Biblical Theology Weekly Bible Study Psalm 1:1-6. Rooted in God's Blessing

From: "Biblical Theology Weekly Bible Study" <editor@biblicaltheology.com>
Subject: Biblical Theology Weekly Bible Study Psalm 1:1-6. Rooted in God's Blessing
Date: June 3rd 2017

Psalm 1:1-6.
Rooted in God's Blessing

American Journal of Biblical Theology, www.biblicaltheology.com
Copyright © 2017, Dr. John W. (Jack) Carter     Scripture quotes from KJV


When we consider the state of the church today, the state of individual Christians, or even the state of our own life, we may come away with a realization that many people of faith are engaged in this journey of life with conflicted loyalties.  As people of faith, all are called to give their lives to the LORD and by so doing realize all of the blessings that God intends for those who are faithful.  However, we all came to faith from a lifestyle that was self-centered, faithless, and immersed in this secular and pagan world that is fully characterized by godlessness.  It is often very difficult to leave all of its influence behind. While sincere in our faith, we are still immersed in this godless culture and the combined forces of its current influence and the influence of our past serve together to make the Christian experience quite challenging. 

The consequences of maintaining a relationship with the “world” are significant for a person of faith.  The LORD has promised abundant life, a life that is full of the blessings associated with God’s love, including a peace and joy that is found in no other source.  Yet many Christians are not experiencing the fullness of that love, peace, and joy because they are still subjecting themselves to the authorities of this lost world. 

One of the best resources a faithful Christian has that can help to overcome the influence of cultural and historical sin is the Word of God, and the most accessible source of that Word is the Bible.  Consequently, deliberate and focused Bible study is one of the most important habits of a person of faith.  Much of our study is often focused on the New Testament gospels and letters, or on the Old Testament history and law.  The gospels help us to understand God’s purpose and plan of the salvation of all people who turn to Him in faith.  The letters provide us with instruction that helps us to identify erroneous doctrine and learn godly behavior.  History give us context for understanding God’s plan and purpose, and the Law exposes the sin of the lost and illustrates godly living for the saved.  However, in our “study” we often neglect one of the most dynamic books of the Bible: the Psalms.

The book of Psalms is a collection of ancient prose, poetry, and musical lyrics that were used by the early Israelites in their worship.  One could almost refer to the book of Psalms as the biblical “songbook.”  Though we attribute many of the chapters to the writings of King David, little is known about the identity of its authors.  The 150 individual chapters contain many different writing styles and genres.  Some utilize Hebrew rhyme where ideas are rhymed rather than word sounds.  Some contain a meter, or repeating beat, while others do not.  Some Psalms are simply outbursts of praise, where others are confessions of sin and desperation.  Some Psalms are full of wisdom, where others are almost whimsical.  No study of scripture is complete without including the Psalms.

The first chapter of the book of Psalms, or the “first Psalm” is an excellent introduction to the study.  Where we have some expectations from any introduction to poetry and lyric, we are immediately exposed to a short selection of wisdom literature that contains no rhyme, and no meter.  This first Psalm presents a contrast between the nature of those people who love the LORD and those who do not.  This “bad guy – good guy” theme is common in both the Psalms and the book of Proverbs and is intended to provide the reader with an opportunity for introspection.  We can observe illustrations of godly behavior and identify some of it in our own lives, finding encouragement for our successes and guidance for our failures.  The same introspection can take place as we observe ungodly behaviors as their presentation may shine light on our own shortcomings and encourage us to change.

Psalm 1:1.  Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

The Hebrew word that is rendered as “blessed” refers to a deep, joyful, and pervasive happiness.  Virtually everyone is engaged in activities that serve to promote their own happiness, often seeking to find it through money, possessions, power, or in the mix of human relationships.  However, God created us to have a relationship with Him and when he “breathed” life into us He gave us an eternal soul that is never satisfied without a relationship with Him.  It is this nature of spirituality that separates man from every other creature on earth.  It is this nature of spirituality that offers every person an opportunity to realize true happiness.  The first Psalm, an introduction to the remaining 150 chapters, speaks directly to that opportunity for finding the happiness that we search for.  This first verse speaks to three very specific characteristics of one who finds happiness.

