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Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind

Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind

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by Charles R Swindoll

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One of Christianity’s most beloved pastors walks readers through the book of Psalms, helping them to live its comfort and promises in the face of life’s relentless daily grind. We all have those days––when little problems become crises, when doubt begins to overwhelm belief, when exhaustion hits and happiness escapes. And the book of Psalms


One of Christianity’s most beloved pastors walks readers through the book of Psalms, helping them to live its comfort and promises in the face of life’s relentless daily grind. We all have those days––when little problems become crises, when doubt begins to overwhelm belief, when exhaustion hits and happiness escapes. And the book of Psalms offers words of strength and comfort for those troublesome times. In this remarkably down-to-earth study of selections from Psalms, one of Christianity’s foremost pastors and authors explores such pressing themes as fear of the unknown, discouragement and worry, how to handle difficult people and what to do when God is silent. Combining his trademark illustrations and insights with favorite passages from this beloved Bible book, Charles Swindoll offers up a work that will help readers live the Psalms as never before. Here is practical inspiration and victorious affirmation to get anyone through life’s daily grind. Drawn from previous best-selling works, adapted for the 21st-century reader.

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Living the Psalms

Encouragement for the Daily Grind

By Charles R. Swindoll


Copyright © 2012 Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61795-097-1


Psalm 1

The Grind of Compromise

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.

(Psalm 1)

* * *

Day 1: Psalm 1

Compromise and Erosion

The Hebrews' ancient hymnal begins with a song that addresses one of life's most common grinds: compromise. Please understand, I'm not referring to those give-and-take times so necessary for living in harmony with one another. Without that healthy kind of compromise, nations could never find a meeting ground for peaceful coexistence and family members would forever be at each other's throats.

I'm thinking, rather, of compromising with wrong, allowing the slow-moving tentacles of evil to wrap themselves around us, squeezing the joys and rewards of obedience from our lives. It happens so silently, so subtly, we hardly realize it's taking place. Like an enormous oak that has decayed for years from within and then suddenly falls, those who permit the eroding grind of compromise can expect an ultimate collapse.

I recall reading years ago of the construction of a city hall and fire station in a small northern Pennsylvania community. All the citizens were so proud of their new red brick structure—a long-awaited dream come true. Not too many weeks after moving in, however, strange things began to happen. Several doors failed to shut completely and a few windows wouldn't slide open very easily. As time passed, ominous cracks began to appear in the walls. Within a few months, the front door couldn't be locked since the foundation had shifted, and the roof began to leak. By and by, the little building that was once the source of great civic pride had to be condemned. The culprit proved to be a controversial coal extraction process called "longwall mining," deep in the earth beneath the foundation. Soil, rock, and coal had been removed by the tons so that the building sat on a foundation that had no support of its own. Because of this man-made erosion, the building began to sink.

So it is with compromise in a life. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, one rationalization leads to another, which triggers a series of equally damaging alterations in a life that was once stable, strong, and reliable. That seems to be the concern of the psalmist as he composes his first song, which encourages us to resist even the slightest temptation to compromise our convictions.

The Passage and Its Pattern

The First Psalm is brief and simple, direct and profound. Even a casual reading of these six verses leads us to see that it is filled with contrasts between two different walks of life—the godly and the ungodly. A simple yet acceptable outline of Psalm 1 would be:

I. The Godly Life (vv. 1–3)

II. The Ungodly Life (vv. 4–6)

Written between the lines of this ancient song is evidence of the age-old battle in which all of us are engaged: compromise—the erosion of our good intentions.

Making It Strong in Your Soul

Take just a few moments now to review your priorities. Family. Career, vocation, or calling. Job (not necessarily the same as career, vocation, or calling.) Health. Finances. Possessions. Friends. Spiritual development. Feel free to expand the list. As your eyes landed on each word, did your conscience react to anything? Did you mentally flinch or cringe? Compromise occurs when our behavior fails to reflect our priorities. In what ways have you compromised, and how can you get back on track?

