Grace and peace to you all!
This lesson will be formatted much like the previous one with questions throughout the lesson, required discussion questions will be underlined and repeated at the end of the lesson, as well as some resources and quotes that you all might find useful for your personal mediation. We will be considering the Psalms themselves, then looking directly at Psalm 1 as well as our lesson in meditation and finally, we will consider who ultimately is “the man” of Psalm 1.
Introduction to the Psalms
“The title “Psalms” comes from the Greek and Latin tradition. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT) uses the word Psalmos, and the Latin Vulgate translation, which was the Bible the church used during the Middle Ages, uses the word Psalmus. Both of these terms mean “a song sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments.” [The Psalms have an] overarching movement...from lamentation and suffering at the beginning to praise and glory at the end.” (Reformation Study Bible, 861). The issue of authorship and dating will be handled more thoroughly as we move throughout the Psalms. For our purposes here, David can be cited as the author of most of the Psalms and there is no creditable reason to think that David did not write the Psalms that bear his name. In general, the Psalms can be organized into 6 categories:
1) Hymns, are easily recognized by their abundant praises to God and typically praise Him for a certain act or attribute of God that was shown to the author.
2) Lament, these express emotions of great loss, suffering, or pain. They are open, honest, and sincere prayers or songs to God and usually end in confidence/trust in God.
3) Thanksgiving, these Psalms express gratitude for what God has done chiefly in creation, redemption, or in answering a prayer.
4) Psalms of trust, these are Psalms where the author trusts in God though he is not yet fully out of trouble or delivered from his trial.
5) Kingship Psalms focus on either God’s Lordship of His creation or on the human kingship of Israel. Common themes include creation, redemption, judgment, victory over idols, and love or care.
6) Wisdom Psalms are similar to proverbs except that these psalms include a pronounced blessing and (in the original Hebrew) alliteration.
A good example of the Wisdom genre is Psalm 1 where David introduces us to the themes of the Psalms such as holiness and happiness, sin and misery. Given the vast array of subject matter in the Psalms, its’ wonderful theology, and beautiful praises it is an excellent book to study for encouragement to the saints and exhalation to God. As the Reformation Study Bible puts it, “Therefore, the book of Psalms gives us one of the most complete and comprehensive revelations of the character of God in the entire Bible. If we want to know who God is, what He has done, and how we should respond to Him, the book of Psalm is one of the best places to start.” (RSB, 864).
Introduction to Psalm 1
“It is the Psalmist’s desire to teach us the way to blessedness and to warn us of the sure destruction of sinner.” (Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 13). And indeed show us the fruits of both the life of the blessed and the wicked. Moreover, Psalm 1 also is the introduction to the whole Psalter; introducing themes of blessedness, righteousness, love of God and His law, and the vanity of sin (Psalm 2:1). Most importantly it also shows us The Blessed Man-Christ and God’s affection and warmth towards us in Him. My prayer for this study is that Christ be as loving and patient with us as He was with the two men on the road to Emmaus in explaining that the Psalms are about Himself (Luke 24:27).
“Blessed is the man…”
What does it mean to be blessed?
Within the Psalms is means to be forgiven by God (Psalm 32:1-2) and to dwell with, or enjoy the presence of God (65:4). This blessed state of the man is the root or cause of all his proper/godly action in the following verses; not the other way around. We are first freed and forgiven by God then we are friends of Him; delighting and desiring Him all day long.
Note, that this blessedness is not so much a feeling or affection, but a state or position. Indeed, God has blessed us “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places...that we should be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:3-4) though this reality is solemn felt due to our own frailty and faithlessness it is our reality all the same. Again, not because we earned it in some way or work but because Christ earned it for us in His perfect and full blessedness in His obedience to the Father in dying for us. We are not blessed because we are worthy but because Christ is worthy for us.
Now that we have established why, or through whom, we are blessed we will now move through verse 1 and examine the negative actions of the blessed man, that is what he does not do.
“who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers…”
Here, we have three 3’s in the text. The first set of three are actions, “walks, stands, sits” the second set of three is paths “counsel, way, seat” and the third is the people “the wicked, sinners, scoffers.” The pen of David was not accidental in choosing these specific sets of words that are in groups of three; David is inviting us to consider the relationship of the three sets to one another to reveal a more full or clear meaning to the text. Typically it is wise in your own personal Bible reading to stop and consider why the author might have used these words or used this particular group or pattern of words so that a more clear understanding or greater appreciation of the text itself.
