The Book of the Psalms is the Hebrew praise book, containing the spiritual songs of Israel. It occupies the greatest number of pages of any Bible book and a cursory glance shows that, although not numbered as the central book, it sits mid way in the pages of Scripture. This book has given the joyful an opportunity of expressing their delight, the sorrowing balm to ease their pain, the fugitive solace in the midst of loneliness. Poetry, when used in the Hebrew language, as in all others, is a means of adding force to what is written, allowing an expression of mood not to be found in prose; giving a greater emphasis of meaning above that of plain text; aiding those who seek to memorise Scripture.
The opening word of the whole book is “Blessed”, and how significant this is, showing that these pages contain the answer to the question that has occupied the minds of many: “Where is happiness found?” Philosophers have debated it, all the force of natural intellect has been harnessed to provide a solution, but no satisfactory answer has been forthcoming. Yet the opening words of the Hebrew Psalter give the answer that the wisdom of man fails to grasp. The word is in the plural and therefore indicates the multitude of blessings for which we can give thanks. One writer has stated very aptly, that the word “Blessed” is “hung out like a sign to attract to what is inside”. With such a theme as this it is little wonder that almost one third of the appeals in the Old Testament to praise the Lord are to be found in the book of the Psalms.
Apart from Psalm 1, to which reference has already has been made, another two which commence with “Blessed” are Psalms 32 and 41. In Psalm 1 it is the blessings enjoyed by the separated man. How can such blessing be experienced and enjoyed? This man gives us the answer, an answer that resonates throughout the ages since the words were first written. Note, first, he does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. Their thoughts and counsel do not reflect the way he thinks. Second, he does not stand in the way of sinners. He does not associate with the vicious behaviour of sinners. Third, he does not sit at ease in the seat of the scornful. He is an unworldly man but he does not lead an empty life. He delights in the Scriptures and lets them fill his mind and direct his actions. Separation is not emptiness, but rather a life filled with Christ and His word.
Psalm 32 deals with the blessing enjoyed by the forgiven man. David wrote these words after Nathan the Prophet visited him and he confessed to his sinful behaviour with Uriah and his wife Bathsheba. It is clear that his sin had troubled him greatly. Day and night he felt that chastening hand of God that was “heavy upon” him (v.4). The blessings he had enjoyed were no longer felt; the calm peace of the presence of God only a memory. The fleeting moments of lustful sin had robbed him of closeness to His God. Over that relationship there were now hanging dark clouds. But, although the effects of his behaviour could not be avoided, true repentance had rolled the clouds away.
Today believers still sin. Not that sin should be the pattern of our life. That is how an unbeliever lives. But still we fail. At times lack of watchfulness causes sin to catch us unexpectedly; at time it attracts us and, even if we refrain, leaves us with a longing to taste. But if we succumb, our peace, satisfaction, and fellowship with the Lord are damaged. Genuine repentance, however, renews our blessed condition.
Psalm 41 deals with the blessing enjoyed by the compassionate man. He who considers the weak and the poor is following the example set by the Lord Jesus. He stopped at the call of a blind beggar; He stopped when a woman who had endured twelve years of anguish touched his garments to be healed. His was the greatest example of compassion that the world had ever seen, or will ever see. The greedy, self- centred world in which we live knows very little of real care and compassion. As believers we should be known as those who are always ready to be compassionate. The reward - true happiness and true peace!
Let us so live that we not only count our blessings, but also appreciate and enjoy them. Separation from the world, thankfulness for peace following repentance, and compassion for others will enable us to enjoy what has been prepared for us.