Beatitudes in the Psalms

The biggest book in the Bible is Psalms. It has 150 chapters (each one is called a “psalm”) of poetic devotional material. It can take a bit of effort to become accustomed to reading from that book because most of them were originally lyrics for songs to be sung by God’s people in Old Testament times, the Israelites. It’s also challenging to keep the rhythm and rhyme intact when translating from one language, like Hebrew, to another, for us English, so we don’t get the same tone and timing that is in the original language. We can still pick up on the sentiment though – each writer was praising God for His greatness, or calling upon Him for His goodness and help.

Just like Jesus announced a series of “beatitudes” for His followers in Matthew 5:3-12, the book of Psalms also has a series of “Blessed” passages. If we “listen to the lyrics” of these Old Testament beatitudes, we can pick up on some important concepts for having a joyful life with God. Here are a few of them:

CHOICE OF FRIENDS: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (Psalm 1:1). That’s the opening verse of the Book of Psalms – it sets the tone for the next 149 chapters with the word “Blessed” – an “interjection, how happy!” (Olive Tree Enhanced Strong’s Dict.). Then it immediately unfolds one of the ways we can enjoy that kind of gladness with God – we learn the importance of recognizing problem-people before they entrap us in something too hard for us to get out of. Paul gave a similar bit of warning to the church at Corinth: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1 Cor. 15:33, ESV). This doesn’t mean we can go around being unfriendly, but that we understand when we may need to “un-friend” someone we’ve gotten close to.

GLADNESS IN WORSHIP: “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of Thy countenance” (Psalm 89:15). The “festal shout” (ESV) refers to the atmosphere emanating from their gatherings to worship God. Of course, they wrestled with problems in that area – Malachi said many of them in his day had the attitude that it was “weariness” (Mal. 1:13) – but those who were “Blessed” were those who had the right outlook (e.g., John 4:24).

DOING WHAT’S RIGHT: “Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times” (Psalm 106:3). This principle is older than the saying “Honesty is the best policy” and is likely one of the reasons that proverb came about. It’s not always easy to do the right thing, but it is always best. Our attitude about our own integrity is so fragile that once it’s broken it’s difficult to repair. Live as if someone is watching every move you make – because Someone is.

CONFIDENCE FROM FOLLOWING SCRIPTURE: A dominant theme is Psalms is how glad we’ll be that we’ve founded our faith and life on Scripture: “Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that fears the LORD, that delights greatly in His commandments” (Psalm 112:1); “Blessed is every one that fears the LORD; that walks in His ways” (128:1); and the first verse of the Bible’s longest chapter  – “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord” (119:1). “Have a” Bible, and “Have the Bible” (see John 17:17; I Peter 4:11)

PEACE FROM FORGIVENESS: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1). Until we are convicted of the debt and darkness of sin, we cannot fully understand what this passage means. Jesus bring peace and joy for sinners (Rom. 5:1-2; 8:1).