First, consider the movement of the text; from walking to standing to sitting. It is a decrease in motion. Waking would suggest an active but brief consideration of the counsel of the wicked; standing would indicate an active, or serious, and length consideration of the way (the lifestyle of sinners) and finally sitting with the scoffers would mean a full participation or enjoyment of those who boast or brag, about their rebellion against God. In each line, the man becomes a little more entice and influenced by sin and its ways until he is fully overcome by it and is in total control by it.
But he is the blessed man. He does not do these things. Rather than asking, “how much can I flirt with sin before falling?” He asks, “Is this way the way of saints gone before me on their earthly pilgrimage to Heaven? And finally, is this the seat of the Lord’s table where I can partake of Him with His saints?” Or, perhaps more simply, “Will this path/action lead me to God or away from Him?” We, as blessed people, are to be defined by love and love requires us to restrain from some actions that we, in our sinful hearts, might like to take. But we remember that we are happy where we are close to God and enjoyment of His word. We do not wish to lose this sweet communion we have with Him; thus we keep ourselves far from the sinner’s ways. For it is far easier to keep on the path of God than to get back on it. We guard our souls with great care and wisdom as to not fall off the way. The blessed man does not want, wish, or will himself away from God but rather he “delights” in Him. What must, or what have you done away with, to guard your own soul on the way to heaven?
“but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Here we see the delight, the description of the object of delight, the deity of delight, and the duration of the delight. We deal with each in order, but first, you will notice the first word of 1:2 “but” indicating that this is the opposite of the ways listed in 1:1. Here we have moved from external actions to an inward reality of the heart. That is, in the midst of temptation we are not choosing between a pleasure and a displeasure but rather an everlasting, true, pure, lovely pleasure in God or a momentary, fainting, vain pleasure in ourselves or the world. In the midst of temptation, it is wise to ask ourselves not only what will lead us closer to God but what will give us full, lasting pleasure/delight and what the end of that delight is. Hre the end of our delight in God is prosperity (more on that later when we get to 1:3) and the end of the worldly delight is perishing. But now on to the verse itself.
Think of yourself in an average Sunday Bible Study and the teacher asks, “Define the Christian life in one word” I’d bet most of the class would say “love” is the summation of the Christian life. And they’re not wrong! But I would like you to consider that “delight” is the summation of the Christian life. For one thing, we could easily substitute “love” for delight here in 1:2. Love and delight are truly just twin brothers in this text. Our delight, love, satisfaction, and purpose are in God and His law to us. Thus, I ask you all, is your delight in God? Is your fullest pleasure or truest purpose found in God and Him alone and not the things of the world? Note: I’m saying do you love God? Not, are you perfect?
Our second subpoint is brief but important; the description or the object of the delight. The Hebrew word here is Torah which can refer to a specific command but here merely means “instruction of the LORD” thus, the law here would’ve referred to all of God’s teaching/instruction to us. The blessed man delights in all of God’s word to him; not merely the easy, simple parts of it.
Third, is diety of the delight-God. Not all instruction is a pleasure to us. But the Lord’s instruction to us is a guard to our soul, a guide for our mind, and a good to our body and life. Not only is His law a delight to us but He is also a delight. Some of us have had teachers who are not a delight to us; and therefore, their instruction is also not a delight. But we know the Lords’ love, His goodness, His kindness to us, and thus He and His law are a delight, a joy, a treasure to us in all our lives!
And lastly, the duration of our delight “day and night”. Perhaps, we are not always delighted in God “day and night” (or all the time); however how can we delight day and night in that which we do not know, or seek day and night? We must seek God throughout all our lives and days if we are to be satisfied in God.
One last thing, the word “meditates” here is the same word for “plot” in Psalm 2:1. We will have our lesson in meditation then when we’ll look at Psalm 2 as well as its’ uses in the NT (in Acts 4:25-26, 13:33, and Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5).
“[The blessed man] is like a tree” An excellent metaphor for the blessed Christian life! Strong, and full of life constantly reaching up towards God in praise. Moreover, we are “planted by streams of water…” Not only are we full of life but we have an immediate, ever-flowing, everlasting access to life and refreshment insofar as we can take in.
