The Book of Psalms Chapter One Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Writing the Book of Psalms was a process that took place between 1410 BC or so, the time of Moses, who wrote Psalm 90, and it's likely the Book was completed by Ezra and Nehemiah, in about 430 BC. Some of the Psalms are anonymous, but almost half are attributed to David. His experience as a shepherd, musician, warrior and king is clearly reflected in those Psalms. It's obvious in his writings that David was also a prophet, which was later specifically stated by Peter in Acts 2:29-31. It's so interesting that the Psalms and all of Scripture, came out of events that arose out in the lives of the prophets themselves... events that often startled, inspired, thrilled and even frightened its writers. Behind the events in their lives and ours, however, is the Guiding Hand of God's Holy Spirit, who continually orchestrates events that are larger, more meaningful than we thought. Your life and my life are not just about you and me. There is much in your life that you do not understand... "How could this happen to me, to my child, my loved one, my life?" These are excellent questions and in them we begin to understand that yes, my life is about me, but there's more. Your situation and mine can both be joyful and awful, emotions strangely occurring at the same time. We need to see it—God is speaking through you and me, expressing Himself through our lives, and part of it is correcting tendencies within us that we may not even know are wrong. An even bigger part of this is for us to tell a friend, or perhaps our doctor notices our distress, or an EMT observes a note we wrote before we became unconscious, and they mention it to others, a ripple effect that may reach to people we never even heard of on the other side of the world... strangers may benefit from our distress, which is part of God's intention for the situation we don't comprehend. And so we read Psalms, written by people we did not meet or know, who expressed themselves and their circumstances in words inspired by the Holy Spirit, so we, today, will benefit from them, grow and stop making wrong decisions.
Psalm 1, Verse 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!" The word "blessed" is actually "happy," though it's even more, much more, because it has a deeper meaning: To be blessed is to enjoy God's special favor and grace, to know Him! And we often don't understand how blessed we are because God can be viewed like the surgeon who is removing the cancer from us. We are on the operating table, there is a blinding light above us, and the Great Surgeon is standing over us with scalpel in hand, about to remove our cancer of the soul. Our tendency is to jump off that table and run down the hall, yelling for help—who wants suffering? and the answer is—none of us. Notice, by the way, the downward spiral of this verse, which takes us on a journey of how NOT to receive His blessings, if we walk, stand and then sit with sinners in the darkness of this world. 1) We are all touched by the "wrong crowd" in life and there are always whispers in our ears, and hands clutching at us, trying to lead us away from God's blessings. The message is—don't listen to them—keep moving prayerfully toward the Lord, because if we do listen to bad influences, 2) we can find ourselves standing with such people, listening to and perhaps admiring their ways, and finally, 3) sitting with them, changed into those who don't seek the Lord anymore, but instead become "scoffers" who reject God and His blessings. We can sadly become the people that Scripture and godly people have warned us about.
Verse 2: "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night." The first verse was like a sign, warning us about our future lives with words not unlike: "Danger, Bridge Out Ahead." We are always at crossroads in our lives, and in Verse 2 we find a road to the future that saves us from destruction and gives us LIFE. People everywhere try to plan for the future, finding the right career, storing up savings, purchasing homes, buying life insurance and so much more. And even when we cannot have such things, we still understand the importance of them and wish we could get them. Note that the "law" here, is more than just the specific "do's" and "don'ts" of the Old Testament... Much like Psalm 119, the word also includes the whole of God's Holy Scripture; the Psalms, wisdom literature, prophesies, historical narratives, and more, including what came to be called the New Testament. We should note there is more to life than just our time on this planet... we were designed to live forever, and the end of this life is simply one door or the other into eternity. We should carefully apply the words of Romans 10:17 to our hearts—"Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." We can receive the Holy Spirit, who touches us with understanding at the center of our being, and since we were born blind and deaf to the Presence of God, we also are given the Holy Scriptures, also known as "the Law of the Lord" and "the Word of God." Let's read His Psalms and find faith—together.
Verse 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." What would it be like to be a tree? As this is being written, noisy city workers are across the street, cutting down and grinding up a tree that died. It didn't get enough water or nutrients, it became susceptible to some disease or something—that tree is gone. Ironically that tree was within a few feet of a fire hydrant but the water, so close, did not reach it. Probably a new tree will be planted in its place, much like when we leave this world and the possessions we have in it, others will come and occupy the place we thought was "ours." The Holy Spirit is leading us to God's Holy Scriptures, and if we prayerfully read His Word, we become like healthy fruit trees, watered, with just the right amount of sunlight, and receive what we need to find the "Door" leading to the Place of God. Jesus revealed about Himself in John 10:9—"I am the Door." Scripture leads us to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who gives us God's Holy Spirit, who opens our understanding of Scripture, which leads us to Jesus... The precious circle of LIFE.
Verses 4-5: "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." We reasonably are repelled by the thought of hell as a sad destination for those who have sinned in the sight of God. Suffering right now is bad enough, but what about worse suffering that lasts forever? At this point we reach a crossroads: The way of faith leads to LIFE, in which we find that our trust in the Lord is eternally activated on our behalf by the grace of God, who gave the Son for us, opening the Door to LIFE. God is speaking to our hearts, through Scripture, the Holy Spirit, His people, radio and TV shows, books, dreams, in ways too deep to easily recognize, and we are expected to prayerfully LISTEN. We have a choice about our future, and those who choose unbelief, don't have to be with the One they don't believe in. If you don't want the Lord, you get your way—forever, and the pain of that decision will be never-ending suffering, much like "chaff" that is split off from the wheat and blown away from God's silo
by the winds of despair.
Verse 6: "For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish." Don't let anybody fool you—God knows everything about you and me. He knows precisely who and what we are. When we think we're alone, we're actually surrounded by God's Holy Angels and the Lord Himself. And note carefully Matthew 9:13—"I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." We are not somehow "righteous" through our own efforts. Those who think they are—aren't. The way of the righteous is not about the one who participates in all the right religious activities, prays with correct words, gives to some charity, and everybody agrees they are "nice"—instead this is about the one who trusts, has faith in the Lord. God is the righteous One, we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and we need Him. It is HIS righteousness grafted into us that is being spoken of here. Much like a fruitful branch is grafted into a barren tree, He is what we need. And since this is God's world and humanity is His creation, He has every right to decide what is righteous, what is wicked, who will perish and who will not. It's time to WANT the Lord, who makes "trees" like us become fruitful at last.
Father, thank You for the Psalms. I am touched by those who have gone before. Help me with awareness of what was right in their lives and teach me through what went wrong. I trust in You, Lord. I am Yours. In Jesus Name. Amen.