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The Man of the Psalms (Psalm 1)

The Prayers of Israel  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Seeing Jesus in the Psalms

Notes & Transcripts

Intro

This summer we’ll be working our way through selections of the ’ve been a Christian now for over 20 years and no book of the Bible has been more personally transformative and significant in my Christian growth than the Psalms. They have comforted me in times of sorrow and grief; helped ground me in truth during times of suffering and hardship; given me words to express my joy; and have helped me plumb the depths of my heart. They have provided prayers when my own words have run dry. In sum, they have taught me what it means to be a Christian.
I’ve read them at least once every year for at least the past decade and I’m still amazed at how unfamiliar many of them seem. Years ago I started writing a sort of devotional commentary on the Psalms, and yet I still feel like I am an infant in understanding them.
Martin Luther, too, was studying the Psalms vigorously leading up to the posting of the 95 Thesis in 1517. They led him to a personal revival of sorts.
Moreover, the Psalms have been the prayerbook of God’s people for at least 2500 years. They capture the life experiences and responses of people in almost every situation of life. They formed the liturgical structure for Israel’s corporate worship.
But perhaps most importantly, they were the prayers of the Lord Jesus himself. He prayed them in moments of temptation, recited them in his teaching, reminded himself of them in suffering and in victory. The Psalms are quoted in the NT more often than any other OT book.
This summer, I want to explore several of the Psalms so that we too can get in on their rich tradition and insight… so that we too can be shaped by them. So that we can learn how to pray them. My goal is not so much to preach on them per se, but to offer my own meditations on them, so you can see the heart and imagery that gripped those who wrote them.
Eugene Peterson quote on page 3
Tonight, I want to kick this series off at the very beginning of the Psalter - in - with a sort of orientation to the Psalter. Next week, we’ll look more at the lesson of this Psalm in detail, but tonight I want to help you see it as the introduction to the whole book and the importance of meditation for the life of the Christian.
I agree with Tim Keller who writes in his little devotional book, the Songs of Jesus: “to know how to meditate and delight in the Bible is the secret to a relationship with God and to life itself.”
I want to begin our study with three key points: 1) the structure of the Psalms; 2) the importance of meditation for growth; and 3) Who meditation points to.

1. the structure of the Psalms

I would be remiss not to point out to you at the outset of this series that the Psalms have a very definite shape to them. In other words there is an intentionality to the way they were put together as we have them. The first thing you may notice in your Bible is that the Psalms are grouped into five books. #’s 1-41; 42-72; 73-89; 90-106; and 107-150. Scholars have yet to really come up with any real pattern or reason for why these 5 books are comprised the way they are, but many believe the number 5 was chosen to mirror the Pentateuch - the first 5 books of the Bible, the books of Moses.
The Psalms are written by many different authors over a long period of time. The most famous are king David who wrote roughly half of them, the sons of Korah, and Asaph who is believed to be David’s choir director. 50 of the Psalms are anonymous.
Many people have tried to group the Psalms topically in order to make sense of the various genres. Some scholars group them into as few as 3 categories, while others say there are 7-10 different types of Psalms. But, what we can say with certainty is that each and every Psalm was either a prayer, a poem or a song designed to shape God’s people into worshipers.
The point here, is that there is a very intentional poetic structure to each and every Psalm; and the book as a whole has an intentional structure as well. What this means on a very practical level is that in addition to the actual people who wrote these prayers and poems and songs, there was someone else who organized them all in the sequence we have them today. This person, or group of people, are also most likely responsible for the little titles and background information that you see at the beginning of many of them.
This means that when we come to , we need to not only read it as the very first Psalm, but also as the introduction to the entire hymnal that is the Psalter. Why is it here? Many think the reason is that (and probably also ) introduce the key concerns and topics of the entire Bible. brings up sin and righteousness, blessing and wickedness, how to live in a way that connects a person to God, the importance of God’s Word for our lives, and how to live in a way that is prosperous.
Ironically, however, the book that teaches us to pray doesn’t begin with a prayer. As Eugene Peterson writes in Answering God, the reason for this is “that we are not ready. We are wrapped up in ourselves. We are knocked around by the world. The ways in which we are used to going about our business, using the language, dealing with our neighbors, and thinking about God don’t exactly disqualify us from prayer, but neither do they help much.”
The goal of the Psalter is to bring us more deeply into the discipline of worship and prayer. And the goal of prayer is to leave the world of anxiety and enter a world of wonder. It’s to leave our self-centered world and enter a God-centered world. It’s to gain perspective on our problems and submit our lives to the reality of mystery. And this is no easy task. We are used to anxiety… used to our egos and problems demanding our attention. We are not used to wonder, we are not used to silence, not used to God and mystery.
paves the way. It gets us ready and excited to enter this world of worship of prayer. You might say it is here as the introduction to prayer. It is pre-prayer, the stretching before we exercise our prayer muscles.
And it does this by introducing two key things: an action and an image. The action is Law-meditation. And a vibrant tree is the image.

