Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Psalm 1 - The Right Path

maple leaves

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost - The Road Not Taken - last stanza
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How blessed is the man 
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, 
Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, 
And in His law he meditates day and night. 
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, 
Which yields its fruit in its season 
And its leaf does not wither; 
And in whatever he does, he prospers. 
The wicked are not so, 
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. 
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, 
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 
For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, 
But the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1:1-6    
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I think I loved hearing the Psalms from the first time I heard them.  When I was rather young I thought I would learn Hebrew so that I could enjoy them even more. I thought they would be even more fantastic when spoken in their original language. I thought the original language would bring out the rhyme and the rhythm.  Then I discovered that the psalms never had rhyme or a rhythmic meter.  The psalms use parallelism, figurative expression, and beautiful word pictures for their text.  what an amazing and wonderful gift of God. God inspired the writers of the psalms to write them in a way that is beautiful in any language.

The book of Psalms is actually a combination of five books of songs. Some are songs are quite similar. This could simply be because they were well liked songs. Just as some popular hymns and worship songs today appear in more hymnal, some psalms appeared in more than one book of songs.

Book I (Ps 1-41)
Book II (Ps 42-72)
Book III (Ps 73-89)
Book IV (Ps 90-106)
Book V (Ps 107-150)

You can tell when you are at the end of one of the five books in the Psalms - the final verse of the last psalm in the book ends with Amen and amen.

The first psalm in the first book of psalms— is the one we will look at now.

Psalm 1 sets the tone for the entire five books of Psalms. Psalm 1 is a wisdom Psalm.  It describes the type of person who reads and uses the Law. It contrasts this righteous person against unbelievers who ignore the words of the Bible. It is also a Psalm of blessing. Blessed - 'Ashrey - which means happiness, or blessedness. 'Ashrey occurs twenty-six times in the books of Psalms.  It is translated "blessed" nineteen times, and "happy" seven times. There is happiness in knowing that one is right with God. The first psalm in the Old Testament book of Psalm begins with a beatitude. The last psalm in the first book of Psalms also begins with a beatitude.   Psalm 41  One of my commentaries states that there are 6 psalms that start with the word blessed.  Thus far, I have found only five.  Psalm 112  has a  Hallelujah a the first word and it is followed with a Blessed for the second word. (There are three psalms that start with Hallelujah.  (We may have the opportunity to look at them later).

Psalm 1:1 Amplified Bible  BLESSED (HAPPY, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather.  The psalm starts with a negative. Blessed is the man who does not walk, stand or sit with those who are wicked, sinners or scoffers.

John Piper adds that the Hebrew word 'esher or 'Ashrey means happy in the rich, full sense of happiness rooted in moral and mental and physical well being.
Spurgeon so expresses blessed in the plural Oh, the blessednesses! The double joys, the bundles of happiness, the mountains of delight!

There is joy and contentment in following God. One who follows Him will avoid social association with the wicked. Spurgeon writes, Those that trust in Him are blessed; and I would observe, first, that they are really blessed. It is no fiction, no imaginary blessing; it is a real blessedness which belongs to those who trust in God: a blessedness that will stand the test of consideration, the test of life, and the trial of death; a blessedness into which we cannot plunge too deeply, for none of it is a dream, but all a reality. 

Psalm 1:2  Meditate - Meditation involves studying a passage of scripture, memorizing it, praying about it and urging oneself to practice it.

Psalm 1:3  A believer is like a tree planted beside the waters.

It will bring forth fruit. Whatever he does will prosper - this is qualified by the context of the psalm to mean - whatever he does in regards to mediation on the scripture and living in obedience, he will bring forth the fruit of that study.

The eloquent Spurgeon writes: In context, the psalmist expands the meaning of blessed in Psalm 1, explaining in picture language that the blessed man is like a tree by water, a striking image in an arid land where water is sparse and greatly valued. And thus planted by the precious water (and not a stagnant pool but a stream of flowing water!). And too the blessing is pictured as like a tree that is fruitful in season with an unwithering leaf. And such a one prospers in all he does. He is blessed indeed! And finally the psalmist goes on to explain the greatest blessing of all, the blessing of being known by Jehovah and the privilege of standing in the assembly of the righteous of all the ages. The blessed man is stabilized in the storms by these truths regarding his present and his future.
The tree that David may be thinking of is the oleander tree.  It is a tree that is common to that area, it only grows near the water.

Psalm 1:4-6  Wickedrāšāʿ – An adjective meaning wicked, guilty, in the wrong, criminal, transgressor). This person may appear to be to be a good person, but they are capable of great evil. They are compared to chaff.  In the process of winnowing the husk of wheat was thrown into the air. The heaver grain would fall to the ground, but the lighter chaff was blow away by the wind.  This is a scriptural image of the wicked being unable to resist God's judgement.   Matthew 3:12   Psalm 35:5  One must remember that this wicked person is not necessarily an ominous, vicious,  horrible murdering criminal. It is all who are outside of Jesus Christ. Every man is ungodly.  No person without Christ.  can meet the requirements of God.  We are either saved, or unsaved. 
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There really only two ways to live, two paths to take. One either follows God or he does not. Those who follow the road that God has commanded will rejoice in the happiness knowing they are following God. Those who do not follow God may enjoy temporary prosperity, but eventually, however, they will suffer sorrow and destruction for eternity.  

Now that is the end of the opening song of the book of Psalms. Psalm 1 is finished.  I could stop there –– but there is more, much more.  In the greater context of the entire Bible there is more to the story. No one, can always stay on that path. It just isn't possible for mankind. We are all sinners.  We are all doomed to go down the wrong path. We have no hope of always staying on right path. We will stray.  We can only expect the deserved wrath of God. Only by the grace of God can we escape being blown away like the chaff. You must surrender to Christ.  Then, by grace alone, by faith alone through Christ alone will you escape the judgement of the wicked. You will still sin and stray from the path but Christ has given us hope.  

As reminded in the final verse of The Road Less Traveled, by Robert Frost. There are but two roads to take. Choosing the right path will make all the difference.

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