The entire collection of Psalms is entitled "Praises" in the Hebrew text. The Greek translation of the OT, labeled it "Psalms". The Greek verb from which the noun "psalms" comes basically denotes the "plucking or twanging of strings," so that an association with musical accompaniment is implied.
There are 116 psalms that have superscriptions or "titles." The Hebrew text includes these titles with the verses themselves. These titles convey various kinds of information such as authorship, dedication, historical occasion, liturgical assignment to a worship director, liturgical instructions (e.g., what kind of song it is, whether it is to have a musical accompaniment, and what tune to use), plus other technical instructions of uncertain meaning due to their great antiquity.
Authorship and Date
From the divine perspective, the Psalter points to God as its author. Approaching authorship from the human side one can identify a collection of more than 7 composers. King David wrote at least 75 of the 150 psalms; the sons of Korah accounted for 10; and Asaph contributed 12. Other penmen included Solomon, Moses, Heman, and Ethan. The remaining 48 psalms remain anonymous in their authorship, although Ezra is thought to be the author of some. The time range of the Psalms extends from Moses, ca. 1410 B.C., to the late sixth or early fifth century B.C., which spans about 900 years of Jewish history.
The backdrop for the Psalms is twofold: 1) the acts of God in creation and history, and 2) the history of Israel. The collected psalms comprise the largest book in the Bible and the most frequently quoted OT book in the NT. Psalm 119 is the largest chapter in the entire Bible.
The basic theme of Psalms is living real life in the real world, where two dimensions operate simultaneously: 1) a horizontal or temporal reality, and 2) a vertical or transcendent reality.
It is helpful to recognize certain recurring genres or literary types in the Psalter. Some of the most obvious are: 1) the wisdom type with instructions for right living; 2) lamentation patterns which deal with the pangs of life (usually arising from enemies without); 3) penitential psalms (mostly dealing with the "enemy" within, i.e., sin); 4) kingship emphases; and 5) thanksgiving psalms.
On a larger scale, some psalms in their development from the first to the last verse employ an acrostic or alphabetical arrangement. In these, the Hebrew text, the first letter of the first word of every verse begins with a different Hebrew consonant, which advances in alphabetical order until the 22 consonants are exhausted. Such a literary vehicle undoubtedly aided in the memorization of the content and served to indicate that its particular subject matter had been covered from "A to Z." Psalm 119 stands out as the most complete example of this device, since the first letter of each of its 22, 8-verse stanzas moves completely through the Hebrew alphabet.
Read Psalm 1
Psalm 1 is a wisdom Psalm.
or stand in the pathway with sinners,
or sit in the assembly of arrogant fools!
I. The Godly Life
The Psalm begins by describing three things that the godly will avoid. These build to a climax, showing a kind of backward progression, as the words walk, stand, and sit suggest. It also contrasts two ways of life - two choices that determine their destiny.
Happy is the one
A deep-rooted, contented happiness. Not just a feeling, but a state of being.
Does not follow the advice of the wicked.
The Hebrew `estah can mean specific advice, but here seems to refer to the principles which determine one's actions. If this is the case, the godly will not only reject the advice of the wicked, but they will also avoid the principles which lead to such conclusions. The godly should not adopt a secular worldview, which is the source of ungodly actions.
The World's value system:
Look out for number 1
You deserve a break today
Good guys finish last
You only live once
He who dies with the most toys wins.
Have it your way!
Sin is a slippery slope. If we casually stroll with the ideals and values of the ungodly, it won't take long to infect us.
...or stand in the pathway with sinners
Their whole "way" is corrupt. The "way" or "pathway" is a common metaphor for "manner of life." Council can quickly become a lifestyle. If we are not to think as the wicked do, neither should we act as they do. Our lifestyles should not imitate that of the wicked. Too often the church and the world appear identical.
If we think like one, and act like one, we will become one:
...or sit in the assembly of arrogant fools.
The Hebrew word refers to arrogant individuals who love conflict and reject wisdom and correction. To "sit in the assembly" of such people means to completely identify with them in their proud, sinful plans and behavior. They are unteachable, obstinate.
The Corinthians fell into this trap. They were guilty of secular reasoning, rather than godly reasoning. Paul first addressed their THINKING, then their behavior.
The Cross: a stumbling block and foolishness.
To the Jews – How can a god, messiah and king die?
To the Gentiles – How can you worship a convicted criminal who was subject to Rome?
The world system doesn't understand the things of god. We shouldn't walk in their council, stand in their ways, or plan with the wicked. A casual stroll with sin or a secular worldview will only tempt us into standing. If we stand long enough, we will find ourselves seated in their assembly.
How then, do we live?
What the righteous avoids from the wicked, they acquire from the Word of God.
Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the Lord's commands; he intently studies his commands day and night.
The "law" is not to be limited to the Five Books of Moses or even to the OT as a whole. The Hebrew word torah ("law") signifies primarily instruction that comes from God.
In the wisdom literature the way of torah signifies the adherence to, as well as the enjoyment and application of, God's will to everyday life. We delight in doing God's will on earth. We don't follow a bunch of restrictive rules of what you can or cannot do, but rather we walk with God and follow his commands because he knows what is best for us.
