is. In so doing I think they have missed the point entirely. In the first place and most important the text does not tell us what kind of tree. A peach tree prospers by growing to maturity and bearing peaches. A shade tree prospers by growing tall and strong and producing shade.

    A godly man who abides in the Word of God prospers by growing to maturity and becoming what God has intended him to be and producing the spiritual fruit He has ordained. Notice that the tree bears its fruit in its season. Just as water does not produce instantaneous growth or fruit in a tree, so the Word of God does not immediately bring us to maturity and fruitfulness. God has ordained that this is a process which takes time, indeed, a different time for each individual. I have several peach trees in my yard and none of them have fruit which matures at the same time. So too, each Christian has his own timetable for growth and productivity.

    Let us not expect to prosper in some spectacular way which avoids the normal processes and the passing of time. The measure of my prosperity is not necessarily determined by what I am doing at this very moment although my present status is important. Prosperity is seen in another way in trees. A tree prospers by surviving adverse conditions. The same wind which drives away the chaff does not topple the tree whose roots are sunk deeply into the soil to obtain water. And when dry spells come it is the tree whose root system is too shallow that is subject to drought.

    Its leaves wither and fall to the ground. This is not so with the tree that has an abundance of water. Adversity and testing cannot destroy the tree or its productivity. So with the saint, if we are deeply rooted in the Word of God, adversity may well come our way, but it need not hinder our growth or ministry. Do you see now how it is that the psalmist says the saint will prosper if he abides in the Word of God and avoids the way of the wicked?

    The prosperity is not so much material as it is spiritual. We prosper by growing in grace, coming to maturity, and bearing fruit. Material prosperity is not the principle focus of this text. Notice one other interesting thing as we leave verse 3: The fruit which the tree bears is not the same as the water which produced it. The water is transformed in and by the tree into another, even more delightful, form.

    If trees were like us instead of us being like trees, the trees would not have fruit—they would have faucets! A faucet on a tree might make water available to men, but it would not have changed it from the way it was received. Such a tree would simply be a kind of leafy pipe. While it is true the Word of God should transform us cf. Too many of us are simply containers of the truth. When we see a brother or sister in need of help we quote Scripture verses to them. We put out Scripture in exactly the same form that we take it in.

    That is not what trees do. They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Verses 4 and 5 contrast the blessedness of the righteous against the backdrop of the peril of the wicked. Trees and chaff differ in several significant ways. First, the tree is different from chaff in its nature, for the tree has life.

    The reason why water benefits trees is because trees are alive. You can water chaff day and night, and it will not grow. It cannot grow because it has no life. Just so, the Word of God has hardly any beneficial effect on the wicked, for they have rejected not only the Word, but the God who revealed it. The only thing water does to chaff is make it wet. Second, chaff differs from trees in its value.

    Trees are of great value. My parents own some property which has beautiful fir trees on it. The value of that property takes into account the value of the trees it contains. This is even more so in a land which has a scarcity of trees—a land such as Israel. I have read that the verbal contract between a buyer and seller of land in the Ancient Near East included an enumeration of the trees, which adds interest to our reading of Genesis Because trees serve to break the force of the wind, offer us shade, cooler temperatures and fruit, we value them. Chaff, on the other hand, is considered a nuisance.

    It is the waste or residue remaining from the harvesting and winnowing of grain. Our only concern is to get rid of it. When grain was winnowed it was often done on a hilltop so the wind could blow the chaff away. This is the picture which is drawn in verse 4. Third, chaff differs as to its destiny. A friend told me this week that in some places in Texas the chaff of rice is used to fire furnaces which then produce electricity.

    What a frighteningly accurate picture of the fate of the wicked! Verse 5 further explains the future of the wicked, clarifying the allusion to the judgment of the wicked in verse 4. While this text leaves room for this more complete understanding of ultimate judgment, I doubt that the Old Testament saint had a very complete grasp of it, just as his knowledge of heaven was limited.

    What, then, did the Old Testament saint understand this to mean? Primarily, I would suggest, he would have understood this statement in the light of his previous experience and in the light of the last half of verse 5, which serves to explain the fate of the wicked more clearly. From the picture of the chaff as contrasted with the tree the judgment of the wicked involves removal. The wind blows it away v. In the Old Testament we are supplied with abundant examples of divine judgment where God removed sinners from the congregation of the Israelites—examples with which the ancient Israelites who read the Psalms were very familiar.

