PSALM 1: A Blueprint

I recall so clearly sitting in the room for one of my very first seminary classes when the professor walked in and asked us to turn to Psalm 1. Every day, we paused to pray a Psalm just as we did this day. Psalm 1, however, remains locked in my heart and mind like no other passage of Scripture ever has. It is because of my previous inexperience  studying the Psalms and how the Lord subsequently used this particular passage in my life that I was first inspired to write this series. Therefore, I’m happy to introduce to you the Psalm Series. Every other week for the next year, you will find a short exposition and/or reflection on a particular Psalm.

“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. He will be like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaves do not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
Psalm 1

What comes to life for me in this passage is the imagery. It is as though the psalmist has given for us a blueprint. Look with me: “Blessed is the man who WALKS not in the council of the wicked nor STANDS in the way of sinners, nor SITS in the seat of scoffers;” (v.1). A helpful word to understand what this passage means by “blessed” is to read flourishing; so, we have the idea that “flourishing is the man” who does not do this! But what of the following? It seems to me that we have a clear progression of waywardness. To go from walking to standing and then to sitting, implies a patterned lifestyle that would entertain sin. It begins first in the mind, as we listen to counsel. This unrighteous counsel infects our hands, thus we find ourselves giving in to temptation and sin. And finally, once sin has “taken root” (James 1:15), we see it affect our hearts as our affections for Christ grow cold and our commitment to Him waning.

Instead, the psalmist reminds us to be like the tree. The tree is a metaphoric representation of the virtue of remaining steadfast in righteousness. This is a common theme in the blessing/curse paradigm in Scripture. How will one be blessed? By pursuing that which makes one blessed. It isn’t simply transactional. Instead, God asks for our heart and that kind of holiness demands our becoming like him both in our obedience to his Law and the pursuit of holy virtue. Therefore, Psalm 1 has an aretelogical (virtue-forming) component; it instructs us to build habits that might lead to our being blessed. What will be the result? A prosperity we can count on. A tree firmly planted near streams will yield fruit because it is nourished and free of any harm. Likewise, we will yield the fruit of righteousness as we direct our steps away from wickedness and plant ourselves near the everlasting stream.

How, then, do we be like the tree? Meditate on God’s Word day and night. Don’t read it, study it. Memorize it. Let it grow in you the roots of a mighty oak that on that Day, by the work and grace of Christ alone (Jude 1:24), you will be presented blameless.

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