Imagine with me two trees. The first one is lush, green and full of fruit. The second tree is the complete opposite – It is brown, barren and fruitless. The contrast is unmistakable. One tree is noticeably alive, while the second is clearly dead. Now, think about your own life and your personal relationship with the Lord. Which tree best illustrates your life?
That is the word picture painted in Psalm 1. Is your life well-watered, verdant and fruitful? Or is your life dry, chaffy and fruitless? The distinction between the two is clear. You cannot be both. You are either blessed and blossoming or you are barren and bereft of life.
Psalm 1 is the perfect beginning to this book of Psalms. Written anonymously, the psalmist lays the foundation for what follows. He shows us that the righteous are truly contrasted with the wicked. The two are as far apart as life is from death, and as paradise is from the grave.
Psalm 1 is one of the few wisdom psalms. Its structure is more like a proverb than many of its counterparts in the Psalter. That has lead some to speculate that this first Psalm was written by Solomon. Maybe as Solomon collected the writings of his father David and others, he decided to write his own Psalm as an introduction.
Whether written by David or by Solomon, this Psalm begins with an Old Testament Beatitude or a blessing – Blessed is the man/ woman. This first phrase instantly reminds us of the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. Both passages describe the true happiness or blessedness that is experienced by the person who puts their trust in the Lord.
Notice that there is a negative exhortation of what the righteous do not do, followed by a positive account of what the righteous are like.
Interestingly every waking position is covered in the psalmist’s description. Whether walking, standing or sitting, the righteous person is careful not to be influenced by the wicked, sinners and scoffers. The admonition is that we need to be on guard all of the time. There is no time or position in which we are not vulnerable.
– The word wicked is a general term that embraces all kinds of unrighteousness.
– The term sinners refers to those who miss the mark. In living their life the way that they please they divert from the path laid out in God’s Law.
– Scoffers speaks of those who mock and deride righteousness. They treat virtue and God’s Law with contempt and scorn.
The blessed person is vigilant against such people. She is wary of those who live in a way that dishonors God and could potentially redirect her from righteousness. Though not isolated from the world, she insulates herself from those who may cause her spiritual harm.
The term Law is the Hebrew word Torah, which generally refers to an instruction, precept or command given by God. It also speaks specifically of the first five books of the Old Testament. Admittedly, God’s instructions or God’s laws outlined in the Pentateuch are not generally viewed as the most enjoyable portions of our Bibles. Yet, the Psalmist clearly states that the blessed man doesn’t just read God’s Law, but that he DELIGHTS in it.
What a convicting thought! That truth has completely changed the way that I approach the beginning of my Bible. Previously, I viewed Genesis through Deuteronomy as a part of God’s Word that must be read, but not enjoyed. Every year, I plowed my way through it; forcing myself to read it. I have to admit that although I read most of it, there were parts that I skipped over (i.e. the descriptions of the Tabernacle in Exodus or the census reports of Deuteronomy). I confess that I fulfilled my DUTY by reading it, but never DELIGHTED in it.
There must be a unique beauty and value in God’s Law that in my humanness I often fail to see. I am asking the Holy Spirit to change my perspective, to give me a love for His Law.
God’s truth must be digested slowly. That is what is meant by the word “meditates.” The Hebrew term literally means to growl, utter or murmur. The idea being that we talk to ourselves about the passage, allowing its truth to be repeated in our minds and hearts over and over again.
In other words, God’s Law must be savored slowly like a perfectly grilled steak. You can eat an expensive piece of meat quickly, but it is relished so much more when slowly eaten, allowing the flavor of the meat to sink into your palate.
Let me challenge you to read God’s Word slowly. The goal is not to read as much as you can as fast as you can. Don’t rush through it; rather, savor it. Allow the Holy Spirit to permeate you mind and heart with the delicious flavor of God’s inspired Word. That is how you can truly DELIGHT in it.
Have you ever had a thought you just couldn’t get out of your mind? Maybe you continually replay a conversation you had that day, or you dream about an upcoming vacation. Whatever the thought, It occupies your ruminations all day and even keeps you awake at night. Now imagine, if you allowed the truth of God’s Word to dominate your thoughts that way.
There are added benefits as well. By dwelling on and meditating upon God’s Word, you free your mind from thinking sinful or impure thoughts. That is what David had in mind when he wrote in Psalm 119:11 – “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
In verse three we come to the tree simile that was mentioned at the beginning of this article. The point being that the person who departs from wicked influences and truly delights in God’s word is blessed, flourishing and fruitful. That truth is shown in two ways.
You will be fruitful and flourishing.
That is the picture that the psalmist paints. The tree located by streams or canals of water is constantly nourished and fed. The tree is healthy and leafy. That metaphor beautifully illustrates the life of the blessed person. It does not mean to indicate a life free from problems, but rather that even in the midst of life’s struggles the blessed person is emotionally healthy. His/her spiritual life is green with growth, leafy with health, and productive with spiritual fruit.
You will be prosperous.
The Hebrew term is “Tsalach.” It is used 55 times in the Old Testament and communicates the idea of success or victory. The same term is used in Joshua 1:8 in relation to meditating and obeying God’s word.
Joshua 1:8 – This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it, for then you will make your PROSPEROUS and then you will have good SUCCESS.
Some commentators have gone so far as to speculate that the psalmist was meditating on Joshua 1:8 as he penned the words of Psalm 1:3. Although, we cannot know that for certain, we do see the clear similarities between those two verses. Both demonstrate that God-given prosperity comes from delighting in and obeying God’s law.
The Bible is filled with verses that affirm the truth that meditation upon and obedience to God’s word results in blessing and success. (Deuteronomy 4:1; Mathew 7:26, 27; John 15:10, 11). To the Israelites, Psalm 1 meant obeying the laws of the Torah, but to modern day Christians, living out the truths of Psalm 1 means to follow Jesus. It is only as we follow Him, obey Him and emulate His life that we can truly be prosperous.
So as we conclude, Let me ask you to pause for second and examine your life. Is your life well-watered, verdant and fruitful? Or is your life dry, chaffy and fruitless?? Can you say you are emotionally health and spiritually vibrant? Is the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23) visible in your life? That is what God desires to produce in and through you.
Let me challenge you to plant yourself beside the life-giving water of His Word and watch Him do a work of grace in your life.