Psalm 1 - The Truly Blessed Person
Topic: The Bible Passage: Psalm 1:1–1:6
We are starting a new, short series in the psalms. The Psalms have been a beloved portion of scripture for Christians forever! It was the primary song book for the Hebrews and church (through much of the last 2000 years). It is an enormous help… it helps us to understand ourselves and pour our hearts out to God. John Calvin called the Psalms “An anatomy of the soul” as they show us the inner workings of image-bearers of God - joy, despair, confusion, anger, fear, calm. The Psalms are a rich treasury for us and so we are going to spend the next several weeks in selected Psalms. And what better place to start than Psalm 1. Charles Spurgeon called Psalm 1, “This is the preface for the entire book of the Psalms and shows us the way of blessedness.”
Psalm 1 begins with the word “blessed”. What is it to be blessed? We speak of blessings. The blessing of good health and family and a job and so forth. And all of these, if you have them are blessings.
But what is the essence of this state of being blessed? Well, the opposite is to be cursed. To be under the covenant curse of God. To be blessed is to be under and live under the divine blessing of God - the blessing that comes from being in covenant with him. From our time in Hebrews, we would say to be under the new covenant with God. And to live under the reality of it.
This psalm shows us the way to happiness, to true blessedness.
The happy, blessed person’s mind and heart is being shaped by God’s word (v. 1-2)
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Is your mind and heart, your thinking and emotional life being shaped by the truth of God’s word or by something else? Social media, your favorite Christian author/speaker, pop music, romance novels, 24/7 news cycle, Hollywood, your own private intuitions. You are being shaped by something.
Notice, David does not say, “don’t be wicked, don’t act like sinners, and don’t scoff at God’s truth.” But rather he focuses on the kinds of things that shape our thinking, feeling, which eventually leads to words and actions. Right? If you walk in the counsel of the wicked, guess what? You will begin to think like the wicked and eventually delight in what is wicked. If you stand in the way of sinners, you will begin to delight in what is sinful. If you sit in the seat of scoffers, eventually you will find yourself a scoffer. It is stunning how often this happens. We are massively shaped by the sources of input we receive!
Probably what has been most distressing to me with all that has happened during the past few months of the COVID insanity is that many Christians have been more shaped by the media narrative of COVID-19 - from CNN or Fox News, leading not to the joy, peace, and calm of Christ, but often to panic, fear, anxiety, scolding, sarcasm, roughness, judgmentalism, and spiritual death. The mind set on the flesh is death. The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.
It’s distressing to me that many Christians are being shaped more by our culture’s new, novel, humanistic definitions of racism, justice and mercy and love for neighbor rather than God’s definition of racism, justice and mercy and neighbor-love. Leading to all sorts of division and confusion, even in the body of Christ. Beloved, it ought not to be so! So where does blessing and happiness come from?
The blessed person, the happy person DOES NOT (verse 1). Verse 2 says, “BUT”. This is a big and important BUT - stark contrast! David says, the happy and blessed man (and woman) delights in the law of the Lord. Law of the Lord - “torah”. The first five books of the bible (Genesis - Deuteronomy). The books written by Moses. But generally it means “instruction” or “teaching”. So the blessed man delights in the law, instruction, teaching of the LORD. Delights! We know what it is like to delight. It has been a long time since Alissa and I have had a baby in the house. But have to tell you, I delight in our baby boy Grayson! My heart is full of serious pleasure (in all my kids), but in a unique way, with a new baby boy in our home.
The happy and blessed person delights, finds pleasure in God’s word. They love to hear him speak. In the distant past, David was almost universally accepted as the author of Psalm 119. We don’t know for sure, but it is very possible he did. Listen to how Psalm 119 praises the law of God over and over again:
119:35 - Lead me in the path of your commandment, for I delight in it.
119:47 - For I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.
119:48 - I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.
119:72 - The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Listen to Psalm 19:7-10, which we know David wrote:
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:7-10)
The blessed person delights in the law of the LORD and he meditates on it day and night. And I think that it is the meditation that leads to delight. This is how the interplay of our minds and hearts work. What we fix our minds upon, begins to shape the affections of our hearts. It’s the serious thought-shaping activity of meditation that leads to the glorious, heart-shaping joy of delight. “Set your mind on things above”, Paul says! Listen to what the prophet Jeremiah says:
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.” Jeremiah 15:16.
