PSALM 1: “The good life is not the one that is filled with material riches, personal successes and power or exotic experiences, but the one transformed by the presence and power of rescuing, forgiving, transforming, sustaining, and delivering grace.” This statement from Paul Tripp is the essence of Psalm 1.
This opening Psalm draws a contrast between two competing worldviews – a God-centered vs. a self-centered view. One sees life through God’s eyes and the other sees it through one’s own eyes. Look – ‘HAPPY IS THE ONE WHO DOES NOT WALK IN THE ADVICE OF THE WICKED OR STAND IN THE PATHWAY WITH SINNERS OR SIT IN THE COMPANY OF MOCKERS…INSTEAD, HIS DELIGHT IS IN THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS AND HE MEDIATES ON IT DAY AND NIGHT.’ Pretty interesting and competing lifestyles.
There are only three basic types of people – those who pursue sin, those who pursue morality, and those who pursue God. Only one satisfies because its the reason for your existence. Think about it. This is also what produces the conflict in society, not only the activity but the competing worldviews. Our views bring us to conflicting outcomes. You can watch it played out every day in our culture, especially in the political arena. In reality, there is a civil war ongoing, competing worldviews clashing every day, and it isn’t pretty.
The Psalmist lays out the blessing, or benefits of pursuing God’s instructions. Those who reject the counsel of the wicked, and stay off the path of sinners, and don’t sit with mockers are those who find life to be fulfilling and happy. Why? Because walking in God’s instruction produces stability, fruitfulness, and growth. Listen – ‘THEY ARE LIKE A TREE PLANTED BESIDES FLOWING STREAMS THAT BEARS IT FRUIT IN ITS SEASON AND WHOSE LEAF DOES NOT WITHER.’ The concept here is a life that moves toward maturity. The sweetest people over the years have been those whose lives were rich in experiences and seasoned by God’s grace. They may not have been wealthy, but they were rich. They may not have had much but they were satisfied. God does that in the life that pursues Him.
The outcomes – ‘THE LORD WATCHES OVER THE WAY OF THE RIGHTEOUS, BUT THE WAY OF THE WICKED LEADS TO RUIN.’ Take your pick – outcomes are the fruit of choices. Choose wisely!
PSALM 2: The million-dollar question – ‘WHY DO THE NATIONS RAGE AND THE PEOPLES PLOT IN VAIN?’ Why is our world such a contentious place? Why can’t we find peace? The opening verses of this Psalm sound like the lead story in today’s paper, not a song written 3000 years ago. Some things change, and some things never change.
What changed – technology for one. There have been 2 mega shifts over time. The transition from oral to written tradition, and then, the transition to technology. It changed everything. What hasn’t changed – the heart. Only God can change that.
Jesus taught – ‘WHAT COMES OUT OF A PERSON IS WHAT DEFILES HIM. FOR FROM WITHIN, OUT OF PEOPLE’S HEARTS, COME EVIL THOUGHTS.’ When such people are in positions of power the groundwork is set for violence. Listen – ‘KINGS OF THE EARTH TAKE THEIR STAND, AND THE RULERS CONSPIRE TOGETHER.’ What do they conspire – how to throw off God’s Law. You see this happening in our culture when the 10 commandments are removed from public places. The tragedy is not the removal from public settings, but from the hearts of people. When God’s Law is abandoned – all hell breaks loose. You have a front row seat to the action.
Don’t ever forget how Satan works – his objective is destruction, his strategy is division, and his tactic is offenses. If he can get you offended at something, usually something insignificant, he has an opening. And once he has the opening – he drives for the destruction of whatever is in the path, nations, homes, churches, marriages, and people. He doesn’t care. But it is also important to understand why he works, and this Psalm shows that.
This Psalm is a song of David’s ascent to the throne of Israel. The opposition did everything possible to prevent him from being seated. It failed, and David became king. Saul was the people’s king, but David was God’s King. So, all hell sought to stop his ascent. That’s why the nations raged, and the people plotted.
