Writing a blog is painful.  Part of what makes it painful for me is deciding what to write about each time the deadline rolls around.  To simplify the process I decided to write a series of blogs.  Since I’m Biblical’s Old Testament professor it made sense to focus on an OT book.  But then another problem arises.  I only post for Biblical’s blog about once a month so it could be hard to give my book series any sense of continuity.  What OT book has chapters that basically stand alone so readers won’t have to go back to the post I wrote four weeks earlier to understand what I’m saying?  The book of Psalms

Not only was it the logical choice, but I also love the Psalms.

While I’ve already written posts for my own blog on the first psalm, it would be wrong to begin a series of blogs on the Psalms starting anywhere else.  The Psalms help us worship (e.g., 8, 117), they help us lament (e.g., 13, 22), they help us repent (e.g., 38, 51), but Psalm 1 doesn’t focus on any of those important themes. 

The first psalm focuses on motivation: the rewards (blessing, fruitfulness and prospering) and the consequences (withering, falling and perishing) for those who delight in the law of the LORD (they get the rewards) and those who don’t (they get the consequences).

Psalm 1 is set up as a contrast between the person focused on the Torah of YHWH (“the law of the LORD”) and everyone else.  Notice in the first verse the Torah seeking person is alone but the non-Torah seekers are plural: wicked, sinners and scoffers (these synonyms are repeated 7 times in this 6-verse psalm).  Sometimes the person focusing on God’s word can feel alone or isolated and there is a temptation to join in (to walk, stand or sit) with the crowd that seems to have better things to do.  To defeat that temptation, we need to remember that there are painful consequences from not seeking God’s law. 

The second verse is the crux of the psalm.  The blessed one will delight in the Torah of YHWH, and meditate on it 24/7. 

What things do you delight in?  A chocolate truffle?  The Eagles crushing the Cowboys?  A beautiful sunset?  Many of us would say “yes” to at least one of these things.  What about the laws of Leviticus?  Probably not.  The psalmist, however, was obsessed with God’s word, even God’s laws, even Leviticus.  They are better than truffles, an Eagles victory or the best sunset.  Jesus loved Leviticus—he knew it included one of the greatest commands, to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18; Mark 12:31). 

Every time I read this psalm I’m convicted.  I’ve given my life to study and teach God’s word, but meditating day and night on Scripture?  That doesn’t happen very often. 

That’s why I need to be reminded that blessings and rewards come from delighting in God’s word.  I suspect I’m not alone in this regard. 

Ultimately, the biggest reward from meditating on Scripture is that one becomes more deeply connected with God. 

God, help us connect to you from your word, even your laws.

What rewards do you experience as you meditate on God’s word? 

David Lamb is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Biblical. He’s the husband of Shannon, father of Nathan and Noah, and the author of God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?He blogs regularly at http://davidtlamb.com/. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/david-lamb.


0 # brent emery 2012-09-07 00:54
Dr. Lamb, I think you are absolutely spot on in focusing on the Psalms for at least two reasons. The Psalms were the most copied section of Scripture in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Secondly, the Psalms are the most quoted Biblical text in the Apostolic Scripture. I would be interested in knowing if you have read any of Mark Futato's commentary on the Psalms.
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0 # David Lamb 2012-09-07 11:02
Brent, thanks for the comment. Yes, quoted often, and also, the Psalms teach us how to pray, which I know I need help with. I am only slightly familiar with Futato's Psalms commentary. The books I work with the most are narrative, mainly Samuel and Kings.
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0 # brent emery 2012-09-08 09:36
Dr. Lamb, I just finished reading "Psalms as Torah" by Gordon Wenham. I think he makes a strong case for seeing the Psalms as Torah put to music/poetry. The largest Psalm in the Tehillim is Psalm 119 which is an alphabetic accrostic in praise of Torah. I heartily recommend a read of Wenham's book. shalom, brent emery
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0 # David Lamb 2012-09-08 10:21
Brent, I like almost everything Wenham has written. I met him in England briefly. I own "Psalms as Torah" but have only read a few pages of it. Sounds like you should read my blogs on Psalm 119, from davidtlamb.com. I have 40 of them so far. Thanks for engaging. - Dave Lamb
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0 # Lynda Stear 2012-11-08 23:45
Dr. Lamb,
This week, the national election was one of great disappointment for at least half the nation who sought to reestablish "One Nation Under God" - our foundational beginning - where we prayed for more than just a Godly man to lead us, but for God to lead through our leaders at all levels of government - to heal our nation, and to continue to bless our nation.

For many years, America has moved from a God-ordained theocracy toward a man-centered government. I am so deeply saddened about this and am trying to make sense of my sadness. I have never in nearly 7 decades of my life, seen so many "Christian soldiers" create grass root efforts to take back our nation God has blessed.

In trying to find one of your assignments for class, I found your blog about Psalms 1. Verse 6 states, "For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish."

Never have I heard so many people tell me that they were praying - people who NEVER tell me that they pray. Many of us were in the 2 Chronicles 7:14 mode big time!

How can we make sense of our post-modern nation? Yes, Christians know that eventually there will be judgement and the "wicked will perish (vs 6)," but meanwhile, we have to continue living "in" this world and continue to "meditate day and night (vs 2)."

Because TV and radio news is so painful right now, I found WPBH on the TV and heard this hymn tonight - "Have thine own way Lord, Have thine own way. Thou art the potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still."

Psalm 1 says the the one who meditates " ... yields fruit in season (vs 3)" - is this our MISSIONAL MANDATE in this Psalm, if not, what is our mandate?

How can we REBOOT post-election for the consequences of many of our leaders walking in the "...counsel of the wicked (vs 1)?"

Lynda Stear
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