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 is like a tree / planted by streams of water / that yields its fruit in its season, / and its leaf does 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 the righteous, / but the way of the wicked will perish. [Psalm 1]
Many preachers use Psalm 1 to try to get people to read their Bibles. "Be like the prosperous man who delights in the law of the LORD," they say. "Don't be like the wicked who will perish," they say. But this Psalm uses no prescriptive language whatsoever. There are no imperatives, no commands. Psalm 1 is entirely descriptive. That fact alone ought to give us pause when we go to use it like a hammer and chisel to sculpt religious behavior.
What is being described here? The life of those called "righteous" in contrast with those called "wicked." What is the main difference between the righteous and the wicked? Is it the object of their delight? Is it the fruit of their labors? Is it the eternal destiny of their souls? No, the first thing that makes the righteous differ from the wicked is that the righteous are "blessed." The starting point of the "way of the righteous" is the blessing of God.
Literally speaking, there is only one person who thoroughly fulfills Psalm 1, whose delight is fully in the law of the LORD, who never walked in the counsel of the wicked, whose works always prosper, who is in himself "the way, the truth and the life" of the righteous. This is encouraging, because if I look at Psalm 1, then look just at myself, then look back and forth a few more times, I begin to wonder whether I can truly consider myself among the congregation of the righteous. But if I look to Jesus Christ with faith as the one who fulfilled Psalm 1 for me, then in him I have the full assurance of the benefits mentioned in the Psalm.
So Psalm 1 stands as a signpost at the beginning of "the little Bible" (Luther), the "epitome of the whole Scriptures" (Athanasius). The signpost reads, "All who enter here and delight have been made to do so by grace through faith in Jesus Christ."