The Psalms can help you grow your relationship with God1
Introduction to the Psalms. The book of Psalms is both the longest book and the midpoint of the Bible. In the Greek Septuagint and the New Testament, it is called the “book of Psalms” (Lk. 20:42; 24:44; Acts 1:20). The Greek word for “Psalms” or “Psalter” refers to choir songs sung with accompanying string instruments. In Hebrew, the book is called the “book of Praises”. In either language, the terms carry the same idea – worship. The songs and prayers are designed to help believers praise, pray, thank, worship, petition, and love God in good or bad circumstances. The Psalms show that you can pour out your heart to God no matter what you feel.
David’s important role in the Psalms. The Psalms are divided into five books, with each ending in a doxology. These include: Book I (psalms 1-41); Book II (psalms 42-72); Book III (psalms 73-89); Book IV (psalms 90-106), and Book V (psalms 107-150). According the Jewish Midrash, “as Moses gave five books of law to Israel, so David gave five books of Psalms to Israel.” (William G. Braude, The Midrash of the Psalms (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954). David is identified as the author of at least 73 psalms or 48 percent of the total (Ps. 3–9, 11–41, 51–65, 68–70, 86, 101, 103, 108–110, 122, 124, 131, 133, 138–145). The Latin Vulgate and the Greek Septuagint further attribute 12 additional psalms to him. David also institutionalized worship by appointing the Levities to lead the people in regular songs of praise (1 Chr. 15:16; 6:31; 25:1). Thus, the Bible calls David both the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam. 23:1) and “a man after God’s heart.” (Acts 13:22). Although he did not write all of the Psalms, he inspired many of his contemporaries and successors to write most of the remaining psalms. Exactly 27 psalms or 18 percent of the total are attributed to a different author. But only one of these is known for certain to have predated David: (1) 11 are from David’s worship leader Asaph (Ps. 50, 73-83); (2) 2 are from Solomon, David’s son (Ps. 72, 127); (3) 11 are from the “sons of the Korah”, who were descendants of Levi (Ps. 42, 44–49, 84–85, 87-88); (4) one is from Herman the Ezrahite, who coauthored one with the sons of Korah (Ps. 88); (5) one is from Ethan the Ezrahite (Ps. 89); and (6) one is from Moses (Ps. 90). Fifty psalms have no author. Most of these are in later books. In the first two books, only 6 psalms have no author (Ps. 1, 2, 10, 33, 43 and 71). In contrast, most of the psalms without authors appear between 91 and 150. The books without authors were likely assembled after the Jews returned from Babylonian exile.
Time periods and themes for the Psalms. At least 84 psalms (and likely far more) existed during the reign of Hezekiah, King of Judah (circa 715-687/6 B.C.) when he ordered the Levites to worship using David and Asaph’s psalms: “Moreover, King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to sing praises to the LORD with the words of David and Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped.” (2 Chr. 29:30). The context also suggests that unknown psalmists wrote or assembled the final three books after the Jews’ Babylonian captivity, which officially ended with King Cyrus II’s decree in 537 B.C. “In general, Books I and II lay out the foundation of God’s program in the Davidic monarchy, Book III reflects the failure of the monarchy and was shaped with the exile in mind, and Books IV and V present the restoration and the hope for the future with the Lord as king. The final compilation therefore came after the traumatic experience of the exile and the joyous renewal of the faith.” (Allen Ross, A Commentary of the Psalms: Volume 1 (1-41), Kregel Academic (2011) p. 54). Regardless of the exact time or author, God inspired His Word in the Psalms (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
1) Worship. The Psalms are designed to help you express genuine worship and adoration for God, even in the darkest of times. While memorizing God’s Word helps to keep your head aligned with Him, worship helps to keep your heart aligned with Him as well. Saint Augustine, who lived between 354 to 430 A.D., wrote how the Psalms brought him to a state of humility and love for God: “In what accounts I addressed Thee, my God, when I read the Psalms of David, those faithful songs, the language of devotion which banishes the spirit of pride . . . How I addressed Thee in those Psalms! How my love for Thee was kindled by them! How I burned to recite them, were it possible, throughout the world, as an antidote for the pride of humanity.” (The Confessions of St. Augustine, ix 4, in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. By Philip Schaff (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1994 reprint), p. 131). God’s Law included obligations for the Jews to express their gratitude through proper worship (Dt. 12:7, 12, 18; 