Psalm 8 in Family Worship

Our family and friends are starting to memorize and study Psalm 8.  Here are our initial questions and ideas. We'll have to see what we learn along the way.  

Study it

  • How does this Psalm begin and end?  Psalm 8 has a question. What is it? Where is it?
  • What word pictures can you find in Psalm 8?
  • How is God described?
  • How does God defeat his foes?
  • What does God give man?

Pray it

  • I praise God because of his majestic name.
  • I praise God because of his beautiful creation.
  • I praise God because he knows me.
  • I praise God because he made me.

Draw it 

  • Try drawing one big mural of everything in Psalm 8.

Words to learn 

(I'm trying to be aware of words that may be more difficult for my children).

  • LORD -

  • Lord -

  • Majestic -

  • Glory 

  • Dominion -

Jesus, the Psalm 1 Prototype.

Imagine little boyJesus, seven or eight years old, running off to school. What was it like?  Did he have to study hard or did he have a photographic memory?  Did he have to learn everything or did he just know because he was God? Theologian Bruce Ware explores this question in his book The Man Christ Jesus. Ware asks the question like this: "Was his knowledge of the Bible automatic?  Did he 'just know' all of it due to his being fully God?" His interest (and ours) in the question of Jesus' learning abilities isn't merely academic.  There is an important truth for us and our lives.  While we can't satisfy every curiosity, Scripture does tell us a little.  The answer is in Luke 2:52 which says that Jesus "increased in wisdom."  In his human nature he had to learn about nature, and biology, and yes, even Scripture.  Here is Ware's answer to his question:

"Again, Luke's affirmations that Jesus increased in wisdom lead us to think this is not the right answer.  Yes, he surely was God, and in his divine nature he knows the Scripture perfectly, since he knows all things perfectly.  But if Jesus 'increased in wisdom,' then his knowledge was not out of his divine nature per se. Rather, his human nature had to acquire the knowledge and wisdom that he later evidenced, whether at the age of twelve or thirty.
"So again, how did Jesus acquire such knowledge and wisdom that even at the age of twelve he could converse with the most learned men of Israel?  Here is what must be the core of our answer: Jesus was what might be thought of as the Psalm 1 prototype.  He truly loved the love of the Lord and meditated upon it day and night.  Because of this, he was like a tree planted by rivers of that that yields its fruit in season; its leaf did not wither, and in whatever he did he prospered.  Out of his love for the law, he learned and mastered that law, and the Spirit within him illumined his mind and enflamed his heart to long to know it better and better as he grew.
"There is a reason why Psalm 1 is the first psalm of the Psalter.  It not only describes the wise and the wicked as general categories of human beings; it describes in particular the Wise One, whose wisdom surpassed all others as we all others as he grew in wisdom through the power of the Spirit.  The Spirit, then worked in the mind and the heart of the young boy Jesus to grant him a hunger for the Word of God and insight into that Word as he was taught and as he meditated upon it in quiet study and reflection" (pages 52-53). 

Bruce Ware's point, which was also Luke's point, is that in his humanity Jesus had to learn the same way we did.  That should encourage us to follow the example of Christ in our own meditation on Scripture.  That means we have every tool available for us that Jesus had to become a Psalm 1 man.  

Psalm 1, Isaac Watts

Happy the man whose cautious feet 

Shun the broad way that sinners go,

Who hates the place where atheists meet,

And fears to talk as scoffers do.

 

He loves t' employ the morning light

Amongst the statutes of the Lord;

And spends the wakeful hours of night,

With pleasure, pondering o'er his word.

 

He, like a plant by gentle streams,

Shall flourish in immortal green.

And heav'n will shine with kindest beams

On every work his hands begin.

 

But sinners find their counsels crossed:

As chaff before the tempest flies,

So shall their hopes be blown and lost,

When the last trumpet shakes the skies.

 

In vain the rebel seeks to stand

In judgment with the pious race;

The dreadful Judge, with stern command,

Divides him to a diff'rent place.