1.  Walks not in the counsel of the ungodly.  The word “walks” is a reference to the lifestyle of the one “walking.”  One’s “walk” is evident by the choices they make in life, choices that determine its direction and its priorities.  If one is to find true happiness, it cannot be found by accepting the narratives of this ungodly world.  To “walk in the counsel” is to place one’s self under the authority of the counselor.  Happiness will never be found when one is submitted to the authorities of this world.

2.  Stands not in the manner of sinners.  Where the walk describes your lifestyle, your “stand” represents what defines you as a person.  “Walk” describes your lifestyle, where “stand” defines your nature.  True happiness is never found when one stands for that which is ungodly and sinful.  We are bombarded and immersed today in the “counsel of the ungodly” as social media has given a voice to every narrative that stands against the word of God.  In order to find acceptance by our modern culture many Christians, as well as many church denominations have surrendered to those ungodly narratives, accepting as normative that which is clearly contrary to God’s word.  They have chosen to stand in the manner of sinners, and their choice to do so will never bring them peace.  

3.  Sit in the seat of scoffers.  We may note the progression of the verbs that are used in these three clauses: walking, standing, and sitting.  “Sitting” carries the idea of where one has chosen to stop and build their life.  It is one’s home, a place where one chooses to remain.  The word rendered “scornful” or “scoffers” refers to those people who take a deliberate stand against the LORD in a proactive and visible rejection of His kingdom, His authority, and His gospel.  One will never find happiness when they build their life around a deliberate and systematic rejection of God.

This first verse speaks to how happiness is NOT found.  Verse 2 begins to provide a contrast as it describes how happiness IS found.        

Psalm 1:2.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

Happiness is found in a personal relationship with the God who created us.  One who loves the LORD also loves His Word.  This is a dramatic contrast from the nature of the life described in verse one.  The Law of the LORD means more than simply embracing the Mosaic Law as described in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy.  The Law of the LORD represents His authority, and His authority is made know to us through His Word, whether it is written, revealed, or illuminated. 

  1. A person who finds his delight in the Word of God is not one who walks in the counsel of the ungodly since he has chosen to walk in the counsel of the Word. 

  2. A person who finds delight in the Word of God is not one who stands in the way of sinners since he finds no delight in it. 

  3. A person who finds delight in the Word of God does not sit in the seat of scoffers because he is filled with love and praise for the LORD.

One who delights in the Word of God enjoys immersion in it.  He will not only spend a great deal of time and energy in the study and application of God’s Word, but also allows it to inform his decisions both day and night.  God’s Word serves as a filter through which the truly happy person sees his world.  He compares the normal experiences of each day with its application to the Word.  Consequently, it is on His mind day and night simply because it becomes the nature of his mind to do so.  This immersion in the Word of God serves to reveal to the individual those influences of this world that would serve to rob him of his joy in the LORD and guide him in the ways to avoid them.

Psalm 1:3.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Again, God created us to have a relationship with Him, and to receive all of the blessings that come with that relationship.  The one who the writer describes is that person who delights in the Word of God.  Ancient Israel, just as today, was mostly an arid region.  Trees and shrubs tended to be stunted by a lack of consistent water.  Fruit-bearing trees were often barren, or produced small and stunted fruit.  Just as the writer provided three characteristics of one who loves the Word of God, he provides three benefits of this choice of a God-centered life.  

  1. A tree planted by the rivers.  One can identify a stream or pond across the distances of a desert by the greenery that surrounds it.  A tree that is planted in the moist soil on the edge of a fresh-water river receives all of the moisture that it needs to grow mature and strong, and produce the fruit that it is in its nature to do.  Like the water that nurtures the roots of the trees, the Word of God provides life-giving nurture to the one who receives it.  The purpose of the tree is to mature and bear fruit.  Likewise, the purpose of each person is to come into a saving relationship with God so that they can also mature and bear fruit: fruit of godliness, the fruit of righteousness that the LORD intends.  The bearing of godly fruit is in the nature of a faithful believer.

  2. His leaf shall not wither.  The steady supply of water is provided to the tree that is rooted by the stream.  Likewise, the steady stream of nurture is given to those who love the Word of God and remain in it.  A tree that is removed from the water fails to receive the water it needs and its leaves, that when healthy are full of water, become dry and withered.  Likewise the faithful believer is to be continually filled with the water of God’s Word, and one who remains in it will remain forever filled.

