Here are a podcast and notes for Introduction to Psalms and Psalm 1 (27 minutes).
To download the podcast, right click on "download" and select "save link as" or "save target as" and you can download the podcast and listen to it later.
Introduction to the Psalter
- The Psalter (the five books of the Psalms) forms a central part of the treasury that is God’s word.
- Central in the thought of first century Jews and Christians (as we know from quotations) in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament, and the early Christian writings.
- Mastering the Psalms is no easy task. There are so many psalms, and their themes are not always obvious. Sometimes they feel chaotic. (They weren’t written by engineers.)
- Still, Psalms can be relatively easy to recall, since they are poetry. They have lyrics, they are sung, and they're self-contained.
- Recommended: Into the Psalms: Verses for the Heart, Music for the Soul -- Rolan Monje (Manila, Philippines), 2012.
General principles to keep in mind
- Psalms are human words addressed to God, more than the word of God to us.
- They are characterized by thought-rhyme, as opposed to sound-rhyme. Usually the second line in the couplet expands on the first.
- OT history and geography are essential (e.g. Psalms 133, 136, 137).
- Every psalm has a theme.
- Big themes:
- Temple worship, monarchy, exile, law, God, creation, history, covenant...
- Each psalm has a context. (Many were written out of the painful experience of the Exile). We need to know what the theme is if we are to profit from the Psalm.
- They don’t offer solutions to all our problems so much as they offer therapy.
- Christians are supposed to use them (Ephesians 5:18-19, Colossians 3:15-16).
- Two paths.
- Way of Wisdom (Psalm 1 sounds like the introduction to Proverbs).
- This is a wisdom psalm – like 14 and 37 (where each stanza contains a proverb).
- By spending time in the Psalms we become wise. 1:2 mentions the Torah, and 1:3 alludes to the prophets (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
- Listen to God's word (v.2), not to the world (1 John 4:5; 1 Corinthians 15:33).
- Withering -- because they aren't rooted.
- Prospering (vitality). The Hebrew idea of prosperity does not involve tons of money, but successful crops; children and grandchildren; the meeting of basic needs; a place in the community.
- The wicked lack solidity. They cannot stand. They are lightweights! Their punishment (being blown away) is a natural result of their waywardness, not something arbitrary or artificial.
- Similarly, prosperity is more a result of righteous living than a reward. The olive tree, so common in Palestine (Psalm 128:3), bears fruit for centuries, usually in alternate years. Even if the main trunk dies, it still sends up shoots. And the Tree of life alludes to Genesis 2-3.
- Psalm 2 illustrates the rejection of God’s rule in the world (the way of the wicked): everyone is up in arms, rejecting God's rightful sovereignty.
- Psalm 1 is expounded on in Psalm 25.
- To be captivated by the wisdom of God and the word of God, not impressed by the people the world considers to be cool, or their fashionable ideas.
- To be solid, stable, and productive, and not to wither.
- To accept that there are only two paths – and not to be double-minded or wishy-washy about this.
- To go forth in confidence.
- How rooted am I? Do I flit from one thing to another, or am I anchored in the word and willing to do the work?
- How productive am I? Am I getting things done? Am I helping others to know Christ?
- Have I fully accepted the fact of the two ways, or am I trying too hard not to give offense, to appear neutral?
- Do I meditate on the Word daily? What are my own devotional habits, and how might they need to change?