How Blessed Are All Who Take Refuge in Him
I thought it would be a good idea to put up some more thoughts from the Psalms. Although my study is nowhere near complete (I am not even out of Book I in the notes I've been putting together for the last several months), I thought it would be good to write out a sampling of some of the ideas and points I have come up with so far. (This post represents about 2 pages of notes, but I have 22 more that may become future posts.)
Some time ago, I got an idea from Tom Hamilton that while most people tend to use the Psalms for "devotional" purposes, their real function is actually "doctrinal". This idea is definitely supported by the New Testament usage of the Psalms. In the mind of New Testament writers, a quotation from the Psalms seemed to be the last word in any argument. (The composite quote of the Psalms in Romans 3 is one good example of this, as is the Hebrews author's central appeal to Psalm 110). This additionally makes sense when we realize the obvious fact that the Psalms are "Scripture," and as such, they are as profitable for "teaching, reproof, correction, and training" as anything else. Particularly, the Old Testament teaching about the resurrection of the dead came largely from the Psalms.
In an earlier post, I suggested that Psalms 1 and 2 should be viewed together as a sort of "introduction" to the book of Psalms. Further study of the Psalms has revealed just how far that idea extends. The two psalms are given below, and they are bracketed by the Hebrew term that is here translated "How blessed."
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of Yahweh,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For Yahweh knows the path of the righteous,
But the path of the wicked will perish.
Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against Yahweh and against His Anointed, saying,
"Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast their cords from us!"
He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
"But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain."
I will surely tell of the decree of Yahweh:
He said to me, "You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware."
Now therefore, O Kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship Yahweh with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
Psalm 1 is known for being a "Wisdom Psalm" contrasting the two "paths" or lifestyles. The idea of Psalm 1 is that those who are righteous will be blessed and those who are wicked will be cursed. It does not appear to be referenced much in the New Testament (James 1 appears to be a possible allusion).
Psalm 2 is known for being a "Royal Psalm," contrasting the wicked (presumably Gentile) nations with God's "Messiah" or "Anointed One." God installs His Son and King on the holy mountain of Zion and subsequently defeats the wicked nations. Interestingly, by contrast with Psalm 1, it is quoted and alluded to in numerous places in the New Testament.
The connection of "How blessed" is also interesting -- it suggests that the only people who will be counted as "righteous" are those who take refuge in God. If these two psalms are viewed together, Psalm 2 is essentially a practical carrying out of Psalm 1. The nations are the wicked ones who conspire and make their own plans as if God were not involved in this world. God meanwhile makes it clear that He is extremely involved in this world by installing His King (the righteous one) on Zion. Psalms 1:5 also mentions a "judgment" that the wicked will not stand in, and Psalm 2 illustrates a carrying out of this "judgment."
What is even more interesting is how this theme is developed afterwards. Psalms 3-7 all appear to be petitions to God to deliver the Psalmist from trouble and impending death. Note the following:
- Just as the nations were conspiring against God in Psalms 2:1-3, now the adversaries are conspiring against the king and saying there is no deliverance (Psalms 3:1-2).
- The holy mountain where the king is installed in Psalms 2:6 is now the place where God answers the psalmist's petition from in Psalms 3:4.
- The enemies shattered by the king in Psalms 2:9 have their teeth shattered by God in Psalms 3:7.
- The words "Salvation" (Psalms 3:2) and "Deliverance" (Psalms 3:8) are actually the same word--unfortunately the translators of the NASB did not draw attention to this bookending of the Psalm
- The word for "blessing" (???) (Psalms 3:8) is not related to the term for "How blessed" (????) that occurs earlier--this English translation is more coincidence than anything else.
- Psalms 3, 4, 5, and 6 appear to be connected by the alternating progression between evening and morning. I'm still working on why this is significant
- "I lay down and slept...I awoke..." (Psalms 3:5)
- "In peace I lie down and sleep" (Psalms 4:8)
- "In the morning, You will hear my voice" (Psalms 5:3)
- "Every night, I make my bed swim" Psalms (6:6)
It is clear that Psalms 3-7 are all connected by the theme of calling for the judgment of God to vindicate the righteous and defeat the wicked. Various terms are used, such as "wicked," "nations," "adversaries," "enemies," "those who do iniquity," "sons of men," etc. These all seem to be referring to the same group of people, who appear to be prospering and winning in spite of the rules laid out in Psalm 1. Here we see the Psalmist's plea for God to exact justice, drawing on statements of previous psalms, such as:
"The boastful shall not stand before your eyes" (Psalms 5:5)
"The wicked will not stand in the judgment" (Psalms 1:6)
"Let all who take refuge in You be glad" (Psalms 5:11)
"How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!" (Psalms 2:12)
"O Yahweh, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your wrath" (Psalms 6:1)
"Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury" (Psalms 2:5)
In other words, "don't give me the punishment that you have reserved for the wicked nations!"
The remainder of Psalm 6 is essentially a cry for justice. Interestingly, Jesus quotes 6:8 in the New Testament in connection with judgment, as if to put Himself in the place of the Psalmist. There is some sense in which the righteous suffering of Christ becomes the basis for all judgment.
Psalm 5 also appeals to the fact that God blesses the righteous (Psalms 5:12).
"O Yahweh my God, In You I have taken refuge" (Psalms 7:1)
"How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!" (Psalms 2:12)
"O let evil of the wicked come to an end but establish the righteous" (Psalms 7:9)
"Yahweh knows the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked will perish" (Psalms 1:6)
Then, out of nowhere, Psalm 8 breaks into the picture, in what appears to be the first explicit call to praise in the whole book of Psalms. Psalm 8 itself is bookended by the statement "O Yahweh, our Lord / How majestic is Your name in all the earth!" However, it is also bookended by the last verse of the psalm preceding it and the first verse of the psalm following it:
"I will give thanks to Yahweh according to His righteousness
And will sing praise to the name of Yahweh Most High" (Psalms 7:17)
"I will give thanks to Yahweh with all my heart;
I will tell of all Your wonders.
I will be glad and exult in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High" (Psalms 9:1-2).
Psalm 8 itself is intriguing. Left to its own context, it appears to be talking about the dignity of man in Psalms 8:4-5. However, the New Testament clearly applies this phrase NOT to the dignity of man, but to the incarnation and exaltation of Christ (Hebrews 2:5-9; I Corinthians 15:20-28). (The point about mankind's dominion over the creation is valid and consistent with the rest of Scripture, but it must not be emphasized at the expense of the Psalmists true message). The ambiguity is heightened somewhat by the use of ?????? in Psalms 8:5, which is normally the word for "God" (Genesis 1:1), but can also legitimately be translated angels (a translation that the Septuagint uses, and that the Hebrew author follows suit on).
The reference to the "Son of Man" in Psalms 8:4 may recall the reference to the "Son" of God in Psalm 2, and if the NT understanding of this Psalm is correct, they seem to refer to the same individual. The "Son" in Psalm 2 is given the ends of the earth as his inheritance (Psalms 2:8), and here we see that the "Son of Man" has been made to rule over all creation (Psalms 8:6-8). It is also possible that the "Son of Man" is contrasted with the "sons of men" in Psalms 4:2.
I hope something said here is useful and thought provoking to someone.