Do you hear this? Jeremiah searched and found the words of the LORD. When he found them, he ate them. He devoured them. He chewed them up and swallowed. He didn’t rush past them. And the progression is that after he ate them, they became a joy and delight. If you would say that you have little desire and get little out of the word of God, but your exposure is a hurried 10 minutes in the morning, or an interrupted 30 minutes in the afternoon, a strictly dutiful 20 minutes at night, that is why. The blessed person, the happy man is having his heart and mind shaped by the words of God. He delights and meditates on the law of God.
And this is the fuel that propels the blessed, happy person through life and into eternity. Look - he is strong, steady, and bears fruit and he has hope as he looks forward.
The happy, blessed person is strong, fruitful, and renewed (v. 3-4)
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. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
The blessed person is Strong, steady, always nourished → “He is like a tree planted by streams of water”
The blessed man who delights in the law and meditates on it is compared to a planted tree.
The blessed man is fruitful → “that bears fruit in its season”
It’s important to recognize that David is saying the life of the blessed person is like a tree producing fruit, not a worker picking fruit.
Psalm 1 says this is all the work of the WORD of God. Delighting in it and meditating on it, produces fruit. Jesus tells us in John 15 that fruitfulness comes from abiding in him and his word. And Galatians Galatians 5 says that the source of our fruit is the Holy Spirit - right? The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. It’s the word and the Spirit (remember the Spirit is the divine Author of the word) that causes us to bear fruit.
The blessed person is continually renewed (evergreen) → “it’s leaf does not wither”
The tree produces fruit in its season and the leaf never withers. That’s not the way it works in Iowa. An apple tree produces its apples and then the leaves on the tree wither, die, and fall the ground in the fall. The blessed man who delights in the word of God is perpetually renewed, revived. Again, it is the word that does this work. And it’s no surprising, since Isaiah 40:8 says, “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”
The blessed/happy person prospers in all the work → “in all that he does, he prospers.”
None of this is true for the wicked - “Not so with the wicked, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”
I was amazed the first time I drove across South Dakota in the dead of summer as an adult - Alissa was pregnant with Eden and we were on the way to visit my grandparents before my grandmother died. 95 degrees, sunny, dry, and really windy. The farm field debris that blew across the interstate was amazing. That is what the wicked are like. They are unsteady, blowing around with every wind of doctrine, frightened by every bad report, driven by the winds of controversy and difficulty. Like uprooted, dead, light as a feather, debris blowing in the wind. But the happy, blessed person is strong, fruitful, and always renewed which is a product of the word of God that is delighted in.
The blessed, happy person looks ahead to the future with optimism
Of course, David contrasts again the blessed, happy man with the wicked or ungodly. Verses 5-6 say,
Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
The future of the wicked is bleak. The future for those who hate God is not bright. It is one of judgment and perishing. The word perishing doesn’t just mean to die physically. It means to be destroyed; And the scriptures are clear that ultimately to perish apart from Christ, is to be destroyed eternally, which I think is in view here.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
But, the person whose life is shaped by the word of God, delighting in and meditating on it, and whose life is bearing the fruit of the gospel, will have a bright outlook when they gaze upon the future. Look again at what the first part of verse 6 says, “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous (blessed)...”
The word “know”, Hebrews (Yada) means to know intimately or personally. It doesn’t mean that God simply takes in information in a passive way. Like he looks and sees what we are doing. It means that God is intimately involved. He intimately knows the righteous - those who trust him. And he knows the path, the way, the road they are on. And he knows because he is there leading and guiding them on the way, and it leads to his glorious presence forever. Which is why:
“The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” Proverbs 4:18
All of this is traced back to: the blessed person, the happy person who delights in and meditates on the word of God. Right? His mind is being shaped by it through meditation. And his heart is enlarged and shaped by it through delight. It’s the word of God that leads to Christ and brings life, refreshing, renewing, bears fruit, and ultimately gives eternal life.
And so if we would be the blessed men and women. If we would be blessed in our families. If we would be blessed, fruitful, and prosper in all our ways, we must be men, women, families, a church that is built upon the word of God. Meditating on it, delighting in it, strengthened by it because it will cause us to bear fruit and lead us to the eternal enjoyment of God through our Lord Jesus Christ forever. Let’s pray.