PSALMS: THE INSIDE STORY

In Hebrew, the book of Psalms is titled tehillim, which (when translated) means “songs of praise.” And since each psalm was originally crafted as a song, that makes Psalms essentially the first hymnal of God’s people!7

THEIR TRAGIC TRAIL’S END

All three of my aunts have worked in public education. One has been a middle-school teacher for decades, and the other two have taught in the classroom and also worked in administration. One of them recently told me about having to expel a high-school senior for attempting to sell prescription drugs two weeks before the end of the school year. This kid was all set to start college in the fall when he chose to become a Vicodin vendor. But my aunt didn’t have the luxury of lenience, despite his status as a soon-to-be graduate. She had no choice but to call the police, because her high school has a zero-tolerance policy with regard to drugs.

When this student should have been laughing with his buddies in the locker room, he was instead being handcuffed and hauled off to jail. When he should have been striding across the stage to receive his diploma and then smiling into the camera lens of his proud papa, he was instead ostracized and alone. When he should’ve been listening to the lectures of university professors as a baby-faced freshman, he was instead repeating lessons from his last semester in high school. Because of very bad choices, this young man was severely punished. He was effectively barred from the life he could have enjoyed.

And so it is with the wicked. Instead of being happy and content in communion with our Creator, unrepentant sinners will ultimately be cut off from the land of the living. They will not pass Go, they will not collect two hundred dollars, and they will not get to graduate to glory with their classmates:

So the wicked will not escape God’s punishment.
Sinners will not worship with God’s people.
Psalm 1:5, NCV

OUR CONSTANT OBSERVER

I recently had a motion-activated camera installed on my back porch by the Williamson County Sheriff ’s Department (chapter 7 tells the Paul Harvey part of this story). Unfortunately I didn’t realize that along with the ability to capture burglars in a digital format, it also recorded me every time I opened or closed the back door. A week later one of the detectives came by to change the battery and started teasing about arresting me on animal-cruelty charges. He explained how he and several other deputies had gotten a big kick out of watching the footage of my leg stepping through a crack in the door, followed by my cat Lazarus sailing through the air like a Frisbee.

I was so embarrassed, because I love animals. But my recently adopted, houseplant-shredding tabby is a feisty little critter. Whenever I gently place Lazarus outside, he races back in before I can close the door and then attempts to shred something else before I nab him again. So I’ve gotten into the habit of tossing him a short distance so I can close the door without squashing any part of his anatomy in the process. (Don’t worry. He always lands unharmed on his feet.) Little did I know that my nightly cat toss was being viewed in living color by local law-enforcement officials. They were privy to everything; in fact, their vantage point was so intimate, they could even tell the color of my pajamas!

PSALMS: THE INSIDE STORY

The 150 individual psalms that make up the book of Psalms (also referred to as the Psalter) were written over a timespan of almost one thousand years, from Moses’s era (1400 BC) until the southern Jews returned from captivity in Babylon (around 500 BC). That means these poems were penned while God’s people were wandering around in the desert, when they made their bittersweet return to Jerusalem only to find the land of milk and honey had become a mess, and every season in between. It’s an understatement to say the historical landscape of these lyrics is diverse; Psalms is like a comprehensive musical anthology that covers everything from Rachmaninoff to rap!

The next section of Psalm 1 is all about God’s observation of us. In fact, the English Standard Version of the Bible puts it like this:

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous. Psalm 1:6 

God knows His people. He has intimate awareness of all our ways…pet hurling and otherwise. Which makes me wonder: if we could actually see the red light of God’s “camera” being activated by every thought that runs through our heads, every word that crosses our lips, and everything we do in public and private, how would we behave? Wouldn’t you rather have holy inscribed on your divine DVD than heinous?

Finally, just as the sheriff-cam was bad news for the convicted criminal who used to lurk around my house, so is God’s complete knowledge of human character bad news for the wicked at the end of this opening psalm: