One of my spiritual passions has been reading the Psalms. As a worship leader I have always felt that the Psalms were especially relevant to my ministry.
Once a month I will be sharing a Psalm with you, not because I consider myself an expert, but purely because it is my favorite book of scripture and I hope I can pass a little of the joy and encouragement I find in the Psalms.
Today we begin with Psalm 1.
The Psalms are masterpieces of literature, but many of the compositional devices are hidden to the English reader.
The Psalms are divided into five books. The first and last psalms in Book 1 begin with the work Blessed or “happy”. These form bookends to the first book as a whole reminding us that happiness can only be found in God.
Many psalms place their main theme at the center and this psalm follows that pattern. The central word is “in season”. God will bless the faithful in season. You may not see the blessing today, but in God's time the blessing with come!
But the broader 15 word center (in the Hebrew text) – the central word plus 7 on each side – lists all 4 benefits of the righteous. Read further to learn about these benefits.
One final structural device is the use of the Aleph-taw technique. The author begins the psalm with a word starting with Aleph (the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet) and ends it with Taw (the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet). This techniques symbolically expresses the completeness of the text.
This psalm is in the style of wisdom literature, like Proverbs. It is intended to teach us truth in a poetic form.
Verses 1-2 describe what the righteous person is like, verse 3 talks about the destiny of the righteous and verse 4-5 the destiny of the wicked. Verse 6 summarizes the Psalm.
The Righteous Person
The psalm begins by saying "Blessed is the man who ..." Don't read any further without personalizing this message. It is so easy to read without applying. Read it as "Blessed (Happy) am I if I ..." Now that the psalm is personal, lets see how you or I can be blessed.
How can I be blessed by God? Psalm 1:1-2
- Reject the way of sinners. The progression from walk to stand to sit reflects a growing relationship with sinners and their ways. The blessed person rejects the path on which sinners walk and never spends enough time on that path to sit down and become one of them.
- Delight in God's Word. Blessing comes from loving God's Word so much that we meditate on it day and night. The word for "meditate" in the original Hebrew actually has the idea of muttering. The picture is of one who is constantly repeating the words of God all day long - intently considering their meaning.
- Steadfastness. You will be able to stand firm no matter what life brings because you have deep roots into God's Word and the stream of His Spirit.
- Fruitfulness. You will see fruit in your life as you live out His Word. Your life will be changed for the better and those around you also.
- Health. Your leaf will not wither. The storms of life will not destroy your fruitfulness. You will be able to be spiritually healthy in all circumstances. Your spiritual health is not based on circumstances but rather upon God's Word.
- Prosperity. For me this is the hardest part of the psalm to interpret. We know from personal experience and biblical examples that just because we delight in God we are not guaranteed that everything we do will succeed. So what does this mean? I believe God does prosper one who delights in His Word, but that prosperity may not always be the type of prosperity we normally think about. The Apostle Paul, for example, did not prosper financially or physically (see 2 Corinthians 11:25-27), but he surely prospered in his missionary efforts, his continued influence on all Christians through his epistles and his emotional well-being (Philippians 4:11-13). In fact I believe the definition is found in the previous verse. God will give you steadfastness, fruitfulness and spiritual health.
The Wicked Person
Notice the contrast between the righteous and the wicked:
- The wicked are unstable, like chaff blown away by the wind of God's judgement. The righteous are steadfast like a tree.
- The wicked are under judgement. The righteous are fruitful and prosperous.
- Notice the play on the word "stand". Do not stand with the sinner (verse 1) because the wicked cannot stand (verse 5).
- The wicked will perish. The righteous are healthy - their leaf does not wither.
Why is this true? Psalm 1:6
The righteous are blessed because God knows them. The idea here is that God knows you intimately because you delight in His commands. If you delight in God's Word then you are under God's protective and prospering eye!