So, I’ve been nervous about Psalms for a while. There are 150 of them and according to my husband (who just took an incredibly interesting class on them) each has their own context. Fortunately, the purposes of our study through the Bible is meant to focus on the treatment of women according to its text and I don’t anticipate there being much here for that. But, as with other books, I still want to work through it. The other problem is that I don’t feel like the format I was using will work here, so I’m changing it up. We’re going to do one psalm per post, maybe more than one a day, though. I’m also going to use the titles of the Psalms given in the Bible itself rather than make up my own. So here goes.
1Blessed is the mana
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2but his delight is in the lawb of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3He 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.
4The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
So on the first pass this comes off like all the Sunday school stuff that makes it sound like if you follow God, only good things will come your way but that’s not really what it says. I truly resent the implication given to many children (and I had been one of them) that being a good person and doing what God wants you to do is the way to keep bad things from happening to you. Yeah, that’s so apparent in other places in the Bible. Or not.
There will be ups and down and it’s fairly explicitly mentioned in the New Testament that it’s not acts or works that are going to get you to redemption or to heaven. Acts and works are that outpouring of love from you that makes it obvious to the world that you are truly a follower of Jesus, unlike those “undercover Christians”. I read a book that I can’t remember the name of that refers this way to those people who call themselves Christians but don’t ever actually love their neighbor or do anything Christ-like. Not that I’m trying to judge them, I don’t know what’s in their hearts and sometimes people do awful things that they think are for the good of everyone but that train of thought puts me way off track.
When I try to read this a little more objectively, I get a bit of a different picture than that old way of thinking that upsets me so. This isn’t saying that you need to be a good person, but that you will be doing the right thing if you always mean to do what God has commanded. Now, for Christians that is a different set of things than others, since the Law of Moses isn’t exactly our law, from what I understand. For us, our command came from Jesus who told us that we were all sinners and that the meek shall inherit the earth and to love God above everyone and reinforced loving our neighbor as ourselves and who never hated on people who weren’t getting it right. We’ll get into the New Testament in this study eventually, I promise, but until then, I’ll go by what I remember reading of it which is all these things.
To me the first stanza is telling the reader (or listener in the case of music) to ignore “the wicked”, to neither listen to them nor engage them on our own. It tells the reader to focus on the law and it sounds to me like he wants you to follow how your own heart feels about what it means rather than just listening to other people about it.
It’s the fruit yeilding and the prospering that can mix the message into looking like being a good person according to God is what makes everything in your life smooth. Looking back, I don’t get how I ever believed that. Weren’t all of the disciples killed in gruesome way? Fruit yeilding and prospering while following the law is not inherantly being rich and everything going your way, as it is sometimes thought of. Because if the message is to always do what God wants you to do, and to focus on the law that He gave to do that, all that you do will be prosperous in that endeavor because that is all that you’ll be doing. I do get how the Old Testament can give that impression too, but even the best of these guys had some pitfalls along the way, some pretty low times, and some times when it seemed like God was against them.
You can’t be devout and focused on the law or commandment and then be trying to be successful in unrelated or personal things. That’s how the disciples were still prosperous and bearing fruit. They were getting more followers, more believers. That was their main job and their prospered in it. They created the massive church that we have today which is a pretty big fruit to bear.
I feel like the wind driving away the chaff are all those other endeavors that detract from focusing on God and the law and that our successes in are not always indicative of our righteousness. Sometimes wicked people grow great power, but their endeavor for power was not based on their focus on the law. They are not focused on what they should be and though they have power and wealth, they are chaff because they couldn’t focus on following God, on taking care of God’s followers.
Then the last stanza returns to language that is a little confusing again given other teachings that I’ve heard, such as that we are all sinners and none are righteous, but again all that will come later. At this point, it’s just that the people who follow God and focus on what He wants of them and for them to do are the righteous who will be on one side of things and those who turn away from Him or who do whatever they want without considering if it’s a part of His law or word are the wicked who will perish.
Then again, it says the “way of the righteous” and the “way of the wicked”. So does it really mean that they’ll eventually see that what they’re are doing is bad for the group and start to care? We can see in even modern times that not all people just change their ways, but that some do. Some find religion, some leave it, some never fully live into what they say they believe. Maybe it just means that peope who are wicked create their own downfalls, as do those who don’t. But in this context, what does “perish” even mean really? It can’t mean “die” because lots of the righteous have died, they don’t live forever. Everyone dies. Except Elijah. Maybe all were wicked except him, but then there was Elisha who received a double portion and still died?
Or does it mean that the old “ends justify the means” doesn’t apply to religion because those who find followers under false pretenses and who say that they follow God but don’t won’t actually be prosperous in bringing people to Him? Nor in taking care of His people as is part of being righteous.
Or maybe I just went way far down the rabbit hole ….
What do you think it means?