14:26; 16:11-15; 26:11; 27:7). But God hates worship when it is done out of obligation (Is. 1:14). In other words, God wants your head and your heart aligned in the right place when you approach Him. To set the Jews’ hearts for proper worship, David previously led the Jews with both psalms and songs of praise and thanksgiving: “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His faithfulness is everlasting.” (1 Chr. 16:34). “Then David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets.” (1 Chr. 13:8). The Psalms also encourage believers to praise God with both songs and musical instruments: “It is good to give thanks to the LORD and to sing praises to Your name, Most High; to declare Your goodness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night, with the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, with resounding music on the lyre. For You, LORD, have made me joyful by what You have done, I will sing for joy over the works of Your hands.” (Ps. 92:104). “Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with tambourine and dancing; praise Him with stringed instruments and flute. Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with resounding cymbals. Everything that has breath shall praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!” (Ps. 150:3-6). Thus, you should never skip or tune out of the worship that precedes most church sermons.
2) Heartfelt prayer. The Psalms also show you how you can express all of your feelings directly to God the way a child might cry out to his or her parents. According to the French theologian John Calvin (1509-1535 A.D.), the Psalms show you how to confess your every need to God: “Here the prophets themselves, seeing they are exhibited to us as speaking to God, and laying open all their inmost thoughts and affections, call, or rather draw, each of us to the examinations of himself in particular, in order that none of the many infirmities to which we are subject, and of the many vices with which we abound, may remain concealed.” (John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Trans. By James Anderson. 3 Volumes (Eerdmans, 1963 reprint p. xxxvii).
3) Thanksgiving. When God does answer your prayers, the Psalms remind you to give Him the credit. If you fail to make a habit of thanking Him, you may take Him for granted. Even in times when he was jailed and persecuted, Paul worshiped God and gave thanks: “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father;” (Eph. 5:20). If you fail to make a habit of thanking Him, you may also develop a feeling of entitlement.
4) The blessing of joy. Even in your moments of tragedy, sorrow, loss, or trials, the Psalms can also help you to find joy by turning your focus away from yourself and back to God where it belongs. When Saul was trying to kill David, David wrote in one of his many psalms that he would always praise God (Ps. 34:1). Moreover, David and other psalmists were joyful in their praises: “I will rejoice and be jubilant in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” (Ps. 9:2). “But rejoice, all who take refuge in You, sing for joy forever! And may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You.” (Ps. 5:11). “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You; and my soul, which You have redeemed.” (Ps. 71:23). “I rejoice at Your word, like one who finds great plunder.” (Ps. 119:162). Thus, if you are going through the motions when you worship, you should stop and examine your heart.
5) Spiritual growth. The Psalms will also help to guide you to grow in your walk with God. As you meditate on God’s Word and worship Him, the Holy Spirit can guide you and keep you on the right path. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). If you are lacking wisdom or facing the unknown, meditate on the Psalms and pray for the Holy Spirit to search your heart and give you the wisdom to guide your path. “Search me, God, and know my heart; put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Ps. 139:23-24). “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” (Ps. 143:10). “Make me know Your ways, LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day.” (Ps. 25:4-5). “Establish my footsteps in Your word, and do not let any wrongdoing have power over me.” (Ps. 119:133).
6) Trust. Learning to sing God’s praises in good times and bad times also helps you to learn to place your trust in Him. When the enemy convinces you that your situation is hopeless or impossible, worship helps you to put your trust in God to deliver you from your battles. David proclaimed that he would rather trust in God than a mighty army (Ps. 20:7). David also put his trust in God when all hope of victory and survival seemed lost: “Protect me, God, for I take refuge in You. . . For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;” (Ps. 16:1, 10). “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4). The Psalms will also help you to put your trust in God.
