The Psalms have been the worship and prayer book for followers of Yahweh (the ancient Hebrew name for God) throughout the centuries. As we begin to explore these ancient scriptures, you are invited to join in this worshipful and prayerful practice by journeying through the psalms this fall. You may want to read and pray through one psalm a day or spend the whole week in one of the psalms or part of a psalm from the reading schedule that week. The reading schedule is posted on our website or you can pick up a physical copy at one of our Sunday services.
Each week a blog post will assist us in thinking more deeply about different themes found in the Psalms. Along with this, various media, such as music and art work, will accompany the blog post to enhance our explorations.
Obeying God’s Covenantal Law
The central place of obedience to Yahweh’s Law—God’s instructions for right living—is evident from the very first psalm, where the reader is told that the blessed person is not only one who constantly meditates on the law but actually delights in it. Meditation in the Old Testament denotes more than mere reflection. It involves obedience. There is no question in the Psalms or in the rest of Scriptures that the law is meant to be obeyed (Ps 119:4; Deut 6:17), however, the reason for this law and what is meant by obedience is often misunderstood. For a generation today that is suspicious of institutions and authority, the idea that one could actually delight in the law can be completely baffling. The Psalms expose the roots of our misunderstanding and show us why the law is delightful. First, the law is not an arbitrary set of rules imposed upon us by an authoritarian, power-seeking deity. Just as creation is ordered and reflects a good God that sustains it, so the law is congruent with creation and its Creator. The law teaches us how we may live in harmony with our loving and faithful God, God’s people, and the entire cosmos (Ps 19; 119:89; 25:8-10). Obeying God’s statutes restores vitality like a tree planted by the stream in Psalm 1. Therefore, sin is not simply breaking a rule but is “cosmic insanity.” Because obedience to the law is entirely relationally based, obedience must reflect an inward reality, flowing from the heart (c.f., Ps 119:11):
The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip. -Psalm 37:31
The psalmists humbly recognize, however, that they are incapable of such obedience on their own and must have divine help (Ps 19:14; 25:4-5; 119:132-135). Ultimately, as the prophets anticipate (Ez 36:26-27: Jer 31:33), the transformation of the heart and obedience to God’s law will be made possible by Christ’s new covenant through the Spirit (I Cor 3:3). We have often been confused about the “rules” in Scripture, but the Psalms can open our eyes to the reality that far from being restrictive and confining, God’s law and new covenant in Christ is designed to free us to live in fellowship with God, all of creation, and as truly human.
Iain Provan, “Psalms,” Lecture given at Regent College on March 2, 1999.