Reading: PSALMS 1-4
Click on the link for the reading to read the Psalms for this week. As we read, let us not do so in haste. Take time to read each Psalm at least three times: once to understand the content, once as a poem or song to feel the meaning, and once as a prayer to appropriate the Psalm into your life. There will often be a hymn attached at the bottom of the page that helps bring meaning to one of the Psalms for the week.
PSALM 1: Delight in God’s Teaching
The book of Psalms begins with a beatitude: a statement about human existence. One thing is fundamental to the righteous—engagement with the teachings of the Lord. The righteous are to be in constant reflective meditation on God’s Word. The counterparts of those whose life is directed by God’s instructions are the wicked. The distinction between the two is what directs their life. Psalm 1 teaches that life is a journey through time. It uses the great biblical metaphor of the “way,” a road or path that one follows. There are only two ways for the journey to take: the way of righteousness relies on God’s teachings, the way of wickedness relies on one’s own judgment. The first way leads to the fulfillment of life as the result of life’s connection with the source of life. The second way is really an illusion: it has no more substance than chaff that the wind drives away.
PSALM 2: The Reign of God
Psalm 2 joins Psalm 1 as a paired introduction to the book of Psalms. It makes even more explicit what Psalm 1 has already suggested by its sharply drawn contrast between the righteous and the wicked. Psalm 1 addressed the individual life. Psalm 2 addresses the question of the community of faith faced with the problems of a world in which nations contend for power. It is the only text in the Old Testament that speaks of God’s king, messiah, and son in one place, the titles so important for the presentation of Jesus in the Gospels. God, the Psalm tells us, is in control–God rules the world through the Messiah. But yet we are faced with the reality of the world in chaos. So, whom shall we trust? King Jesus, although he conquers by the power of love and his crown is a cross, is content with nothing less than claiming the whole world for God. Psalm 2 calls us to affirm the good news that God rules the world, and calls us to live under God’s reign.
PSALM 3: A Prayer for Deliverance
After the double introduction of Psalms 1 and 2, the voice of prayer is heard. The prayer begins by calling on the name of the Lord and describing the trouble that is being experienced. Trust in the Lord is proclaimed and then displayed in conduct—by restful sleep and the absence of fear in the midst of trouble.
The Psalm proclaims the good news that God helps those who cannot help themselves, contrary to what the world believes. The foes in verse 2 proclaim “there is no help for you in God.” It is hard for us to live in the reality of God’s love and help. We live in a society that promotes the notion that God helps those who help themselves; that we must pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and take care of our problems. The psalmist affirms that human identity and destiny are shaped ultimately by the reality of God. Full human
selfhood is experienced in the yielding of oneself to God. Prayer is for those who know they are not self-sufficient; it is for those who know they need help. As Eugene Peterson puts it, “Prayer is the language of people who are in trouble and know it, and who believe or hope that God can get them out.”
PSALM 4: When Honor is Lost
The psalmist has a problem caused by a falsehood. The honor of the one praying has been damaged by a lie. In spite of this, the dominant mood of the psalm is confidence. In that confidence, the prayer petitions God to hear and help. In the culture of ancient Israel, honor was of the greatest value; it is in most societies. Honor is the dignity and respect that belong to a person’s position in relation to family, friends, and community. It is an essential part of the identity that others recognize and regard in dealing with a person. In Israel its loss had tragic consequences for self-esteem and social competence. Shaming and humiliating a person was violence against them worse than physical injury. The prayerful and theological significance of this psalm is that God is the ultimate basis of the “honor” of the faithful. The psalmist has a basis of identity that transcends the judgments of others—that basis is the person’s relationship with God. To paraphrase verses 4-5: “When things work against you don’t let it throw you off. Don’t lose any sleep over it. Keep your composure. Offer your entire self to God. Entrust your life to God.” As the Apostle Paul puts it, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:3)
This is the Psalm in hymn form. Read or sing it through with melody to give the Psalm another dimension.
We’ve attached a video clip of this song below.
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