7) Jesus. There are more Psalms referenced in the New Testament than any other book, and they all point to Jesus. He came to fulfill the promises contained in the Psalms: “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things that are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”’ (Lk. 24:44). He is the “Son of Man” who would be born a humble servant to die for our sins: “What is man that You think of him, and a son of man that You are concerned about him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty!” (Ps. 8:4-5; Heb. 2:6). The Psalms also tell us how he would suffer on the cross: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46; Mk. 15:34; Lk. 18:31). Yet, He died without breaking any bones to be our perfect sacrifice (Ps. 34:20; Jo. 19:36). The Psalms point to His future judgment of those who reject God (e.g., Ps. 1, 110). The Psalms also point to the promise of His perfect eternal reign (e.g., Ps. 2, 45, 72). Jesus wants you to cry out to Him. He will deliver you in His timing. Thus, He deserves your praise and thanksgiving. “For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” (Ps. 96:4).
Introduction: The first two psalms together form the introduction to the Book of Psalms. Here, the unidentified psalmist describes the contrast between a believer who follows God’s Law with the wicked person who rejects God and His standards of morality. Because the main focus of the Psalms is about your prayer and worship life, it might at first seem counterintuitive to start with an exhortation to follow God’s Law. But living according to God’s standards of morality is the foundation to a Spirit-led relationship with God. The Jews called this being part of God’s Covenant with Abraham. Through Jesus, any believer is an heir to this promise and can enter into a Covenant relationship with God. Faith in Jesus is the condition precedent to your salvation. Yet, you cannot claim to worship, love, thank, and adore God if you also reject His standards for right and wrong. Here, Jesus reveals seven blessings that come from living in Covent relationship based on faith in Him. They include: (1) spiritual contentment, (2) His Word, (3) spiritual growth, (4) protection, (5) eternal salvation, (6) His grace, and (7) His mercy.
First, God promised blessing (defined as happiness or contentment) when a believer avoids the ways and company of evil people. This includes those who reject God. If you live a life where you separate yourself from evil, God will also bless you with spiritual contentment. Second, God states that a content believer finds his or her delight in the life-long study and meditation on His Law. If you want to be in a Covenant relationship with God, He will also bless you if you devote yourself to studying and meditating on His Word. This includes His standards of righteousness in His Law. Third, God promises that the believer who delights in studying His Word will grow like a well-watered tree with deep roots. God also promises you spiritual growth when you lead a life of faith-led devotion to His Word. Fourth, God warns that the wicked will blow away like chaff during times of tribulation. In contrast, God promises that a life of Spirit-Led obedience to Him protects you during times of tribulation. Fifth, God warns that the wicked will not join the future assembly of the righteous. This alludes to Jesus’ future assembly of believers in heaven. Any person who has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior will enjoy His blessing of eternal salvation. Sixth, God promises that He knows the way of the righteous. That means that He watches over and pours out His grace on those who are saved believers in a Covenant relationship. Finally, God warns that the wicked will perish. In contrast, God’s mercy is available to all who approach Him through a faith-based relationship with Jesus.
A believer finds Spirit-led contentment by avoiding evil. God promises that He will “bless” believers who avoid the ways, company, and beliefs of wicked nonbelievers: “1 Blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” (Ps. 1:1). The word “blessed” in English can have several different meanings. It might suggest to some a physical reward. But that is not consistent with the original Hebrew meaning. In Hebrew, the word “esher” (eh'-sher) “אֶשֶׁר” translates as “blessed” or “happy.” The plural construct of “אַשְׁרֵי” is “happiness”.2 God may not offer everyone wealth. But He does offer contentment.
