Today we begin our journey into psalm-singing. If you recollect, I had promised in an earlier post that I would start teaching you to sing the psalms that would greatly enrich your personal devotions and times of family worship. This series is a deliberate effort to offer you what has been a great source of blessing in our family.
We’ve often heard the psalms being read during responsive reading in our local church. We’ve been told psalms are wonderful to quietly meditate on, or use in personal prayer and devotion. Some contemporary bands have also put to tune certain portions of psalms, but singing whole psalms has never been done in India, atleast as far as my knowledge goes. A friend once exclaimed, when I told her I sing the psalms everyday “Can they even be sung?!” This brings to memory a peculiar habit we have in India, especially in some brahmin households.As a child, I’ve seen my grandma dexterously handle an iron hand-press called acchhu (mould) to make a variety of delectables ranging from a delicious rice-strings-dish called idiyappam to sun-dried vadaams ( an ethnic rice-based crunchy snack ).
Two generations down the line, that hand-press, now rusty and seemingly obsolete, has found its place in a dusty nook on our upper lofts, usually a place for antique junks.
As our children grow, we tell them about the popular hand-press and how our grand-moms used them to make yummy foodstuff our kids can only dream of. But use that rusty ol’ press today? Nay. “It’s archaic. It’s irrelevant.” It’s useless. I presume such notions often cross our minds even when we think of the psalms. Like that rusty old press, the psalms need to be dusted off from modern-day misrepresentations and revived to be that fitting song it was always meant to be.
Why sing psalms when there are thousand other songs?
There are four straightforward, biblical reasons why we must sing the psalms:-
- The OT church sang them ( 1Chr 16:7,41,42; 1Chr 25; Ps 42-50; Ps 62; Ps 73-83 )
- Jesus sang them ( Mk 14:26; Mk 15:34; Matt 27:46 )
- The NT church sang them ( Acts 16:25; Acts 4:24-26 )
- Paul exhorts us to sing them ( Eph 5:18-20; Col 3:16 )
One of the biggest reasons for singing the psalms, apart from the above, is because it is inspired and canonical. Our minds crave for man-made inventions and often exchange these for divine designs. We prefer our golden calves and holy cows to God’s prescription for worship. Micheal Lefebvre in his book Singing the Songs of Jesus traces the history of song in the life of the church and notes how the church, right from Adam through David, Christ and the Apostles, sang songs that were penned by authoritative prophets of the times, which later became canonized. The Book of Psalms is the only canonical song book that we still have today and that, right in the middle of the Bible. All these are sure reasons for us to not keep silent in proclaiming His words and works in the assembly of God (Ps 40:9,10)
Psalm 1: Introduction
The Psalms hold a certain charm with me. When I was still a pagan, God put Psalm 1 on my lips during a Scripture class in my school. After the teacher gave ten minutes to all the students, she challenged us to recite the first three verses of Psalm 1 before the entire class. Amidst many christian children, I bravely stretched out my right hand and recited the entire section without a stutter. From my tongue God transferred that psalm to my heart when I became a Christian. Truly, I became that blessed man of which the psalm speaks!
Psalm 1: Brief Commentary
Psalm 1 isn’t Psalm 1 by taxonomical accident. Some scholars¹ suggest that Psalm 1 is a window into the entire book of Psalms, the call to “meditate on the law day and night” is a call to take to our lips all of the Psalms which is the Law of the Lord in a nutshell, or how else are we meditate on the law day and night? A cursory glance at this psalm gives us the impression that the psalmist talks about how a man is righteous before God, i.e. how he stands before God (Ps1:5). This is true in one sense, but not another. If any man believes that performing all the psalmist’s directions for the righteous makes him “blessed”, then he’s missing the point. Isa 64:6 is a great text to show that our righteous acts are like filthy rags before God, and we are indeed like a leaf that withers, a chaff blown away. Wicked is our name according to Psalm 1 and Isa 64:6.
The Blessed Man that is spoken of in this psalm is firstly Christ Jesus, for he himself notes in Luke 24:44 that the Psalms “speak of me”. He is that man who always walked the way of righteousness, savoring it and suffering for it. This psalm is not really prescriptive, but descriptive of the Righteous Branch, the Root of Jesse. So the question is: how can we too be blessed? By trusting in this Blessed Man and putting Him on through faith (Jeremiah 23:6 ,Jeremiah 33:16). This is then, how we stand before God. Even as Christians, we mustn’t try to keep this Psalm as a mere Law-word, rather we must seek to see the face of Christ in this Psalm and trust Him to make us like that tree of righteousness. Then are we too partakers of His blessedness, and this Psalm perfectly describes our lives too.
Often in a world shaped by dualistic presuppositions, most of us observe life, people, circumstances and ideas as grey rather than “black and white”. Not so with God. This Psalm reflects the mind of God, of stark contrasts and clear judgments. God sees us as those who either listen to the advice of wicked (v1) or listen to the His Law (v2); we are either a fruitful tree (v 3) or a rootless chaff (v4) ; we will either stand before Him or fall (v5) ; the world is unworthy of the righteous and the wicked are unworthy of heaven (v5); we either drink from his cup or from the cup of demons (1 Cor 10:21 ). Finally, the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish (v6).
As you sing this psalm, may the words of this song, the very Word of God awaken you, stir you, strengthen and sanctify you, and thus make you a partaker of that blessedness!
Ps 1A – That Man is blessed
Gesangbuch der Herzogl 1784 ELLACOMB CMD
Performed by Sarmishta Venkatesh
Taken from the Book of Psalms for Worship. Used by Permission.
Commentaries for further study
- Michael Lefebvre’s brief commentary on Psalm 1
- Spurgeon’s Treasury of David
- Matthew Henry on Psalm 1
- Calvin’s Commentary on the Psalms
- Chapter 5 -Singing the Songs of Jesus, Michael Lefebvre; Psalm 1 commentary -The Treasury of David, Charles Haddon Spurgeon; Calvin’s introduction to Psalm 1
- What The Psalms Do (devotionislove.wordpress.com)
- Psalm 1 :: Blessed is he who stands … (thepauls.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: A Commentary on the Psalms: Volume 1 (1-41) (eisdoxan.wordpress.com)