I saw over at She Lives that Erica at Butterfly Kisses is hosting Psalms Sunday for whoever would like to participate to study a particular Psalm each week and then post our thoughts on what we studied. That’s a wonderful idea! The Psalms are full of a lot of good instruction and inspiration. Thank you, Erica!
The first one is, appropriately, Psalm 1:
1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
I see this as a study in contrasts between the righteous and the ungodly.
The first contrast is what drives them, what they take their cues from, what they meditate on. I don’t think I would have ever noticed this on my own, but I have heard a couple of preachers point out the progression of the ungodly from walking to standing to sitting in verse 1. In my college days, we walked all over campus to classes, to the library, to the dining area, etc. It was one thing to walk along with friends whom I didn’t know very well, but we might have some point of contact — say, we sat near each other in a class, saw each other on the way to eat lunch, and struck up a conversation on the way. But if we stop at some point and talk, that indicates a little more involved communication, If we then sat down to continue our conversation, that indicates a little more attention, a little more involvement and purpose. We have to be careful about the counsel of the ungodly, less we get more and more entranced and entrenched.
The opposite of the “counsel of the ungodly” is the law of the Lord. It is interesting to me that the word “law” is used. Sometimes that refers to the specific laws in the Bible, sometimes to the Pentateuch (the books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible), sometimes it is a synonym for God’s Word in general. When this was written, the primary written word of God was Moses’ books and the earlier history books — the New Testament, of course, wasn’t written for centuries; the major and minor prophets came along mostly after David’s time. Job is said to be the oldest book in the Bible, so it might have been available. Proverbs and Song of Solomon would have been after David’s time. It’s funny that the word of God that they had available then that the psalmist delighted in is the part that most people get bogged down in these days. And I do have to admit that Leviticus, which is where I am now, is pretty heavy in places (so I am also reading a Psalm a day to supplement it. But “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (II Tim. 3:16). God’s law reflects the fact that God is righteous and holy and is interested in fair and just behavior. If “the law” in verse 1 refers to the books of Moses, we have the accounts of creation, early man and the entrance of sin, the promise of a redeemer, the history of God’s dealings with Israel, their exodus from Egypt, the Lord’s miraculous deliverance of them at the Red Sea, the characters of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, God’s leading of them, His patience in their stubbornness and unbelief, His giving of the law, the need of a blood sacrifice when that law is violated — much, much to meditate on and learn about God there! And of course we can extrapolate the blessings of meditation of God’s law to the whole of His Word that we are privileged to have today.
Meditation, by the way, is not the clearing the minds of all thoughts into a kind of nothingness that we hear about these days. It is an active use of our mental faculties, a mulling over of the truth in God’s Word.
The second contrast I see is in their stability. The ungodly have none: they get blown about in the wind (this just brought to mind Eph. 4:14). The righteous, on the other hand, are firmly planted by the river so that their roots are always near the source of the sustenance, and therefore they won’t “dry up” and wither, but rather are fruitful.
By the way, I don’t think whatsoever he doeth shall prosper is fodder for the “prosperity gospel.” This isn’t promising wealth and health. It echoes Joshua 1:8: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”
The third contrast is their ending. The ungodly shall not stand; the ungodly shall perish. But thankfully the Lord knows the way of the righteous.
Now — does that mean the righteous have reason to think themselves so much better than the ungodly? No. We’re all ungodly (Romans 3:23). We are not to look down on them as if we are better. In fact, we should have that much more compassion on them, their state, their end, and share with them how they can be made righteous and forgiven by accepting God’s perfect sacrifice for their sins. And then they can meditate on God’s Word, have stability in their lives, and a better end. And they can tell the ungodly that they know.