The other day, I was reading through the Psalms from the beginning and was really struck by how reorienting they are. I knew this, but the contrast between the World’s perspective, which has man at the center of everything led by his passions and desires, and the perspective of Scripture, which places God at the center of reality, was almost jarring to me as I read it with fresh eyes.
Here are some examples just from the first few Psalms:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1, 2 ESV)
The Wicked, Sinners, and Scoffers are real people. They really do exist. God so loved the world, but that doesn’t mean that there are not people who are really opposed to God and His ways and who promote wickedness and getting their own way. We are blessed when we do not walk in their counsel. They will tell us that the best way to live is to follow them, agree with them, and support them in their quest to live a life independent of God and His commands. When we reject their counsel an delight in God’s Law and meditate on it day and night, we are blessed. Reject the World’s wisdom and delight in God’s law and you will find blessing there from God.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:3-6 ESV)
The one who delights in God’s law is like a tree that is properly watered and nourished and produces fruit the way that it was designed to. It does not dry up and whither. This is similar to what Jesus said in John 15 when he said that if we abide in Him and His words abide in us, then we will bear much fruit and we will not be thrown into the fire. The wicked (those who do not delight in God and His ways) are like chaff that is without substance and is blown away by the wind. The wicked will not make it through the judgment that is coming. That is another thing that the world tells us: there will be no judgment for our sins. No God to see or judge or to make things right. That perspective is all around us. But, God knows and sees and the righteous are those who stand in His presence and the wicked are those who reject Him. There is an actual reality beyond what we can see with our own eyes. God is present and He will judge and establish His people as righteous.
That is just Psalm 1. It completely reorients us away from 90% of what the world says is reality, such as all that is real is what we can see and experience and that my emotions and desires are the most important thing about me and that I will be a complete human being once I act on and fulfill my desires. This is the lie. But, God seeks to snap us out of it and tell us a different story.
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:1-3 ESV)
The nations and the peoples and kings and rulers rage and plot and counsel together against God and His Messiah, Jesus, and constantly try to figure out how they can break off any authority that God might institute over them. That is what the world does. It constantly wants to be free of God’s perspective, His Word, or any and every mention of Him in any kind of sense where He might exercise some kind of authority over them. Since the Garden of Eden and the Fall, Man has sought to establish himself as sovereign and to “make a name for himself.” He has continuously sought his own gain and sought to improve and enhance his own “way of life” at the expense of other and in violation of God’s commands. This is consistent and we really shouldn’t be surprised by it. This is why we cannot save ourselves, by the way. Our sinful nature consistently seeks to establish its own way. This is why Jesus had to come for us to save us.
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (Psalm 2:4-6 ESV)
God is not surprised by any of this. He is not shaken by our rebellion. God’s wrath is coming against it and He has established His King in Zion. This speaks to what was to happen in history but had already happened in eternity. God would establish His kingdom forever. David, the king then represented the better and true king to come – Jesus.
I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psalm 2:7-9 ESV)
Now we see Jesus come into full view. We can see it now because we are on the other side of the Cross. This is what Peter was talking about when he referenced Psalm 2 in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. God’s answer to man’s rebellion and iniquity was to send His Son, Jesus, into the world. The nations will be made His heritage and the ends of the earth His possession. Jesus will rule over them. This is not in doubt because individual people or nations or cultures reject God’s ways. God is still at work and He will execute His judgments and His redemption throughout the world.
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:10-12 ESV)
This is how we are to respond. This is the proper way for the kings of the earth to respond. Be warned. Serve the Lord with fear. Rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son. The proper response to God and what He is doing is worship, adoration, and respect and fear. We are to submit to God and His rule over our lives and over the nations. God’s wrath will be revealed against sin and godlessness. But, those who take refuge in HIM are blessed. This goes back to Psalm 1. God is great and powerful, but He still calls us to take refuge in Him. He still calls us to worship Him and to know Him and to find our life in Him and to walk in His ways. He is not a King who is far away from us or who is unknown to us.
The Psalms continue in this way. Psalms 3-8 have the same basic perspective. They reorient us away from living for ourselves and believing the World that says that the apex of life is found in us getting our way. They reorient us toward God and the fact that true life is found in Him. We need to be rooted in this perspective daily.