Psalm One: Blessed is the Man
â€œ'Blessed is the man that hath not gone away in the counsel of the ungodly' (ver. 1). This is to be understood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Man.â€ So begins the great church father, Augustine of Hippo, in his landmark exposition of the Psalms. The great Genevan reformer, John Calvin, on the other hand, expresses his opinion that the psalmist here â€œinculcates upon all the godly the duty of meditating on the Law of Godâ€. While I am inclined to agree with Augustine, I cannot bring myself to disagree with Calvin. Augustine is certainly right; and because he is right, Calvin must necessarily be right also. Because Jesus Christ, whose meditation was always upon the Law of God, and who never walked in the counsel of the ungodly, was supremely blessed, therefore all the godly, who have been united to him, will also be blessed and glorified with him; but the ungodly will be blown away like chaff.
This first phrase of the first psalm introduces us already to that poetic device, very frequently met with hereafter, by which a singular, specific person is spoken of or addressed as an example or representative par excellence of the whole community. â€œThe godly person is blessed,â€ confesses David; â€œtherefore, all of you who, like this singular godly person, meditate on God's Law will be blessed together with himâ€. The specificity of the individual is made clear, but the corporate nature of the exhortation is not thereby lost, but rather emphasized. This individual spoken of is blessed not for his own sake alone, but as a seal and forerunner and visible proof of the blessedness of all others who prove to be such as he himself is.
Thus, we may find both hope and direction from this psalm by understanding it to be ultimately about Christ, the great antitype of David, and consequently about everyone who has been joined to Christ, and who follows in his steps. If it were just about all the saints in general, as if David had said, â€œBlessed are all those who do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly,â€ then it would provide direction with no hope, for we would all cry out, â€œAlas, how often have I walked after wicked counsel; and how then can I be blessed?â€. But if it were about Christ alone and not all the saints corporately, by virtue of their union with him, then it would provide false hope with no direction. â€œChrist has been blessed, so I too will be blessed, it matters not what I do â€“ let me run away to the ungodly as I desire, it will make no difference!â€. On the contrary, because it is about the blessed Christ, who entered his blessing by following a prescribed path, then it gives us direction to follow him, or rather to walk in union with him, his Spirit enabling us to come along as his mystical body; and it also gives us hope that, as he has already entered his blessedness, so we who do not run away to wickedness will be blessed also, however weak we may be.
This psalm, together with the following, has fitly been represented as the great foundation and gateway into the entire psalter; for it shows the enmity between the wicked and the righteous, the triumph of the godly Man and the final destruction of all the ungodly, the whole congregation of the righteous blessed eternally in the sight of the Lord; and all the psalms which follow build upon that foundation, and show the many ways in which the world hates and opposes Christ and all who are his, and how he overcomes them all, and brings all of the saints into their eternal reward with him.
As you read this psalm, then, dear Christian, look to Christ as the firmly planted Tree of Life, from whom flows ceaselessly the life-giving waters of his Holy Spirit, enabling all who follow after him and who are rooted in the soil of his love to thrive and be fruitful through every drought of sin and doubtful misgivings, and in spite of the scorching opposition of the wicked. Look to the end of the world, when the congregation of the righteous are found triumphant in Christ at last, and the wicked who thought to prevail are lighter than straw. And look most of all to Christ the God-Man, who, as the perfect example and forerunner, walked the same path that we now walk, and entered glory, and won a perfect blessing; so that we, being rooted in him and joined together with him, might assure ourselves of the same blessed end, come what may.