Avoid those who reject Jesus and His standards of right and wrong. In verse 1, the word “wicked” can sometimes refer to believers who engage in evil acts. Yet, the context here refers to non-believers who reject God and His Law. “The word certainly can describe people who are doing evil things, but it can also describe people who are basically unbelievers . . . They have no reverence for God. The ‘ungodly’ may be capable of truly wicked acts, but they may also seem to be pleasant and kind . . . Some of these people may seem to us to be good people, but as far as God is concerned they are ‘wicked’ because they have rejected their Creator and chosen to live in violation of His laws and refuse His provision of salvation. They are guilty of sin before God and stand condemned (Ps. 1:6).” (Ross, p. 186 fn. 14). In other words, God’s contentment comes when you separate yourself from those who reject Jesus and His standards of morality.
Avoid being unequally yoked together with nonbelievers. The psalmist repeatedly proclaimed that he would avoid spiritual compromise with those who reject God and His standards of right and wrong: “I do not sit with deceitful people, nor will I go with pretenders.” (Ps. 26:4). “As for the works of mankind, by the word of Your lips I have kept from the ways of the violent.” (Ps. 17:4). “I have restrained my feet from every evil way, so that I may keep Your word.” (Ps. 119:101). The Apostle Paul also warned of the dangers of spiritual compromise that come from being unequally yoked together with nonbelievers: “Do not be mismatched with unbelievers; for what do righteousness and lawlessness share together, or what does light have in common with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:4). If you join yourself together with a non-believer, you may also be pulled away from God. This undermines the contentment that comes from being in a relationship with God. Instead of pursuing the path of nonbelievers, believers must take the narrow path through Jesus: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is narrow and the way is constricted that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14). Are you compromising yourself in any area of your walk with Jesus?
Look to God for counsel, not the counsel of non-believers. God warns that a believer in a Covenant relationship does not seek out the counsel of nonbelievers. Instead, a believer finds counsel in His Word: “Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my advisers.” (Ps. 119:24). God offers wisdom when you turn to Him to find it: “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in secret You will make wisdom known to me.” (Ps. 51:6). “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov. 2:6). Frequently, the path will seem unclear. A believer might offer bad advice, and a nonbeliever might offer good advice. Thus, you should always pray for God’s wisdom: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jam. 1:5). In all of your major decisions in life, are you reading God’s Word and praying for His guidance?
God’s blessing of contentment is available to all believers. The English theologian Charles Spurgeon (1834 -1892 A.D.) observed that God’s blessing is available to anyone: “It is not ‘Blessed is the king, blessed is the scholar, blessed is the rich,’ but, ‘Blessed is the man.’ This blessedness is as attainable by the poor, the forgotten and the obscure, as by those whose names figure in history, and are trumpeted by fame.” (Charles Spurgeon on Psalm 1). If you practice faith-led obedience, you too can enjoy His full blessings.
A believer should delight in studying God’s Word and His Law. In addition setting him or herself apart from nonbelievers, a believer should also find joy in studying God’s Law: “2 But his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and on His Law he meditates day and night.” (Ps. 1:2). The Jews would have understood this to mean the Ten Commandments and the interpretative text of the Torah. While many today may endorse the value of studying God’s “Word”, few make the same claim about God’s “Law”. But that is a mistake.
Meditate on God’s Word and His Law, and He will bless you3
The dangers of legalism. When studying the Law, it is important to begin by noting what the Law will not do. It is not a route to salvation. If that were the case, Christ’s death was not necessary (Gal. 2:21). Long before Jesus ever came, God condemned the Jewish religious leaders who had turned the Law and the festivals into a set of ritualistic obligations. People did what they were told, but their hearts were not in it (Amos 5:21; same Is. 66:3). Jesus’ greatest condemnations were therefore directed at religious leaders who turned the Law into a set of legalistic rituals (e.g., Matt. 23:24). We must be careful not to do the same in studying the Law. Christ came to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17). By faith in His atoning death, we are no longer judged under the Law as a condition of our salvation (Ro. 7:6; 8:3; Gal. 5:18). But this does not make the Law irrelevant.