Day 2: Psalm 1

The Godly Life

In the first three verses of Psalm 1, the psalmist describes the one who chooses to live a righteous life, the one who consciously resists the subtle inroads of compromise. He envisions a person who remains wary of anything that might erode commitment to a godly life. His song begins with three negative analogies to illustrate the importance of resisting compromise with evil, lest the evil become a habit of life. Then, in verse 2, he shows the positive side of godliness and the means by which it may be attained. Verse 3 describes the benefits of a righteous walk. Now let's do some in-depth analysis.

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,

Nor stand in the path of sinners,

Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! (v. 1)

The first word, "blessed," is somewhat bland in our English language. The Hebrew term is much more descriptive, especially with its plural ending. Perhaps a workable rendering would be, "Oh, the happiness, many times over...."

What is it that causes such an abundance of happiness? It is the uncompromising purity of a righteous walk with God. We see this by analyzing the three categories of remaining terms in this verse.

walk counsel wicked
stand path sinners
sit seat scoffers

The psalmist has spiritual erosion in mind. The word pictures illustrate how easily our intentions toward righteousness slow to a standstill or a complete stop as they are worn away by the company we choose to keep.


"Walk" is a term that suggests passing by or "a casual movement along the way." With its entire phrase, it implies the idea of one who does not imitate or "go through the casual motions" of wickedness. The word translated "counsel" comes from the Hebrew term meaning "hard, firm." Here, it means a definite, firm, planned direction. Consider this paraphrase of verse 1:

Oh, the happiness, many times over, of the one who does not even casually go through the motions or imitate the plan of life of those who live in ungodliness.

It is not uncommon to flirt with the wicked life, periodically imitating the motions of those without Christ. We may, in jest, refer to the fun and excitement of ungodliness or chuckle at our children's questionable actions. David warns us against that. He tells us that we will be abundantly happier if we steer clear of anything that could give the erosion of spiritual compromise a head start.


The Hebrew word for "stand" has the idea of coming and taking one's stand. The word "path" comes from the word meaning "a marked-out path, a certain and precise way of life." Can you see the progressive deterioration toward more involvement in sinful living? The casual passerby slows down and, before you know it, he takes his stand.

On the other hand, by taking a firm stand for righteousness, we will be "like a tree firmly planted by streams of water"—one that cannot be eroded by the winds of wickedness and unrighteousness.


The next word the psalmist emphasizes is "sit." This suggests a permanent settling down, an abiding, a permanent dwelling. It is made even clearer by the use of "seat," meaning "habitation" or "permanent residence." Don't miss this: the way of life is in the sphere of "the scoffer," the one who continually makes light of that which is sacred—the blasphemous crowd.

Can you see the picture in the writer's mind? We shall be happy many times over if we maintain a pure walk, free from even the slightest flirtation with evil. If we begin to "walk" in "the counsel of the wicked," it is easy to slip slowly into the habitation of the scoffer.

Making It Strong in Your Soul

Mentally review the past twelve months paying special attention to your "walk." How has your manner of life changed from years past? Is your walk more pleasing to God, or less? Consider your willingness to take an unpopular "stand." Can you be firm? And what about your attitude? Have you taken a comfortable seat among those who do not value the Word of God?

Day 3: Psalm 1

An Uncompromising Walk

As I read Psalm 1, three illustrations from the Bible flash into my mind. Two men flirted with evil, then fell; but there was one other who refused to begin a "walk in the counsel of the wicked." The first two illustrations involve Lot and Samson; the third is Joseph. People the world over are familiar with Samson, whose life is best described in Proverbs 5:20–23:

For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress,
And embrace the bosom of a foreigner?
For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord,
And He watches all his paths.
His own iniquities will capture the wicked,
And he will be held with the cords of his sin.
He will die for lack of instruction,
And in the greatness of his folly he will go astray.

