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(Part 2/2 of Psalm 1 and Torah)

Psalms 1 is a fantastic psalm, filled with many treasures.  One other thing that I wanted to emphasis is about the characteristics of a person.  As mentioned previously, J. Clinton McCann, Jr. also talks about the righteous person in A Theological Introduction to the Books of Psalms.  The blessed person is not happy according to riches, prestige or power.  Indeed, many people who rejected God will live in prosperity.  The prosperity and peace that is talked about is not according to worldly standards, for the peace of the righteous is not as the world gives (see: John 14:27).  The happiness that is hinted at in Psalms 1 is that the individual’s life is wholly oriented towards the instruction of God.  It is a constant yielding to Him. 

Peace is neither a naive optimism of wealth or self-righteous legalism, as written about last week.  No, it is far greater than that.  It is about an abandonment of our convictions of living fine by ourselves and clinging to torah.  Righteousness is not about purity of heart or a maintenance of puritanical-standards.  Instead, righteousness is being open to God’s instruction and being willing to grow towards the full measure of the stature of Christ.  As John Calvin would say that it is a "teachable spirit", someone who is open to instruction from God.  And this spirit brings honor and praise to God, for that is where humanity finds life.


I am currently enrolled in a course on the Psalms at a seminary.  Psalms has been a very interesting book to read but honestly I have not delved into it with the same passion as other books.  One book that I am reading gives a very interesting perspective on the first psalm.  J. Clinton McCann, Jr. argues in the first chapter of A Theological Introduction to the Books of Psalms that Psalm 1 lays the foundation for the entire psalter.  It paints a picture of what a righteous person looks like and describes what a wicked person acts like.  A righteous person delights in the law of the Lord day and night.

“Wait!”, you might say.  “We are supposed to delight in the law?  I thought that grace was the big operating word of Christianity, especially the Protestant wing of it.  Besides we are not under the law anymore, isn’t that what Paul said in Galatians?”

McCann would reply that the psalm is not discussing the characteristics of the self-righteous individual.  This is not a “holier-than-thou” person who parade their prayers in the street and drives around with Christian bumper stickers.  We can translate the Hebrew word torah and say that it means instruction in this context, not law.  The righteous person delights in the instruction of the Lord.  To be blameless in the eyes of God is not to be sinless, but instead to open up to the torah of the Lord, clinging to it daily.  The psalmists words will only be acceptable by God if they opened up to the “all-encompassing, life-giving instruction of the Lord.”  There is no other option from the psalmist, for the torah is it.  There is nothing worthy to be called life apart from God’s instruction.

Peter would echo these words when he was asked by Jesus if they (the disciples) would abandon them.  Peter replied, “where else would we go, for you alone offer life?”  There is no other place that life can be found, except in God’s instruction.

(Part 1/2 of Psalm 1 and Torah)

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