Psalms for Families: Devotions for All Ages, Psalm 1

Psalms for Families, by Robert J. Keeley and Laura Keeley, is a devotional book for the entire family designed to help parents explore the riches of the book of Psalms with their children and teens. These devotionals will help parents learn more about the psalms as they teach their children about praise, prayer, and lament. This book contains four devotionals on each of our selected psalms as well as notes for adults that provide additional information and background.

Introduction and Full Series

Devotional 1, Devotional 2, Devotional 3, Devotional 4, Notes for Adults

Psalm 1  

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Prayer

Lord God,
We want to live the way righteous people live. Help us to love your Word and to live as you command. Then we can be strong, like trees planted by the water. Amen.

Psalm 1 Happiness is

Psalm 1
Devotional 1: Happiness Is . . .

When do you feel happy? Sometimes we’re happy when we’re playing our favorite game or when we get presents. Sometimes we’re happy when we get to see someone we haven’t seen for a long time. What are some of the things that make you happy?

It’s good to be happy—so good that the book of Psalms begins by talking about happiness. Some Bible versions use the word “blessed,” but the word “happy” can be used too The Bible says that the person who doesn’t do the things that sinful people do is happy. It also says that the person who loves what God says in the Bible is the person who is really happy.

The book of Psalms begins with a description of real happiness. Read Psalm 1:1-2.

 1 Blessed is the one
   who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
   or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
   and who meditates on his law day and night.

We don’t usually think of laws making us happy. We might like laws that keep other people from harming us, but laws that keep us from doing things that we want to do are not much fun. Yet here in Psalm 1 it seems that the writer is saying that God’s law makes him happy! How can that be?

We tend to think of the Ten Commandments as a list of things we shouldn’t do. It’s easy to think of them that way since many of them start with “You shall not….” It’s hard to get excited about a list of things we can’t do. But this is the exciting thing: thinking about God’s law isn’t what saves us—Jesus already did that. This psalm says that God’s law makes us happy. Because of what Jesus did for us, the law becomes the way we live in order to thank God for his saving grace.

Obeying God’s law is also the best way to live. We’re not just happier because we’re doing what God wants us to do—we’re happier because loving God’s Word makes our life better. Thanking God and living a better life is what makes us happy, and both of those things come from knowing God’s law.

Enter the Psalm: Do you like having rules? List two rules you have in each of these places: at home, at school, and at church. Why do we have these rules?

Psalm 1 Good and Wicked

Psalm 1
Devotional 2: Good and Wicked

Read Psalm 1:1-3.

1 Blessed is the one
   who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
   or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
   and who meditates on his law day and night.

There is a lot of repeating in these verses, isn’t there? In verse 1, the author says that a person is blessed (or happy) when they don’t

  • walk in step with the wicked.
  • stand in the way that sinners take.
  • sit in the company of mockers.

These three things are quite similar. They basically mean, “Don’t do what wicked people do,” but this psalm says it three times in a slightly different way each time.

Verse 2 also repeats an idea. It says that a person is blessed (or happy) when he or she

  • delights in the law of the Lord.
  • meditates on his law day and night.

Both lines say that people are blessed (or happy) if they know and read the Bible. Why do you think the author repeats himself so much?

In the book of Psalms the authors often repeat ideas. These repetitions are called “parallels.” They make a point and then make it again in a stronger way or in different way. That’s one of the things poets do—and the psalms are poetry.

Enter the Psalm: Let’s try writing a psalm. What are some things you think a good person shouldn’t do? Can you make a list that repeats like Psalm 1:1? Try starting with

“Happy is the person who doesn’t . . .  
who doesn’t . . .
or . . .

Then end your poem with the words of verse 2:       

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

Psalm 1 Trees or Chaff?

Psalm 1
Devotional 3: Trees or Chaff?

Read Psalm 1.

 1 Blessed is the one
   who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
   or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
   and who meditates on his law day and night.

3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
   which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
   whatever they do prospers.
 4 Not so the wicked!
   They are like chaff
   that the wind blows away. 
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, 
   nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
 6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
   but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Have you ever tried to push over a big tree? Even if you push as hard as you possibly can, the tree won’t move, not even a little bit. In Psalm 1:3 the writer says that a person who meditates on God’s law is like a tree planted by the streams of water. A tree near water has the food that it needs to grow well. It grows and gives fruit. It is rooted in the ground and it does not move very easily. Reading and thinking about God’s Word gives us that kind of strength—the strength that comes from knowing that we will not be moved easily by people telling us the wrong things.

Verse 4 says that the wicked are like chaff. Chaff is the stuff around a grain of wheat.that needs to be removed before you can eat the wheat. When this psalm was written, people would throw grain into the air and, because chaff is so light, the wind would blow the chaff away and the wheat grain would fall in a pile close to the person who threw it. Then the grain without the chaff on it was collected to make bread. The writer says that wicked people are like chaff that can easily be blown away.