Seven reasons God’s Law remains relevant today. For several reasons, the study of God’s Law remains important. First, through the study of the Law, your sins become known to you (Ro. 3:20; 7:7). Once you then repent of them, your Covenant relationship can be renewed. If the Law did not apply, there would be no sins for God to reveal to you. And if you believe that you are without sin, the truth is not within you (1 Jo. 1:8). Second, Jesus says that if you love Him, you will keep His “Commandments”: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). “[I]f you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matt. 19:17). He is the great “I AM” who gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Jo. 8:58; Ex. 3:14). Yet, Jesus came to correct people’s motives in following the Ten Commandments. He wants your obedience to be motivated by love and not obligation. He therefore summarized the Ten Commandments as something that comes naturally once a person loves the Lord and his or her neighbor (Matt. 22:35-38; Lk. 10:27; Dt. 6:5). Moses taught us to live obediently as it is written. Jesus taught us to love obediently as it is written. Whether we keep the Ten Commandments out of love (and not obligation) is also the test regarding whether we really “know” Jesus: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jo. 2:3). Some will come to Jesus boasting of their works or compliance with the Law. Yet, if their works or their compliance with the Law was not motivated by a love for Him, He may respond “I never knew you.” (Matt. 7:23). Third, if you obey the Law for the right reasons, you become slaves to righteousness. If you do not obey the Law, you become a slave to sin (Ro. 6:12, 16; Jo. 8:34). Fourth, believers are commanded to be holy (1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 11:44). When you are holy through moral conduct and a loving heart, you become a light to others (Dt. 4:5-6; Matt. 5:14). Conversely, you dishonor God and repel others when you break the Law (Ro. 2:23-24). Fifth, God’s Law provides a standard to aspire to in your conduct, not a means for salvation. All Scripture, including the Law, provides the standard for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (2 Tim. 3:16). Without a standard to aspire to, people will do whatever feels right in their own eyes (Jdgs. 21:25; 17:6). what feels right in our own eyes. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25; 12:15). Sixth, the study of the Law also brings wisdom and understanding to you (Dt. 4:5-6; Ps. 119:98-105). Only “fools” reject the wisdom of God’s Law (Prov. 1:7). Finally, Moses promised certain “blessings” (unrelated to salvation) for those who follow the Law with the right motives (Dt. 28).
Meditate upon the God’s Law. Like the psalmist, Joshua also urged the Jews to mediate on God’s Law day and night: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will achieve success.” (Josh. 1:8). Moses gave the same commandment: “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul. . .” (Dt. 11:18). Moses also warned that any king needed to study God’s Law all the days of his life in order to learn to fear God: “And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, so that he will learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully following all the words of this Law and these statutes,” (Dt. 17:19). David memorized God’s Law and His Word to keep himself on the right path: “. . . Your Law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:8; 1:2; 119:16; Jer. 15:16). “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Ps. 119:11). As our example, the psalmist included regular praise for the wisdom and blessing that comes from a life devoted to studying God’s Law: “Your testimonies also are my delight; . . . Trouble and anguish have overtaken me, yet Your commandments are my delights. . . I long for Your salvation, LORD, and Your Law is my delight.” (Ps. 119:24, 143, 174). Solomon also memorized the Law: “Bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.” (Prov. 6:21-22; 7:3). Jesus also memorized the Law and quoted it from memory throughout His entire life. The Law will keep your way pure (Ps. 37:31; 119:9). It will teach and admonish you (Col. 3:16). When you follow it, you will bear fruit in God like a tree planted by water (Ps. 1:1-3). Are you meditating on His Law?
