Psalm 1

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1 Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stood in the way of sinners
or sat in the assembly of mockers.
2 But from the law of Yahweh is his delight
and on his law he recites day and night.
3 He is like a tree transplanted beside streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season,
whose leaves never wither.
Whatever it produces is good.
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 will sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For Yahweh knows the way of the righteous ones
but the way of the wicked ones will perish.

Without ascription to David or Solomon or to any other, this anonymous introduction to the psalms centers our existence on a stream of water. In our weaker moments we would like to think that this psalm centers on a great and powerful tree but that tree is only as great as the stream that brings it life and allows it roots to grow deep and build strong branches. We have a real temptation to grow into strong trees and forget about the gentle river that has been faithfully watering us for years. We look to the counsel of the wicked for wisdom and many have thought they have found it there but it never lasts. Others have looked to the way or path of sinners and not only walked by it, they actually stood there in it but it came to nothing. Still others took their search for wisdom and delight in the assembly of mockers (the JPS translation translates this “the company of the insolent.”) but came up with a life full of anger and bitterness. All the while forgetting about that steady stream that has faithfully provided water essential for life, growth, and happiness.

Notice that those who seek out delight and wisdom from foolish places are transient. They walk here or stand there or sit a while with this group or that but in the end are blown away like chaff. But those whose delight in the Lord have stability. They don’t need to look anywhere else because they realize where their life and delight comes from. It comes from the Lord. Notice how this tree is grown. It is most obviously grown from the stream of water but it is also grown from what the NIV calls meditating on the law day and night. It actually says that his delight is from the law of the Lord and on his law he recites both day and night. It is one thing to think about something and it is quite another to actually put those words inside of you and take ownership of them to live them out as we drink in the blessings of the river of life that anchors us to God. That is part of the transplantation (the literal translation of that word) process. He has to get in us before we can get in Him.

What happens next? You produce fruit. There are flags flying up all over areas of your life that show you have been changed. You are not the same. You have been drinking deep of the water and word of God and you are rooted in Him. Not so the wicked. What are they like? They are not like the tree that has been there for years by the river and will still be there tomorrow. No. They are like chaff that has already been stripped from the stalk and have no life left in them. You can put chaff under water all day and it still will not come to life. It is hopeless. It gets blown away and is no more. It is not watched over and kept by God. It is not able to withstand the day of judgment because it is not rooted in God. Ultimately the wicked perish but those whose delight is in the Lord and in His word will stand firm. Notice, there is no middle ground. Either you are rooted in God or you have no root. Either you are soaking up his word and will for your life or you are blown about by the wind. Either you have hope to stand firm in the judgment by his grace or you will not be able to stand. There is nothing in between. On that note, we are ready to dive into the psalter.

0 Responses

  1. Matt,

    Psalm 1 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. You brought out some very important points from this psalm. Here are a couple of things that I’ve noticed in my study.

    You mentioned that Psalm 1 does not list an author. Neither does Psalm 2. But all the other psalms in Book 1 of the psalter are psalms of David. Also, Psalm 1 begins with the blessed man, while Psalm 2 ends with the blessedness of those who trust in the son. Because of these connections (and many other connections between these two psalms), I think Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 form a two part introduction to the psalter.

    Also, you mentioned the tree and the river, or channels of water. These two images are often used as garden imagery, sanctuary imagery, tabernacle/temple imagery, and eschatological imagery (Psalm 92:14, Jer 17:8, Ezek 17:8, 10). Thus, this imagery could place “the blessed man” squarely in the presence of God – as Adam and Eve were in his presence in the garden, and as all the people of God will be in his presence in the eschaton.

    I hope you don’t mind me adding these thoughts to your discussion. I’m not trying to hijack your post. I love Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 and love the picture that the psalmist paints for us through those two psalms.


  2. Matt,
    I love the new blog.
    Psalm 1 is great.
    It really does tell you how bless the righteous people are who are rooted in God are and what he does for them.
    I have seen it in my life.

  3. Alan,

    Hijack away. That is what we are here for. I had caught the Psalm 1 + Psalm 2 thing but not the blessed bookends that you bring up. The river is such a great metaphor in scripture that is so rich with a tremendous heritage that it is hard to know how it was understood or if that understanding changed over time but I think the observation you make is a really good one. As always, feel free to comment any time. This is always about a dialogue rather than me just blabbering about things.


    Thanks. Thanks for the comment as well. No one can deny our experience with God and how he has worked in our lives.

    Good thoughts.

  4. Matt,
    I love the discussion. When my husband died, the Book of Psalms was a great therapist. I always find joy, strength and encouragement there.

    Keep up the good work.


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