Most people are not as well-acquainted with Lot, Abraham's nephew. With Psalm 1:1 in mind, note Genesis 13:

So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. (v. 11)

Lot "walked in the way of the ungodly."

Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD. (vv. 12–13)

He "came and took his stand among sinners."

And in Genesis 19:

Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. (v. 1)

He now lived among them with his dwelling in "the seat of the scoffers."

How different was Joseph! He refused to allow the daily grind of compromise to take its toll even though Potiphar's wife continued to make her sensual moves. Please stop and read Genesis 39:1–12. The man literally ran from her alluring advances. I find it most significant that every time sexual sins are mentioned in the New Testament we are told to "flee." Psalm 1:1 assures us we will be happy many times over if we check the first signals of compromise with evil. Happiness is maintaining unblemished, moral purity.

The ancient song goes on: "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night" (v. 2).

This verse begins with "but," a word of contrast. While the first verse was negative, this is positive. In contrast to compromise and erosion, the godly believer occupies himself with God's Word.

Why does David mention the Law here? Because in order to change our path of living, we need an absolute standard, clear direction. God's Word gives us that sense of direction. We understand the Law to be a reference to God's written Word, the Bible (Ps. 119:9). The psalmist claims that the godly person "delights" in the Lord's Word. He doesn't look upon the Word as irksome or a burden or an interruption in his day. Rather, day and night he meditates on it.

Verse 1 of Psalm 1 gives us a promise of happiness; verse 2 provides the means for experiencing it. Now verse 3 declares the end result:

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

I am impressed that we shall be something rather than do something as a result of delighting in and meditating on God's Word. Without any fanfare, yet surely as the rising of the morning sun, we shall become treelike in four specific ways. We will be:

1. Planted—fortified, stable, rooted, solid, and strong

2. Fruitful—production naturally follows being planted and growing

3. Unwithered—even during days of difficulty, the treelike soul is undaunted

4. Prosperous—fulfills the goals God has designed for his life

I have said for years: "The roots grow deep when the winds are strong" (cf. Jer. 17:5–8). Let me encourage you today to maintain a pure, uncompromising walk; delight yourself in His Word, and you'll grow into a stable, reliable "spiritual tree."

There is no shortcut to spiritual growth. Like physical growth, it occurs on a daily basis, depending upon the food and proper surroundings. With the right kind of spiritual diet and climate, you can experience "happiness many times over." And best of all, the daily grind of compromise and its erosive effects can be checked.

Making It Strong in Your Soul

As you consider your own circumstances, what does "walking in the counsel of the wicked" look like in practical terms? What choices are involved? On the other hand, what practical steps can you take to cultivate a "delight" in God's Word? List them and establish some specific deadlines.

Day 4: Psalm 1

The Ungodly Life

A key observation in Psalm1:4–6 is contrast. Don't miss the many things that are quite the opposite from the preceding verses. "The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away."

"Not so!" That is exactly how verse 4 begins in the Hebrew Bible. It is an emphatic negative assertion. Literally, it says, "Not so, the wicked!" It refers back to the three preceding verses describing the righteous, godly believer, who:

• is happy many times over (but "not so, the wicked!")

• delights and meditates in the Word (but "not so, the wicked!")

• is like a tree (but "not so, the wicked!")

• is fruitful and prosperous (but "not so, the wicked!")

Instead, the psalmist uses a single term that portrays the life of the ungodly—"chaff," the paper-like skin of the grain seeds which separates at the time of threshing. Chaff is completely worthless. In contrast to the firmly rooted, fruit-bearing tree, chaff blows away during the winnowing process. The Hebrew word for "blow" means "to drive asunder, disseminate, diffuse, strike, or beat."

After comparing the lives of the "godly" and the "wicked," David considers the fate of those who reject the Lord. "Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous" (v. 5). The first word connects this verse with the previous verse—"Therefore (or on account of their inner worthlessness and instability) ... the wicked will not stand in the judgment."