 

"Straight is the way my saints have trod;

I blessed the path, and drew it plain;

But you would choose the crooked road,

And down it leads to endless pain."


From. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/watts/psalmshymns.Ps.3.html. 

More Psalms of Isaac Watts can be found here.

Manly Men Sing

In a home where the boys are outnumbered more than two to one my son and I are always conscious of doing "guy stuff."  Ninjas, guns, camouflage, football.  That stuff. We have to intentionally fight the tidal wave of dolls and dress-up, lest we be swept away in all things pink.   But while I want to raise my son to be a man, I do not want him to succumb to a caveman-like understanding of masculinity.  Too often books, music, poetry, and art are viewed as antithetical to manhood.  Thankfully, I didn't grow up in a home or community where that was the case.  In my high school, the top musicians were also the top athletes.  Nevertheless, too often the never-said but oft implied sentiment I get from Christian men is "Real men don't sing.  That's for girls."  

A real man would never say that.  One of the "manliest" men in the Bible also wrote the most songs.  David, who killed lions, bears, a giant, and armies, also wrote many of the songs of the Bible.  He was warrior, a general, a king, and a poet.  He exposed his own soul in poetry.  Any view of masculinity that has no room for music is not biblical masculinity.

Therefore one of the phrases we say in our house a lot is, "Manly men sing."  Sing loud and clear! 

In his book on raising sons, Doug Wilson wrote:

The fact that the church has largely abandoned the singing of psalms means that the church has abandoned a songbook that is thoroughly masculine in its lyrics. The writer of most of the psalms was a warrior, and he knew how to fight the Lord’s enemies in song. With regard to the music of our psalms and hymns, we must return to a world of vigorous singing, vibrant anthems, more songs where the tenor carries the melody, open fifths, and glory. Our problem is not that such songs do not exist; our problem is that we have forgotten them. And in forgetting them, we are forgetting our boys. Men need to model such singing for their sons (Future Men, kindle 1089-1094).

Psalm 1 in Our Family Time

As some of our friends and my family have been focusing on the Psalms this year, I've been trying to create homework for the way.  Homework might be an exaggeration.  With five kids, the goal of mealtime is usually just survival.  So my aim in homework is always to be family-friendly and quick.  It's a work in progress, but here's what we have done so far.

Study It

How many times does Psalm 1 say "way"?

What word pictures are in Psalm 1?

What is one question you have about Psalm 1?

Pray it

Turn Psalm 1 into a prayer.  How does it help you pray?

Enjoy It

Draw a picture inspired by Psalm 1.

So that's some of what we've done so far.  I'm curious to hear what other families do. We enjoyed doing art from Psalm 1 and look forward to drawing more Psalms.   Over the next few days I want to talk more about meditation and the true Psalm 1 man: Jesus Christ.  

My Alypian Slip

I had an Alypian slip a couple of years ago, and it's been bothering me ever since. I really need to get it off my chest. Confession is good for the soul, they say.  And hopefully I can teach some good hermeneutics along the way. What's an Alypian slip?  A relative of the Freudian slip?  I'll see if I can explain. 

I was preaching from Psalm 1 a few years ago when it happened. (yes, I know only preachers remember their own sermons for more than a week)  I was making a point from the Hebrew poetry.  I love to study Old Testament poetry.  A key to understanding Hebrew poetry is recognizing parallelism.  All Old Testament poetry is some form of parallelism  And a key to understanding parallelism is intensification.  Psalm 1:1 is a fantastic example of this intensification.  It says, "Blessed is the man who....

walks not after counsel of the wicked 

nor stands in the way of sinners

nor sits in the seat of scoffers"

You can see the parallelism and the intensification.  Walk, stand, sit.  Counsel, way, seat.  Wicked, sinners, scoffers.   Very simply, parallelism is the group of words and intensification is the progression within each group. Each word is more intense than the last.   For example, walk means "living according to the advice of;" stand means "considering the lifestyle of;" and sit--the most specific and intense-- means "identify with the life of the people."  Do you see the progression?

