Psalm 1 is a beautiful Psalm, but it’s often used as a moralistic lesson on either the need to read the Bible more, or what Christian behavior should look like. Instead, use this Psalm to let students discover the cause-and-effect concept and see for themselves what loving God’s Word can result in.
Bible Passage: Psalm 1
Key Message: God blesses those who love the Bible
Before reading the Psalm, or even announcing the topic, share a story with a clear cause-and-effect and ask students to identify the cause and the effect.
For instance, think of the story of a high school senior who got accepted to every college he applied to with over a million in scholarships. Ask students why they think he got into so many colleges? How did he get so many scholarships? The answer is that he completely applied himself to this from his first day in high school. He worked incredibly hard, rook all AP classes, did a lot of extra-curricular activities to build a resume, got a perfect GPA, and did tons of research on crafting a winning college essay and on how to get scholarships. Then he applied what he had learned in a consistent and timely manner. That was the cause and the effect was that he got accepted and won so many scholarships.
Ask students: can you name more examples of cause and effect, both positive and negative ones? (make a quick list yourself, like texting and getting into an accident, studying hard and passing a test, practicing your sport and making the team, etc.) Make sure students really understand this concept.
Now read Psalm 1 together. Then have students pair up in groups of two to four and give them the text of the Psalm on a sheet of paper. Ask them to identify any and all cause-and-effect relationships they see in this Psalm. This should take them appr. 5 minutes.
Ask the groups for their discoveries and write them down on a whiteboard or have someone put them on the Powerpoint. Now obviously, I don’t know what your students are going to come up with, so be prepared for some completely wacky answers 🙂
Here’s the key issue: what is cause and what is effect here? There are a couple of possible ‘effects’ you’ll want to focus on:
- He is blessed
- Walks not in the counsel of the wicked (you may want to translate this into normal English)
- Does not stand in the way of sinners (same)
- Does not sit in the seat of scoffers (same)
- Being like a tree that doesn’t wither and yields fruit
- Everything he does prospers
How do students feel about these effects? Do they sound like something they’d want in their lives?
If you read the Psalm, there’s only one possible ‘cause’: ‘his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night’. Once again, this is a sentence you’ll need to translate into understandable language. Interesting fact: the expression ‘delights himself in the law of the Lord’ literally means ‘wanting to kiss the law of the Lord’. It means being so happy, so full of joy over something, you’d want to kiss it!
This Psalm is about the Torah, the first five books of ‘our Bible’, but I don’t think it’s theologically wrong to apply its wisdom and truth to the whole Bible as we know it. You may want to point this out though, as there will always be a few students who are interested in this sort of details.
How can loving the Bible and reading it every day be the cause of these positive ‘effects’ we discovered? Ask students to put this into their own words. It’s really important that you don’t rush through this step, as students need to see the relationship between reading the Bible and growth.
Now ask students to think about this question for a minute: How do they feel about the Bible? Do they love it? Hate it? Find it difficult?
Ask a few students to share honestly. Make sure to not show any judgment about their answers. Affirm any and all feelings.
See if you and summarize some of what the students said. What is their main feeling about God’s Word? What is keeping them from loving it to the point of wanting to kiss it, or even reading it?
Close with reading the whole Psalm again and stressing that God blesses those who love the Bible.
- The temptation is here to end with the application of ‘read your Bible every day’ because it seems like such a shoo-in. However, students have heard this messages hundreds of times without much effect in most cases, so don’t go there. Instead, try to discover what’s holding them back from reading and loving God’s Word. That will give you an ‘in’ to talk about this further in a next talk or in the small groups.
- Interactive sermons work best of your youth group isn’t too big. You can pull this off with 100 students max, I’d say, depending on the kind of room you’re in. This is really not something you’ll want to try with a group you don’t know well, as students are known to come up with some wacky answers every now and then.
- Attitude is everything here. If your students sniff any judgment, they’ll start giving the politically correct answer (which is always Jesus, duh!) and you won’t have a real discussion. Instead, encourage them with your words and your attitude to be honest and real. It may help if you confess to your struggles with God’s Word.
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