The Hebrew verb translated "stand" is not the same as the previous term rendered "stand" in verse 1. This particular Hebrew term means "to stand erect, to arise." The idea in the mind of the songwriter is an inability to stand upright before God's judgment. A parallel statement follows: "nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous."

The one who has never come by faith to the Lord and trusted Him alone for eternal life and a position of righteousness in God's eyes has no part among the assembly of believers. Again, let me remind you of yet another contrast. In destiny, there is a great difference between the godly and the ungodly. But so many unbelievers live healthy, moral lives ... even sacrificial and dedicated lives. How can anyone say they won't be among the eternal assembly of the righteous? Verse 6 answers that question: "For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish."

You'll observe it is the Lord who does the judging. He alone sees the heart. He alone; not man. Only God is capable of being just and fair. But doesn't the first part of this verse bring a question to your mind? Doesn't He know the way of the ungodly as well? He certainly does! But this sixth verse is explaining why the ungodly will not be able to stand up under judgment nor stand among the righteous assembly (v. 5). Why? Because the Lord takes special interest in the righteous. Because the Lord is inclined and bound to the righteous by special love. He will not allow an intermingling between the righteous and the unrighteous. That is not His plan.

The verse concludes with the severe reminder that the way of the unrighteous will perish. What a jolting climax to the psalm! Again, another vivid contrast. Instead of prospering, the ungodly will ultimately perish just as the little red brick city hall was ultimately condemned.

Making It Strong in Your Soul

God doesn't demand perfection from believers; all of us fail from time to time. Fortunately, grace abounds. Nevertheless, at least one indication that our faith is genuine is a sincere desire to obey. If you do not "delight" in pleasing God by obeying His Word, perhaps now is a good time for some soul searching. Go there.


Excerpted from Living the Psalms by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 2012 Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of WORTHY PUBLISHING.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Charles R. Swindoll’s books have sold more than 25 million copies. He was named by Christianity Today as one of the Top 50 Pastors in America over the past 50 years. His radio program, Insight for Living, which was named Program of the Year by National Religious Broadcasters, is played daily on over 1,200 radio stations across America. He lives in Dallas, TX.

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Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Theophilusfamily More than 1 year ago
 This book is the perfect companion to Living the Proverbs, Insights for the Daily Grind.It is obvious that the Proverbs are full of insights for the daily grind- after all, they are hard hitting wisdom in short pieces. The Psalms are Wisdom and Beauty combined perfectly- not like the proverbs though. A friend of mine reading the Bible for the first time straight through loved the proverbs, and needed help with the Psalms. This book came just in time for them.   The Psalms have been comforting, soothing and refreshing us for centuries. The Proverbs have been convicting us, giving us wisdom and teaching us for centuries.  The Psalms are the most beautiful poetry ever written and have poured from the lips of thousands of Christians through the centuries, yet, as much as we have heard them, sung them, read them, whispered them, cried over them and through them, there is still new wine to press out of them, as Charles Spurgeon said. Charles Swindoll wrote this 324 page book to help us taste the joy, majesty, wisdom, and Praise of the Psalms as we search them for insights for the daily grind.  God Sovereignly gave us the book at the perfect time. Some of the readings even spoke to my heart as my heart's own cry the very day I read them. Psalm 139 spoke to my heart the night after meeting a very sad young person who does not know the LORD. He felt lost and alone in the world. He needs to know God has his days in His Book, that there is nowhere he can flee from God's Presence- neither heaven nor sheol can hide him from God's eyes. Psalm 139 needs to be pressed into his heart indelibly, and I pray it will someday be his song.                  Lord, you hem me in, behind and before!                   You have searched me and know me!                   Such knowledge is too wonderful,                        too high for me to attain!   After reading Pastor Swindoll's insights on Psalm 139, I prayed it through as a prayer and was overwhelmed with the meanings in it I never saw.   I was blessed to receive this book from Worthy Publishing free for a review.