The Book of Psalms Overview & Chapter 1

Sep 19th, 2009 | By | Category: Psalms, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

The Book of Psalms Overview

The Book of Psalms is sometimes described as the Psalms of David. However, of the total of 150 Psalms, the exact number David actually wrote cannot be proven, just estimated. Some of the Psalms have no title or superscription, and others, especially in the King James Version, have a short commentary that has come down from ancient times. There must have been good reason for the titles because of the nature of the detail. Just because a Psalm does not say David is the author does not necessarily mean he did not write it, for in some cases, his authorship can be proven. We will not try to go into the semantics of the proof, but certainly with the Psalms that are ascribed to him, the content is a proof in itself. And in some cases where the Psalm is not ascribed to him, the content is evidence of his authorship.

Almost all teachers of the Book of Psalms are generally agreed that the purpose of the First Psalm is introductory. As a preface, it gives the general intent of the whole Psalter. Moreover, the First Psalm begins Book One of the Psalter. In all, the 150 Psalms have five divisions, which are not necessarily an even breakdown into 5 x 30.

Many have felt the five divisions were purposely done because the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses) is the long history in prose, whereas the Book of Psalms is the long history in poetry. That thinking seems valid, for the Psalms contain an extraordinary breadth of history and descriptions on a wide variety of subjects. Although the Psalms are presented in a somewhat helter-skelter fashion, when all of the situations that are sprinkled throughout the Psalms are read, they provide a verification of the Pentateuch. In fact, the correspondencies are remarkable, and sometimes the Psalms contain more detail than the Pentateuch. However, unlike the Book of Psalms, the history in the Pentateuch, or Torah, is set forth in an orderly progression and sequence.

Chapter 1

Psa. 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

When read in its entirety, this First Psalm can be summarized as a comparison between the experience and fate of the ungodly and the experience and fate of the godly. Sometimes this comparison is described as antithetical, meaning that the two are compared side by side, with a contrast going back and forth, negative and then positive (or vice versa depending on the verse).

The word “blessed,” which is in the plural, could be rendered “blessednesses.” By not walking in the counsel of the ungodly, standing in the way of sinners, or sitting in the seat of the scornful, one is blessed in numerous ways. The individual who follows the advice in this Psalm receives not just one general blessing but many and varied blessings.

A progression of sin is shown: walking, standing, and sitting. For a man to walk “not in the counsel [advice] of the ungodly” implies several things. For example, the inference is that the ungodly outnumber the godly. Not only has God permitted evil, but He has given advice to those who love Him of what to do and what not to do. A person who walks in the counsel of the ungodly follows that advice. Normally, we think of one who is sitting as then getting up and walking, but this Psalm presents the situation from the reverse standpoint; namely, one who is walking then stands and eventually sits down. Either way there is a progression, but God purposely used the order of walking, standing, and sitting. The progression is expressed in descending order, with the worst situation being to sit “in the seat of the scornful.”

The “counsel of the ungodly” would be teaching or advice that condones evil by influencing individual(s) to become ungodly. An individual who communicates with those of a wrong disposition and ungodly character is apt to be influenced in that direction. Stated another way, if one continues to walk in the company of the ungodly and does not oppose them but remains silent, he will, after a while, become contaminated by that influence.

Comment: The Apostle Paul said, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners [conduct]” (1 Cor. 15:33).

Reply: Yes, and a common saying is, “Birds of a feather flock together.” We will be blessed if we shun the counsel of the ungodly and do not befriend, walk, communicate, or keep company with those of an ungodly nature.

“Nor standeth in the way of sinners.” “Standing” is a more hardened condition than walking, for it means becoming increasingly like the ungodly. It is one thing to walk with the ungodly and listen to their counsel, but when a person stands in the way of sinners, he is more in agreement.

“Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” To sit in the “seat of the scornful” is even more ungodly than walking and standing because the individual is now comfortable and relaxed in the sin. Being at ease, his conscience no longer troubles him. Thus verse 1 shows progression in ungodliness, in increased degradation. The contrast in the First Psalm between the godly and the ungodly is a history of the human race.

Let us consider the opposite viewpoint. Although it is a blessing not to walk in the counsel or the teaching of the ungodly, just the mere disassociation or removal of oneself from that counsel is not sufficient. The person who does so is in a vacuum or a condition where he needs to do something further. Although he may not go to the degree of degradation of the ungodly, shouldn’t he want something better than just withdrawing?

Psa. 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD.” The one who removes himself from the counsel of the ungodly and delights in the counsel of the law of Jehovah tastes and sees that the instruction is helpful, good, and profitable. If he then purposes to follow in the leading of this counsel by consecrating and saying, “This is the way I want to go,” he finds not only that his delight is not just superficial or temporary but that it is so wonderful he wants to meditate day and night in this new way. He is consumed by the desire to follow the instruction, or counsel, of the Lord. Thus blessings come from not merely shunning the counsel of the ungodly but cleaving to that which is good—the counsel of God.

Comment: Definitions of “scorning” include talking arrogantly, scoffing, and being inflated.

