The one who doesn’t walk, stand or sit with scoffers delights in the law of YHWH. This non-scoffer meditates day and night on Torah. Day and night? 24/7 thinking about Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy? It’s easy to imagine being pre-occupied with many things (sports, films, possessions, people), but being obsessed with the Law?
What could possibly cause someone to become so focused on something like Law?
Why does someone become obsessed with an object? It gives them great delight, or even pleasure. For some, sex, others money, others competition. For the psalmist, Torah. Nice. An obsession with Law. I’m still working on that.
How does Torah provide pleasure for you? Why do you think the psalmist meditates on it day and night?
My current method of transforming a highlighted text in Word 2007 into one I could display here involves converting the file into a .png document using Zamzar (which is free), extracting the zipped file, cropping here on my WordPress blog, and here’s the result. Any suggestions on how to do convert colorful highlighted files from Word more efficiently? (I’m new to blogging and WordPress.)
It’s best to begin a series of reflections on the psalms with the first one, specifically the first verse.
I love the literalness of the NAS (like the ESV), but this time the translation needs help. While the Hebrew word here, ish literally means “man” or “husband,” I like how the various translations generalize here to include men and women more broadly: TNIV & the NET (“the one”), the NJB (“anyone”) and the NRSV & TLT (“those”). If a specific man is going to be blessed for avoiding these behaviors, it makes sense that both men and women more generally will also receive those blessings.
One place where the literalness of the NAS helps is seeing the parallel nature of this first verse of the Psalter, which better emphasizes the natural process the verse is describing. This person is blessed, but we don’t know what they are doing right yet. All we know so far is what they are not
doing. Notice the progression from walking (active), to standing (less active), to sitting (totally passive). It’s a process of becoming increasingly
sedentary. This hypothetical person avoids first walking along with, then standing nearby and finally sitting among the wicked, sinful scoffers. For this reason, they are blessed.
It’s hard to know what these wicked sinners are involved with, but judging how the verse ends with scoffing, it sounds like criticism or cynicism is part of the problem. There is something wonderfully enlightened about being a cynic. They seem so intelligent as they critique everything and tear it down. It’s tempting to go sit with them, to not only listen to them, but to share one’s own scintillating pessimistic insights about life. Except, the psalmist warns us, that path does not lead to blessing.
What do you think these scoffers were doing while they were sitting there?
I used to avoid the psalms. I loved OT narrative, just not the psalms. The most common type of psalm (the laments) includes a lot of whining and complaining (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, etc.). I had no enemies, so the imprecatory psalms (cursing psalms) felt harsh (35, 58, 109, 137). Many of the praise psalms seem redundant (136). I was always healthy, so the hypochondriac psalms focusing on illness (32, 38) didn’t connect with me.
But right about the time that I was assigned to teach the psalms in a course on Biblical Poetry, I started having heart problems. When I went to see the doctor about a skin rash, the nurse said I had an irregular pulse. I was soon diagnosed with Arial Fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat). Soon, I was on a first name basis with my cardiologist. The cardiology nurses would ask me what I was doing there since I seemed too young to have serious heart problems. I went on Coumadin (blood-thinner) to prevent blood clots (and to encourage bruising) and started taking beta-blockers (I never understood exactly why my betas needed to be blocked) which gave me persistent headaches. I passed out three times, was hospitalized three times, was cardio-verted twice, had my chest shaved more times than I can count and finally underwent a cather ablation (basically shoving small tubes up my veins and arteries into my heart to calm/kill the places in my heart that
were causing the improper electrical impulses).
What Scripture did I read most during this year and a half period of constant health crisis? Those whiny laments and hypochondriac psalms. I don’t avoid the psalms anymore.
I’m going to start a series of blogs on the Psalms. What types of psalms do you avoid? Which specific psalms? Why?