What are the Psalms?
They are sacred or praise songs of Israel. The genre of their writing is poetry. The word Psalm is mizmor, which is Hebrew, meaning a composition, set to music. They were to be sung to music, probably with the lyre in mind. As with all songs they come from the writers emotions as he views life as a believer in God. They are deeply personal, exposing the innermost joys and sorrows. They are blatantly honest and often question what God is doing in their current circumstances. We must always remember that they are also inspired by God. Peter tells us that they are not merely man’s thoughts but that the Holy Spirit carried man along. The circumstances and observations of the writer were used by God to reveal something of His character and purposes as the Psalm writers pondered and questioned and praised God for their experience!
The book or collection of Psalms found in our bibles is divided into 5 different groups or books:
1. Psalms 1-41
2. Psalms 42-72
3. Psalms 73—89
4. Psalms 90-106
5. Psalms 107-150
There are also Psalms recorded elsewhere in the Old Testament: Exodus 15; Deuteronomy 32; Judges 5; 2 Samuel 22 and Habakkuk 3.
We have said that the Psalms are poetic; they are lyrical and often parallelistic in style. This is a typically Hebrew way of communicating which uses repetition to enforce the statement made. E.g. “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein.” Both statements say the same thing but in different ways which has the effect of enforcement of the fact. The psalms make much use of this linguistic form.
The poetry does not of necessity follow a rhyme but a rhythm. It is often the beat that carries the song along and thus aids remembrance. Often the verse divisions and the translations of our bibles does not reveal this to us but as we read the bibles poetic books it serves us well to recall these facts as we seek to interpret.
Another important form found in the psalms is the use of acrostic patterns. Simply put the writer starts with a word beginning with the first letter of the alphabet and then proceeds by using the next consecutive letter to begin the next verse or section. Psalm 119 is a perfect example of this, if you look in your English translation you will find it sectioned into the consecutive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Psalm 119 is a more complex acrostic than that but the structure is best left for a time of Bible study.
All of these styles were intended to make remembering God’s word easier for the people. Sadly as we have said it is really no help to us in English or any other language.
With all of this in place we can now come to the text of Psalm 1, the background that we have looked at is covered more comprehensively in any commentary that covers Psalms and I recommend if you want a better understanding that you look into it further.
God’s view of man:
A rider to our understanding of God’s view of man must always come from the absolute truth of God’s love for mankind. Always keep in your minds eye that Jesus told us that God so loved the world that He did something about man’s sin in order that by faith man might be restored to a right relationship with Him. But as it stands man is naturally an enemy to God. So how does God view man?
God in actual fact has 2 views of man; both are positive but the outcome for individuals from a differing viewpoint is very different. The reason for God having 2 viewpoints is that there are 2 different types of man. The view that God has of you depends which type of person that you are. Both types are described in Psalm 1. You will discover the first type in verses 1-3 and the second in verses 4-5:
1. The blessed man.
2. The wicked man.Who is the blessed man?
The psalm tells us that he is:
a. Distinguished by what he does not do.
b. Seen by what he delights in.
c. Effective in life.
The man blessed of God can be seen by what he does not do. As a young Christian I was told much of what Christians should not do or more to the point what they should not listen to, watch or drink! This is not what the anonymous writer of this Psalm is saying. In verse 1 we can see a development of what he is saying. The man blessed of God does not go along with the ways of the wicked; he does not promote their ways! The development of the point is that he does not go along with then stop and be part of it and then rest amongst it. Life is like a marathon; it is endurance to the end. If a marathon runner slows to a walking pace he is in danger of stopping all together. The man blessed of God is called to have no agreement with wicked ways, he must not walk the same road, and he certainly must not stand among them or sit and be part of them. God is pleased when His people are in the world but are seen by the world as different because of not being part of sinful ways. The argument is much bigger than what you watch, drink or listen to!
The man blessed of God is seen by what he delights in. The man of God delights in the law of God. The New Testament tells us that the law is a schoolmaster that leads us to God. The law actually tells us that we are helpless before God and that we cannot accomplish the requirements of the law. That is the commands of God. As we contemplate them we see a need for God to intervene and within the pages of scripture we see His plan unfold and sin being dealt with through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ. If this is not your delight then it is fair to say that you are not one of God’s blessed people. The blessed man delights in and meditates on the law day and night, that does not mean just reading the bible but applying God’s principles to every aspect of daily life. Charlie Simpson was a man seen by all of his work colleagues to be a man of God because he loved God’s word. He not only read it but he lived it, are we seen as blessed of God because we delight in Him and His word?
The blessed man is effective in life. The psalm tells us that whatever he does prospers. The example that the psalmist gives is of a tree planted in perfect growing conditions. The tree does all that a tree should do. It begins to take up water and nutrients from its abundant supply; the natural result of this is that it began to grow according to season, which is in the right way. Then in time it gave good fruit. The blessed man grows or prospers in a similar way. This is not a passage to tell us that if we are Godly then we will be wealthy etc. It simply shows that as a tree is expected to grow well given the right conditions so is a Christian. We also have the right conditions, the Word of God which is sufficient for all that we need in life: 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “all scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God (the man who is blessed) may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The word of God is the staple diet of the believer; it contains all of the nutrients for a naturally prosperous spiritual life, which is the production of spiritual fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” These qualities have a greater lasting effect than does prosperity of health or wealth. Those who are blessed of God have benefited British society over the years.
What about the ungodly?
The psalm tells us that the ungodly are known by:
a. Their lack of substance.
b. By what they cannot do.
The ungodly are like the chaff, waste from the threshed grain. Chaff has no use; it has no substance and is blown away by the slightest draught. God’s word is damning towards those who are ungodly. It says that in God’s eyes they are wasters; useless and of no value to Him. We as fellow humans look at people who even deny the existence of God and we can observe great value from their lives to humanity. Often they do greater things for the good of mankind than Christians ever do but we always have to remember that we look at the outer appearance God is concerned about the heart of man. To Him the most important thing is not kindness to others but faithfulness to Him which should the springboard for goodness. Goodness without Godliness is worthless; Godliness without goodness is hypocrisy!
The ungodly are also known by what they cannot do. It does not matter how much good they do towards fellow man they will not be able to stand before God in judgement and that means that they will not enter into the congregation of the righteous. Sin is a reality that all mankind are guilty of (come tonight to see how it all happened). God hates sin far more than He approves of human kindness. Sin to Him is unacceptable; with to us some sins are more unacceptable than others but to God all sin is abhorrence! Therefore he will reject all who sin at the judgement and all such will not enter into the congregation of the righteous, which is heaven.
Our problem is that we do not know who belongs to which group. We look on the outer appearance but God sees the innermost being. We make judgements on people as we see; they are good, bad or in-between to us.
BUT GOD SEE’S IT AS IT REALLY IS!
He looks on the heart of man and He knows those who are His! The real question is:Which type of person are you?
Jesus came by God’s good grace to deal with the issue. We are not acceptable by our own goodness as we have seen but through Jesus’ sacrifice all who repent and believe on Him as Lord and saviour of their life will be made righteous and therefore will enter heaven.