Anyway, I've put off confession too long.  Here was my Alypian slip.  In my sermon on Psalm 1 I was explaining words like blessedness, walk, stand, sit, wicked, scoffer, etc, and I came to my illustration.  I thought I had a really good one! This is what I said:

...It’s like window-shopping.  You go out of your way on your lunch break to walk by the store with that thing you want. Then, after a awhile you stop and look for a little while.  Then you finally go in and make the purchase.  This intensification illustrates subtly embracing the negative influences that the world has to offer. Go from walking to standing to sitting, from advice to, from general ungodliness to actually embracing the acts of scoffers where you call good bad and bad, good.  
Let me give you an illustration that’s 1600 years old so I don’t get in trouble with anyone. Augustine was a pastor and theologian in the time of the Roman Empire and thus in the time of the gladiators. Christians didn’t go to the gladiatorial shows (unless they were the show!) because they were violent and pagan.  Augustine tells the story of his friend Alypius.  Alypius lived in Rome as a Christian to study law.  And although as a Christian, he refused to go to the games, his friends dragged him to amphitheater, which was filled with people seething with monstrous delights. Alypius insisted that he wouldn’t watch.  But Augustine said, “Oh that he would have shut up his ears!”  For when Alypius heard the sound of gladiator dying and the crowds going wild, his curiosity overcame him.  So he decided that he would look at it, but only to disdain it.  When he looked, Augustine says, he wounded his soul more than any sword could ever wound a gladiator.  He wrote, “As soon as he saw blood, he drank in the savagery; and not turning away, kept his gaze fixed and absorbed the madness and delighted in the criminal combat, and was made drunk with bloody delight.”  And so Alypius, who at first would not watch the games, came back again and again, bringing with more people with him.  

There was my Alypian slip.  I used Alypius as a sermon illustration for the wrong sermon. Even though everything I said about the danger of sliding like Alypius into sin is true,  it is not the point of Psalm 1.  In fact I ended up teaching bad hermeneutics (Bible study techniques) through my illustration.  The Psalmist's point is not the progression of sin, but the problem of all forms of sin.  The intensification isn't talking about subtly falling into temptation but avoiding all forms of temptation. Walking, sitting, wicked, scoffers-- they're all equally averse to the the blessed life.  The one who follows the way of God avoid all areas of sin.  

Alypius is a great illustration for another text but not Psalm 1.  Sin is dangers in all forms. Walking.  Standing. Sitting.  Wicked.  Sinners. Scoffers.  

 

 

 

The Happiness of Knowing God

The first word of the first verse of the first Psalm captures the theme of the entire book.  Blessed.  The whole book of Psalms, but especially Psalm 1 is what the blessed life is all about.  "Blessed is the one..!"  But what does "blessed" mean?  It seems like an important word, but we zoom past it, often failing to heed the truth only one verse later:  the blessed one meditates on the Word.  

Let's meditate on "blessed."  It's the Hebrew word ashar.  In the Greek translation, it's makarios.  As a side note, makarios is the word "blessed" in the beatitudes in Matthew 5.  "Blessed are the poor in spirit."  Lexicons define makarios as "blessed, happy, fortunate" and ashar as "happiness."   So we might say, "O how happy is the one who follows God!"

And that partly works.   And yet happy doesn’t quite cover the meaning because happiness is too superficial.  Happiness is tied to circumstances and sounds only emotional.  Blessedness is even deeper.  Hebrew scholar Allen Ross defined blessed as the “joyful spiritual condition of those who are right with God and the pleasure and satisfaction that is derived from that” (Ross, Psalms, 185).   

