“Life: Use Only As Directed” (Part I) | Psalm 1:1-3 Bible Study

First streamed on 10.19.22. First posted on 10.26.22. Much of this material is based on a previous Psalm 1 study (Part 2) and sermon (s). See Part II of this Psalm 1 Bible Study here.


I want to begin by asking an extremely important question: Do you determine your purpose or do you discern your purpose? Do you determine your purpose, or do you detect your purpose? Do you determine your purpose, or do you discover your purpose?

The way we all answer this question can undergird every major decision we make in life.

What the question is getting at is: do we try to find our own way in life, live how we want to live? Or do we find out how we should live life, and live how we ought to live?

I believe Psalm 1 addresses this question. According to the Psalmist, ultimately, there are two ways to live life. We can live in a way contrary to God’s character or in a way conforming to God’s character. Contrary to God’s character or conforming to God’s character.

We can live life as directed, or live life as selected – according to God’s directions or according to our own selections.


Now, speaking of selections, we know how musical selections can be moving. A few notes can evoke great nostalgia. A lovely melody can lift our mood. And our favorite jams will have a jammin’ – dancing and singing, and moving and a-grooving…

Literally and metaphorically music can move us.

And, the Psalms in Scripture are the moving songs that were sung by the ancient Israelites.

Now, as you likely know, some Psalms are songs of praise.

For example, Psalm 100 begins:

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD [YHWH], all ye lands.

Serve the LORD [YHWH] with gladness:

Come before His presence with singing.

(Ps 100:1-2, KJV)

And, I’m sure many of us can think of other Psalms that are songs of praise.

 That said, some Psalms are songs of lament – cries of anguish and petition to God.

For example, Psalm 13 begins:

1 How long, LORD [YHWH]? Will you forget me forever?

      How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

      and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

      How long will my enemy triumph over me?

(Ps 13:1-2, NIV)

Psalms of lament are actually the most common type of psalm. Yes, I know there’s a song that says, “I Won’t Complain”. But a few millennia before that song was written, the ancient Israelites used to sing their complaints to God together. And many of these psalms of lament are written in Scripture.

If you search the psalms, you will see moving language as God’s people cry out to God – in whom they trust.

Now, other Psalms are songs of thanksgiving.

For example, Psalm 107 begins:

O give thanks unto the LORD [YHWH], for he is good:

For his mercy endureth for ever.

(Ps 107:1, KJV)

So there are many kinds of Psalms (songs of praise, songs of lament, songs of thanksgiving). And some are more common than others.

Now Psalm 1 is a relatively uncommon kind of Psalm called a wisdom Psalm1 (cf. Psalm 36, 37, 49, 73, 78, 112)2 or torah Psalm (cf. Psalm 19, 119).3

And such Psalms are called wisdom psalms because of their similarity to themes found in the Bible’s Wisdom books – Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes.

And, in 1 Corinthians 3:19, Paul reminds us that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight” (1 Cor 3:19a, NIV). True wisdom comes from the word, not from the world.

Now all of these various kinds of Psalms were written and compiled over the centuries, and eventually, essentially became like the ancient Jewish hymnbook.

And an interesting question is, why is Psalm 1, Psalm 1. That is, why is it placed right at the beginning of this ancient Jewish hymnbook?

As many English translations make clear, this hymnbook is actually split into five books. Book 1 is Psalm 1-41, Book 2 is Psalm 42-72, Book 3 is Psalm 73-89, Book 4 is Psalm 90-106, and Book 5 is Psalm 107-150.

At the end of Psalm 41 it reads:

Praise be to the LORD [YHWH], the God of Israel,

     from everlasting to everlasting.

          Amen and Amen. (Ps 41:13, NIV)

Towards the end of Psalm 72, it says:

Praise be to his glorious name forever;

     may the whole earth be filled with his glory.

          Amen and Amen. (Ps 72:19, NIV)

Psalm 89 ends by saying:

Praise be to the LORD [YHWH] forever!

             Amen and Amen. (Ps 89:52, NIV)

Psalm 106 ends by saying:

Praise be to the LORD [YHWH], the God of Israel,

     from everlasting to everlasting.

Let all the people say, “Amen!”

Praise the LORD. (Ps 106:48, NIV)

And, of course, Psalm 150 ends in resounding praise:

Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD [YHWH].

Praise ye the LORD [YHWH].

(Ps 150:6, KJV)

So each book of the Book of Psalms, including the entire Book itself, ends in praise. But it starts with Psalm 1.