    In Numbers 16 we read of the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who rebelled against the leadership of Moses. The Lord then caused the ground to open up and to swallow Korah, Dathan and Abiram alive, along with their families. I believe it is safe to conclude from this and other instances of judgment in the Old Testament that the Israelites understood divine judgment to involve a removal from the congregation, which excluded an individual both from fellowship and from worship. Even ceremonial uncleanness brought about separation.

    The point was clearly made by this that sin results in separation from the congregation. The same principle abides in the New Testament. Sin in the life of the saint which was willfully maintained, even after a rebuke, was to bring about discipline. Sin is judged by a separation from the congregation. This is even true of an unbeliever, whose eternal punishment is to be banned from the presence of God 2 Thes. The psalm concludes with an explanation for the different destinies of the righteous and the wicked.

    Verses have described some of the critical differences between the righteous and the wicked. Verse 6 explains why the fate of the two differs. Did you notice something unusual about the statement in verse 6? It does not say that the Lord watches over 72 the righteous and punishes the wicked. I believe the answer is simple, yet profound in its implications. Men are blessed or condemned on the basis of only one decision—the way in which they have chosen to walk. There are only two ways from which to choose and every person is in one way or the other.

    The judgment some will receive is the result of their decision to walk in the way of the wicked. The blessings others will obtain are the result of their decision to walk in the way of righteousness. While some of the particular signs along these two ways have changed, the same two ways exist today, along with the same two destinies. Men choose to remain in the way of the wicked by rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death.

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. God does not show favorites. He blesses some and condemns others on the basis of the way in which they have chosen to walk. Would you desire the blessing of God in your life, my friend? Then you must walk in His way. Psalm 1 tells us that the way of blessing is the way of righteousness, which involves negatively the avoidance of worldly wisdom, worldly actions, and worldly fellowship not contact, but intimacy and worship , and positively entails the pursuit of intimacy with God through His Word.

    This psalm informs us of the promise which every other psalm in the Psalter assumes: God is the rewarder of those who trust and obey Him. The imprecatory psalms which urge God to judge the wicked simply request that God act consistently with what Psalm 1 assures us will happen to the wicked. The psalms of lament express the bewilderment of the righteous at the delay of God in bringing the blessings which Psalm 1 assures us will come to the righteous.

    While this psalm expresses the underlying assumption of all the psalms, it is no new revelation. The blessings and cursings spelled out so graphically in Deuteronomy 27 and 28 are now summarized in these words of Moses:. This day I call heaven and earth as witness against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob Deut.

    As we have seen, the message of Psalm 1 is not a new one. We will also discover that it is one frequently found in both the Old and New Testaments. Let me merely mention several passages for you to consider in connection with your study of Psalm 1. In Jeremiah the words of the prophet very clearly reflect a familiarity with Psalm 1.

    I would encourage you to study this passage in Jeremiah in its context, to see how it enhances your understanding of the message of the psalm and its application to daily life. How did the interpretation which the scribes and Pharisees gave the Old Testament law keep it from being a blessing to men? How did Jesus differ in His interpretation and application of the Old Testament law? What should this do for your own understanding of the Old Testament?

    Finally, consider John as a commentary on Psalm 1. How is the tree of Psalm 1 like the branch of John 15? In what are we to abide in both passages? How are we to abide? Consider the two areas of human responsibility and divine sovereignty. How does each passage contribute to your understanding of the other? There are various indications that this first psalm has been placed at the beginning of the Psalter to serve as an introduction. Kidner writes:. It seems likely that this psalm was specially composed as an introduction to the whole Psalter. I believe Kidner has summed up the contribution as well as can be done.

    Psalm 1 summarizes the essence of the law, which puts before men the choice of following God through obedience to His Word and receiving His blessings, or rejecting Him and His Word and facing His judgment. The psalm, while not what might be thought of as worship, certainly tells us the kind of person who is qualified to worship. While the other psalms provide us with the material for worship, this psalm describes for us the one who is able to worship. Worship, then, is not just a matter of what we say and do, but of what kind of person we are. The wicked will not be in the congregation of the righteous, which is the very place where the psalms were used for corporate worship.

    While the Samaritan woman of John 4 believed in worship, she was uninformed about the proper way to worship. The issue, ultimately, was not one of place, but of person. It was not until she had come to accept the Lord Jesus as the promised Messiah that she could worship in spirit and in truth.

    What better note on which to begin our study of the Psalms than that which has been struck by Psalm 1.