The godly man "meditates" in the law of God day and night. The verb is used, for example, "of a young lion growling over his prey" in Isaiah 31:4, and to remember and "muse on." Since the Bible was generally not available to God's people, they memorized and "pondered" the word.
We have allowed a New Age definition of Mediation to prevent us from discussing the biblical definition. It is not an emptying of the mind, but rather a filling of the mind.
The verb actually means "to recite quietly; to meditate" and is synonymous to intense study and reflection.
Meditation is not the setting apart of a special time for personal devotions, whether morning or evening, but it is the reflection on the Word of God in the course of daily activities.
SCRIPTURE ALONE IS OUR RULE FOR ALL FAITH AND PRACTICE.
Our council comes from God's complete revelation of himself and his will – The Bible. When faced with issues of our culture we must respond biblically.
Never before has there been so much biblical scholarship available to Christians. In days past, merely to possess a copy of the Bible in your native tongue was a rare privilege. We now have dozens of translations and paraphrases at our fingertips. Interlinear Bibles place them side by side for our convenience! The Bible and tools are available on the computer and Internet. Even PDA versions exist.
Books that were once only available to scholars and seminary students are on the shelves of local bookstores. The same tools on the bookshelves of the greatest scholars in the world are available to everyone today. I have found several on the bookshelves of Barnes and Noble.
In spite of this great availability, studies show the average believer isn't much of a student of the Scriptures. Surprisingly the saints of earlier periods were better versed than we are. Perhaps some of this stems from the widespread availability of teaching and preaching and teaching through books, radio, and churches. More than anything else, however, I am convinced the reason why we are such poor students is because we are not convinced of the value of personal study. Some are not even convinced of the value of corporate study.
Instead, fluff books that provide unbiblical, fictional views of End Time Events and tiny books proclaiming hidden, obscure and out-of-context mantras for guaranteed blessing climb to the top of the bestseller lists.
But Psalm 1 tells us what truly will bring blessing to our lives: intense study and reflection of God's Word. No shortcuts. No five steps to a blessed life. Work. Intense Study and the personal incorporation of his word into our daily lives will bring happiness, contentment, true blessing. We cannot recall what we do not know. Study and application is key.
What blessings will we experience, then?
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
The happiness of the godly is likened to a tree. The tree is a familiar metaphor for the blessed life of the godly. Unlike trees growing wild or planted in the fields, where the amount of rainfall varies, the tree the psalmist envisions has been planted purposely by irrigation canals, artificial water-channels made for the purpose of irrigation.
The tree is dependent upon a continual supply of water. We gather strength and growth from the time spent in God's Word. The most important time we spend this week will be the time we spent on our spiritual lives. The development of our spiritual lives is more important than soccer, our jobs, and our lunch plans – everything.
The wise man is characterized by success. Nevertheless, the psalm does not encourage a success-oriented faith. The godly do not seek success for its own sake, but they do receive a measure of blessing on their lives. The tree prospers as a tree; the saint will prosper as a saint.
The successful tree will produce fruit. Notice it produces fruit "in season." Just adding water doesn't produce instant fruit and the Word of God doesn't make us instantly mature. Plant four fruit trees together and none of them will bear fruit at the same time or in the same way. Don't be intimidated if you feel you don't know enough yet. God has ordained this as a process... you will bear fruit. Keep meditating.
The trials and winds of adversity will not remove the leaves of those who are well rooted.
II. The Ungodly Life
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
The metaphor of chaff reveals both the uselessness of the wicked and the ease with which God will deal with them. Even as the winnower casts the chaff to the afternoon breeze, so the Lord will drive away the wicked. No one will remember their place.
The brevity of the wicked's description stands in stark contrast to the fuller portrayal of the righteous as a tree with leaves and fruit.
Describe the coffee roasting and brewing process, focusing on the removal of the bean chaff.
Chaff is useless, and dead. Swept away by the wind, and removed.
The conclusion is clearly marked by the word "therefore". The end of the wicked may not be clear while they are alive and busying themselves with wickedness, but from God's perspective the wicked have no future.
nor can sinners join the assembly of the godly.
God knows! The knowledge of God involves not only an objective knowledge about the righteous but also a subjective relationship with them, assuring them that he cares for his own, protects them, and will reward them
God does not show favorites. He blesses some and condemns others on the basis of the way in which they have chosen to walk.
Psalm 1 sums up the essence of the law and our choice today: Obedience to his Word and receiving his blessings, or rejection of him and his word and facing his judgments.
Two Paths, Two Choices. Do you want to be blessed?
Some key questions:
Does my life resemble the kind of tree described today?
Is anyone flirting with sin today? Walking by it? It is dangerous.
Is anyone entertaining sin today? You're standing, entertaining it. It is dangerous.
Is anyone sitting in sin today? You think no one knows, but God does. It is dangerous.
We must spend time in personal study and meditation so we can be fruitful and blessed.
Have you become stubborn and unteachable?
Stop sinning, start studying and applying.
Stay on the right path... God sees. He isn't absent. The evil will not get away with anything.
Paul is a full-time web developer by day and a writer, reader, consultant, film critic, and student. He resides in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with his wife, Suzi.