Summary: My destiny is determined by my delight.
During last year’s monsoon, our neighbor’s mesquite tree was blown over by a wind gust that accompanied one of our summer thunderstorms. Before that storm, that tree appeared to be strong and healthy, but the winds of the storm revealed that large tree actually had very shallow roots.
I think about that compared to a similar looking mesquite tree that we had in the front yard of our last house which managed to put one of its massive roots right through our sewer line. When the plumbers came out to repair that line they had to dig down five or six feet and use a chain saw to cut through just one of the many massive roots that went down deep into the soil. Because of those deep roots, that tree never even came close to being blown over, even by stronger winds than those that had toppled our neighbor’s tree.
What a great illustration of our spiritual lives. Although we may not look a lot different on the surface, there are some Christ followers who actually have pretty shallow roots. And so when the storms of life come along and the winds blow, they are knocked down pretty easily. On the other hand, there are those who have put down deep roots and are therefore prepared for those storms and who can stand firm even in the face of fierce winds.
So we’re going to spend some time examining some passages that will help us develop some deep roots in our walk with Jesus. And we’re going to find that instruction in a place we might least expect – the Psalms.
The Book of Psalms is a collection of 150 songs and poems collected into a five book volume over about a thousand year period, beginning with the Exodus and concluding with the return of the exiles from Babylon. We get our English title for this book from the Greek Word which referred to songs sung to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument. The traditional Hebrew title – Tehilim – means “songs of praise”.
In a sense, the Psalms are similar to our hymnals, where a number of songs written over many years by a number of different authors have been assembled into one book that is used in worship.
But the Psalms are certainly much more than just a Jewish hymnal. They comprise the history of the Hebrew people in poetic and musical form. In particular, they record the history of their life of worship – not just that which occurred in the temple, or later in the synagogues, but a lifestyle of personal and corporate worship that was lived out on a daily basis in all areas of their lives. So it is no surprise that the Book of Psalms is quoted more times in the New Testament than any other Old Testament book, with the exception of Isaiah.
As we take some time to study a number of these Psalms in the coming months, we must keep in mind that they are written in poetry, not prose. Like all poetry, they are full of emotions, art, beauty and figurative language and are meant to draw an emotional response as well as to teach us. So we need to guard against approaching them in merely a logical, rational or intellectual manner.
But Hebrew poetry is different than most of the poetry we’re used to. It lacks the rhyme and meter that characterizes most of our English poetry. Its primary feature is parallelism in which multiple lines all address the same thought. Someone once described it as “rhyming thoughts” rather than rhyming words.
For the next two weeks, we’ll look at Psalms 1 and 2, which serve as a doorkeeper for our entry to the Psalms. So go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Psalm 1. We’ll read that Psalm in just a moment. But first let’s take a step back and look at the first two Psalms as a whole. There is widely held belief among biblical scholars, and I agree, that these two Psalms were written as an introduction to the Psalms. Unlike most of the Psalms, like we see beginning in Psalm 3, there is no superscription which either identifies the author and/or the circumstances under which the Psalm was written or is to be used. For instance Psalm 3 begins with this superscription:
A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.
The first two Psalms are also tied together in several other ways: