“Looking at ourselves in the mirror of the Psalms (James 1:23–25) can be simultaneously the most encouraging and disturbing engagement of our lives.” -  Robert L. Jr. Hubbard [1]

There is not a book in the Bible that seems to be more utilized and turned to than the Psalms. I mean especially for us in America. When we open our dusty Bible Psalms is directly in the center. Similar to how often the Bible is dusted off and read in homes, “Public readings of the written scriptures were rare, as noted in the ot itself (e.g., 2 Kgs. 23:2; Neh. 8:1–8). The legal material of the Pentateuch would have been known primarily to judges and priests.”[2]

In times when scripture, the Law, was severely unknown, the Psalms were. As C.S. Lewis puts it, “What must be said, however, is that the Psalms are poems, and poems intended to be sung: not doctrinal treatises, nor even sermons.”[3] And, “For poetry too is a little incarnation, giving body to what had been before invisible and inaudible.”[4] The psalms made God known to the people in a way that vividly portrayed who He is and how they interacted with Him. The Psalms reveal to us, as it to them, the God of the universe not to simply know facts about God, but to know Him intimately.

Yet psalms were used in corporate settings. Psalms were known like many songs are known today. But, more than anything “We moderns should not impose upon the Psalms our assumptions that individual, private experience is to be valued more highly than the experience of God reflected in a corporate identity.”[5] The psalms utilized in their services, in their liturgy is what defined many of their points in history.

The Psalms were often written not as a historical treatise on what happened, rather the Psalms are a historical perspective of the people’s hopes and fears, they are a reflection of their emotions. History, especially history in God’s Word, is more than about what happened. History for the Bible is about why something happened and how the people interacted with God and each other through the circumstances.

The Psalms are a unique part of scripture that we can mistakenly assume does not mandate any direct overarching contextual understanding. What we often do not often realize in view of the Psalms is that there is context to the different Psalms. Through a cursory reading of the Psalms you may have noticed a tag here or there that says Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Book 4, and Book 5. Though the Psalms are seen as one entire book, they are more of a series compiled into one book. Similar to the Bible being one book compiled of numerous books from numerous authors over the course of centuries the Psalms were written by numerous writers and compiled over the course of centuries.

 In our days we’d probably best understand it as a playlist for our music or a radio station. The difference is found in that the Psalms were organized in a way that we could have a greater understanding of who God is!

The initial three books, the first of which are almost exclusively ascribed to David, focus on instruction, desperation, and lament in the lives of the worshippers. The comfort they have is not from situations, rather their refuge and comfort is in the Lord.

Book 4 spear heads with a point that should encourage everyone, God was at work long before David, long before us, and during every and any circumstance. While Book 5 declares how God answers prayers, even the bleakest of Psalms, Psalm 137, is part of a group of Psalms rejoicing in the power of God!

The opening of this series is found in the opening Psalm. It is a psalm of instruction. It is psalm of introduction and so it is important for us to be prepared appropriately for the rest of the Psalms. It is a psalm written for real people in real moments, to truly reflect who they are and who they want to be. Join with me as we aim to reflect what God is preparing us to be through His Word!

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. 

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. – Psalm 1:1-6        

We have instruction from God, let’s delight in it.

From our weekly scripture readings at the pulpit to our own personal time in God’s Word, reading the Bible personally, we have the opportunity to delight in the Lord. We delight in the Lord when we delight in His Word. I mean truly delight in the Word of God.

This is an interesting moment in the Psalms and the Bible itself, the opening to a very important part of scripture sets a direct dichotomy. Walking in step with the wicked, meaning both living like and being close to them and taking value in what they say. Taking value in not only understanding but listening to those whose lives are bent against the will and purposes of God, because inherently they are not for God.

The dichotomy is seen in the parallel, “But”. Delight in the Law of God, meditate on it. Take Joy in what the instructions of the Lord are. Find your foundation in who He is and what He has told you.

You and I have our routines in the morning and throughout the day or week. Whether it is opening up your news app, webpage, or newspaper it is something you look forward to. You may be like me and even have people you watch or listen to on the radio and TV. You enjoy hearing their perspective on what’s going on in the world, sports, or simply just as comedic relief.

Does God’s Word do that for you? When you see your Bible on the table, or under a few things do you seek it out like a newspaper or your phone? Do you delight in your spare moments to reflect on the splendor of the King? Better even, as we study the Psalms you will see this, do you delight in knowing God because it makes your life circumstances entirely more real. As you study the Psalms you will see that a large majority of them are songs of lament or petition to act. Some even question if He’s sleeping.

