It is possible to learn a lot about a people by looking at what they sing about. Human beings are a singing race. We sing about love, war, tragedy, triumph, and even animals. It should, therefore, be no surprise that God has given us a divinely inspired songbook in the middle of the Bible: the Book of Psalms. Just as we can learn about others and ourselves by looking at music, we can learn much about God by looking at the songs that He has inspired. In this column, we will not look at all 150 psalms, but we will look at various types of psalms in this rich and powerful book.
Psalm 1 is an introduction to the Psalms in several ways. First, we can assume that the order of each book of the Bible is how God has intended; God, therefore, wanted to introduce His songbook with this psalm. Second, the psalm is a “wisdom psalm,” which is not a common type of psalm (see Psalm 37 for another example). A wisdom psalm teaches those who read and sing it how to live. The implication is that those who are singing the other psalms are living this type of life. Third, Psalm 1 is one of the only psalms in the first book of Psalms (chapters 1-41) that doesn’t have David listed in the introduction. It is, therefore, unique.
The first verse of the first chapter begins “Blessed …” Although many equate the word blessed with happiness, it is more helpful to think of the word blessed referring to a person who deserves to be congratulated. When we congratulate someone, they often feel happy, but we’re not focused on their feeling when we congratulate them. We’re focused on their reason to be happy, whether they feel that way or not. This psalm is about the reason someone has to be congratulated. This person has achieved the type of success that matters most in life. How has he or she achieved that success?
Achieving the success that matters most has two sides. Negatively, it means denying certain types of people influence over our lives. Although some students of this text see a progression (walk … stand … sit …. wicked … sinner … scoffer), not all scholars agree. The main point is to refuse to follow people who have departed from and rebelled against God’s revealed will. Positively, what matters most is delighting in and meditating on God’s law. Biblical meditation is thinking carefully about Scripture daily (“day and night”). “Law” is not simply commands; it is all of God’s instruction in Scripture.
What is the success? For the meditator of God’s instruction, the result is being like a tree that bears fruit regardless of the changes in weather, since it is planted or transplanted by a river. Notice that the tree bears fruit in its season. The fruit that comes through the nourishment of God’s Word may not come for years, but it will come. Those who refuse this path in life will blow away like the chaff that the wind drives away at harvest. The New Testament fills out this outline by showing that the final judgment is the lake of fire, and standing in the assembly will ultimately mean life in the new creation.
Ultimately, the only “man” (1:1) who has embraced fully this path in life is the Lord Jesus Christ. His delight in the law was evident in the way He responded to Satan’s temptations by quoting Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11). By His grace, we can follow in His footsteps by living that blessed, fruitful life (John 15:1-8).