September has arrived, and many among us are sending our kids off to school or returning to school ourselves. The rhythm of our lives points us toward learning. The book of Psalms contains a similar rhythm. Many psalms (34, 37, 49 and 112) teach us not only how to pray but also how to live more wisely, justly and faithfully. Psalm 1, the introduction to the Psalter, is one such psalm.
Psalm 1 speaks to each of us individually, contrasting the blessings of life lived in the company of the righteous to the death traps proffered by the wicked. At the center of the good life is the study of God’s Torah, usually translated “law.” Psalm 1, with its companions Psalms 19 and 119, speaks of Torah as something much deeper than the word “law” usually conveys.
The Torah of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul (Psalm 19:7). The Torah is truth (Psalm 119:142), the object of love (Psalm 119:113). Psalm 19 begins with an ode to the silent words the heavens proclaim as they tell the glory of God and then, through the second half, likens these celestial words to the perfection of Torah. Psalm 119 employs the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, each letter used eight times to begin verses in its own stanza, to compose a perfect love song to Torah.
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