Out of the Depths by Rick Lee James, Ben DeBono, and Matthew Cole - Read Online
Out of the Depths
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Part memoir, part biblical commentary, part album liner notes, Out of the Depths is a unique and refreshing exploration of the Psalms. Rick Lee James offers a compelling, insightful overview both of the theological contributions of the Psalms but also their inspiration for his own musical pursuits. The result is a soul-enriching journey through the highs, lows, joys and laments of the Christian life.
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ISBN: 9781483513744
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Out of the Depths - Rick Lee James

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Chapter One

Psalm 1: The Wicked Road

1. Blessed is the one

who does not walk in step with the wicked

or stand in the way that sinners take

or sit in the company of mockers,

2. but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,

and who meditates on his law day and night.

3. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—

whatever they do prospers.

4. Not so the wicked!

They are like chaff

that the wind blows away.

5. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

(Psalm 1:1-6, NIV)

7. Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.

8.They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

(Jeremiah 17: 7-8, NIV)

Psalm 1 is a preface for the book of Psalms, the largest book of the Bible. The book of Psalms is one of the oldest prayer and worship books of the people of God. We may study Scripture, we may spend hours poring over the details of culture in the narratives, contextual details of the laws and the epistles, and theology of the wisdom literature, but there is something that cries out to us to do more than academic work when we come to the book of Psalms. They are full of the context and details, the settings in life both in and behind the text that enrich our reading of these words, but they cause the reader to slow down. When we read these words we find language that captivates our hearts and our imaginations. We move from simply reading and studying to the ones who, from our own depths and from the depths of community, are to pray and worship through the Psalms. In writing an album from of the five sections of the book of Psalms, I found it helpful to see the Psalms as a worship service with different movements. I invite you now, in the midst of a book full of details and history to hear something more. I invite you to hear passion and memory. These are at the core of healthy worship and are in the lyrics of the Basement Psalms album as well as in the hopes of this book.

As a general rule, if you are a part of a worshipping congregation, you will notice that there are different movements to your services. Even if you have a church that doesn't tie itself to a bulletin order, chances are that you will see a similar structure to the worship hour every week. The Psalms also contain a worship structure. The five sections of the book of Psalms, a book that calls us to remember both whose and who we are, can be correlated to the first five books of the Old Testament. These first five books are also known as the Pentateuch or the Torah. These books are for the Judeo-Christian faith a call of both formation and reformation. They pronounce the intention of God in creation and call us to remember this hope, even when we have fallen from it. They also proclaim the Love of God to restore this hope in humanity and in the whole of creation. As a people who are formed in worship of the Lord, the Psalms take up this theme and hope and call the reader or worshipper to recall the mighty and loving work of God that transforms, calls, and animates the him or her.

Psalm 1 begins section one, which runs from Psalm 1 through 41. This large chunk of the book of Psalms recalls the order that is seen in the Genesis creation narrative. Filled with the overtones of wisdom prevalent in the book of Proverbs, it reminds the reader that when the Spirit of God moves, chaos is held at bay and order is spoken. Thus its message speaks to us that the path of the righteous will lead to blessings while the path of the wicked will lead to destruction.

Looking at Psalm 1 I ask the question, What is a blessing? We are told to expect blessings but we are not explicitly told what a blessing is. Does a blessed person turn into a tree? (That person is like a tree planted by streams of water...) Is that where those talking trees in the Wizard of Oz came from?

A second question I have is why does it start on a negative? It doesn't start by saying, Do this...and blessings will happen. It starts out telling us what not to do. It seems strange to start a worship service by reminding everyone of things that we shouldn't do.

Do not follow the path of the wicked...

Don't stand in the way that sinners take...

Don't sit in the company of mockers...

Don't bring your beverage into the sanctuary... (Okay, that one isn't in there)

Generally I chafe against religious images that simply tell me what not to do, so at first glance it seems strange to me that the book of Psalms starts negative. Wouldn't Psalm 150 have been a better choice as the first Psalm? I mean, Psalm 150 calls every created thing, every instrument, and everything that has breath to praise the Lord. Wouldn't you think the book of Psalms, a book of prayer and worship, would start out that way? What worship leader would start out a Sunday morning service by singing a song filled with all the negatives?

Odd as it may seem, this is how this Psalm and then the book of Psalms begins. Imagine a worship service where the leader walks onto the platform and doesn't say something like, stand up and clap your hands, it's time to worship. Imagine instead your service opening with these words in an ominous tone.

Don't take the road the sinners take and don't sit in the company of mockers or you will not be blessed. If you want to be blessed, keep your minds fixed upon the law of God all day and all night long. If you do that you will be strong, like a tree planted by the water with leaves that don't wither and fade. That isn't the case however for the wicked. They are like the chaff that the wind blows away, never prospering, and heading down the road to destruction. They won't have a leg to stand on when judgment day comes and they won't have a place with righteous people. Beware!!!

Why doesn't the Psalmist call us to worship by singing some declarative anthem like, Here I Am To Worship? Doesn't he know you’re supposed to start the service with a real hand clapper and lots of happy thoughts about God? Why start a service with doom and gloom, Mr. Psalmist? Maybe you should go to the National Worship Leader's Convention and get some tips on leading worship, dude!

I say all that in good fun but the more I think about it, the more I think the words of this Psalm sound a lot like the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. We would expect the Psalmist to tell us what the blessings are that righteous people have coming to them, like a game show host saying, Tell them what they've won! But similar to Jesus telling us, Blessed are you who do not have... we hear the Psalmist telling us, "Blessed are those who do not walk in step with sinners or take counsel from