Psalms 1-8

Good morning! Today we start the book of Psalms, which has been the songbook of the Jewish and Christian tradition for millennia. These ancient poems capture all aspects of human emotion—including some very ugly desires—in songs to God. Millions of people read the psalms each day, and I have no doubt that some of the psalms are particularly meaningful for you. As we read a number of psalms each day, rest assured that I’m not planning to comment extensively on each one! I’ll point out significant themes or verses, and look to you for sharing those psalms which are meaningful to you, and why.

Psalms is subdivided into 5 “books”, different texts grouped together, usually by authorship. Some of them are attributed to King David, others to temple musicians like Asaph (whom we heard about so often in Chronicles). Look for authorship notes (and occasionally situations where they were written) to be included with titles where they exist, printed before the first verses. Today we start Book 1 with Psalms 1-8. This “book” within the psalms seems to most reliably come from King David’s hand.

Psalm 1 is an appropriate introduction because it sets forth the ways of life and death in short, memorable form. I love the imagery of righteousness in as trees beside streams of water—it has been a visual encouragement to me through dry times. Reading this “righteous=blessed and wicked=outcast” formula does, however, sound a little pious and uncertain after considering the book of Job.

In Psalm 2, note the belief that God will protect the nation and Israel’s king (so long as the king remains righteous). This is the sovereign referred to as “my son; today I have begotten you.” The rest of the psalm characteristically sets out the understanding that God can easily override even the most audacious and successful human leaders.

We’ll see the phrase “Selah” throughout Psalms—such as in Psalms 3 and 4. “Selah” is a musical word that means “rest”. Psalms 3-5 and 7 express a confident theology that God will defend the composer against any enemy or military threat. Psalm 6 responds to suffering with a plea that the same deliverance will be manifest for one suffering through the night with heartsickness.

Psalm 8 displays a common form, with an opening theme or refrain, middle verses, and then the refrain is included again at the end of the piece. This psalm in particular stands out from the others also for its understanding of human beings generally (not just powerful kings). The verses in Psalm 8 hearken back to God’s response to Job in the previous book, yet here human beings are praised for their importance rather than criticized for their lack of knowledge. As you encounter these psalms, consider sharing your favorites, along with why they hold particular meaning for you. Happy reading!

Read Psalms 1-8.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Psalms 9-16. Thanks for reading!

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