  3. He will prosper.  This line is often taken out of context to argue that prosperity is found in placing one’s faith in the LORD.  However, the context of this passage demands that we consider the tree, the roots, and the river.  When one delights in the Law of the LORD and remains in it, every choice that one makes is consistent with that Word.  Consequently, the promise of prosperity is not referring to the accumulation of worldly possessions, but quite the opposite.  One who is rooted in the Word of God will prosper in the blessings that God has promised: love, peace, and joy.  It is these blessings that inform the life of the faithful believer and it is the product of these blessings in which true prosperity is found.

The one who loves the LORD and delights in His Word, like the tree by the river, is firmly rooted in Him, and continually receives the benefit of a true relationship with God, the Creator of this universe.

Psalm 1:4.  The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

However, those who have chosen to reject the LORD have no such roots, and no such nourishment.  Their roots are limited to what this world has to offer, and this is a world that is unstable, unpredictable, and evil.  A tree that lacks deep and solid roots is easily blown over in a strong wind.  Likewise, one who is not rooted in the Word as the LORD has given, is limited to what this world can provide, which is week and transitory. 

The writer of the Psalm likens this to the chaff that is discarded during the process of threshing wheat.  When the ancients would harvest their wheat, they would gather it on a “threshing floor” where they would beat the grain, separating the wheat from the chaff.  If the threshing took place on a windy day, they could simply toss the chaff in the air and allow the wind to take it away, significantly assisting the process of separation of the wheat from the chaff. 

This world is like that threshing floor, and by the LORD’s design, it serves to separate the “wheat” from the “chaff,” as it serves to separate the faithful from those who reject God.  Like the process with wheat, the separation process can be difficult and uncomfortable as we are continually buffeted by every evil, prejudice, injustice, and wind of doctrine that would serve to separate us from the LORD.  Those who reject the LORD are swept away, and like the chaff that is overwhelmed by the power of the wind, they are overwhelmed by the evil power of this world, and find themselves separated from God in this world, and in the next. 

When one delights in the Word of God and is deeply rooted in it, the evil, prejudice, injustice, and winds of doctrine of this world dramatically lose their influence.  When one delights in the LORD he/she has no interest in being separated from Him, regardless of the cost.  When one meditates on the Word day and night, one’s knowledge of it serves to expose the false doctrine and false narratives of this world, and they also lose their influence.   

Psalm 1:5.  Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

The context of this verse illustrates that the idea of “standing” is related to one’s being deeply rooted in the Word of God.  The ungodly are characterized as those who are not so deeply rooted, and like the tree that is blown down in a storm, or the chaff that is blown away by the wind, they will not be able to stand in the final judgment when the LORD separates the godly from the ungodly, condemning the ungodly to eternal separation from God.   

The ability to stand before the LORD in the final judgment is found only one way: through faith in God.  Though we will all stand before God with our unrighteous acts and attitudes exposed, God has promised complete forgiveness for those who have placed their faith and trust in Him, a forgiveness that is found only in the work of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, YAHWEH in the flesh, as He was crucified on the Cross of Calvary.  All who come before the LORD devoid of faith in Him come without that promise of forgiveness.  We live in a world that is replete with literally thousands of world religions and faiths, and practitioners of all of these will find themselves before the LORD in the final judgment.  Regardless of their sincerity to their religion, or their long list of good works that were inspired by their beliefs, if they have not come to the LORD in sincere faith and trust, they will come without forgiveness, hearing upon that judgment the words, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”

In a poetic rhyme, the writer states that the ungodly will not stand with the “congregation of the righteous,” repeating this same idea.  However, with this statement we are given an image of an immense congregation of people, representative of all of the people of faith from the first faithful person to the final conversion at the end of the age.  Among this number no ungodly individual will be found.  The spirit of evil, which is so pervasively held in this world in the hearts of the ungodly, will be completely and forever gone from the congregation.  All evil and all of its influence will be forever separated from God, and separated from the congregation, cast into the “lake of fire,”  a metaphor for a separated place where only evil reigns; a place where the Holy Spirit no longer influences or draws the people to salvation.  This is one truth that should cause the ungodly to rethink their priorities, recognizing that the fruit of their unfaithfulness to the LORD will result in their eternal torment.  It should also cause the faithful to praise the LORD for the wonderful gift of salvation that He has provided that, while we were yet sinners, Christ dies for us that we might have an eternal relationship with a loving and graceful God.