Meditate on God’s Word, including the Law. The psalmist’s urging to “meditate” (Ps. 1:2) carries great practical instruction: “The righteous man ponders the word of God. He does not just hear it and forget it; he thinks about it. Christians should meditate on God’s word! In eastern meditation, the goal is to empty the mind. This is dangerous, because an empty mind may present an open invitation to deception or a demonic spirit. But in Christian meditation, the goal is to fill your mind with the word of God. This can be done by carefully thinking about each word and phrase, applying it to one’s self, and praying it back to the Lord. . . Many lack because they only read and do not meditate. . . . The righteous man only has God’s word on his mind two times a day: day and night. That about covers it all!” (David Guzik on Psalms 1) (italics in original).4
God promises that you will grow when you meditate on His Word and Law. In addition to contentment, a life devoting to meditating on God’s Word and His Law brings growth: “3 He will be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Ps. 1:3). When you grow in a Covenant relationship with God, He gives you the deep roots needed to endure any tragedy or trial. He also promises to bless your endeavors, but only in His timing.
Meditate on God’s Word and Law, and God will bless you5
The Bible is filled with promises of spiritual growth through studying His Word. The psalms are filled with similar promises of spiritual growth from studying His Word, which includes His Law: “The righteous person will flourish like the palm tree, he will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” (Ps. 92:12). “But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the faithfulness of God forever and ever.” (Ps. 52:8). “May the righteous flourish in his days, As well as an abundance of peace, until the moon is no more.” (Ps. 72:7). Through Balaam, God also made a similar blessing for Israel when it walked in a Covenant relationship with Him: “How pleasant are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel! Like valleys that stretch out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters. Water will flow from his buckets, and his seed will be by many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted.” (Nu. 24:5-7). This promise is also repeated in the book of Isaiah: “For this is what the LORD says: ‘Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and rocked back and forth on the knees.”’ (Is. 66:12).
Spiritual growth requires the constant study of God’s Word. God uses the analogy of a plant to convey the importance of a life-long study of His Word. A plant that is deprived of water will wither. So will any believer who is deprived of God’s Word. Most well-water trees also produce fruit. A well-watered believer also produces God’s fruit (Gal. 5:22-23). But God’s fruit also comes in His timing: “Fruit also has a season. Some get discouraged when they begin to walk as righteous men, and fruit is not immediately evident. They need to wait until they bring forth fruit in its season.” (David Guzik on Psalm 1).6 Are you regularly reading God’s Word to grow in your walk?
Jesus is the ultimate source of your spiritual growth. Jesus is the Word who became flesh (Jo. 1,1, 14). Thus, when you study the Word you are studying Him, and allowing Him to develop you: “I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (Jo. 15:5). What do you do when you want to grow spiritually in Jesus but don’t see results? “If we do find ourselves at a spiritual standstill, we must allow Jesus the ‘Sun of Righteousness’ (Malachi 4:2) to warm our hearts anew with His love. We must send our roots deep into the Word of God by meditating on it day and night (Psalm 1:2). Then we will be like a fruitful tree planted by rivers of living water, and our branches will extend outward in an ever-increasing influence and witness (v. 3). They will be filled with blossoms that reflect the beauty of righteous living.” (Dave Branon, Mart DeHann, Together with God, A Devotional Reading for Every Day of the Year, Discovery House, (2016), p. 1).
God also promises to bless your endeavors for Him in His timing. The promise of God’s success is also repeated in the Psalms: “When you eat the fruit of the labor of your hands, you will be happy and it will go well for you.” (Ps. 128:2). As an example of this, God blessed Joseph in all that he did because he lived in a Covenant relationship: “And the LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD made all that he did prosper in his hand.” (Gen. 39:2-3). When David walked in faith-led obedience, God also blessed everything he did: “David was successful in all his ways, for the LORD was with him.” (1 Sam. 18:14). But this does not mean that God acts either mechanically or in our timing. The book of Job demonstrates that the righteous can suffer when it is part of God’s greater plan (Ro. 8:28). Thus, you should avoid any feeling of entitlement or belief in the “prosperity gospel”. God will bless your faithfulness in His timing. This might be in heaven.
