Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Psalm 1

Rachel and I, in some form or fashion, are going to go through Psalms. Not quite sure how long that's going to take!

I'll probably take several at a time and focus on whatever the Spirit seems to be highlighting. Psalm 1, though, deserves to be all by itself:

Psalm 1 (ESV)

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 has always been a great favorite of mine, and as I've been meditating on it a bit, I've tried to figure out why. I have a few ideas.

I love being convicted, exhorted and encouraged, especially all at once. Here I learn that I'd better straighten up and fly right. Those who live righteously, who meditate on the Word of God (here, particularly His Law) and find their delight in the things of God, will live, will prosper. The word "prosper" here is tsalach, and its meanings include "to advance, make progress, succeed."

We know that the righteous do not always "prosper" in the worldly sense. Those who follow God are to expect persecution and trials:

Rom 8:35-37
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Matt 24:9-14
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

2 Cor 11:26-27
I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

But the righteous DO prosper, because it says so in Psalm 1. I don't believe the psalmist is referring to a material prosperity, even though God does provide everything His children need. No, they advance, they succeed, they make progress in the things of the Lord--in the things of an eternal Kingdom that is not passing away.

I also love the high view of the Law that is communicated in this Psalm. Right away we understand that the Law is not our enemy, no more than a schoolmaster (Gal 3:24) is the enemy of his pupil (though I know some students don't understand that, heh). Right away we see that the Law is something we can delight in and meditate upon--and that there are great rewards for doing so.

Psalm 1 also serves as a stringent warning against keeping the wrong company: the wicked will not stand in the judgment or be counted in the congregation of the righteous. I know where I want to be found.

And there's a simplicity that is appealing in a world that can seem contradictory and where the gradient of righteousness can seem like a slippery slope: there is a plumb line, and it is the Word of God. Really, it's not that complex. The righteous will find their delight in God, His Law and His ways, and follow Him; the wicked will do as they please (for now), and God will judge all in the end according to their deeds. Here's a passage that goes well with this Psalm:

Rom 2:3-11
Do you suppose, O man--you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself--that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.