Well, here we are in the book of Psalms, sometimes called Israel’s hymnbook. You may or may not know that the Psalms were truly songs that were used in worship, in traveling to Jerusalem for Temple ceremonies, or in private devotions and prayers.
Songs are powerful memory stimulants to the human mind. We first learn our ABCs by singing a song; if you grew up going to Sunday school, you probably learned the books of the New Testament and the names of the apostles by singing their respective songs; and although I never learned it, I understand that there are some songs for learning the periodic table in chemistry. So also with the songs of Israel. Although a number of other passages are quoted in the New Testament by Jesus and the New Testament writers, a large portion of quotations come from the Psalms, probably because they found their ways quickly and permanently into memory through their music. This fact highlights the importance of our own repertoire of hymns and songs. When’s the last time the preacher or teacher said something that you could quote word for word? Yet, I bet you could sing a number of hymns strictly from memory. Ours are not inspired like the biblical Psalms, but they teach and admonish probably as well or better than any teacher or preacher, because they are so memorable. Therefore, it’s important that those songs be in harmony with God’s inspired word; otherwise, don’t they become an especially dangerous false teacher whose words (and concepts) are especially sticky to our minds? I’ve read and heard minor rants from music purists, who chafe at any alteration to any hymn or spiritual song as if they were holy writ, crying, “Censorship!” But they are not inspired; and since they are not, if they are not expressing the truth, they need to be either altered to reflect the truth or eliminated from the church’s repertoire. When they express the truth, spiritual songs are powerful tools in the Christian’s possession to imprint more deeply and with sharper detail the truths of God’s word. Use them well. often, and wisely.
But on to the psalms themselves.
Psalm 1 — I’m struck by the second verse in which the psalmist notes that the blessed man “delights” in the Law of the Lord. We’ll read in other psalms and even the Proverbs that the fool or unrighteous man often sees the doing of wickedness as something like a sport or game. I’ve met people like that before, who find their delight in trying to get away with things, in stealing, in intimidating others, in manipulating others, in bullying, in gossip, in rebellion, in drinking, in illicit sexual deeds, etc. The blessed man, however, turns this foolish and worldly approach to “living” on its head and finds his delight in doing what is right. What this suggests to us is that we need to MAKE our delight the doing of the good, following God’s way. Making the Lord’s way our delight will likely take some “cultivation” on our part — letting God’s way be our interest, our joy, where we most naturally turn our attentions. We cultivated the other interests, because others around us thought those things were “cool” and we wanted to be “cool”, too; so cultivate a delight in the Lord’s way, develop an aversion to sin and vulgarity and worldliness.
Psalm 2 — This a majestic Messianic psalm is quoted in pieces a number of times in the rest of the Scriptures. The part that I like the best is the first section, vv. 1-6, in which the psalmist points out the futility of efforts of the unsaved world to undermine God’s plans to exalt His King. It was certainly going on in the psalmist’s time and it still is going on today as rulers and governments and atheists try to exile God from any public expression — and some trying to completely wash Him out of the fabric of men’s hearts and consciousness altogether. But their efforts are as futile today as they were thousands of years ago. First of all, God has placed a witness in every heart of His existence; and secondly, there is coming a day when everyone will bow the knee to the Lord and confess His sovereignty (Phil. 2:5-11) — there is no stopping it.
Psalm 3 — God’s people will make enemies. It’s not that we want to, it’s not that we are doing anything wrong, and it’s not necessarily just us, it’s Who we stand for (see Psalm 2). Given that reality, this psalm seeks protection from those enemies and expresses the confidence that the child of God can know — you CAN go to sleep securely — when we realize that God is in control. He is our shield!
Psalm 4 — Despite the intellectual knowledge that God is our shield, still our emotions get the better of us sometimes and we still fear what man might do. In my own life I find it necessary to “counsel myself” (reminding myself) about principles and practices that I should be engaging in. In this psalm the righteous psalmist seems to be counseling himself, too, “Tremble and do not sin; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the LORD” (vv. 4,5). Counsel yourself, sing songs that remind you of things you are weakest in to remind yourself of what you should do in fear, in temptation, in trial, in suffering.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.