Many have studied the five books of Psalms as corresponding to the five Books of Moses. E.W. Bullinger thus divides the books as the following:
Genesis (Humanity) in Book 1 of the Psalms – chapters 1-41
- Psalms 1-8: Humanity and the Son of Man
- Psalms 9-15: Human rebellion
- Psalms 16-41: The Man Christ Jesus
Exodus (Israel) in Book 2 of the Psalms – chapters 42-72
- Psalms 42-49: Israel’s ruin
- Psalms 50-60: Israel’s Redeemer
- Psalms 61-72: Israel’s Redemption
Leviticus (Sanctuary) in Book 3 of the Psalms – chapters 73-89
- Psalms 73-83: God’s sanctuary in relation to humanity
- Psalms 84-89: God’s sanctuary in relation to the LORD
Numbers (Nations) in Book 4 of the Psalms – chapters 90-106
- Psalm 90: Moses’ introduction: Humanity’s need
- Psalms 91-94: The earth’s need for rest
- Psalms 95-100: Looking forward to the earth’s rest (Psalm 96:11 – being the central verse of the Psalm)
- Psalms 101-105: The Messiah brings rest to the earth
- Psalm 106: Prologue – the problem and the answer
Deuteronomy (God and His Word) in Book 5 of the Psalms – chapters 107-150
- Psalms 107-118: Deliverance by the Healing Word
- Psalms 119-150: Deliverance by the Revealing Word
So we start the Book of Psalms with book 1: Humanity and the Son of Man. As Steve Levy’s “Bible Overview” begins:
This is where Psalm 1 starts. Notice that it doesn’t start with ‘the men’, but ‘the Man’ who shows us how to live. Everyone else is lumped together with the wicked – they are like chaff that blows away, they do not stand; their life perishes…
… He is the one who can ascend the holy hill of The Lord. He is the only one ‘who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol.’ He is the one we must look to for help (Psalm 24:3-6).
St. Augustine, the church leader of the 4th century, began his commentary on the Psalms by showing that Psalm 1 is all about Jesus. He begins: “1. Blessed is the man that hath not gone away in the counsel of the ungodly (v.1). This is to be understood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Man…“. Thus:
- Jesus is the blessed man described here.
- He is the only one who delights in the law of the Father, meditating day and night. His law is life-giving, whereas our law is life-taking.
- While he meditates day and night on the life-giving law, Jesus is like a tree planted by streams of water without withering leaves, prosperous in all his ways.
- Yet Jesus has faced difficulties – in fact, persecution, and much unbelief. In spite of his miraculous feats and wondrous love, people still doubted; people still betrayed him. How then could a righteous man like Jesus “prosper”?
- His “prospering” is contrasted to the chaff that the wind drives away. Jesus continues to grow and the everlasting life of the Spirit overflows through him; yet, the wicked are like chaff that the wind, the ruach, the Spirit drives away. Jesus is the firm rock and foundation – He will stand in the judgment. Not the wicked. Not the sinners. He will never perish, but the wicked will.
- Do we look to prosper like Jesus? Are we blessed like Jesus? Do we even stand in Jesus and claim such blessing, such walk, stance, seat of life? Do we delight in a law which does not give death, but rather plant ourselves by gifted righteousness and holiness like a tree ever drinking from the fountain of the Parakletos?
- Yet our “prospering” is not the prospering of the world – the prospering is the prospering of the kingdom, the undying splendour of all that is colourful, all that is triune, all that is diverse. Even the wind cannot drive it away; the patient growth of the man planted in Jesus will yield its fruit in its season and take part in Christ’s prospering, in Christ’s Passion.
Are we so blessed that we can give life, walk in perfect holiness, to be graced as a tree of a community – to be the centre – and share this with others like the fruit of a tree? Let us be blessed to be a blessing to our neighbours and enemies.