March 23rd 2020 – Psalm 1

"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

This Psalm is introductory to the whole Psalter, the text, as it were, for which the whole Psalter is the sermon. In its brief compass of a few verses it presents a vivid con- trast - two portraits, two men, two ways, two lives. There is no 'in-between' of tolerable happiness. It is an 'either/or', the one world or the other. We cannot belong to both. It is striking that in the description of the blessedness in 1 there is such a negative emphasis. This should teach us to beware of adopting the easy cliché of modern times that Christianity is a positive thing. The idea and desire of course is to present the faith in as bright a light as possible but the danger is that we extract all the challenge from the gospel and present it as the latest tranquilliser. Our Lord's words to the rich young ruler make such an attitude very questionable. The fact is, 'negative' attitudes do not necessarily repel. They excite interest and curiosity as they summon people to think. We certainly should not be afraid of them. We should also note the fateful progression inherent in evil in 1 – 'walketh...standeth...sitteth', and 'ungodly...sinners...scornful'. We should consider what this teaches us about the hardening power of sin, recognising that the significance of 'seat' is that it is the place of instruction, where sin is taught to others. How solemn!

The contrast between the wicked and the godly lies not in terms of behaviour or conduct, but of the fountainhead of the godly's life, which is the law of the Lord. This refers not merely to the commandments or even (for the Psalmist) the Pentateuch but the whole divine revelation. It is the man who has been captured by this who has found the secret of true blessedness. A good illustration of this is found in Joshua 1: at the outset of a life of battle and action we see Joshua with the real secret of sustaining victory. This is where the obedience of faith will lead us.