Psalm One

by Bryant Evans on January 29, 2018

The beloved book of Psalms begins with a brief description of two kinds of people: the wicked and the righteous. Standing at opposite poles of humanity the sweet psalmist, David explains the blessings and the curses that befall each.

He notes the blessings of the righteous man defined negatively. The righteous is not like the wicked. Indeed, the two are so far apart as to be impossible to confuse. For David, there is no middle ground with a little good and a little bad. He is either/or, but not both.

The righteous man rejects the guidance of the wicked and gives no heed to their proddings. He will not conduct himself as a sinner nor occupy a place among the evil. No one will associate this righteous man with the wicked nor will he allow himself to be so grouped. There is no confusion for the righteous is unlike the wicked in every way (Psalm 1:1).

Positively, what marks the righteous? What sets him apart from the evil? The righteous have an intense love for the word of God. Of Psalm 1:2 the Septuagint translation says of the righteous that “his will is focused on the law of the Lord.” Other translations say that he “meditates” on God’s law day and night. The psalmist echoes this idea in Psalm 112:1 when he observes that a man who “delights in his commandments is blessed.” John, writing centuries later, said the man who keeps his commandments “abides in God” (1 John 3:2-4).O, that we all would come to love the gentle words of the Lord!

David also sees the righteous man as ever stable against the storms of life. “He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:3). This moving illustration is of a great tree that is always green and ready to give forth abundant fruit in its time. Whether in season or out,  this man is always stable and sturdy. James rebukes the faithless man who doubts and is splashed about like the waves of the sea. Then he declares blessings on the steadfast man (James 1:5-12). Likewise, our goal is to be firm and unwavering like this mighty tree. This tree remains fruitful because it is always supplied by life-giving water. There is no fear of drought, only a certainty of constant sustenance from the streams of water. This water is the “living water” of which Jesus spoke in John 4:10 ff. Like the constant, ongoing meditation and focus on God’s word, this constant watering brings strength and stability to the righteous.

Yet, more than stability, the righteous man prospers in all his work (Psalm 1:3). He will not prosper in any wicked endeavor for he does not pursue evil. His prosperity comes from his station within the law of the Lord. Apart from that law, there is no good to be had.

See now that David turns it all back upon the wicked who are not like this blessed man (Psalm 1:4). They are unstable, blown about like leaves before a spring breeze and cannot stand stable before God in judgment. We recall the words of David’s son, Solomon who said, “the way of the transgressors is hard” (Proverbs 13:15, KJV). We do not want to be like the wicked who will perish!

When life becomes so difficult that we are sure to fail, we should consider if we have fallen into transgressions.

Notice again how David turns the discussion back upon the wicked. In Psalm 1:1 he says the righteous will not be found among the wicked. Now in Psalm 1:5 he says the wicked will not be found “in the congregation of the righteous.” You see, the Lord knows his people (John 10:14; 2 Timothy 2:19) and does not confuse them. And, because he knows us, he knows our paths and always watches over us. I find this first chapter of Psalms to be both an encouragement and a challenge. Remember, these are the words of God given through David’s inspiration. Listen! Hear his voice!

 

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