Some Psalms
Lesson 1

Lesson One

The Basic Contrast

Text: Psalm 1

The nation of Israel (at its biggest land territory) in the Old Testament was by today’s standards a small nation.  Though it was a small land, it provided an interesting contrast.  While from the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee to the north (and the plain along the Mediterranean Sea) tended to be green, south of the tip of the Sea of Galilee was a desert (except along the banks of the Jordan River) whose rugged hills and mountains eroded quickly.  

The problem in this region does not tend to be the quality of the soil but the lack of moisture.  The humidity is low, it is hot, there is an abundance of direct sunshine, and water is often restricted to sudden runoffs from rainfall elsewhere.  Commonly, this water appeared suddenly and unexpectedly, and disappeared quickly.  Water usually, in this region, came and left much too quickly to support vegetation.  Obviously, little grew (untended) in this region.


Many Israelites were well acquainted with the importance of a good, dependable water supply.


Psalms 1 was a basic contrast between the life and survival of the righteous and the unpredictable, brief existence of the wicked.  The contrast is made by contrasting vegetation that has access to water even in stressful times with dead, harmful, useless chaff.


The righteous were like a fruit tree by a water source which provided all the water the tree needed every week of the year.  The tree never withered, even when drought was severe. 


The wicked are like dry, unwanted, hurtful chaff.  Chaff is principally the husks of the ripe grain that has been harvested (thought it can include the debris of the dead grain plants at harvest).


The first job was to separate the ripe grain from the dead stalks.  The second job was to separate the chaff from the grain.  The useful, heavier grain would fall in a light wind that would blow away the much lighter chaff.  If the chaff was not separated from the grain, the food made from the mixture of chaff and grain was undesirable to eat.


Notice the first two verses.  This Psalm affirmed that a particular person experienced a full life—a life blessed by God.  First, that life was described in what the person did NOT do.  (a) He did not seek guidance from those who have no godly concerns.  (b) He did not determine the direction of his life by the direction taken by people who gave no concern to God’s values.  (c) He was not a continual companion of those who ridiculed God (and those not devoted to God).


Second, it focused on the relationship the person had with God’s instructions.  The life and values of this person were quite in contrast to the wicked, the sinner, and the scoffer.  He found joy in God’s law.  He thought continually about God’s ways and God’s values.  The result: he was like a transplanted fruit tree by a dependable source of water.  When developed (grown), he produced fruit that blessed, benefited others.  He could produce fruit because in stressful times he was not stressed—his leaf did not wither.  Trees with dead leaves neither grow, develop, nor produce fruit!  This person prospered because the one who transplanted him placed him in a good place!  He could prosper because God placed Him in a good place!  God was the SOURCE of his blessing!  He was able to do what he was capable of doing because God did what only He could do.


The temporary existence of the wicked received emphasis.  Those who turn against God were like unwanted chaff.  Even the stress of a light breeze blew them away.  If they could endure the stress created by a light breeze, these people could not endure the scrutiny of God!  (The writer does not regard judgment to be the Christian eternal judgment, but a divine evaluation of the way one was using life in this world.) 


Just as the “wicked” could not endure a divine evaluation of how they lived, neither could the “sinner” (who failed to grasp that the purpose of life was found in serving God) advance among those who are righteous.  Those who walked away from God felt, in every way, out of place with those who walked with God.  They had no desire to “see who we are,” and they had no desire to be among people who saw who they were instead of encouraging evil behavior.


The conclusion: God cared about (regarded) the people who had the insight and courage to be righteous people, but God allowed those who reject Him to face and endure the full consequences of their godless behavior.  The great contrast was between those who existed in God’s care and those who lived outside of God’s care.


May the writer conclude this lesson with a statement of perspective?  You may or may not agree, but you surely have a right to the perspective.  The writer finds no presentation of the eternal judgment, the eternal heaven, or the eternal hell in the writings of the Old Testament.  That is not the affirmation such did not exist, but the affirmation that such did not help form the motivational basis for Israelite obedience to God.  


If the question were asked, “Why serve God?” there would be two reasons.  The Old Testament reason would be, “It is in doing so one can live physical life to its fullest.”  The New Testament reason would be, “It is in doing so that you can be a living sacrifice for the God who gave us Jesus Christ.”  In obeying God, men like Job, Abraham, and David became wealthy because they trusted God.  In following Jesus Christ, Christians die to the physical in order to be alive to the eternal like Stephen, James, Paul, and the martyrs.  To transfer Christian motivations back to Old Testament acts may be undesirable because it may obscure the lesson embedded in the Old Testament act.


For Thought and Discussion


1. The nation of Old Testament Israel was what? What interesting contrast did it provide?

2. What tended to be the problem?

3. In Psalm 1, the basic contrast is between what?  How is it made?

4. The righteous are like what?  The wicked are like what?

5. What two jobs followed cutting the stalks (the harvest)?

6. What did the righteous not do?  Instead, they did what?

7. Discuss the importance of trees having leaves.

8. Discuss the temporary existence of the wicked.

9. What was the conclusion?

Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 1

Copyright © 2010
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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