2. The importance of Meditation for growth

I’m not sure what your experience has been with meditation. Whether you’ve ever tried it or not. Or what you even think of when you hear the word. So it’s important at the outset here to define exactly what the Bible has in mind when it uses the word. The first thing we learn, though, about meditation is that human beings instinctively meditate on whatever it is they delight in.
If you delight in the idea of a comfortable and secure life, then you meditate on the house you hope to live in and the amount of money you hope to make and things like that. You meditate on how to advance at your career. If you delight in a certain kind of family, then you meditate a lot on parenting and marriage, and how you hope your kids will turn out. You meditate on how to fix members of your family.
But the righteous person, the blessed man of , delights in the Law of the Lord, and because he delights in it, he meditates on it all the time… day and night.
The word that gets translated Law: Torah which comes from a word that means to throw something so that it hits a target. In those days it may have been a spear or a javelin or something like that - that hits the bullseye and that bullseye is the Torah.
We might think of a pitcher throwing a fastball that goes right by the batter, through the strike zone and into the catcher’s glove.
In speech, words are the pitches or the javelins that are hurled from one mind to another. The javelin word goes out of one person and pierces another. On many occasions, good and bad, these words have a shaping effect on the person they hit.
The idea here is that God has taken aim with his words. They are intentional and personal. The target is our hearts. So Torah, or law, here isn’t just referring to the 10 Commandments or the Law of Moses, but the entire word of God.
But God
And God’s word is not like a reference book in the library that we pull casually off the shelf when we want information… to write a paper, to study a subject we’re interested in, or to help us on an exam. God’s word hits us where we live. And the moment we come to know this, that the God of the Universe, the King of kings, the Creator God himself, when we come to know that he has spoken to us directly and personally, delight is automatic.
And the only response to this delight is to treasure these words. To work them deep into our minds and hearts. To meditate.
God’s word is designed to shape new life in us, to feed and grow us. They become something we have to have. All the time.
Meditation is a bodily action. It’s a word that has been hijacked a little bit by Eastern Religions and especially the practice of Transcendental Meditation. When we hear the word meditation, most of us probably think of monks sitting in lotus position, practicing solitude. The goal being to empty their minds. It’s all very passive and quiet and sublime.
But the biblical word involves action. It means to moan. It involves murmuring and mumbling the words, getting the feel of the meaning, listening to the syllables, kneading them into our minds the way a baker works the yeast into a ball of dough.
Isaiah used this word in 31:4 to describe the sound a lion makes over its prey. A lion over its catch and a person meditating on God’s word act similarly. They purr and growl in pleasurable anticipation of taking in what will make them more themselves. Of ingesting what will give life and strength.
Isaiah 31:4 CSB
For this is what the Lord said to me: As a lion or young lion growls over its prey when a band of shepherds is called out against it, and is not terrified by their shouting or subdued by their noise, so the Lord of Armies will come down to fight on Mount Zion and on its hill.
This goes far beyond merely reading the Bible, or thinking about it. This isn’t exactly Bible Study, or an intellectual process and figuring out meaning so much as it is a physical process: hearing and rehearsing the words, memorizing them and letting them sink in. As Eugene Peterson puts it: “meditation is mastication.”
"There is a difference between meditating and thinking. To meditate is to think carefully, reply and diligently, and properly it means to muse in the heart. Hence to meditate is, as it were, to stir up in the inside, or to be moved in the innermost self; therefore, one who thinks inwardly and diligently asks, discusses, etc. Such a person meditates" (Martin Luther, First Psalms Lectures).
"There is a difference between meditating and thinking. To meditate is to think carefully, reply and diligently, and properly it means to muse in the heart. Hence to meditate is, as it were, to stir up in the inside, or to be moved in the innermost self; therefore, one who thinks inwardly and diligently asks, discusses, etc. Such a person meditates" (Martin Luther, First Psalms Lectures).
That’s the first thing we learn about the Blessed Man of - he delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night.
But then the Psalmist goes on to do what only the Psalms can do for us. To give us an image of what meditation does in us. Meditation is meant to produce something… what is it?
“A tree planted by streams of water that produces fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither.”
READ Answering God p. 26-27
The thought process of the Psalmist is something like this… when we delight in God’s word, we meditate on it, and when we meditate on it, it goes into us and puts down roots and begins to grow from the inside out.
“Because I am a Christian, therefore, every day in which I do not penetrate more deeply into the knowledge of God's Word in Holy Scripture is a lost day for me. I can only move forward with certainty upon the firm ground of the Word of God. And, as a Christian, I learn to know the Holy Scriptures in no other way than by hearing the Word preached and by prayerful meditation” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945)
Continue reading Answering God, p. 27-28.
Did you notice that the tree bears fruit? What is the fruit? Verse 1: blessing. Happiness. Joy. It’s the Hebrew word Ashre - Asher. That’s what our son is named after. See, no matter what life throws your way, if the word penetrates your heart, you will be blessed. Everything you do will prosper. This doesn’t mean life will be easy or that you will be rich. It means nothing you do will be in vain.
Are you putting your roots down? Are you planted? What this means practically is that because we live in such a busy world – such fast-paced lives, that we have to make time in our lives for it. Now listen, this is difficult, I realize that. Here’s a suggestion for this week… type into a reminder on your phone and have it go off a couple of times a day. Read it a few times. Out loud if you are able to. Read it at meals. Tape it to your mirror. Then on Tuesday do verse 2. That’s the start of meditation.

