Deeply Rooted

treebywaterBy Renee Meyer

How would you define wisdom?

The dictionary defines it as “the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.”

Today’s Psalm, Psalm 1, is considered a “wisdom” Psalm, characterized by:

  • Its contrast of the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous
  • Its beginning phrase of “blessed”, or happy are those who . . .
  • Its celebration of the Torah, or instruction (translated often as Law), of the Lord.

Take a moment to read through Psalm 1 and write down what you believe is its main idea:

1 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!
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 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.
4 The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.

The Psalms were written by Israelites under the Mosaic Covenant. The covenant between God and the people as represented by Moses is characterized by “Thou shalt, and God will. . . .” The land and blessing given under the Mosaic Covenant was CONDITIONAL. When Israel did not keep their end of the covenant, they were removed from the land for a period of time known as the EXILE.

The Psalms themselves were most likely the song book for the rebuilt temple. The first worshippers in that temple are the remnant of Judah, the remnant of the EXILE who have been allowed to return to the land and rebuild the temple (Ezra/Nehemiah). These are a people who are serious about keeping covenant because they know what happened when their forefathers didn’t.

This context is important for all the Psalms, but especially the wisdom Psalms. The idea of “blessing” and of living the wise life is ALWAYS going to imply covenant keeping.

The original readers of this Psalm, or those who used it for Temple worship in the post-exilic (Ezra-built!) temple, would not have known it as Psalm 1. It was originally unnumbered and considered an introduction to the entire book of Psalms. As we read and discuss it, look for what it tells you as in introduction to this section of God’s revelation.

This Psalm is best understood as a series of contrasts. Put a bracket linking v. 1-2 together, then do the same to 3-4 and 5-6. The Poetic idea in verse 1 is probably not three separate things to avoid. There is a progression in each of the statements, from walking (going) to standing (remaining) to sitting (inhabiting); from counsel (purposes) to path (ways) to seat (dwelling); and from the casually wicked to the habitual sinner to the total rejection and mocking of righteousness. Remember, this is a POEM. The repetition is for emphasis, indicating a “totality of experience.”

The entire Psalter, the collection of Psalms, is introduced by the concept that happiness is NOT found in putting ourselves in ever increasing closeness to the purposes, ways, and dwellings of those who are opposed to God. Instead,

 . . .  his delight is in the law of the Lord,

And in His law he meditates day and night.

Because this whole phrase is contrasted with verse 1, verse 1 helps us understand what delighting in the law/instruction of Yahweh and meditating on it day and night is–the opposite of walking/standing/sitting in the advice/ways/habits/ of those who are not Yahweh-honoring.

This is not a formula: Do this and don’t do that. This is a DESCRIPTION. The happy man/woman is one whose delight is in the instruction of the Lord, who meditates/considers/muses over Yahweh’s instruction throughout life.

Let’s talk for a minute about what this looks like in our lives. If the happy man/woman is one whose delight is in Yahweh’s instruction, how do I delight? And if a happy woman meditates over Yahweh’s direction all day, how do I meditate?

  • I think we hear verses like Psalm 1:2 and want a formula. We want to say, I’m going to read my Bible every day, so I can delight in Yahweh’s instruction. I should meditate more. Being in the Word daily is AWESOME. I highly recommend it, and I’ve tried to build meditation into our journey through the Psalms together. BUT “delighting” sounds so much more than something we check off our list. What if we viewed it more relationally?
  • Let’s take marriage, for example. In the beginning, I had to work to think about myself as a wife, to discuss decisions with Matt, learn to communicate with him and trust his love for me. Over the years, much about our relationship has become more instinctual. I still have to make choices, and I’m still learning. But gradually, my life has become more wrapped around his, and his around mine. This happens in a good friendship too. Eventually, with enough shared history and connection on deeper levels, things begin to remind you of that friend. That’s what I want in my relationship with Yahweh–a shared history, inside jokes, years of seeing His faithfulness and discovering His direction and instruction have proved TRUE every time. Beauty.

Next, another contrast described in verses 3-5 shows us the righteous (in covenant) will be well rooted, watered, leafy and fruitful. Trees are the longest living of all living things. The wicked (covenant-breaking) will not stand up in court, will not last through judgment. They’re rootless and will blow away. A wicked life is one that is PASSING. Which leads us to . . .

6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

But the way of the wicked will perish.

I’ve really jumped up and down on the Mosaic Covenant/context of this Psalm. I believe if we don’t keep that context in mind we can easily think our application of Psalm 1 is “do these things and you’ll be blessed.”

Because of our human drift toward legalism, and the ever present spirit of the Pharisee, today’s Christians are often afraid of the Law. But the first readers of this Psalm (if they understood it correctly) did not think they earned blessedness from their obedience. The Law wasn’t a means of salvation; they were ALREADY God’s people, redeemed/rescued from Egypt when the Law was given. They didn’t “delight in the law of the Lord” so that they would be blessed and happy. . . . They were blessed and happy as God’s chosen people, so they delighted in His instruction.

In the same way, under the New Covenant, Jesus has done it ALL. I am HIS. I have no need to walk in the counsel of the wicked or to stand in the pathways of sinners or making my camp with scoffers and mockers. Because of Jesus, I am a tree firmly planted – and so are you. So let’s DELIGHT and MEDITATE and grow into who He’s made us to be.

The most important thing to consider about Psalm 1 is that this is an introduction to all the Psalms. It is straightforward on its own. So, as an intro to the collection:

  • Take what we’re going to study and read this summer and MEDITATE on it.  Delight in God’s instruction in the Psalms.
  • As we delight in and meditate over the Psalms, we will be like trees planted by channels of water, leafy and fruitful (producing nourishment and blessing for others). These psalms are meant to help us find the “ways” of Yahweh, rather than the ways/plans/abode of those who are not in covenant with Yahweh.

GOING DEEPER (for personal study)

Read Psalm 119, which is both a wisdom psalm and an acrostic (each stanza begins with a progressive letter in the Hebrew alphabet.) This Psalm is 176 verses long, the longest chapter in the Bible, so you may need to break it up over several readings—but read it all at once if you can!

How would you describe the (unknown) Psalmist’s attitude toward God’s instruction?

In your own words, how would you sum up the Psalmist’s view of God?

How would you describe your own attitude toward God’s instruction?

Choose a verse or verses from Psalm 1 OR Psalm 119 to Selah/meditate on this week:

If you wish, you can join us in reading through the entire book of Psalms this summer. Click HERE for a .pdf copy of the weekly reading schedule. This optional activity will allow you to read all the Psalms, not just the ones we cover in class. This week: Read Psalms 9-16.

GET CREATIVE

We want to use the Psalms as a jumping off point for our own communication with the Lord. With that in mind, as a response to what we’re learning this week, write either

A) A love letter of your own to God, giving thanks for His wisdom, guidance, and instruction (this can be poetic in form, if that is your bent, but it does NOT have to be.)

B) Write out a prayer asking for wisdom or thanking God for His instruction. This does not have to be poetic or even eloquent. The important thing is using words to express your thoughts and feelings to and about God.

 

 

 

 

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