Those who fail to live in a Covenant relationship have little protection during trials. Unlike the believer with deep roots in God’s Word, those who reject God and His Word will find little protection in the face of tribulations and trials: “4 The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind blows away.” (Ps. 1:5). ‘“Chaff’ is used throughout Scripture as an emblem of what is weak and worthless (see Job 21:18; Psalm 35:5; Isaiah 5:24; 17:13; 29:5; 33:11; 41:15; Jeremiah 23:28; Daniel 2:35; Hosea 13:3; Zephaniah 2:2; Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17). In ancient times it was considered of no value at all, and when corn was winnowed, it was thrown up in the air until the wind had blown all the chaff away (see the representation in the author's 'History of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 1. p. 163).” (Pulpit Commentary on Ps. 1).7
Nonbelievers will be tossed like chaff during storms. The Psalms warn that nonbelievers will have no protection from God when they encounter storms: “Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them on.” (Ps. 35:5). “My God, make them like the whirling dust, like chaff before the wind.” (Ps. 83:13). Job also used a similar description to describe God’s punishment of the wicked: “Are they as straw before the wind, and like chaff which the storm carries away?” (Job 28:18). “But the multitude of your enemies will become like fine dust, and the multitude of the ruthless ones like the chaff which blows away; and it will happen instantly, suddenly.” (Is. 29:5). Jesus also warns that the wicked who reject His Word will be tossed around unprotected during the storms of life: “But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; and the river burst against it and it immediately collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” (Lk. 6:49). Jesus further warns that the wicked will burn like chaff: “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matt. 3:12).
Those who reject God deny themselves the opportunity to live with Him in heaven. Those who deny God also cannot join the future “assembly of the righteous” in heaven: “5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.” (Ps. 1:5). Although the Jews did not have a full understanding of heaven and hell, the psalmist knew that he could live “forever” with God after death: “As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, and You place me in Your presence forever.” (Ps. 41:12). “You will make known to me the way of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Ps. 16:11). “For You make him most blessed forever; You make him joyful with the joy of Your presence.” (Ps. 21:6).
Jesus will one day assemble believers whom He has made righteous. Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, any believer can be made “righteous” (Ro. 1:17; 3:22; 4:5). He offers to take any person’s unrighteousness upon Himself (2 Cor. 5:21). All that is required is faith in Him as Lord and Savior to obtain eternal life (Jo. 3:16, 18; 3:36; 6:40; 11:25). As the righteous judge, He will also one day separate the righteous from the unrighteous: “31 But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left.” (Matt. 25:31-33). Those who can join the assembly of the righteous will then marry Him (Rev. 19:7-9; Matt. 22:1-14). But to the “unrighteous,” He will say “‘Depart from Me, ...”’ (Matt. 25:41). “The boastful will not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do injustice.” (Ps. 5:5). There are many who do not know about the coming “assembly of the righteous”. What are you doing to warn them (Matt. 18:16-20)?
God watches over and blesses the righteous. For those who live by faith-led obedience, God “knows” their steps: “6a For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,” (Ps. 1:6a). This means that God is watching over the righteous so that He can pour out His grace and His protection. This also ties back into the blessings in verse 1 for the believer who meditates on God’s Word and His Law: “Yahweh knows the ‘way of the righteous’ because He is the one who has instructed them in the Torah, the one who has caused them to delight in it, and who has walked with them down it. The righteous delight in the Torah of Yahweh because they understand that He alone is God (Deut 6:4); they love Him (6:5), so they keep His Words on their hearts (6:6), meditating on the Torah day and night like the blessed man (Ps. 1:1-2).” (James M. Hamilton Jr., Evangelical Bible Theology Commentary Psalms (Vol. I: Psalms 1-72) (Lexham Academic 2021) p. 98).
Jesus knows His sheep. The Psalms are all about Jesus. He “knows” every person that He has made “righteous”, and He will carefully protect them as the Good Shepherd: “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own, and My own know Me,” (Jo. 10:14). The evidence that Jesus is your Shepherd is evidenced through your obedience to His voice: “My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;” (Jo. 10:27).
