Monday, 26 September 2011
Psalm 1: Blessed!
Welcome to our fall study and our first psalm! If you are joining us for the first time, glad you are here! If you are coming back from last year, welcome back! (Ok, though the enthusiasm is genuine, I have now used up all of the allotted exclamation points for this post….)
If you missed the Sept 1 post, take some time to read it this week. It provides the basic approach we will be taking to the Psalms plus a schedule for the fall. My plan is to post on Monday with some background on the Psalm plus questions to guide you as you study. Then on Friday I’ll wrap up the week with a personal response from me or a guest blogger. During the week I hope you’ll feel free to drop us a comment or question. I love it when we get a bit of a discussion going.
One more bit of housekeeping before we begin. Some of you may be asking, “Hey, what happened to doing a book a month? Are we slacking off?” Not at all. We’re just changing our pace. The guideline I recommended last year was to study a book/month, alternating between Old Testament and New Testament books. That’s a tool I’ve found personally helpful for many years. But remember, “it’s a tool, not a rule.” Rules restrict; tools serve. This summer I slowed my pace and went deep instead of fast. I found it so refreshing that I thought we’d try it together this fall. In the spring we will probably return to a book/month.
By the way the Psalms is a great place to chew slowly and digest. Saints and scholars have thought so throughout church history. The early church leaders thought the Psalms were “uniquely a microcosm of the Bible.” Athanasius (c. 296-373) compared them to “the variety of a botanical garden.” Basil the Great (c. 329-79) likened them to “a great storehouse.” I like to think of them as a full pantry or refrigerator, stocked with all of my favorite foods. So let’s “stop and savor” instead of “grab and bolt.”
Entering the Psalter through Psalm 1
The Psalms are a work of art. Each one is a poem, consciously and skillfully shaped by a poet. The whole Psalter is also a work of art. The order of the individual Psalms is not random, but chosen by a human editor, an artist. Psalm 1 was selected to open the book. Why do you think that is?
Well, generally, the Psalms are the place where we meet God, where we respond to Him. Worship, prayer, shouts, cries, songs, tears are all found there. All are directed to God in a very personal way. The Psalms are about relationship—an unequal relationship between the Great One and the small ones. We might feel awkward about joining this conversation. Do I measure up? How can I know that it’s ok to pour out my soul to such a Famous Friend?
Psalm 1 spells out what God thinks of his friends. And what it looks like to be his friend. By making clear the way of friendship, it invites us to enter. Psalm 1 is “the main entrance to the mansion of the Psalter” as Jerome (342-420) put it. Let’s knock on the door, and see who opens it for us.
Questions for the week
1. First read to hear the Psalmist’s voice.
- Though David isn’t mentioned as the author, there was a human author. What was the psalmist’s main thought?
- Why do you think he wrote this Psalm?
- What is the structure of the psalm? (Try contrasting the righteous and wicked in two columns. Which one is emphasized?)
- Is this Psalm descriptive or prescriptive? Is it telling us what to do or painting a picture that draws us to what is good?
2. The second time read to hear Jesus’ voice
- Can you imagine Jesus memorizing and reciting this Psalm as a young boy?
- How might he have understood or applied this Psalm as an 8 year old?
- As a 30 year old beginning his ministry? Does this Psalm remind you of any of his teaching?
- What might this Psalm have meant to him in Gethsemane? On the cross?
- What might this Psalm have meant to him after the resurrection?
3. The third time read it to hear your voice.
- What does “blessed” mean to you personally? How do the other benefits of this psalm affect you?
- What is something you “delight in” and “meditate on”? (for me it is pictures of my grandchildren =) Do you tend to think of Scripture meditation as a chore or a delight? Does this psalm help you see the delight in it?
- Who is the only “Man” who perfectly fulfilled this psalm? Was he blessed? Or cursed?
- I know I fail to perfectly delight in and meditate on the law of the LORD. How can you and I possibly enjoy this blessed life?
Read the Psalm one last time as a song of praise to the One who fulfilled it for you!