Psalm 1 Lynne McCarthy 1/3/22
Observe : This psalm (and the entire book) begins with a beatitude, ‘blessed’ (= ‘happy’) to describe the life of one whose decisions and actions result in blessing. This person chooses (in heart and mind) not to walk in the ways of sinners, stand in the company of the wicked, or sit scoffing at those for whom faith in God is foundational. This person finds true joy and life in absorbing the word of God. The image of a tree (the Tree of Life; the tree whose leaves heal the nations in the new Eden (Rev. 22)) planted by clear, flowing water, ideal conditions to grow and flourish, portrays this person.
In contrast, those who reject God’s word cannot expect to be grounded and strong but are lightweights, blown around by every wind of change and trend, finally simply disappearing, while the person tree-grounded in the Lord and His word will flourish for a long, long time.
Interpret: Derek Kidner writes that Psalm 1 was perhaps especially composed to be an introduction to the book, aspects of Wisdom literature in making right choices and the company one keeps. The bad advice one accepts, the wrong ways one chooses, and mocking that hardens against repentance show three ways to abandon the Lord’s company.
The entrance to the law of the Lord is concisely presented, with good results for those who choose to walk in it. The first stanza of this poem reminds us of the “sit, walk, stand” of Ephesians (2:6; 4:1; 6:11); in Watchman Nee’s book of this title he illustrates the position of the believer towards God. In the Psalm, the believer runs from these positions held by those who defy Him. The contrasts are simply presented but striking: law of the Lord vs wicked counsel; growth vs. dryness; grounded vs. windswept.
The images are glorious: a deep-rooted, fruitful tree, living organism, flowing water, seasonal fruit, long-lasting leaves (for healing the nations in Revelation 22); we see Isaiah’s delightful vision where “the trees of the fields will clap their hands” at the Lord’s presence; and in Jesus, bearing eternal-life fruit on that terrible tree, for our salvation. Studying and applying what is learned from Scripture produces fruit that nourishes and blesses.
Apply: This short, powerful Psalm introduces us to the practices of the Christ-way of life: what to avoid, what to embrace. The basis is in knowing Scripture (the Law of the Lord), reading it often. Maybe we can’t ponder “day and night” as the exemplary person of the Psalm, but we can turn to it, often. In it we find wisdom, direction, solace, joy, the Way, the Truth, the Life. Sharing with others what the Spirit reveals expands the wonder of God’s Word and work within and among us.
Avoiding “occasions of sin” via others, what we read and hear, where we go, and what we speak, will keep us growing and bearing fruit in season. This is where corporate prayer comes in; heartfelt confession in worship services or directly to others; accepting with gratitude the forgiveness of God and others, or where we are enabled to forgive. As we absorb the Word, these practices become part of us.
Ask: If I think carefully, how and where do I sit, walk, stand? Am I firmly planted in the Word so I can offer good fruit to those starving for real food? This new year, with the hope of real transformation, how will I bear fruit?
Pray: Lord, I love this tree! And, I want to love Your Word. Let me determine, day by day, to put aside my doings and turn to Your Word’s nourishment and life, to share with others who sit, walk or stand in other places than Yours. Draw them to Yourself, Lord Jesus, so they too may live.
Songs: Everything He Does Shall Prosper - Psalms Project
Psalm 1 - Poor Bishop Hooper
Psalm 1 - Sons of Korah
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.