READ PSALM ONE
As we saw yesterday, the book of Psalms was not written in chronological order, but was likely written over time and compiled into five primary collections that make up the Psalter. Because of this, we know that Psalm one was not likely written first, but was selected to sit at the forefront of the hymnal for the people of God.
Read Psalm 1 (aloud if possible). Why do you think it was selected to sit at the opening of the book of Psalms?
Psalm one was selected from over 100 poems written for the Psalter to sit at the opening of this Israelite book of worship. And scholars are in agreement as to why: Psalm one lays out for the person of faith a description of what the “Ideal Israelite” would look like. It describes for us in imaginative form what the life of the person who diligently uses this book of prayer, following it perfectly, will look like.
What are some of the descriptors used of this “Ideal Israelite”?
The first thing we are told about the Ideal Israelite* is that her life is blessed. Her life bears the blessing of God, the hand of God, and the presence of God. The Hebrew word used here is אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי (eh’-sher), and it can also be translated “happy.” The person who follows the Psalter is a happy person of blessing. She is content, joyful in her life circumstances as she experiences the blessing of God.
You and I both know that the Psalms run the gamut of emotions in the life of the believer – including negative feelings like grief or want or anger or fear. How can this person, following this Psalter, be “happy” or “blessed”?
Think back to the nature of the book of Psalms as a book of prayer. How might this relate to the description we’re given of the life of blessing for the person who follows it?
How might it give us clarity on what the Psalmist means by “blessed”?
To help us fully understand the meaning of the Hebrew word אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי, let’s do a quick word study. Word studies are a great way to unfold the meaning of original language words. As we read various places in Scripture where that word is used (and, sometimes, used by the same author) it helps us understand the word in fuller view.
Looking up the following verses where the word אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי is used. Make note of how the word is used and what translation value (or translation meaning) it has:
The Hebrew word אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי can be translated “blessed” or “happy.” But, the authors are not using the word “happy” in the way you and I might use it in our day and age. Each and every use of the word points to one thing: the person of “blessing” is “happy” because he is in proximity to God. The person of blessing experiences the blessing of God as he experiences being in a right relationship with the Almighty.
The Ideal Israelite is blessed because he walks with God. In each and every situation that is to come, as he follows this book of prayer, God is invited into each situation. No matter his situation, no matter his circumstances, no matter his emotions, he is in relationship with God and God is present with him.
How would this change the way you pray? How might it change the way you ask for God’s blessing in your life?
What would it look like for you to present your supplications – your needs – to God and ask for His blessing according to these terms?
*Note: the noun used here is masculine, but is intended to encompass both men and women in the original language. So, I’m going to say “person” throughout this week’s study instead of “man” simply because that reflects the intention of the original author.
Pray & Reflect:
Supplication: Ask God to form your internal idea of “blessing” in light of His presence. Ask Him to bless your life with His presence as you grow in your relationship with Him.
Submission: Confess to God that you know He is near to you and that He knows all of your needs. Praise Him for being everything you need to live a life of blessing.