Note the word “planted”; David knew quite well that the trees do not plant themselves but are planted by the providence of God through our work of planting or the winds spreading them. There are many Christians that have come to God through extraordinary ways of the wind-near death experiences, revivals, prayer meetings; some of us through regular/ordinary means like (seemingly) average Sunday sermons, bible studies, and the like. Regardless of how we all have come to God, we have all been “planted” by God and our beginning is the same. As well as our nourishment (or middle if you will); for we are all strengthened and refreshed by streams where God has planted us-in our local churches, our local bible studies, and prayer groups. No one there is particularly extraordinary, but they are the channels of God’s life-giving Spirit to us and in that they are extra-ordinary. Notice also our end is the same as well for “In all that he does, he prospers.”
It’s a shame the false Gospel called the “prosperity Gospel” is called what it is; I quite like the name itself. It is quite true and biblical. For we prosper in many ways; look at the text and read “that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.” We shall be fruitful and not wither as our own Lord and Savior has promised us that, “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…” (John 15:16). Christ chose us, died for us so that I would be fruitful (or prosperous) and abide (or not wither)! Indeed, we are prosperous. All this said, let us take a step back for a moment and consider “prosperity” in a wider context.
First, let’s look at our victory over death itself in Christ “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57) Death does not have the final word in our lives; Christ does! Death, though still our enemy to be conquered at Christ’s return, is our passage to true, eternal untainted delight in God. Thus, even in death, we will prosper.
Consider a classic prosperity text in Romans 8:35-39 (and also all of Romans 8) when Paul writes, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing shall separate us from the love of God! Indeed, this is the true prosperity Gospel.
Consider our reward for our righteousness in Heaven when Paul writes, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Indeed, our reward is also promised by our King In Luke 14:13-14, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
But life is hard, full of much pain and misery, and Heaven feels far off from now (NOTE: I said “feels” far off. For no one is promised tomorrow). Is there prosperity for us now? Indeed, yes. Life, right now, may not be too prosperous but, if we look at this life through the eyes of eternity it is. For we are to know our reward or inheritance, now and later in Heaven. Look at Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in Ephesians 1:18-19, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might”. We are to know, now, the hope of our calling, his rich, glorious inheritance in us, and his immeasurable greatness of his power towards us. That, my friends, is very prosperous living. We are rich in God now and rich in each other as well. We all are each other’s riches. Your mere presence in my life is a part of my prosperity and I your’s.
David now tells us about unprosperous living in 1:4, “The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.” “The contrast is strong. The wicked are compared to dead and rootless plants. A puff of wind carries them away.” (Reformation Study Bible, Psalm 1:4). Here the David warns or reminds us, of the reality of a life without God. It can be tempting to look at the riches of the world and desire them and their ways. Here we see that their ways are weak, not rooted in anything at all, and dead, totally without life. Stay the course Christian! For there is nothing for us to go back to. Here, as hard as holiness maybe sometimes, there is life and that more abundantly.
“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;” Not only is there no life in their ways but they are not approved of by God and are under His just judgment yet still. Perhaps you do not look at the riches of the world and desire them. Perhaps you, sometimes, miss your old ways of sin. God does not wipe our memories of our old days of sin and rebellion. This is because we are to keep those memories as reminds of all that God has done for us and how we have been changed. The old memories are lighthouses to us in that they warn us to stay away from such sin and death as well as for us to realize how dirty and filthy we were and how cleansed, pure, and renewed we are now by the blood of Christ.
“for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
The Lord, God of all things visible and invisible, knows our way. Indeed, He knows everything but here David is referring to His intimate knowledge and friendship with us. It is a blessed thing to call God a friend and even more a blessing to have God call us His friend! He knows my way. He knows how best to guide us into Heaven with Him. He loves us too much to lose us or misguide us. He has led many saints to Him before me and many more after me; surely He will not lose, nor forget any one of us. It is a great comfort to be known by God; for when others forget or forsake us He never will! Notice David’s Eschatological language “will perish”. They may “prosper” some now but their riches will count for nothing. Thus, underscoring our true, lasting prosperity now. But indeed, it need not be that way. For the way of the blessed is quite simple-believe. Believe in The Blessed Man-the Lord Jesus Christ and be blessed! Our mere existence as Christians is a blessing and is, by definition, prosperous. Thus, we are not to enjoy and to help others enjoy this blessing which we have received from The Blessed. Enjoy now and forever your blessing, your prosperity, and your God!
Resources: John Piper’s LAB on Psalm 1
Research Notes that I didn’t get the chance to use but you all might like to take note of:
“It is the Psalmist’s desire to teach us the way to blessedness and to warn us of the sure destruction of sinner.”
