Archive for the ‘Psalms’ Category

Psalm 1, Psalm 2, or both?

March 7, 2008

Many times over we read the Psalms, each of them, one at a time. Perhaps, we have a favorite Psalm we run to in times of trouble or fear, and there we find great confidence in a great God who is our strong tower and our place of refuge and strength. At other times, maybe we recite them in the assembly together, or put music to one in particular that we might sing them to and over one another. Without question, these are excellent ways to read the Psalms; indeed, reading them period is a wonderful blessing!

Yet, have we ever considered reading them in a different manner, perhaps as a whole corpus with each contributing to a larger picture? Sure, they find themselves in a different genre of literature in comparison to an Old Testament narrative; but does this mean we must read each, one at a time, only, without at the same time meditating on how they may all function together? Is there a reason, a purpose, behind the order in which we, the covenant community, the true Israel, read them? What may their unified message be to us?

These questions I ask, because over the past two weeks I have been reading and re-reading Psalms 1 and 2 from the Hebrew text, and I cannot get over how many verbal and thematic links there are between the two. It is a bit harder to see them in some English translations, but this does not mean you can’t see them at all. Hopefully they will become even more obvious to you shortly and as you continue to read them for yourselves. I will only point out a few links here in an attempt to encourage you to read the Psalms not only individually (as sweet as this is), but also as a whole book.

Notice that Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 both lack a superscription (i.e. the small letters telling us of the historical situation to which the particular Psalm is related), something that is rather common to the numerous others following them. Could it be that they do not contain such superscriptions because the reader is to read them together? In other words, are we as readers not to immediately connect Psalm 2 with anything else except what was just mentioned in Psalm 1? I think the remainder of our observations say, “Yes, read them together.”

Notice that Psalm 1 begins with “Blessed is the man…”, and Psalm 2 ends with “Blessed are all…”. This two phrase form what is often called an inclusio. That is, there is a repetition of a unique feature that frames, or brackets, a portion of Scripture so helping us to zero in on the overarching picture. In this case, the righteous man “does not walk in the council of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of scoffers” (Ps 1:1). What does he do? He takes refuge in the Son (Ps 2:12).

Notice that the destruction of the wicked are highlighted in Psalms 1 and 2, but from different angles. In Psalm 1, we see that “the wicked will not stand in the judgment” (1:5a) and that “the way of the wicked will perish” (1:6b). Thus, by the end of Psalm 1 we understand there to be a divine resolve to finally and justly punish the wicked. It is no wonder, then, why such a question is raised at the beginning of Psalm 2: “Why are the nations restless, and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and rulers gather together against the Lord and against his anointed!” (2:1-2). If God promises to punish the wicked, then why are the nations permitted to come against him and his annointed? And, we would be right to ask the question based on Psalm 1.

Notice, however, that Psalm 2 deals with the wicked in congruity with Psalm 1. It agrees with the resolve of Psalm 1 in that the Lord laughs and scoffs at those who attempt to come against him (2:4). What is more, the king, God’s Son, which he installed on Zion will shatter them to pieces with a rod of iron. Thus, one must serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling, and kiss the Son; otherwise, he will be angry and that person will perish in the wayboth words used in 1:6b.

Notice that Psalm 1 reveals the characteristics of the ideal king to which Deuteronomy 17 refers. He does not participate in wickedness, but delights in and meditates on the Law of the Lord. Because the Law of the Lord gives him counsel and directs his ways, such a righteous king does not sit in the seat of scoffers (2:1). Where then does he sit? Psalm 2 resounds: “he who sits in heaven laughs” (2:4). The righteous king of Psalm 1 sits in heaven, rightly judging the nations from his majestic throne.

Notice: If Psalm 1 refers to a righteous king, who appropriately exercises the kingship laid out in Deuteronomy 17, and who abides in close relationship with the Lord by following his Law and being known by him, could it be that Psalm 2 tells us, even identifies who this mighty king might be? Surely it does: this king is the Lord’s annointed, the one installed on Zion, the one of whom he is pleased to say, “This is my Son, today I have begotten you!” The New Testament writers pick this up and without blinking identify such a king with Jesus Christ (Acts 13:33; Heb 1:5; 5:5).

Now, the aim of these few observations among MANY others in the first two Psalms, I pray, at least motivates you to read your Bible. And, in doing so, I pray they stimulate you in thinking of the Psalms not merely on an individual basis, but also in relationship with one another. Just think, these first two Psalms serve as the introduction; there is a great deal more the remaining 148 show us concerning this King. But know this, two truths have already been made clear: (1) the Lord and his anointed will judge the wicked; and (2) those who kiss the Son, who take refuge in him, they will be blessed.

Jesus Reigns, the Saints Remain

June 22, 2007

“I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:8-11).

In terms of perseverance in the faith and waging war against this world, the devil, and my flesh, Thursday had to be one of the hardest battles I have ever fought since God saved me. This is also why this text was so sweet to me Friday morning. What an outpouring of grace there was as I meditated on this text.

Thursday, it felt as though I was fighting alone. Friday, the Lord showed me he fought for me as he stood at my right hand. Thursday, I thought I was surely overtaken at the core of my being. Friday, the Lord showed me that with him I shall not be shaken. Thursday, it seemed that nothing but failure and loss stood before me. Friday, the Lord testified that nothing but triumph and victory awaited me since my flesh dwelt securely. Thursday, joy had fled from me. Friday, the Lord graced me with joy from the endless wealth at his right hand. Thursday, I could not see through the death of darkness. Friday, the Lord made known to me the path of life. 

What is more, this Davidic Psalm bears witness to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, according to the Apostle’s words in Acts 13:30-39. The Lord did not allow his holy one, Jesus the Christ, to undergo decay. He did not abandon his soul to Sheol. Indeed, God raised him from the dead! Now he sits at the right hand of the Father, fighting for his church, interceding on behalf of the saints, and reigning for the salvation of his elect. O what pleasures we have in him! O what joy is in his presence! We shall not be shaken, for Christ is Lord! Let your heart be glad; your whole being rejoice! Amen.