Here are a podcast and notes for Introduction to Psalms and Psalm 1 (27 minutes).

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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).

Psalm 1

  • 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).
  • Consequences:
    • 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.
  • Continuation:
    • 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.

Prayer points

  • 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.

Thought questions

  • 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?