Thursday, September 3, 2009
The Psalms: An Introduction
"A Book of Praises" is the literal meaning of "Psalms" and it really is just that. A Book written over hundreds of years by multiple worshipers (about 6) on a myriad of occasions. Most of the time I fear we read the Psalms in a contextual vacuum. By that I mean, we read them as though author, date, time, place, occasion and purpose don't really matter. Often, we read them as though it is "all about me", but when we do that with God's Word it is dangerous indeed. Sometimes bad grammar speaks powerful truth..."that ain't nothin' good!" The 150 Psalms are generally divided into 5 books and are also sorted by content: Didactic - Teaching, Messianic - a song rejoicing in the Promise of the Messiah, Imprecatory - God please destroy my enemies, and Penitential - God please forgive my transgressions. The Psalms are an utterly human cry. It is the cry of the solitary soul in the midst of the darkness crying out to the One who made the darkness and the light. It is also the cry of God's people living in the tensions of the Kingdom and the World. The Psalms are promises recounted, deliverances wrought, sins atoned, glory revealed and salvation declared. These words were not sung in recording studios with back up singers. They were sung as fervent pleas and triumphant declarations by people who knew that God was their only hope. Some refer to Psalm 1 as the preface to the Psalms...and it can be read that way...a general understanding that there are two types of folks...the blessed and the wicked. "Blessed" is a noun and is NOT derived from the verb to bless - I was a little perplexed about that since most of the time the Hebrew and Greek languages use that formula. Blessed (eser - Strong's 835) = a state of bliss, always refers to man and never to God, it is poetic and exclamatory, frequently connected with wisdom, sometimes used to describe a person or nation who enjoys a relationship with God. (The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Old Testament - TCWSDOT - pages 108 - 109). Just FYI - the Hebrew verb to bless = barak - Strong's 1288 - to bless, to kneel or salute, comes from the noun for knee - to bend the knee - used towards God or people - ex. God blessed Abraham (Genesis 12:3). Here's the point, the blessed person is full of joy. You can see why! Keep reading! "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord,and on his law he meditates day and night." (ESV) Blessed - joyful - happy - free - is the man who, because God's law gives him light, makes the choice to look ahead and sees the consequences of trucking in the things of the world. Walk, stand and sit are the key verbs for the wicked man: Walk (halak - 1980) - to take a certain path under the advice of another, makes me think of the adulteress calling out to the simple man to come her way. Stand - amad - to stand, to establish, to abide, or to stay in the way (derek - 1870) - journey, manner, road or way of sinners. Sit (moshab - 4186) - to dwell, to remain, to abide in the seat of the scoffers (lits - 3917b) - scorners, mockers or deriders - those committed to evil. I find it interesting that in contrast to the wicked man, the blessed man does two key things. He delights and meditates! Delights - (chephets - 2656) delight, pleasure, care, desires, pleased, precious. Meditates - (hagah - 1897) - to moan, growl, utter, speak, muse:--declare, devise, mutter, ponder. In what does he delight and on what does he meditate? The TORAH - the law of God. Here's where we need to hang out for a little bit. Some may be saying, "but the Law doesn't apply to us anymore..." or others may say, "I can't keep the Law, trust me I've tried" or, "the Law depresses me, it just shows me how imperfect I am and that I can never measure up." But the blessed man delights and meditates on God's Law. So, as those truly blessed ones who know that Christ has fulfilled all of the Law on our behalf and as those who know that the Law was given to lead us to Christ - how can we follow the blessed man's example without become legalists? I'll answer it with questions: What is delightful about the Law of God? What can we learn, gain, see by meditating on it? What can we learn about who God is based on His law? What can we learn about His purposes? What are we to believe about His ways with man, His purposes for His people? What can we learn about ourselves and the world around us by delighting and meditating on the Law and what/who will that knowledge drive us towards? One of the meanings of meditate is "mutter" - I have this picture in my head of the joyful man walking around talking to himself about God's law. I feel better already since I talk to myself all the time. The dialogue the joyful man is engaged in is a steady stream of looking at the World around him through the lens of God's perfect Law and reminding himself of what is true, good, honorable, praiseworthy, excellent and free. Try muttering today, remind yourself constantly what is true about our God, I'm very sure our hearts will follow in delight!