Week 1, Day 1 – longer than they’ll normally be, but the reading is super short today and I’m excited to get things started. 🙂
READ: Psalm 1
BACKGROUND: Psalm 1, like much of the Bible – most often the poetic and prophetic parts but narrative parts too – is written in a specific pattern called a chiasm (pronounced: ki-azem). A chiasm is a literary tool that was used a lot in ancient writing to help convey meaning and highlight certain themes and ideas within a poem or a book. In addition to the Bible, famous poems and literary works like The Odyssey, The Iliad, Beowulf, & Paradise Lost – among others – are written in chiastic structure. Put simply, chiasm is a symmetric ordering of ideas and phrases that ties an entire section – or entire literary work – together. One very common chiastic organizational pattern in the Bible is “A, B, C…C, B, A.” It sounds really complex and difficult to understand, but it’s actually pretty simple. Here’s a really easy example (that’s good for students to remember anyway):
A When your messing with a flirt,
A’ you’re flirting with a mess.
A slightly more complex example:
A Jimmy is a naughty boy
B who colors on the walls,
C and then he sits on a time out.
C’ For a time in punishment he sits
B’ because the walls are not for coloring,
A’ and Jimmy shouldn’t be naughty.
This is way more background than you’ll get during most days of Through in 2. But, the reason it’s included here is that Psalm 1 is a chiasm. A really interesting one. Read through it again as it’s broken down into that structure and see if anything hits you:
A _ Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that
___ sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
B ______ but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day
________ and night.
C ______________ That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its
________________ fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do
C’______________ Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
A’_ Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of
___ the righteous.
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
THINK: There is no B’ in the chiasm of Psalm 1. There first part of the Psalm is about the righteous person. The second part of the Psalm is about the wicked. But there is something missing in the second part. There is a parallel between the righteous person not walking with the wicked or standing in the way of sinners and, on the other hand, the wicked not standing on the day of judgment or sitting with the righteous. And in the middle there is a parallel between the righteous being firm and well rooted and fruitful like a strong tree and, on the other hand, the wicked being like chaff – the unwanted useless byproduct of wheat – that gets blown away by the wind. So we’re left to wonder why there is no parallel for the righteous man delighting in God’s law and studying it. There is almost ALWAYS a parallel of some sort in Hebrew poetry! The lack of one is glaring by it’s omission. But I think that’s the point. That’s the idea of Psalm 1 and that’s why we’re starting our journey through the Bible here.
The writer of this Psalm is telling us what separates the righteous and the wicked. What sends us on a path towards life and prosperity rather than death and destruction. What makes us like trees instead of chaff. Close your eyes and picture a tree for just a moment – on a sunny day. Then picture a thunderstorm rolling in – with fierce wind and rain – and picture the tree in the midst of that. What happens to trees in storms? Sometimes they lose leaves. In the worst of storms they may even lose a few branches. But in the end, they remain. They stand firm because their roots are deep. Now close your eyes and picture a piece of paper outside on a sunny day, and then picture a storm rolling in with thunder, lightning, rain, & wind. What happens to a piece of paper in a storm? It gets soaked and ripped and blown wherever the wind wishes to take it. It may not survive even if the storm is small.
When the storms of life come – and they will inevitably come – will you be able to stand firm and survive because your roots or deep or will you be tossed around, beaten, broken, & destroyed? I think we’d all prefer the first option! So how do we get there? The message in Psalm 1 is clear: The Word of God! The Word of God appears in the life of the righteous person but it conspicuously missing from the life of the wicked person. As we begin this Through in 2 journey together, we can do so with great confidence that God will bless this process and that reading & studying God’s Word will give us strength to weather the storms of a broken world as we come to know Him more!
ASK: How can I make reading & studying the Bible a priority in my life? Where can I carve out a place in my schedule to do it daily?
Thanks Mike!! This has long been one of my favorite Psalms and I consider it one of my life verses. I so appreciate the background you provided. It now even has more meaning and significance for me!