Jesus wants to bless you when you walk in Spirit-led obedience with Him. Here, the “blessing” that God offers is “contentment.” “But happy is he who keeps the Law.” (Prov. 29:18). Yet, if you “know” the “way” of the Lord by meditating on His Word, Jesus also promises blessings in heaven for those who are faithful and obedient: “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (Jo. 13:17; Matt. 6:4; 10:41; Rev. 2:26). If your motives are right and it is God’s will, the rewards for faith-led obedience may also be received in this lifetime: “Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” (Dt. 5:32-33; 4:40; Lev. 18:5). “Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Ps. 19:11). “Surely there is a reward for the righteous . . .” (Ps. 58:11). “But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.” (2 Chr. 15:7). “So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.” (Dt. 29:9). “[H]e who sows righteousness gets a true reward.” (Prov. 11:18). But you should never expect a blessing. Are you putting yourself in a place where God can bless you? Are you storing up blessings in heaven?
21 specific blessings in the Torah for those who are faithful and obedient to God. The blessing of contentment is all that a believer needs. Yet, in the four books of the Law, God reveals at least 21 additional specific blessings for those who are faithful and obedient to Him. These blessings are unrelated to Jesus’ blessings of eternal salvation. In Exodus, God revealed at least three conditional blessings that come from faithful obedience. These include: (1) protection from diseases (Ex. 15:26); a prolonged life (Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16; 5:32-33; 4:40; 6:1-2; 12:28; 22:6-7; 25:13-16; Lev. 18:5; Eph. 6:2-3); and (3) God’s holy presence (Ex. 40:34-35). In Leviticus, God revealed seven other conditional blessings that He may use to bless a person or a nation for obedience. These include: (1) provision (Lev. 26:3-5); (2) peace (Lev. 26:6); (3) protection (Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22); (4) fertility (Lev. 26:9); (5) abundance from giving (Lev. 26:10; Ps. 92:12-14; Mal. 3:10-12); (6) guidance (Lev. 26: 11-12; Ps. 32:8); and (7) freedom (Lev. 26:13; Ex. 20:2). In Deuteronomy, He revealed 10 other conditional blessings. These include: (1) exaltation for the nation (Dt. 28:1-2); (2) exaltation for the individual within the nation (Dt. 28:1-3); (3) growth (Dt. 28:4); (4) food (Dt. 28:5); (5) success (Dt. 28:6); (6) the defeat of your enemies (D. 28:7); (7) prosperity (Dt. 28:8); (8) holiness (Dt. 28:9); (9) respect (Dt. 28:10); and (10) the fullness of God’s blessings (Dt. 28:11-14). Finally, in books of the Law from Exodus through Deuteronomy, God reveals the blessing of forgiveness from the blood sacrifices (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). Jesus became the final one-time sacrifice to fulfill the Old Testament sacrificial laws (Heb. 10:12). The only act of obedience required to receive this blessing today is to believe that He died for your sins and that He is both your Lord and Savior (Ro. 10:13; Acts 2:21; Jo. 3:16; 1 Jo. 1:9). Are you living a life of faith-led obedience to allow Him to pour out His blessings?
God warns those who reject Him face eternal misery. Unlike the righteous who will assemble with Jesus in heaven, those who reject God face eternal darkness: “but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Ps. 1:6b). Having rejected God, they also reject His mercy.
Jesus will deny knowing the unrighteous. The first half of Psalm 1:6 explains the second half. If Jesus “knows” the “righteous”, He will also deny “knowing” those who deny Him as Lord and Savior: “And yet He will say, ‘I do not know where you are from; leave Me, all you evildoers.’” (Lk. 13:27; Matt. 7:23). When He says this, He will again be quoting from the Psalms: “Leave me, all you who practice injustice, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.” (Ps. 6:8). He will only hear the appeals for mercy from His sheep: “I love the LORD, because He hears My voice and my pleas.” (Ps. 116:11). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom and knowledge (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10). Every person should see themselves as needing Jesus’ mercy and grace. Because the Psalms are all about praising Jesus, this is a good reason to praise and thank Him.
The Psalms will help you stay on the path of life and joy and avoid the path of misery8