Reply: Yes, scorning is a greater degree of entrenchment in evil. For instance, when Jesus was nailed to the Cross and suffering a horrible type of death, the two chief priests scorned and mocked him: “He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him [become his disciples]” (Matt. 27:41,42).

If we had been in Jesus’ situation, oh, how we would have liked to shut the mouths of the mockers, but he saw that their words were the spirit of the Adversary challenging him to go in a wrong direction. Had he come down from the Cross, the ransom price would not have been paid. We believe that the two high priests will probably not get an awakening from the tomb.

Although Luke 13:28 says his adversaries will see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, that text does not mean all of the scribes and Pharisees who derided Jesus during his ministry will be resuscitated. We believe, and so did the Pastor as expressed in a couple of Reprint articles, that just as Judas, who betrayed Jesus before Pentecost, went into Second Death, so it is possible some of the scribes and Pharisees have already incurred a similar fate because of the degree of willfulness. For example, when the tomb guards reported that angels had appeared and rolled back the stone, the chief priests paid hush money to suppress the account. That action was willful sin of the worst type—like what Judas did. For one who is natural-minded to incur a Second Death penalty before the establishment of the Kingdom means that Christ first had to be on hand. In other words, those who lived and died before the First Advent will come forth from the tomb regardless of the degree of willfulness and sin. The scribes and Pharisees saw Jesus’ miracles and heard his teachings, so what further evidences could they have in the Kingdom? At that time, even those who refuse to bow the knee after being given just a brief understanding of truth will be peremptorily cut off in Second Death (Acts 3:23). The point is that there are different degrees of guilt.

Q: Based on 2 Peter 3:3 and the tendency of those in the Laodicean period of the Church to be scoffers, are the consecrated especially liable to Second Death at this end of the age ?

A: Yes. Chapter 2 of Second Peter is a parallel to the Epistle of Jude, which tells of a Second Death class. Those portions of Scripture are advice primarily to those who are not merely consecrated but consecrated in the Truth movement. There will be real trials in the membership in the near future. Even the Great Company, to some extent or fashion, will be partially deceived temporarily—all but the very elect (Matt. 24:24).

Psa. 1:3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Psa. 1:4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

“And he [the righteous class] shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season.” Not only is verse 3 presented in a positive fashion, as opposed to the negative approach of verse 1, but it gives the reward. The righteous become like a tree that is planted by rivers of water. The Apostle Paul sometimes similarly used this antithetical method for giving good, sound advice by showing progression in one direction and then reversing the direction in the next verse.

The tree is compared to a dried leaf that “shall not wither.” Of course a green leaf holds fast, but here the leaf does not wither. By inference in verse 4, the wicked are like a dry leaf or “chaff,” both of which lack fruit. Chaff is the outer covering of the fruit that peals off and blows away. When wheat is threshed, it is thrown up in the air so that the chaff will be blown away. Being heavier, the wheat falls vertically, by gravity, into a heap.

Those who follow God’s counsel delight day and night over a period of time. Likewise, a tree takes time to grow. A tree grows from a small beginning, from a seed or an acorn. If the tree is healthy during the growth process and has proper soil, it bends in the wind and does not break. By delighting in the law day and night, one grows from a babe to a mature Christian, and when a mature Christian has done all, he is expected to stand. In the natural picture, a tree is more apt to stand than chaff, which blows away in the wind and is useless. Also a mature tree brings forth fruit. And so most of the Lord’s people are favored with a sufficient length of time in their consecration to bring forth fruit. If neglectful in developing the fruits of the Holy Spirit, they will suffer correspondingly in proportion to their neglect. A tree in prophecy can indicate two things: (1) a person developed for either good or bad and (2) a nation (for example, Israel, the fig tree). Verse 3 shows a progression leading to the good fate of bringing forth fruit. The fruit might seem to be nothing special, but God is hoping Christians will bring forth fruit and thus become inheritors of the Kingdom class.

Comment: Jeremiah 17:7,8 sounds like the First Psalm: “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”

Comment: Verse 3 is a reminder of the “tree of life” on both sides of the river; the fruit will be for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).

Reply: Trees will be along the river coming from the Temple in the Kingdom. The fruitage developed in the Church class in this age will be a blessing to those in the next age who come into the Temple arrangement down here.

“The ungodly are … like the chaff which the wind driveth away.” The ungodly, pictured by the chaff, are contrasted with the green leaf that does not wither and the tree planted by the river. Two opposite fates are thus pictured. The one is planted; the other is driven away by the wind. The comparisons go back and forth in this First Psalm.

Psa. 1:5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

“Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment.” They will not be acquitted; hence they will not get life. “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Rom. 14:10). The ungodly class will be taken away in one fashion or another in the Kingdom Age; that is, they will either be sentenced to Second Death or be given stripes and punishment. “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment [prior to the Kingdom Age]; and some men[‘s sins] they follow after [in the Kingdom Age]” (1 Tim. 5:24). The judgments of some in the world take place now so that they will have a better chance to get life in the Kingdom Age.

Psa. 1:6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

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