Love/Grace Part 1
Have you ever paid attention to the first two chapters of Psalms? Though both of these poems are not long, there is deep meaning to be found in the passages that tell the story of God’s love for us, complete with a Messianic prophecy. In the next few paragraphs, I’m going to do some literary analysis on these two chapters - after all, I am an English teacher and the psalms are poems!
There is some really interesting imagery in the first Psalm, especially in verses 3 and 4. “He (the man who delights in the Lord) shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.” The psalmist compares a godly man to a tree that exists in an area that it is able to thrive in. This is one of the central images that encompasses both Psalms 1 and 2. A tree by the water has all the nutrients it needs for optimal growth. Conversely, a man who is ungodly is compared to the chaff, or loose hay, that is useless apart from the plant it has been cut off from. Even the wind will drive it away.
The significant imagery in the second Psalm starts in verse 4. “The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.’” This imagery of freedom from bondage and slavery is not the typical Biblical imagery of God breaking his people free from bondage. Instead, the psalmist states that the earthly kings view God as the one who bonds them. They desire to “cast away” the cords of the Lord’s law from themselves.
Next up, the general tone of both poems are the same. Each is very hopeful in nature. Each poem contains a blessing for the individual (Psalm 1) or the group (Psalm 2) who follows God. However, they also contain an example of what happens outside of the blessing mentioned. These are consequences like “the ungodly shall perish” (Ps. 1:6) and “The Lord shall hold them in derision” (Ps. 2:4). The consequences of leading a sinful life are terrifying and uncomfortable to imagine. Yet, each Psalm subsequently provides the reassurance that those who surrender to God will have Jesus, the Anointed in Psalm 2, interceding for them through grace.
The tone of Psalm 1 Psalm 2, taken as a whole, show a dichotomy between individual people and nations. An individual person can have blessing while the larger nation or group does not, and in the same way, the larger nation or group can have a blessing that does not pertain to the individual. Think of the Israelites who were blessed and chosen by God.
When Israel went against God’s law and began disobeying him, this did not automatically condemn every member of the nation. While the corporate blessing involves a group, one person can’t expect that she’s safe because she belongs to a group blessed by God. The key is Jesus. Each person must have a personal connection with Jesus to be able to stand in judgment. Corporate blessing does not equate salvation, yet both are important.
Both Psalms have an “if this, then that” train of thought. If a person is godly, then this will happen. If a person is ungodly, then this will happen. Ultimately, if a person has Jesus on her side, despite the status of the nation and those ruling it, then she has nothing to fear by being judged by God.
The message of Psalm 1 and 2 can definitely still be applied today. What “chosen” group do you belong to? Have you been relying on your association with that group and neglecting your personal walk with God? These chapters remind me not to depend solely on these blessings to get me to heaven. I also must have a personal, individual relationship with God. Even if trouble and persecutions come my way, I can always remember that God is on my side, and in the end, that’s all I really need.
Stephanie Wilczynski has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2009. She is pursuing a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Andrews University.