But this Psalm is Messianic – it paints a much bigger picture. It is a picture of Christ and His ascent to kingship over all nations. Revelation says – ‘HE HAS A NAME WRITTEN ON HIS ROBE…KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.’ Listen to the Psalm – ‘I WILL MAKE THE NATIONS YOUR INHERITANCE AND THE ENDS OF THE EARTH YOUR POSSESSION. YOU WILL BREAK THEM WITH AN IRON SCEPTER; YOU WILL SHATTER THEM LIKE POTTERY.’ Jesus will reign! The ascent is ongoing, and Satan is doing everything possible to stop it. That’s why the nations rage and the people plot.
From God’s perspective, it is a done deal. Listen – ‘I HAVE INSTALLED MY KING ON ZION, MY HOLY MOUNTAIN.’ Don’t let the raging and plotting discourage you, stay focused on the mission, God’s got this. Trust Him!
PSALM 3: How do you respond when family or friends become foes? Those with whom you had sweet fellowship become those who seem like an enemy. That is what David is experiencing in this Psalm – his son Absalom seeks his destruction.
During the night David flees to hide. He pens this song relating the experience and how God sustained him – ‘SALVATION BELONGS TO THE LORD.’ Salvation has a point in time when birth occurs, but it also includes God’s rescue of us every day, in every way, and all along the way.
As David shares his story, you see the depth of his relationship to God. Faith, or lack of it, is always revealed when the pressure is on and the struggles are significant. Perhaps that is why God allows us to experience them. In such times, we are exposed and given a glimpse of where we are in our journey. Tim Keller says – “we are so instinctively and profoundly self-centered that we don’t think we are.” Nothing like a reminder to keep us humble and growing. We realize pretty quick that God doesn’t need us, but we desperately need Him.
Understanding the reason for these happenings and hardships is helpful in enduring them. David is a type of Christ. Guess who else ‘CAME UNTO HIS OWN AND HIS OWN RECEIVED HIM NOT?’ Yup – you got it! The parallels – David’s path of escape was the same route Jesus took; David’s cry to God was the same cry of Jesus too. So, what David foreshadowed was the One who would be ‘DESPISED AND REJECTED.’
For us, it’s not a foreshadow but a shadow that is cast. Every event of rejection is an opportunity to be a shadow of Jesus. What people should see in the shadow you cast is the God you trust, cry out to and depend upon. When people see your desperate need of God – that’s when the shadow is brightest. When they hear your cry of help is when they learn who they can turn to with their hurt. When they see God sustain you is when they learn who they can trust. When they see you lie down and sleep; and awake because the LORD sustains you is when your shadow is a witness and testimony of God’s faithfulness and rescue.
Our prayer is that our shadow would be of Jesus and not us.
PSALM 4: Our greatest struggles are not those that occur around us, but those that exist within us. Solomon in all his wisdom said this – ‘A MAN MAY FATHER 100 CHILDREN AND LIVE MANY YEARS. NO MATTER HOW LONG HE LIVES IF HE IS NOT SATISFIED BY GOOD THINGS…I SAY A STILLBORN CHILD IS BETTER OFF THAN HE.’ That is a radical statement, but true. Internal unrest and tension is a far greater foe than external problems. External tension sometimes produces the internal unrest.
This Psalm addresses this issue. David often deals with this because he himself knew the impact in his own life. That is why the Psalms are so comforting – they speak to the heart. Like sitting at the beach watching the turmoil of the ocean brings peace. As you read the Psalm you can hear the wrestling ongoing in David’s heart as he speaks truth to himself.
The challenge of the Psalm – ‘BE STILL.’ This is one of those statements that is easily read but difficult to execute. It’s okay if you can’t do this to perfection because Jesus did this for you. In his difficulties, He rested in God’s providence and plan. But knowing that doesn’t shut down the internal unrest – it is a life-long struggle.
But there are some things when understand and practiced, can help you on this journey.
The song begins with praise. Praise for God’s graciousness in hearing and answering his requests. It was God who had done the work of vindicating and liberating him. So, in his praise, he acknowledges his need for God and admits and owns the struggles. So often, our bitterness stems from our inability to praise God for the storm. Hard as it may be, Paul said – ‘IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS, FOR THIS IS THE WILL OF GOD.’ Until you can praise God for the storm, you will have a difficult time with the internal unrest.
David also understood the necessity to control anger. Listen – ‘BE ANGRY AND DO NOT SIN.’ This statement is repeated in the New Testament. Anger is not wrong unless it leads to sinful activity, which happens frequently. The encouragement of these verses challenges us to act, not react – ‘ON YOUR BED, REFLECT IN YOUR HEART.’ From that reflection should flow a faith that tempers your response. If not, it won’t be pretty.
This Psalm also reveals the importance of your priorities. Listen – ‘YOU HAVE PUT MORE JOY IN MY HEART THAN THEY WHEN THEIR GRAIN AND NEW WINE ABOUND.’ Relationships take precedence over things. Get that backwards and it will impact your internal tension and reactions. So, you see David’s priorities were simple – God, others, and things. All necessary in the battle to quiet the heart. Our prayer is that in the internal struggles you will ‘BE STILL.’ Why? “The Lord is on thy side.”
PSALM 5: “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Good question from Corrie ten Boom. Prayer is perhaps the simplest and most complex teaching in the Bible. In some sense, it is practiced by all, but it is immensely personal and seldom discussed. No one brags of it because we usually feel inadequate about it. Often referred to as ‘your prayer life,’ but seldom talked about with others. In addition, we feel convicted when we are told of the prayer lives of some great Christians who prayed for hours on end.
In this Psalm, we are given a glimpse into one of David’s prayers put to song. It reveals the nature of his communication with God. Listen – ‘LISTEN TO MY WORDS…CONSIDER MY SIGHING…PAY ATTENTION TO THE SOUND OF MY CRY.’ Martin Luther said: “these expressions all clearly display the urgency and energy of David’s feelings and petitions.” It also shows that prayer is not just a mental activity, but our hearts in communication with God’s heart. My whole being is communicated in prayer.
Prayer then is very much a spiritual and emotional activity. That means it reaches to the depths of our being people. From the words to the sighing, and also the sound of our crying – it is the real you in communication with God. Just think about that for a moment. More than anything else, prayer aligns your heart with the heart of God.
But prayer isn’t just speaking, sighing and crying, it is trusting and expecting. Prayer is the ultimate act of belief in God. Listen – ‘IN THE MORNING I PLEAD MY CASE TO YOU AND WATCH EXPECTANTLY.’ David doesn’t tell God what to do, rather he presents himself to God and waits for God to act. God always does things His way, not ours. So often, we tell God what we want Him to do and then grumble when He doesn’t do what we said. How many Christians have prayed to win the lottery? God doesn’t work that way!
But the foundation of prayer is rooted in the nature and character of God. Listen as David invokes this – ‘FOR YOU ARE NOT A GOD WHO DELIGHTS IN WICKEDNESS; EVIL CANNOT DWELL WITH YOU.’ Prayer begins with an awareness of who God is! With that understanding, we speak, knowing who we speak to and trusting in His sovereign care.
Knowing God and knowing how He created people with the ability to communicate – God enjoys conversation and communication. Prayer is simply our communication with our Heavenly Father. It’s not just asking and receiving, it is also enjoying the means God has given us to stay in touch with Him. Sometimes it’s just coming into His presence to tell Him how much we love Him and thank Him for His eternal care of our lives. Listen – ‘FOR YOU LORD, BLESS THE RIGHTEOUS ONE: YOU SURROUND HIM WITH FAVOR LIKE A SHIELD.” Thank you!!!