And Psalm 1, unlike most Psalms, does not start with a superscript (and neither does Psalm 2).4Neither of them begin by saying: “A psalm of David” or “a psalm of Asaph.”

This is likely because Psalm 1,5 along with Psalm 2, is meant to be an introduction to the entire Book of Psalms.6 Psalm 1 is like a preamble or a purpose statement about the rest of the collection.7

Many hymnals, even today, have a purpose statement or preface right in the beginning. This lets us know how we should understand what follows.

Likewise, Psalm 1 is a lens through which we are to see the entire Book of Psalms.8

Moreover, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet is aleph. And, in Psalm 1, aleph is the first letter of the first word.

Also, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet is tav. And, in Psalm 1, tav is the last letter of the last word (also see Psalm 112).9

So, when it comes to how we ought to live life, Psalm 1 is essentially giving us the A-Z.10 Want to learn how you should live? Psalm 1 has the key. It encapsulates everything we need to know.

For, ultimately, there are two ways to live. A way contrary to God’s character, and a way conforming to God’s character… living life as directed, or living life as selected. And the two ways are as far apart as A to Z.11

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You see, ultimately, there are two ways to live life with two different destinations. We can walk in a way contrary to God’s character, or in a way that conforms to God’s character. We can live life according to our own selections or according to our God’s directions.

And, I hope the introductory song of the entire Book of Psalms moves you to choose wisely – to avoid going your own way, and to meditate on and follow the instruction of the LORD night and day.

Instead of trying to determine our own purpose in the world, let’s try to discern the purpose we’ve been given by the Creator of the world.

May your precious God-given life be a prosperous, God-driven life. May you choose the blessed way of true bliss.

And, May the LORD bless you and keep you.


  • Boice, James Montgomery. Psalms 1–41: An Expositional Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005.
  • Broyles, Craig C. Psalms. Edited by W. Ward Gasque, Robert L. Hubbard Jr., and Robert K. Johnston. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012.
  • Davis, Barry. “Psalms”. In The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, edited by Gary M. Burge, and Andrew E. Hill. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012.
  • Futato, Mark D. “The Book of Psalms.” In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009.
  • Goldingay, John. Baker Commentary on the Old Testament: Psalms 1–41. Edited by Tremper Longman III. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.
  • Greidanus, Sidney. Preaching Christ from Psalms: Foundations for Expository Sermons in the Christian Year. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016.
  • Jacobson, Rolf A., and Beth Tanner. “Book One of the Psalter: Psalms 1–41.” In The Book of Psalms, edited by E. J. Young, R. K. Harrison, and Robert L. Hubbard Jr. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014.
  • Jones, Christine Brown. “Psalms.” In The Baker Illustrated Bible Background Commentary, edited by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, 422–57. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2020.
  • Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 15. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973.
  • Kraus, Hans-Joachim. A Continental Commentary: Psalms 1–59. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993.
  • Hilber, John W. “Psalms”. In Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Old Testament): The Minor Prophets, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, edited by John H. Walton. Vol. 5. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.
  • Longman, Tremper, III, and Peter Enns, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings. Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.
  • Longman, Tremper, III. Psalms: An Introduction and Commentary. Edited by David G. Firth. Vol. 15–16. The Tyndale Commentary Series. Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2014.
  • Matthews, Victor Harold, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. Electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000. [IVP]
  • Motyer, J. A. “The Psalms.” In New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, edited by D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, 4th ed., 485–583. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.
  • Waltke, Bruce K., James M. Houston, and Erika Moore. The Psalms as Christian Worship: A Historical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.
  • White, R. E. O. “Psalms.” In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, 3:367–98. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995.
  • Wilcock, Michael. The Message of Psalms: Songs for the People of God. Edited by J. A. Motyer. The Bible Speaks Today. Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2001.
  • Wilson, Gerald H. Psalms. Vol. 1. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.


  1. Wilson, 92
  2. Greidanus, 46
  3. Wilson, 92
  4. Broyles, 41
  5. Motyer, 489
  6. Wilcock, 19; Broyles, 41; Longman, 55; Jacobson, 59; Greidanus, 46; Wilson, 89
  7. Wilcock, 19
  8. Longman, 59
  9. Futato, 32; Greidanus, 46
  10. Futato, 33; Greidanus, 46
  11. Futato, 33
About @DannyScottonJr 456 Articles
Imperfect Servant ✝?⛪ | Husband | Princeton U. Alum | M. Div. | Assistant (to the) Pastor | Sound Doctrine & Apologetics @catchforchrist