Have you ever gotten a little too comfortable with something or little too familiar? It could be the best thing but you are so used to it that you take it for granted and forget the value it really holds?
To be honest, this is exactly how I had begun to feel about Psalm one. I know, I know, that is a terrible thing for any Christian much less a pastor’s wife to cop to but it is the truth. Psalm one gets recited and quoted a lot at my girls’ school. Obviously with good reason but I had allowed myself to let it become humdrum in my mind.
Thankfully God is incredibly gracious and forgiving and so not stingy and when one of the ladies suggested that psalm for our weekly study He totally renewed a love for this short chapter in my heart. I ended up with nine pages of notes too. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try and share it all here but I do highly encourage you to take a little time to read these six simple verses and really ponder their meaning.
The chapter can be seen as two groupings. Verses 1-3 describe a godly man’s life ~ what he does and what results from those actions. Verses 4-6 describe the way of the wicked.
The word blessed here is actually a Hebrew word that has the connotation of happy or contentment. It is also in the plural form and so denotes either multiple blessings or the amplifying of blessing.
The idea of happiness, what it is and how to attain it, is elusive and seemingly individualized. My happy may not be your happy but it’s okay because we both have a right to be happy.
Only that isn’t what God’s word says. He says that the blessed man, the happy man, is the one who walks according to His ways. There is a happiness, a blessedness, that comes from being right with God. And it is a blessing readily available to anyone who will follow after God. Remember Psalm 119? Happy is the man whose whole life is devoted to knowing God’s law and who lives in obedience to it.
Charles Spurgeon said of this verse that it is a blessing as closely within the reach of “…the poor, the forgotten, and the obscure as by those whose name figures in history, and are trumpeted by fame.”
That blessing is found by being unwilling to do certain things. According to this verse he will not walk a certain way, he will not stand on a certain path, and there is a seat he will not sit in.
God’s people are called to live a life that looks vastly different from those who are not his people. There should be a notable difference in the way we think (walk), the way we behave (stand), and who we belong to or identify with (sit).
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
In contrast to verse one verse two tells us what the blessed man will do.
He delights and he meditates.
I have long been astonished at all the things that are ours to enjoy through our senses. God blessed us with the ability to taste the deliciousness of a blueberry or to have our breath taken away by the astounding colors of a sunset just because it pleased Him to do so. We are made to delight in something and unless we delight in true things, the best things, we will naturally settle for lesser things. The psalmist is telling us that the path to true happiness is found only in delighting in God’s word. We cannot settle for the wisdom of man, even godly men, more than God’s actual words. David also didn’t see it as a burden or as if God’s way is somehow a killjoy but he delighted in it and he thinks on it day and night. He gains a high degree of pleasure from the gift of God’s law and keeps it rolling around and echoing in his mind. He literally fills his mind with God’s word.
What really makes this fascinating is that David basically only had the Torah…Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. How much greater should our delight be in having access to the full canon of Scripture? We have the feast of the psalms, the wisdom of the Proverbs, the poetry of the Song of Solomon. Not to mention the entire New Testament!
Given how I started this post can you imagine the conviction I felt on this verse? I must not be the only one to feel so about Scripture at times though because Spurgeon referred to it as a negative purity. We aren’t exactly walking in the way of the ungodly but neither are we pursuing righteousness.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Man, I really love this verse! Not a wild tree left to grow every which way and all willy nilly. But the man who delights in God’s law is like a tree purposefully planted by rivers of water. A planted tree is one that is cultivated, pruned and cared for. This tree is being shaped by God’s word and it is fruitful and full of life. It is going to have patience in times of trouble, strong faith in the face of difficulty and it will be able to also handle times of prosperity with humbleness and joy.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
There is a severe contrast between the righteous and the wicked. David just painted that beautiful picture of a vibrant healthy tree and now he literally says, “Not so the ungodly, not so!” They do not have life. They have nothing to offer. A tree bears fruit, it offers shade. But the chaff of the wicked is easily blown away by the wind. God’s blessings are not given to everyone. They are reserved for His people.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
The wicked will not be able to stand before God. The wheat and the chaff may grow up together here but they will not dwell together in heaven. Again I quote Charles Spurgeon* who said that sinners cannot live in heaven because they would be out of their element. “Sooner could a fish live in a tree than the wicked in Paradise.”
And finally verse six ~
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
The Hebrew here is best translated as the Lord knowing the way of the righteous. It is an active form of knowing. It is the knit me in my mother’s womb knowing. The number of hairs on my head sort of knowing. The Psalm 139: 1-24 kind of knowing…when I sit and when I rise up kind of knowing.
The way of the wicked, even their name, will be blotted out and not remembered. They will perish and no one will remember them.
How amazing is this chapter? How deep and soul nourishing is this short little psalm?
We are blessed by God when we very simply do things the way He says we ought to do them. Not because He wants to deny us joy and happiness but because He wants us to know true lasting contentment.
He is our God and he has made us. How glorious the truth of Isaiah:
*Charles Spurgeon was a theologian that authored The Treasury of David, commentary on the book of Psalms. I’m using other resources when I study but he is a mainstay.