Perhaps the way I think of what this word blessed means is this:  when we get the privilege of watching people get baptized at our church, that’s blessedness.  They stand before us proclaiming that they were once ungodly people deserving the wrath of God but now because Jesus Christ they have a right relationship with him.  All of life stops for a moment and we see what is most important, most happy.  Perhaps my most emotional times at church have been listening to people tell how God has changed them.  I have told my wife as I listen, not in a month could I ever have written something so beautiful as someone describing how God has saved them and changed their life. If I could capture that happiness and joy-- if I could put that in a bottle--that would be blessedness.   "Blessedness" is that sense of joy and satisfaction, and sometimes-even jealousy in listening to that deep intimacy, comfort, joy, and love -that comes from knowing God. 

Blessed is forgiveness of sins.

Blessed is peace with God.

Blessed is being called friend rather than enemy.

Blessed is confidence in prayer at the throne of grace.

Blessed is freedom from fear or shame or guilt.

Blessed is knowing every event in the life of believer is an act of love intended to brings fully into the joy of our salvation.

When I think of "blessed" in Psalm 1 my mind always jumps to Jimmy Needham's song "Stay."  It's simple song rejoicing in the presence of God.  As I listen to I think,  "Yes, this is it.  This is blessed."

You take my and and then we run away 

To the place where my fears have no voice at all

The only sound in my ear, the whisper of your call,

This moment is frozen, I'm not going anywhere

I linger forever, if only I could stay here

A Wealth of Welch on the Psalms

Counselor Ed Welch's material has gems of truth about the Psalms scattered throughout his books.  Here are some of my favorite truths from some of his books.

Running Scared, page 39.

The psalmists invite you into perilous situations with them. They have real questions about whether or not they will be alive tomorrow. Their situations are probably more extreme than our own, but the psalmists rarely mention the specifics because they don’t want the details of their personal stories to bar us from entering in with our own. Instead, they invite us to participate whenever possible. They are choirmasters who want us to join them in their chorus to the Lord.

The psalmists recount times when they had enemies who hunted and maligned them. To join in, we could insert our own experiences of being wounded by critical or hateful comments. We might incorporate stories about past abuse and victimization. Have you ever thought your life was hanging in the balance? You could bring that into the psalm.


Depression:  Looking Up From the Stubborn Darkness

"God might feel far away, but our feelings mislead us on this one. Scripture is filled with promises of God’s presence with his people. Do you want evidence? God speaks to us and desires to be spoken to. Only someone close can do such things. He speaks to us, especially through Scripture, and he calls us to speak with him. When we are tongue-tied, he actually gives us words to say. Yet it is not a script that he gives us. When we speak from a script, we are pretending. We wear the mask of another. We become actors...Instead, God gives us poetry that, somehow, gives voice to the silences in our hearts. If we had the skill and the words, we would write many of those same words. The Psalms are where you find many of these poems. They are God’s liturgy, prepared for you in advance" (Kindle 754-762).

"When you hear the words of Psalm 22, 'My God, why have you forsaken me?' you might think about your own experience. Depression feels like being forsaken. But you also remember that these were Jesus’ words on the cross. They point to the fact that when you read these liturgical prayers , you are not alone. David composed many of them, the Israelites sang them, the church has recited them, and they all point to Jesus. Ultimately, they are all his songs, and you are being taught to sing with him. Jesus is the Divine Singer, and now the songs of the Son of God have been given as gifts to the children of God. What these psalms do is straighten the trajectory of our lives. Using the words he gives us, God gently turns our hearts toward him. Instead of everything bending back into ourselves, we are able to look straight, outside of ourselves, and fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12: 2)" (Kindle 785-792).

"As you say the Psalms and remember that Jesus said them first, you will gradually find your focus changing" (795).

"Hope, as you will find, is a skill that takes practice. There is no verse, pill, or possession that will make it magically appear. Reciting psalms that you have claimed as your own is part of that practice" (811).

"Faith feels many different ways. It can be buoyant; it can be depressed and lifeless. Feelings don’t define faith. Instead, faith is simply turning to the Lord. When you speak the psalms, you are “doing” faith. And remember that faith is the work of the Spirit of God in our hearts. As such, if you can speak psalms, God is near" (819-821).