“Hence we may learn the multiplicity of the blessings” which shall rest upon the man whom God hath justified.” v.1
“Blessed...counsel of the ungodly.’ He takes wiser counsel, and walks in the commandments of the Lord, his God. To him, the ways of piety are paths of peace and pleasantness. His footsteps are ordered by the Word of God and not by the cunning and wicked devices of carnal man.”
“The law of the Lord is the daily bread of the true believer...prize the whole written Word” v.2
“‘By the rivers of water’ So that even if one river should fail, he hath another; The rivers of pardon and the rivers of grace, the rivers of the promise and the rivers of communion with Christ, are never-failing sources of supply.”
“‘That bringeth forth his fruit in his season’ The man who delights in God’s Word, being taught by it, bringeth forth patience in the time of suffering, faith in the day of trial, and holy joy in the hour of prosperity. Fruitfulness is an essential quality of a gracious man, and that fruitfulness should be seasonable.”
“...as the Hebrew hath it yet more fully, “The Lord is knowing the way of the righteous.” He is constantly looking on their way…” v.6 (Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, pg. 13-15).
“The first psalm serves as the gateway to the entire book of Psalms, stressing that those who would worship God genuinely must embrace his Law (or Torah)- that is, his covenant instruction founded on His redeeming grace. This psalm addresses topics found also in the Bible’s wisdom literature and makes them the subject of song. When we joyfully sing this psalm, its values become ours. We are changed.
In a sustained contrast, Psalm 1 reminds us that in the end there are only two ways to live. And whatever else happens in our lives today, the crucial, bottom-line question is: which of the two ways described in this psalm will we embrace? Beneath the never-ending list of “to do’s” clamoring for our attention lies the fundamental choice to receive instruction and influence either from God or from fools. Will we breathe in God’s life-giving instruction, sinking deep roots (1:3), or will we breathe in the empty instruction of those who “will not stand in the judgment” (1:5)? Will the trials still to come in our lives prove us to be deep-rooted trees, incapable of being blown away by the slightest breeze?
Happily, this psalm and its two ways to live are not a choice between stoic obedience or gleeful disobedience. The first word of the psalm makes clear that true, solid happiness-what the Bible calls “blessedness”- is found in God and his Word. Verse 2 reiterates- “His delight is in the law of the LORD.” Nothing can compare with the blessedness- the fruitfulness, the flourishing, the prospering, the delightfulness, of a life saturated with the Word of God.
Walk with God. Soak in his Word. Take his yoke upon you (Matt. 11:29). You will be blessed-truly happy, with a happiness the winds of trial cannot blow away.” (ESV Devotional Psalter, Psalm 1).
“This Psalm could be seen as introducing key concerns of the whole Bible, since it describes the two fundamental classes of mankind-sinners and righteous. It also addresses concepts ultimately revealed in the perfectly blessed man, Jesus Christ, who stand at the crossroads of two way (1:1, Matt. 7:13). He is anticipated in the first word of this psalm because “blessing” in Scripture references the redemptive presence of God. That presence was perfectly realized when Mary was called “blessed...among women,” because Jesus, “God with us”, had finally been conceived in her (Luke 1:42).
The “righteous” man is blessed when he consciously lives in the presence of the Word, which we, on this side of the cross, know would become flesh and would cause his “law” to be written on our hearts for our instruction (Ps 1:2, John 20:31, 1 Cor. 10:11). Thus the believer’s life is blessed by the presence and care of Christ, bearing eternally significant fruit by being grafted into the “tree of life” (Ps 1:3, Rev. 2:7, 22:2).
On the other hand, those who follow the broad way that “leads to destruction” become hollow persons whose lives count for nothing beyond the grave, and who perish at the judgment day (Ps. 1:5, Matt. 25:41-46). But even in the OT context of this psalm, what separates the righteous from the wicked is not ultimately good works but the grace of the Lord, who “knows” the righteous (Ps 1:6, Matt. 7:23). (Gospel Transformation Study Bible, 723).
[Apologies that this one took so long; I start my long-term teaching tomorrow and that ate up a lot of my time/energy. Just a heads up for our next study we will be looking at Psalm 2 and its uses in the NT and our lesson in mediation].
How would you personally define “blessed”? Do you consider yourself to be “blessed”?
David teaches us that our delight is in the law of the Lord; what would you consider to be your delight?
Have you ever been taught about mediation? And how would you define it?
Do you think of your life as prosperous? If so then how? If not then why not?