3. Who meditation points to

But ultimately, true blessing and righteousness come as our meditation points us to the man of the Psalter - Jesus Christ. He is the true and living word, the true Torah, the true tree planted deeply in God’s word, so deeply that living water flowed from him. He is the one who prospered even in the midst of suffering and death.
If we want to be shaped by the Psalms, we need to learn to see the man of Psalms throughout the Psalter. In each and every one. To see how they point to him. How they reveal him. To see how he fulfilled the hopes and longings of the people back then who were praying. To see how he meditated on them and delighted in them.
He is the blessed man of .
Psalm 1 ESV
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
1. Ashrei ha’ish asher lo halakh ba’atzat resha’im uvderekh chatta’im lo amad, uvmoshav leitzim lo yashav.
uvderekh chatta’im lo amad, uvmoshav leitzim lo yashav.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2. ki im be’torat Adonai cheftzo uvtorato yehegeh yomam va’lailah
But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and on his law he meditates day and night.
3. ve’hayah ke’etz shatul al-paigei mayim asher piryo yiten be’ito v’aleihu lo-yibbol v’khol asher-ya’aseh yatzli’ach.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
4. lo-khen ha-resha’im ki im’kamotz asher-tidefenu ru’ach
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5. ai-ken lo-yakumu resha’im ba-mishpat v’chatta’im ba’adat tzaddikim.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6. ki-yode’a Adonai derekh tzaddikim v’derekh resha’im toveid.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945)
Read Psalm 1
Keller, Timothy; Keller, Kathy (2015-11-10). The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms (p. 1). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
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