Series: Songs of Worship—Getting Real With God
Sermon: A Choice
Speaker and Writer: Elia King
Refresh: Open with prayer. Ask God for understanding through the Holy Spirit.
Read: Psalm 1 (NLT). As you read the New Living Translation, note 1–3 insights.
Reflect: Have you ever wondered why the Book of Psalms begins the way it does? In some ways, it seems like a sort of uneventful start to the book. But some scholars think that Psalm 1 (and maybe even parts of Psalm 2) are actually part of some kind of preamble or introduction to the rest of the collection. In The Songs of Jesus, authors Timothy and Kathy Keller suggest that the first Psalm is a sort of key by which to understand the rest of the book. According to the Kellers:
Psalm 1 is the gateway to the rest of the psalms. The “law” is all Scripture, to “meditate” is to think out its implications for all life, and to “delight” in it means not merely to comply but to love what God commands. Christians have their attitude toward God changed from one of duty to free, loving self-giving because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. So to know how to meditate on and delight in the Bible is the secret to a relationship with God and to life itself. Views contrary to God’s Word are no anchor in time of need. God’s Word gives us the resilience of a tree with a source of living water that will never dry up.
We might think of it in a similar way to the reason that the writer of Genesis began his story with, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth . . .” For the writer of Genesis, the rest of the story is sort of built on the idea that God is the Creator of everything. In a similar fashion, some believe that the Psalmist wants us to see the rest of the collection through the lens of the ideas captured this first song: that happiness and prosperity are ultimately found by walking a lifelong journey with God. Of course, this is not without its challenges as we quickly discover in the subsequent songs. But as we have already mentioned, as readers we need to extend the same grace to this literary form that we would other songs—namely, we need to let it describe an ideal rather than hold it to stark reality. Imagine if we held another familiar song, “Happy Birthday,” to the same standard. The lyrics might go: Happy birthday to you/You’re another year older/This might be disappointing/But you’ll probably survive. No one would ever sing such a realistic birthday song because, aside from possible survival, it doesn’t offer any hope! Similarly, the writer of the opening Psalm wants us to know that, despite the real challenges that lay ahead, there is hope for the faithful follower of God.
Recalibrate: Where do you find hope when the reality of life seems hopeless?
Respond: Pray that God will help you to find hope in a difficult situation.
Research: Watch conductor Ivan Fischer’s critique and rearrangement of The Birthday Song. If you were setting the first Psalm to music, how might you arrange the music? What moods would you try to accentuate? What parts of the scripture might be worth repeated for emphasis?