That’s quite a difference, isn’t it? People who read and know God’s Word are like trees that we can’t move even if we push as hard as we can, and wicked people are easily blown away by a light breeze.

Enter the Psalm: Look around in your neighborhood. Find two things: one that is not easily moved and one that easily blows away. When you see those things throughout the week, remember what Psalm 1 says about wicked people and about people who know and study God’s Word.

Psalm 1 Joshua & Psalm 1

Psalm 1
Devotional 4: Joshua and Psalm 1

At the end of the book of Deuteronomy, Moses dies and the people of Israel get a new leader named Joshua. Moses had been leading the Israelites for a long time—about forty years. That’s a tough act to follow. Joshua must have been nervous about becoming the leader, but he’d been preparing for it for a while. God had given him a lot of experiences that helped him get ready for the job, but actually taking over leadership from Moses must have been really hard for Joshua.

The first thing God tells Joshua to do is take the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. God promises to be with Joshua just as he was with Moses. In Joshua 1:7-8 God says to Joshua:

 7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Does that remind you of Psalm 1? Read Psalm 1:1-2 again:

1 Blessed is the one
   who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
   or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
   and who meditates on his law day and night.

Some of the ideas in Psalm 1 are also in Joshua 1. This was God’s pep-talk for Joshua as he took on the difficult work of being a leader for God’s people. God didn’t tell Joshua to form committees or organize the people. God’s pep-talk was about keeping God’s law and meditating on it.

The word meditate is interesting. In Hebrew (the language that Psalm 1 was written in) the word is hagah—a word that is also used to describe the way animals eat something they have just killed. The word can also mean “growl.” Meditation here is not some vague spiritual sense of peace where you sit on the floor and close your eyes. In this case, meditation is a serious study of God’s Word. God wanted Joshua, and us too, to study his Word in a way that really gets us into it. You don’t necessarily need lots of books to do this study; one way to do it is to spend a lot of time in one passage, like reading the same psalm every day for a week—the sort of thing you’re doing now.

This work of digging into God’s Word is hard work, but it is the kind of hard work that gives us energy. It’s the kind of energy people get from doing things that are hard to do but are still a lot of fun, like rock climbing or running or biking long distances. It’s hard work, but it feels good when you do it. Studying and learning God’s Word is work that makes us happy—not just for a moment,but for a long time.

Enter the Psalm: Make a plan to read Psalm 1 three different times today and tomorrow.


Psalm 1

More—Let’s Begin (Notes for Adults)

The book of Psalms is an edited book. It didn’t just arrive the way it is. People (or a person) put it together in a particular way. They arranged the psalms in five sub-books and placed them in a certain order. Many experts on the psalms think this was done during the Babylonian exile. This means that Psalm 1 was placed at the beginning of the book of Psalms on purpose to serve as an introduction. Both Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 serve the purpose of being an introduction, but for now we’ll just look at Psalm 1.

Eugene Peterson says that the psalms are God’s gift to us to train us in prayer that is comprehensive and honest (Answering God, HarperOne 1991, p. 3). He sees the psalms as a tool for prayer. So how does the psalmist enter into this book of prayer? Not with a list of rules or ways to pray, but by talking about God’s law.

When we think of what the words “the law” mean in the Bible, we tend to think of the Ten Commandments. Another way to think of the law is to think of all the commands God gave in the law, including all of those very specific and sometimes strange commands in the book of Deuteronomy. A third way of thinking of the law is that the law is the first five books of the Bible. The Hebrew Bible has three parts: the Law (the Torah), the Prophets, and the Writings. By that definition, the law includes the stories of creation, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, plus all the ways to live as God’s people, including the Ten Commandments. So the words in verse 2 “delight in the law” could well be referring to something bigger than just the Ten Commandments.

There are some interesting translation things to note  in the first two verses of this psalm. First of all, the word that is translated as “blessed” in many translations is, in Hebrew, a word that also means “happy.” “Happy” is a word that children can more easily understand than “blessed,” so the first devotional will talk about happiness.

In Psalm 1:2 we are told to “meditate on the law day and night.” When we hear the word “meditate” we might have images of Hindus sitting cross-legged with their eyes closed. That’s not the kind of meditation that is going on here. The Hebrew word hagah is the word used here, and it is not a passive kind of meditation. This is the same word used when a lion is eating its prey—it’s an active kind of digging in and fully engaging with the subject. God is instructing us to dig in and focus, to ask questions and fully take in his Word. This type of meditation is a serious study, but it’s a study that people of all ages can do.

By Robert J. Keeley and Laura Keeley

Comments