The Blessed Man of Psalm One
Just a few days ago here on the blog Eric Costa wrote a brief but very insightful article about Psalm 1. I was very stirred by his writing and in fact am teaching a group of people tonight on this exact theme. I have made some written notes and share them on the blog here, in hope that it will be a blessing to you. - Rev. John Samson
1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. - Psalm 1:1-6
We have all heard a preacher use Psalm 1 to say "Be like the prosperous man who delights in the law of the LORD and not like the wicked who will perish." Yet, when we actually examine the text, it is interesting to note that there is no prescriptive language whatsoever. Read the Psalm through again and you will discover that the text does not actually tell us to DO anything. There are no imperatives, no commands. Psalm 1 is entirely descriptive language.
Eric Costa is quite right when he asks, â€œWhat is being described here in Psalm 1? 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.â€
As in the opening of the Sermon on the Mount, the book of Psalms opens with a blessing. Blessed means supremely happy or fulfilled â€“ Dr. James Montgomery Boice states that the Hebrew word for blessed here is actually plural, which â€œdenotes either a multiplicity of blessings or an intensification of them. The verse might be correctly translated, â€œO the blessednesses of the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.â€
The blessed man does not do certain things (negative) (v. 1) but takes his delight in Godâ€™s word (positive) (v. 2).
1) He does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly â€“ he receives wiser counsel.
2) He does not stand in the path of sinners. His company is more select â€“ he does not fellowship with evil (2 Cor. 6:14).
3) He does not sit in the seat of the scornful â€“ he does not listen to the scoffing and mockery of others
Positively, his delight is in the law of the Lord. This is what he thinks about. His mind is focused on scripture, day and night.
John Stott wrtites that this delight â€œis an indication of the new birth for â€˜â€¦ the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to Godâ€™s law, nor can it do soâ€™ (Rom. 8:7). As a result of the inward, regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, however, the godly find that they love the law of God simply because it conveys to them the will of their God. They do not rebel against its exacting demands; their whole being approves and endorses itâ€¦ Delighting in it, the godly will meditate in it, or pore over it, constantly, day and night.â€
This Psalm contrasts those who are in love with sin and those who love God.
The law of the Lord, in Davidâ€™s time, only referred to a few books, but now encompasses the entirety of the 66 book canon of the Bible. (2 Tim 3:16, 17)
v. 3 - This blessed man is likened to a tree planted - A tree does not plant itself. Someone else does the planting. It is the Father who plantsâ€¦.
Matthew 15:12 Then the disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?" 13 But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted.
This is a clear reference to Divine election. God does not plant everybody in this place of blessing. The blessed man has a new heart with new affections and new desires and a different focus, not because he thought of it or chose this path for himself, but because God first chose him and decided to plant him like a tree in a certain place â€“ making him the blessed man. Let us give thanks to God for His amazing effectual grace that drew us to Himself.
John 6:44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.â€
In revealing Godâ€™s electing purposes in choosing whom He will, Paul declares in Romans 9:
15 For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
1 Corinthians 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD."
John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
Planted by the rivers of water â€“ Rivers (plural) - God has multiple sources of water for the blessed man.
Brings forth fruit in season â€“ there are seasons in the Christian life, and the truly blessed and planted man will be fruitful, even in adversity. Nothing done in the name of the Lord will be without reward for this blessed man.
Whose leaf shall not wither â€“ not only is his fruit preserved but also his leaf.
Whatever he does shall prosper â€“ this can only be understood sometimes through the eye of faith. The persecutions and trails of the saint may seem to portray a lack of blessing at times, but not so in Godâ€™s sight â€“ blessing can be found in sorrow and loss. In all these things we are more than conquerors. â€œThe saintsâ€™ trials are divine farming that produces abundant fruit.â€ (C. H. Spurgeon)
THE CONTRAST - Whatever is true about the blessed man cannot be said about the ungodly.
Like the chaff â€“ â€œworthless, dead, unserviceable, without substance and easily carried away. This is their doom, the wind drives them away. Death with its terrible blast, will hurry them into the fire and they will be consumed.â€ (C. H. Spurgeon)
The wicked are like chaff. â€œThe picture here is of a threshing floor at the time of the grain harvest. The threshing floors of Palestine are on hills that catch the best breezes. Grain is brought to them, is crushed by animals or by threshing instruments that are drawn over it, then is pitched high into the air where the wind blows the chaff away. The heavier grain falls back into the threshing floor and is collected. The chaff is scattered or burned, and it is what the psalmist says those who live wickedly are like. The wicked are like chaff in two senses. Chaff is worthless, and chaff is burned. This pictures the futile, empty, worthless life of the godless, as well as their inevitable judgment." (James Montgomery Boice)
Standing in the court of Godâ€™s judgment they will not be acquitted. The unplanted man has no desire for heaven â€“ he would be out of his element. â€œLiving in a tree would be easier for a fish than living in Paradise would be for the wicked. Heaven would be an intolerable hellâ€¦â€ (CHS)
The Lord knows the way of the righteous. He is always mindful of them â€“ the very hairs of your head are numbered (Matt. 10:30). See Job 23:10.
But the way of the ungodly shall perish. (see Prov. 14:12) Both they and their way shall perish. â€œThe righteous carve their names on the rock, but the wicked write their memories in the sand.â€ (CHS)
Harry Ironside, the Bible teacher, told a story of a visit to Palestine years ago by a man named Joseph Flacks. He had an opportunity to address a gathering of Jews and Arabs and took for the subject of his address the first psalm. He read it and then asked the question: â€œwho is this blessed man of whom the psalmist speaks? This man never walked in the counsel of the wicked or stood in the way of sinners or sat in the seat of mockers. He was an absolutely sinless man.â€
Nobody spoke. So Flacks said, â€œWas he our great father Abraham?â€
One old man said, â€œNo, it cannot be Abraham. He denied his wife and told a lie about her.â€
â€œWell, how about the lawgiver Moses?â€
â€œNo,â€ someone said. â€œIt cannot be Moses. He killed a man, and he lost his temper by the waters of Meribah.â€
Flacks suggested David. It was not David.
There was silence for a while. Then an elderly Jew arose and said, â€œMy brothers, I have a little book here; it is called the New Testament. I have been reading it; and if I could believe this book, if I could be sure that it is true, I would say that the man of the first Psalm was Jesus of Nazareth.â€
Eric Costa writes, "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."
I look at my life and consider the guilty charge rightly pronounced upon me for my sin. I have no claim to be the blessed man of Psalm 1. Then I see One who fulfilled Psalm 1, the blessed Man, Jesus Christ, who loved His God with all His heart, soul, mind and strength. At the cross, the guilt due to me for violating Godâ€™s law and not delighting in itâ€¦ it all fell upon Him, He was punished in my place, and He was made to be the curse so that I might receive the blessing (Gal 3: 13, 14).
Note the blessed man of Romans 4:4-9 :
4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. 8 "BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT." 9 Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, "FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS."
God the Father picked us out and planted us as His trees; Jesus the Savior bore our sin in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2: 24), our guilt was transferred to Him, and His righteousness - the righteousness of One who has fulfilled this Psalm and every other thing God has ever demanded - was imputed or transferred to us (2 Cor 5:21). This alone is our rejoicing before God. It is all by His doing that we are now in Christ Jesus.
The blessed man (Christ), has made me a blessed man.. and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.