Delighting in His Word is an instruction from His Word, but does that diminish the value? No. The Word of God is valuable in itself, but we are reminded of its value. If we forgot its value that lack is on us. We have an opportunity to delight in what God is doing. We have the opportunity to know more about what God is going to do.

Let’s remember this God who spoke creation into being. Let’s remember the God who cared for and was involved in His creation by making image bearers of Himself interacting personally with them so that we can know Him intimately. Let’s remember the God who created the world good, and after his image bearers did evil He states, what others meant for evil God used for Good.

Blessed is the one who is not distracted by what they hear around them not focused on the Lord. Blessed is the one who surrounds themselves with people who point them to the Lord and not those who would steer them away from the way!

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

He is such a delight. And as such a great joy His Words are a treasure they are precious. The Word of God, the Law of the Lord was what they had at that time, was what showed you the God whom you would live for, whom you would love, and as you prepare to go through the Psalms the Law shows how He is prepared to be your strength, fortress, rescuer, provider, councilor, salvation, and steadfast love.

So, let’s do what the Psalms declare we should do with its opening breath and what Joshua commands the people of God to do just as they prepare to embark to the Promised Land. We are preparing for our journey to the true rest one that does not perish (Hebrews 4:1-11).

8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:8-9

Those rooted in the Lord, through His Word, will last.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

These two sections are very important. Remember that man was made from dust (Genesis 2:7). And, when Adam was cast from the garden he was promised to return to dust (Genesis 3:19). When Abraham spoke with God he declared that he was nothing but dust and ash (Genesis 18:27). Similar to Job we must recognize that it was not the dust that made us, it was the breath of life, The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4). 

The other part in this conclusion, mirrored in the last section, where the evil are declared to not stand in the judgment or the assembly of the righteous. Remember a very important aspect to the Psalms, the people of God are supposed to be excited about the day of judgment. They rejoice when those who have done wrong will be punished for it.

They rejoice when wickedness is wiped away. They rejoice when there is no more fear of sinfulness, do we? We have a less than excited demeanor toward judgment day. It is important to be aware that this is not a dynamical difference between the Old Testament and the New. Jesus spoke of judgement in a very affectionate way, yes, but it was also a triumphant day to be waited for. Judgment is the day of the kingdom of God coming in total triumph. Have you heard of the beatitudes? Blessed are the… because they will or there is. That means others are not.

Judgement is a good thing in scripture, and yet 245 times in the Old Testament you see a word hesed translated steadfast love or mercy. God has steadfast love and mercy for the world as well. This Psalm is an introductive Psalm, it is also instructive. Decide to delight in the Lord. Decide to walk in the council of God’s Word and not the wicked. Decide to Delight in the Word of the Lord. Decide to make the Word of God what you think about constantly.

As the prophet Isaiah puts it, A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. – Isaiah 40:6-8

The triumph is not found in the moment, but in the final goal.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. – Psalm 1:6       

Let’s bask in this last point. The Lord watches over the way of the righteous, this is a promise that God will be with us through our journey of life. Through every struggle, trial, and desperate moment He is with us. Yes, struggles, trials, and desperate moments are ahead for even those who follow the Lord. The difference is not in the situations for the believers and those who do not believe, the difference is in the production of those who walk in the ways of the Lord and those who do not.

Those who are rooted in who God is yield fruit in the season that they are meant to, they prosper. But, don’t be deceived to think that prospering means that trials, hardships, and despair are taken from you. That is why you need to be rooted in who God is. That reality of life is why you delight in God. The wicked’s end is destruction. Where the righteous are going is life and glory.

David, prospered and had an army following him, but he still fled the king. David, the focus of many of these psalms life was rout with despair, yet he prospered and rejoiced in the greatness of the Lord. We too, no matter the circumstance, the people, the momentary obstacle either despair or joy can look to the Lord with hope, love, and triumph.

We have been declared righteous, we have been declared much more than any one statement, psalm, or sermon can properly address. But, hopefully throughout your life and through the future hope of eternity you can declare, know, and embrace more of who God is!

[1] Robert L. Jr. Hubbard and Robert K. Johnston, “Foreword,” in Psalms, ed. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2012), 9.

[2] Robert L. Jr. Hubbard and Robert K. Johnston, “Foreword,” in Psalms, ed. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2012), 7.

[3] C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Mariner Books, 1986), 2.

[4] C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Mariner Books, 1986), 5.

[5] Robert L. Jr. Hubbard and Robert K. Johnston, “Foreword,” in Psalms, ed. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2012), 4.