INTRODUCTION TO OCTOBER LESSONS
“Texts have tunes,” preacher and professor Fred Craddock said. That is especially true of Psalms, the hymnbook of the Bible. Most biblical psalms were sung or prayed. They are poetic in genre and speak to every human emotion. Psalms (the book) consists of five sections—Psalms 1–41; 42–72; 73–89; 90–106; and 107–150—which makes it similar to the five books of the Pentateuch and the five discourses of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. The main imagery of the book of Psalms coincides with a Middle Eastern agrarian culture, and the main characteristic of Psalms is parallelism (rhetorical pattern of likeness). In October, students will learn how righteousness, reality, repentance, reason, and worship are “rooted” in God.
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Unit: Psalms (Part 1)
Lesson Text: Psalm 1
Supplemental Text: Psalm 112; Revelation 20:12-15; Job 1:6-10
Aim: Root your life in God’s righteous way.
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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the Study by Mark Scott, Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_October2_2022.
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By Mark Scott
The title of this Bible book in Hebrew means “praises.” These praises can be sung, prayed, cried, chanted, or shouted. These psalms are divided into five separate sections (or books) and span a time frame of close to 1,000 years. Psalm 1, in typical Wisdom Literature fashion, contrasts the way of the wicked with the way of the righteous. Psalm 150, the final psalm, shouts praise from someone who “had a song in his heart and a pen in his hand to tell everyone what he thought about God,” according to Christian minister David Erickson. Three contrasts exist in this psalm for those who are rooted in righteousness.
The Way Versus the Law
At first pass way does not seem to contrast with law. But the root to the famous Hebrew word torah actually means “to throw or cast,” as in throwing something in a certain direction. Torah occurs 221 times in the Old Testament and essentially means “teaching,” but it is the idea of the teacher saying, “Go this way.” So, the contrast here is between the wicked going one way and the righteous, being taught by the Law, going another way.
Blessed is not the normal word for praising God; rather, it is the normal word for blessing someone else, such as “goodie for you” or “happy for you.” The New International Version takes a little liberty by translating “man” as one because it is the Hebrew word for male; in its largest application, it perhaps would apply to all human beings. The happy man keeps his distance from wicked people (as in people guilty of a crime). They are also called sinners and mockers (scoffers). Notice the progression—walk, stand, or sit. In other words, the person who follows the law keeps his distance from the way of the wicked.
In contrast, the righteous person delights (takes pleasure) in the law of the Lord. He even meditates (muses, groans, or mutters) on his law day and night. The righteous person has an emotional connection to Scripture (see Psalms 19 and 119). The righteous person does not get trapped in the steps (counsel) of the wicked or his ways, or the company he keeps.
The Tree Versus the Chaff
Every significant person in the Bible is associated with a tree. (See Dr. Matthew Sleeth’s Reforesting Faith and Shane Wood’s Between Two Trees.) It should come as no surprise then that in this very famous beginning psalm we see a contrast between a tree and chaff. The person who follows the law of God is like a tree planted by streams (rivers) of water. This same image is seen in the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 22:1-2). Water is a precious commodity in the Middle East; quite simply, trees that get moisture produce fruit (offspring). Their leaves are healthy (do not wither—fade away or shrink). They are fruitful (prosper).
The wicked are not so blessed. They are like chaff. The chaff from plants is the disposable part. Wind can blow it away. John the Baptist used this same imagery when he described the Messiah coming and clearing his threshing floor with his winnowing fork (Matthew 3:12). The chaff does not just blow away in that instance; it is burned with an unquenchable fire. The righteous person is like a fruitful tree, but the wicked person is just striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14, 17).
The Unknown Versus the Known
Make no mistake about it, God is omniscient . . . he knows all. He certainly “knows” (watches over) the way of the righteous. When we speak of God “not” knowing someone (e.g., Matthew 7:23), we simply mean God does not recognize that person as belonging to him. He knows the righteous (the Hebrew word tsad-deek, meaning those who conform to God’s standard). The wicked are not known to God as being in his family. That is why the text says, the way of the wicked leads to destruction (that which perishes). They are the unknown.
But the known will not have to stand in the judgment with the wicked. (The Hebrew word for judgment is mish pawt, meaning not to stand in the presence of God in the end.) The known will be part of the assembly of the righteous, of which no sinners will be allowed to participate. To be forever excluded from the congregation of the righteous essentially is hell (2 Thessalonians 1:9). The contrast between the wicked and the righteous could not be clearer.