Psalm 1:6.  For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

The idea that is presented in the word, “knoweth,” involves a complete and eternal knowledge.  It is a knowledge that engages an intimate relationship.  When the Old Testament uses this word to describe the relationship between a man and a woman, children are produced.  The LORD has an eternal relationship with the righteous.  They “way” that they will find at the final judgment is one that involves an eternal relationship with the LORD.  The “way” of the righteous is often given the name, “heaven.”

However, the “way” of the ungodly is one that is separated from that relationship with God.  Even the unrighteous who live on this earth today are recipients of the grace and love of God.  Every heartbeat and every breath that is known to every person is a gift of God’s graceful design.  The air we breathe and the food we eat is all provided by Him through His grace as He created an environment within which we can all thrive, both the righteous and the unrighteous.  However, the “way” of the ungodly will be devoid even of these, as God removes His influence through the means of complete, utter, and eternal separation from those who chose to separate themselves from Him.  The “way” of the ungodly is to “perish,” in a state of eternal torment.

The six verses of Psalm 1 serve as an introduction to the remaining 149 chapters.  Though this chapter may lack the meter and rhyme of ancient Hebrew poetry, it certainly sets down a foundation of truth upon which the remaining prose and poetry can stand.  It presents a stark contrast between the condition, nature, and future of those who love the LORD and those who do not.  It presents a description of the blessed state of those who choose to immerse themselves in the LORD who they love and the wretched state of those who choose to reject God and take that rejection to the grave.  This is the context upon which the Psalms are written.  With this understanding, we can truly celebrate the grace and love of God as we give to Him our lives, our allegiance, and our praise.      

 

Bibliography


Anderson, George Wishart.  Note on Psalm 1:1.  Vetus testamentum, 24 no 2 Apr 1974, p 231-233.

Apple, Raymond.  The happy man of Psalm 1.  Jewish Bible Quarterly, 40 no 3 Jul - Sep 2012, p 179-182.

Arbez, Edward P.  A study of Psalm 1.  The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 7 no 4 Oct 1945, p 398-404.

Brownlee, William Hugh.  Psalms 1-2 as a coronation liturgy.  Biblica, 52 no 3 1971, p 321-336.

Bullough, Sebastian.  Question of metre in Psalm 1.  Vetus testamentum, 17 no 1 Jan 1967, p 42-49.

Cole, Robert Luther.  An integrated reading of Psalms 1 and 2.  Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 26 no 4 Jun 2002, p 75-88

Cox, Claude E.  When Torah embraced wisdom and song: Job 28:8, Ecclesiastes 12:13, and Psalm 1:2.  Restoration Quarterly, 49 no 2 2007, p 65-74.

Craigie, Peter C.  Psalms 1-50.  Word Biblical Commentary.  Waco: TX.  1983.

Creach, Jerome F. D.  Like a Tree Planted by the Temple Stream: The Portrait of the Righteous in Psalm 1:3.  The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61 no 1 Jan 1999, p 34-46.

Lussier, Ernest.  The New Latin Psalter: an exegetical commentary I Psalms 1 and 2.  The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 9 no 2 Apr 1947, p 226-234.

Reif, Stefan C.    Ibn Ezra on Psalm 1:1-2.  Vetus testamentum, 34 no 2 Apr 1984, p 232-236.

Thomas, Marlin E.  Psalms 1 and 112 as a paradigm for the comparison of wisdom motifs in the Psalms.  Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 29 no 1 Mar 1986, p 15-24.

Tuell, Steven Shawn.  Psalm 1.  Interpretation, 63 no 3 Jul 2009, p 278-280.

Willis, John T.  Psalm 1: an entity.  Zeitschrift fu¨r die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 91 no 3 1979, p 381-401.


 

Genesis 2:7.

John 10:10.

Revelation, Chapter 20.

Matthew 7:23.

Revelation 19:20, 20:10, 14-15.

Romans 5:8.

Matthew 13:20.

Matthew 8:12, 13:42,50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30; Luke 13:28.

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Written each week by our publisher and editor, John W. (Jack) Carter, these are original, researched, commentaries that may be used for individual study or small-group discussion.
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