The good kind of learning
The Psalms are Israel's song book. They are also a collection of teachable moments in the life of King David and the other individuals who penned them. Our affection for their poetic beauty and worshipful intent often overshadows the didactic nature woven through their one hundred and fifty chapters. An interesting study for me recently has been the teaching and learning themes so evident in the five books of the Psalms. References to the teaching elements are common throughout the Psalter. Only in four instances is learning mentioned. As I studied them it became evident that the author pictured three specific life learning situations in his writing. Evidently he was inspired to mention them as primary life learning modes. I reduced them to three catch phrases of learning: the good, the bad, and the ugly. They are certainly learning components that have been instructional paradigms for my life.
What I would classify as this good type of learning is exemplified in two passages, both in Psalm 119.
I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules.
Psalm 119:7, ESV
Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I
may learn your commandments.
Psalm 119:73, ESV
The authorship of Psalm 119 is debated. But, many believe it to have been written by King David. Let's not get stuck in that quicksand, however. The author was expressing several important elements of the most excellent human capacity to learn, providing me the license to refer to this as good learning---
1. Delight in the intentional pursuit of learning.
2. Dependence on God for the blessing of understanding.
3. Desire to learn the righteous rules or commandments of God.
What strikes me most about these learning references is the insistence of the author on being eager and willing to learn. This kind of compulsion to learn seems such a contrast to the contemporary learning dysfunction so evident in modern culture. Yes, societal standards require several years of kindergarten and twelve years of formal primary and secondary education. In a general and broad-based way most Americans appreciate the provision of education and learning as a human right and insist on every citizen's participation in the educational system. At the same time, standards of the educational or learning systems have declined and many people are resistant to it. Fewer and fewer people are hungry to this kind of learning. Many of us just endure it.
Some of us additionally refuse the opportunities of informal learning in the school of hard knocks or on the mean streets of our cities and neighborhoods. Once again, there's a resistance to learning that often blocks the valued lessons life can teach us. Even in the informal systems there's a reluctance to lean that hinders individual development and the collective good. Good learning is when we are eager to learn from life as well as from our sophisticated formal learning centers.
Even more, good learning is when there is a desire and wish to learn the right things. Yes, of course, there's the trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) and the attending subtexts of modern learning---history, languages, civics, geography, science, and even some of the trade studies so central to our formal learning environments. The Psalms passages also confess learning that is faith based, centered in the home or the church, that which is focused on the moral and ethical dimensions of this life. Good education is that which develops learners physically, mentally, and spiritually. And, that's a black mark in our learning systems today.
Doctor Luke wrote that Jesus "...grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him" (Luke 2:40). This was an example of what I'm calling good learning. And, I'm praying that it will be the learning mode that will characterize my life and those under my influence. Living the disciples life of life-long learning is a goal. Learning the right stuff with a glad heart is what I want for my remaining years.
It's good and joyous learning that evidently prepared the Psalmist and characterized Jesus' early life. That this kind of learning would mark our times is my prayer.
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