"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « The Puritan Library | Main | The Hidden Treasure (3 -- Finding the Gold: C. A Survey of the Fields in Which it is to be Sought) »

    Psalm 1

    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."

    Posted by Eric Costa on February 14, 2008 02:17 AM


    some very interesting insights. You are right in that pastors use this text to get people to act a certain way. I never really thought of it this way before. Awesome!


    you see, this does not help me or advance my kingdom one bit or wit!

    It really has only been in the last several years that God has been sinking down into my gully of thought with regard to this matter.

    Although I have to say that He has not left Himself without a Witness continually whispering in my spiritual ears too, drawing me out of myself.

    I use to read Psalm 1 and get up and rejoice and do something! Now I am just utterly amazed at how deceived I have become once enlightened to His forgiving Grace.

    It never fails, God's love. My flesh never fails either!!!grrrr

    So what is a glory sucker seeker like myself going to do about it?

    Nothing now. Oh how hard it is to read your article and sit and realize there is no imperatives in the Psalm! What? Don't tell me I have been quite deceived! grrrr.

    Well, it's true.

    I read this story on another website about a Minister who traveled to England to visit the church of a famous and well known Minister. The story goes something like this::::>

    After the service all where singing his praise saying how wonderful a speaker this guy is and how "blessed" these people were attending his church services!

    Then in the same Sunday, at evening, this same visitor goes and hears Spurgeon preach on the cruel and awful consequences of violating the Law of Righteousness and what awaits them for failing to keep the whole Law perfectly and then in the same sermon proclaim how sweet the Gospel is when the Law is alive in you.

    To a man, woman and child, the visitor reported, after Spurgeon was finished preaching, all were singing the Praises of God's Grace, Mercy and Peace and what a wonderful Savior Jesus is!

    Thanks for bringing this important and very very timely point to our senses. I pray some will get ahold of this Truth in Him and let what He did be enough and no more, saying and believing, "it's done" and there is nothing left to do but serve lovingly mankind now!

    O that I would be blessed like the Psalm 1 man


    I understand that you are contending for the doctrine of Sola Fide here, but I don't think understanding Psalm 1 as a 'how to' for the believer to be blessed is wrong.

    Sometimes, descriptive words can be used in a prescriptive way. For example, let's suppose I say to my son, "Young men who backtalk their mothers get in trouble, young men who honor their mothers enjoy their life." The sentence is certainly descriptive, but my son perfectly understands what he is supposed to do. In this case my descriptive words are prescriptive.

    I certainly liked your last statement,- "All who enter here and delight have been made to do so by grace through faith in Jesus Christ." All of us who have been saved by the grace of Jesus Christ are blessed. Blessed with and thankful for the new nature we have been given, which desires after true righteousness and holiness.

    We should not be afraid then, to preach or teach the commands of the bible knowing that believers will delight in them when the law is used in its function as a Guide.

    Jesus himself told us to teach his commands.

    "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:19

    "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. " Matthew 28:20

    I can't help but think the Psalmist as he writes Psalm 1 is meditating on Joshua 1:9 "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. "

    So, we keep God's commands first and foremost because of the blessing of being saved. Beyond that, we know as believers that God has promised to bless our obedience when we are faithful to him and obey His commands. The apostles where not afraid to teach in this way. For example, Peter and James.

    "For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil." 1 Peter 3:10-12

    "But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." James 1:25

    I can't help but see how Peter and James exhortations go right along with Psalm 1. And preachers who preach Psalm 1 with an attitude of love and concern for their flocks knowing they will be blessed if the meditate on God's Word, are doing what they are called to do.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that I basically agree with the second half of your post. But, the first half seems to chastise preachers who seek to direct their people to seek God in His Word. I don't think this is right.

    In Him,



    Thanks for your comment. I certainly wasn't saying that it's wrong to direct people to seek God in his Word. Only that I've heard this Psalm abused by those who reduce it to a command to read the Word in order to not be wicked. You don't get blessed because you delight in the Word, you delight in the Word because you have been blessed.

    Eric, Where does one find the "Law of the Lord" in which he delights? How can he delight in the "Law of the Lord" if he doesn't read it?


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