When You Need a Song
Text: Psalm 1
Proposition: Understanding the way that the Psalms have been put together helps us see the way that God intends that we use them to speak to Him.
Introduction: Songs have a way of speaking to others and to God the thoughts that go deep. Lullabies, love songs, National Anthems, marching songs even work songs that unite people in the fields…songs are powerful. But greater than these are the songs that we use to speak to God, songs that express our faith, our theology and our love for God. When we think about Scripture we begin with the understanding that God inspired the writers with the thoughts and words in what they should write so that it would carry the weight of His authority and be without error. Holding that thought we now begin to talk about a book of songs, poetry that God inspired that would enable man to speak the deeper things of his soul. In about 300 AD, Athanasius an early leader of the church once declared “The Psalms have a unique place in the Bible because most of the Scripture speaks to us, while the Psalms speak for us.”
Before we begin to look at the Psalms I’d like to give some context for the longest book in the Bible. When we read it we can miss the complexity of how it has been put together and perhaps because of that miss the depths of what it would say for us to God. The Book of Psalms was written over a vast period of time, some were written about 1400 BC, others around 1000 BC and still others around 500BC. The various authors include Moses, David, Solomon, Asaph, the Sons of Korah, Ezra and others who remain unknown to us. There are also many Psalms that aren’t in the Book of Psalms, like Miriams song of deliverance after they crossed the Red Sea, Hannahs song as thanked God for her son, Mary’s song when she meets Elizabeth and so on. Like a symphony, the Book of Psalms has three distinct movements or themes. It has Laments which are either Penitential, meaning songs that appeal to God for forgiveness or deliverance, or Imprecatory, Psalms that implore God to punish the wicked. After the theme of Lament is the theme of Thanksgiving and then lastly the theme of Praise. Lament, Thanksgiving and Praise are the framework that the Psalms are built upon. The Psalms are poetry, not the rhyming poetry that we are so familiar with but rather poetry that uses devices like parallelism and simile. They would write a line in the Psalm and then either state the same thing again with synonym or they might heighten the thought in the second line or even use a contrasting thought in the second line to amplify the first line. That kind of writing is not hampered by translation the way rhyming poetry would be. Hebrew is in a sense the perfect language from which any translation can be made and yet still have the original meaning preserved. The five divisions in Psalms or five books in the Psalms the rabbi’s saw as being a response to the five books called the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament written by Moses. In the Pentateuch God lays out His plan for man, in the Psalms man responds back to God.
So let’s look briefly at Psalm 1, a song that is rich in parallelism and instruction in righteousness.
I. The Way of the One Who Is Straight With God.
That’s what the word ‘Blessed’ means, it’s the word ‘esher’ which translates as being happy, the root word that it originates from, ‘ashar’, means to be right or straight with God. To be blessed is to be happy because of being straight with God. He is described more by what he doesn’t do than by his works. “…who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” Do you see the two types of parallelism…wicked, sinners, scoffers are synonyms and then …walk, stand, sit are examples of heightened parallelism as are counsel, path and seat. Guzik in his commentary says that the idea of ‘walk, stand, sit’ has the connotation of ‘thinking, behaving, belonging’. The one who is straight with God isn’t progressively getting deeper and deeper into sin. If you take your counsel from the ungodly it will lead you more and more into the way that the ungodly accomplish life and if you do that you will eventually sit in the seat of the scoffer. He scoffs because in his eyes he is the one who is right, there is a way that seems right to him…but the end of it is the way of death. Instead, or contrasting this, the man who is straight with God delights in the Word of God. He doesn’t just respect it or obey it, he doesn’t just know it or speak about it…he delights in it. When’s the last time that word of God delighted you, when you found yourself in awe of its wisdom, amazed by its design, intrigued by its plan, enthralled with its author. The man who is straight with God is blessed because of his delight in what God has to say. In a sense he can’t stop thinking about it, pondering it, turning it over and over like a precious stone that reflects beauty at every angle. He meditates on it day and night. Then comes this simile, a poetic comparison that says the person who is straight with God is like a tree that’s been planted by a flowing river. Notice that it’s been planted, it didn’t happen to be there, it didn’t get there on its own steam, it was planted there, rooted there. God’s hand is upon us, it’s He who puts us where we can grow, He is the One who plants us and the One who enjoys the beauty of what He plants. He puts us by rivers of water, by abundance, by what we need for life and sure enough life comes through us and even out of us. There is fruit, green growing leaves, strength and a real sense of being blessed. I hope that is how you feel here today, that you have a deep sense of being blessed as you seek to live a life that is straight with God.
II. The Way of the One Who Is Hostile to God and Man.
Again we see parallelism, the contrasting parallelism of the godly against the ungodly. The ungodly are the opposite, they aren’t well planted, they don’t see abundance, they don’t grow or mature, they don’t delight in God nor His word, they do progressively slip in sin, walking, standing and eventually sitting. They are not and don’t want to be straight with God. That’s what Hebrew poetry does, it amplifies meaning through comparison and in this case shines a light on what sin looks like. The simile here is that the ungodly are like ‘chaff’. The comparison is that like chaff they are blown around by the wind, separated from the wheat kernel by the smallest gust. The contrast in image is that of a tree well planted withstanding storms and chaff lifted away by a light breeze. Chaff has no ability to grow or bring forth life or bear fruit. Its only capability is to blown about by every wind that comes along. The chaff lacks substance, that substance was the grain of wheat that it used to be attached to. The substance in all cases is the person of Jesus Christ, His righteousness is our substance. Every child begins with a tender heart that has faith in abundance. It’s a heart that is receptive to God, open to the truth of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done in taking our place and paying the price of our sin. That’s the substance from which we gain life, the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s how we bear fruit at His timing, at His season. The way of the one who is hostile to God and man leaves the substance of faith in Christ and consequently experiences a growing sin problem. The ungodly won’t stand in the judgment, they won’t be able to withstand God’s justice, His holiness, His wrath against sin. Those who are referred to as sinners, meaning people who have not been redeemed, purchased and set free from the debt of sin and power of Satan, will not be drawn to groups of people who are redeemed. If they are hostile to God and man they will not be attracted to a congregation of believers. So it really comes down to two ways, there’s only two ways that any person in any culture in any country can ever go. There is the way of the righteous, it’s the way that God designed for all people to know Him and to come to Him. It’s why Jesus once said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by Me.” There is the way of the righteous and contrasted to that is the way of the ungodly. That way itself will perish and those who take that way will perish. John 3:16 said it clearly, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whomsoever should believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” There are only two ways, the broad way upon which many walk and yet are lost and which leads to destruction…the narrow way which leads to life and few there are who find it. Our town has a main street called Broadway, there are many here who don’t know or even seek to know Jesus Christ. Perhaps as the testimony of Christ continues to grow here we will one day have a street called, The Narrow Way and thousands of people will find life in Christ.
Psalm 1 is an instruction to us all in how to be blessed and how to resist the sin that destroys, it begins by being straight with God about sin and then seeking and asking for His Son Jesus Christ to our Savior from that sin.