But first a story about the Scottish Pastor Alexander Whyte. When he was addressing a group of theological students, he said, "Ah! I envy you young men with your ministry before you., and especially that you ahead a lifetime of explaining the Psalms to your people!" His delight and and satisfaction in providing a exposition on the Psalms began at the very outset.
"Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners,
not sits in the seats of scoffers. (verse 1)
Blessed. It's a beautiful word that announces a sense of well-being, wholeness, happiness.
Jesus used this word eight times in the Sermon on the Mount. He laid out eight ways to be blessed that the listeners hadn't thought of before. Here is one of many instances that Christ captured the Psalms.
The psalmist says we are blessed when we do not walk in the counsel of the wicked. As we travel in faith, we are surrounded by others who counsel, advise, urge us in ways that guarantee our happiness. Their advice is supported with statistics and documents. Have you (and I) learned to not be impressed. We are learning to listen to a different drummer.
We are also blessed if we do not stand in the way of sinners. An easier way of understanding this is to not stand around or hangout with those who aren't going anywhere. They are "in the way" but each one stands making small talk. They have plans, dream up projects, are great conversationalists, but if we listen long enough, we realize it is mostly hot air.
We do not in the seat of scoffers either. A seat is a place to deliberate, to make judgments, to render decisions. Scoffers look down on others who have't the sense to take a position. They sit together with the know-it-alls. It's a place of cynicism, gossip, and superficial witticisms. No judge sits over them and no counsel informs them. They hold nothing in authority but their own so-called cleverness. Spurgeon, the famous British preacher, called them the "Doctors of Damnation" (The Treasury of David).
It's important to note that there are three rejected ways of living. They descend from "walk", "stand" and finally "sit". It can go from activity to passivity, from the dynamic to to sedentary, sluggish immobility, internal imprisonment.
The blessed way of life is then elaborated in two phrases:
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night. (verse 2)
We are brought into the world of the Word made flesh. The world of revelation, the Scriptures, and Jesus. It is not superstition or guesswork. It's a world where there is a personal relationship between a God who is involved in our salvation. Our salvation that is revealed in the Sinai Law of Moses, the preaching of the prophets and apostles, and the good news revealed in Jesus.
We take delight in this through meditation. This does not mean to just read it or just memorize it. Meditate gives the connotation that it is something monks and nuns do in their monasteries or what you might do in contemplating a beautiful sunset. It's something you do when you are serious about God.
In the original language, the word meditate has to do with slow thinking or slow eating. We are to literally or slowly chew or masticate or suck on a lollipop.
The best illustration I can think of is what a dog does with a bone. I am sure you have seen it. The dog takes the bone to a private place and goes to work. He gnaws, turns it over, licks it. He is enjoying himself and is no hurry. Often for a few hours, the dog enjoys the bone, buries, it, and returns the next day to take it up again. An average bone can last about a week.
The dog meditated his bone. You and I are to meditate the revelation in Scripture and Jesus.
The meditating person 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." (verse 3)
Why is there a tree here? Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Jesus use the same image. An example of robust, long life with strength and beauty.
"...planted by streams of water" is such a lovely detail. It is a planted tree, not something wild growing by chance. These streams were Babylonians canals that were put into the desert to provide moisture and make agriculture possible in a land of dust of sand.
The Hebrews were in Babylonian exile when this Psalm was written. They were the tree that had been the object of special care and cultivation, the knowledge and skill of the horticulturist God. Brains and purpose had brought to bear on this tree.
The planning and planting had been successful. The tree bears fruit and is perpetually green. Creation and redemption are effective and not an illusion.
"The wicked are not so
but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous." (verses 4-5)
The chaff here is written to contrasted with the tree. The wicked, the sinners, the scoffers have persisted in their lack of seriousness and have maintained their course on the road to nowhere.
Chaff is the closest description to nothing that was available. It has no weight, no meaning, no use. Without meaning and responsibility, the wicked have no existence to speak of at all. It is the dried up husk of something that once bloomed, bore fruit, and brightened the landscape. The wicked are far from what they had been created to be. They are at the mercy of breezes and winds. No roots and no life. There is nothing to them, defined now only by what they are not.
The rather terrifying conclusion is that the life of the wicked/sinner/scoffer is the complete inability to be anything.
"For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish." (verse 6)
These last two lines show the end result of the two ways of life, the life of the tree and the life of the chaff. The verb here knows is alive with gospel. It's the same verb we see in Genesis 4:1 where Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived.
This verb is deeper than our modern day notion of dealing with information. In the Christian sense, it is firsthand relationship, personal knowledge, historical, and existential. In Christ, God knows us, and then, because the initiative has been Spirit-given to us, we know God. It is personal and experienced.
None of us are finished with finding ourselves personally in Psalm 1 until we pay meditative attention to Christ's comprehensive definition of himself in his his last conversation with his disciples. He says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6 KJV).
Christ gives his life as an exposition, an incarnation, a presence of how this way works itself out in our lives. This psalm gets our feet wet on the way to Jesus, reading and meditating on the Scriptures in a companionship in which we acquire a feel for the Jesus way of blessing.
Amen for the way!