Agony, despair, vengeance, worship, and hope are the streams of human emotion which pour forth from the Psalms. The Bible is generally a record of God speaking to mankind. However, in the Psalms we find the inspired record of men pouring their hearts out to God. The Hebrew title for the song collection is tehillim, which means “Praises”. Through the groans of human despair and the exalted expressions of worship, God sets forth his concern for his creation in the beloved hymnal of Israel.
The book of Psalms is special to each of its readers, but is also special for its rare arrangement. The collection of Psalms is divided into five books or sections (1-41; 42-72; 73-89; 90-106; 107-150). The ancient Jews believed the five divisions of the Psalms corresponded to the five books of Moses. Each of these first four sections concludes with a doxology. Psalms is the only book of the Bible to be divided into “chapters” by God himself (Acts 13:33). It may be that the first two Psalms and the final two Psalms form an introduction and conclusion to the book itself.
Being a collection of Psalms, the book covers a great deal of chronology ranging from 1060 BC (the Psalms of David) to the post-exilic Psalms written around 536 BC. The large timeframe allows the book to cover a large number of themes. We see the nature of evil and hope for deliverance from it. Thanksgivings and praise for God’s work. God’s instruction in the form of wisdom literature.
As we journey through the collection of Psalms, we see the heart of God’s people. We are also given a beautiful picture of the life of God’s Son. Indeed, very little is known of Jesus in the New Testament that was not first spoken by a psalmist. Consider the following:
His Character, Ps. 45:4; His Preaching 78:2; His Zeal 69:9; His Praiseworthiness 8:2; His Rejection 118:22; His Lineage 132:11; His Lordship 110:1; His Deity 45:7; His Trials 22:2; His Crucifixion (parted garments 22:18; shoot out the lip 22:7; “My God, My God” 22:1; “Into Thy Hands 31:5; No Bones Broken 34:20); His Resurrection 16:10 & 118:22-24; His Ascension 24:6-10 & 68:18; His Coronation 45:6-7.
Christians love the Psalms because Christians love the Lord Jesus! The New Testament uses directly refers to the words of the Psalms 48 times to speak of Christ as He was prophesied. The New Testament quotes from the Psalms at least 116 times. That is far more than any other book of the Old Testament. It is no wonder that the book of Psalms has played so great a role in the preaching of the Gospel in the New Testament and by New Testament Christians.
The beautiful words of the Psalms often express that which is felt in the human condition but cannot be made clear. The promises of God’s Christ permeate the entire book. In this wonderful hymnal of God, Christians are reminded that there is a God in Heaven who rolls back the darkness of this world with the Light of His Son.
A RIGHTEOUS LIFE
What is the point of it all? Why should I follow God’s narrow path when others are so happy? What good is godliness? Job asked all these questions too! See Job chapter 21. It is fitting that the opening Psalm immediately follows conclusion to the book of Job. Job had it all, lost it all, and gained it all again. Through all those times, Job remained blessed because he lived in the Law of the Lord.
The opening song of Psalms shows us some benefits only found in the life of the righteous redeemed.
A Life of Blessing
God’s way is the way of blessing for those who refuse a life of sin. The first word to describe God’s servant is “blessed”. This is an objective reality for those who trust in God. This blessedness cannot be altered by the subjective events which trouble all people. The blessings are found by those who refuse to “walk with the wicked”, “stand with the sinners”, or “sit in the seat of scoffers”.
Jesus first recorded sermon echoes the call to blessedness through personal purity in Matthew 5:2-12. Jesus taught us to use each of those qualities our training regimen in Godliness. Luke 6:20-23 records a similar list of beatitudes, but the focus here is on how the child of God remains blessed despite the ongoing trials of life.
Let us be cautious when we decide which crowd to “walk with”, which group we will “take our stand with”, and with whom we will “sit”. Remember God’s admonition “Do not be deceived: “bad company corrupts good morals. Come to your right mind, and sin no more. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:33-34).
God’s way is the way of blessing for those who rejoice in the statutes of God. Rather than wasting time with sin, the life of blessing is highlighted by a devotion to God’s Word. Psalm 112:1 magnifies the same though: “Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments.” The man of God has learned to enjoy the Word of God because of the wisdom and blessings which are found in its rich mines.
The Law of God then becomes the attraction of the heart for those who trust in the Lord. Because they fear God, because they desire to keep his commandments, and because they want the life of blessing, God’s people meditate on the law day and night. What else could occupy such a place in the heart and mind? What else is worthy of such an investment?
A Life of Security
The blessed are blessed by building their lives on the certainty of God’s care. Jesus often preached the blessings one receives when he builds his life on God–Matthew 7:21-27. Here the Psalmist compares the righteous individual with a tree planted by the waters. If we are to be truly blessed, then we must learn to trust God above every other opinion–even our own (Jeremiah 17:1-10).
Because of the harsh and arid landscape the writer found himself in, a description of a thriving tree is a perfect way to demonstrate the blessedness of God’s people as opposed to the wasteland brought about by sin. The tree is planted there, it could not have sprung up by itself. Likewise, those blessed by God must choose to plant their lives in his care. Isaiah 61:1-3 shows the offer God makes to His people, but that offer must be received by God’s people.
The wicked are unstable because they have no sure foundation for their lives. The chaff blown by the wind pictures the individual blown away by the world because he has no anchor in God’s Word. “Chaff” is often used to illustrate something, here it is a manner of life, which is worthless and forgettable. This is the life chosen by the foolish man who built his house on the sand. This is the life of those who choose to build their lives around the activities of this world rather than on the activity of God.
A Life of Eternity
Why do the wicked prosper while the just suffer? “Will not the judge of the earth do what is right?” (Genesis 18:25). The Psalmist asks us to wait on the Lord to act.
There is a fearful end waiting for the wicked. This Psalm began with a description of those who are blessed, but ends with a warning to those who live to perish. The wicked are unlike the righteous in the end. The Hebrew says, “Not so the ungodly.” The Septuagint says, “Not so the ungodly, no so.” They are unlike the righteous in both character and condition. Matthew Henry said, “They bring forth no fruit but the grapes of Sodom.”
There is a father waiting for the righteous. Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” This reward is for the righteous. The word “righteous” demands two things: 1) there is law from God, and 2) individuals know and follow that law. Let us be among the number who are diligent students are practitioners of God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:15).
A more modern song says, “There will be peace in the valley for me, someday.” For the righteous servant, there will be peace. It will come, someday. Wait for the Lord. Jesus promised, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay everyone for what he has done” (Revelation 22:12).