Jean’s Gospel: Psalm 1, Part 2
“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;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Psalm 1 introduces two foundational questions or themes of the entire Psalter: “What is true blessedness?” and “How does God’s Torah (translated “law”) mediate blessedness?”
In Part 1, we defined “blessedness” generally as the state of the godly (i.e., believers in Christ), who delight in the Word of God. This blessedness manifests itself in both negative and positive outcomes for the godly. Last week, we read that the blessed avoid the false teaching and wicked lifestyles of the ungodly (i.e., unbelievers), who oppose Christ and His Word.
This week, we pick up Psalm 1 at verse 3, in which the psalmist describes the positive outcomes for blessed:
“3 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.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”
There is a tendency within man to view the Bible or Christianity as offering rewards and punishments based on our decisions and conduct. That is not what the psalmist is teaching here. To the contrary, he shows us the outcomes of two the entirely different types of men: the godly who delight in Christ and His Word; and the ungodly who delight in their own counsels. The psalmist encourages and comforts the godly, who are the truly blessed and prosper in eternal things, while often suffering the reproach of the ungodly, who are blessed and prosper in worldly things (for a short time).
“He is like a tree planted by streams of water”
The blessed man is “like a tree planted by streams of water.” Not one stream, but streams! These streams are living waters of Divine grace, that is, the Spirit of God who comes through the Word and satisfies the roots of the tree. These roots delight day and night by receiving living water from the streams of God’s Word.
The man did not become this tree of his own accord, and he did not choose a location by streams of water. He is “planted” by another! God takes us out of Adam and plants us in Christ! Above the ground, the climate may be dry and the landscape barren, but this tree never thirsts. It grows tall, not by the luxuries of the world, but by the grace of God.
“that yields its fruit in its season”
The blessed man brings forth “fruit in its season.” This fruit is not for the tree itself (A tree does not consume fruit.). This fruit is for others; it serves others “in its season.” This fruit is the love of neighbor; it is the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10)
What season are you in? Are you a student who yields the fruit of honoring your parents and teachers, doing your homework and studying for exams? Are you a husband or wife who yields the fruit of a loving and chaste commitment to your spouse? Are you a parent or grandparent who yields the fruit of graciously raising your children or grandchildren in the faith? Etc. Whatever the season, the blessed man yields his fruit.
“and its leaf does not wither”
The streams of water sustain the leaf of this tree, so that it never withers; that is, the Spirit of God working through the Word sustains the faith of the blessed man. Without green leaves (i.e., faith), the tree cannot bring forth its fruit. However, this planted tree (the blessed man), nourished by the Word of God, matures and brings forth much fruit in its season.
“In all that he does, he prospers.”
The blessed man prospers in all that he does. It is not the kind of prosperity which the world exalts or understands. The blessed man enjoys peace with God that comes through the forgiveness of sins. He enjoys freedom from the power of sin to live according to God’s Word. The blessed man looks for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
“The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”
There is no prosperity for the ungodly. They have a withering leaf, and are not planted by the rivers of water, although their own counsels tell them otherwise: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Prov 14:12)
Israelite threshing floors typically were located on hills exposed to the wind. After threshing the grain to separate the kernels from the chaff (i.e., husks and straw), the farmer winnowed the grain. Using a winnowing fork, the farmer threw the grain into the air; the chaff would blow away, while the heavier kernels would fall to the floor.
The ungodly are driven by the wind. They take counsel in false doctrines, searching for truth in what sounds reasonable, modern or progressive. They seek prosperity in carnal pleasure and earthly treasure. They are driven, but find no blessedness because Christ is unknown to them. Ultimately, the chaff is burned.
“5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.”
The saints in Christ will not be judged by the ungodly, despite the fact that in this world the ungodly do in fact often rule, judge and condemn the godly as foolish, unloving, unjust, etc. The ungodly may rule over the godly in temporal matters, but the godly do not listen to nor follow their ungodliness.
Inside the church on earth, the godly and the ungodly sit side by side (as in the Parable of the Weeds, Matt 13:24-30); yet the ungodly are not part of the congregation of the righteous; “for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
The Lord knows (Heb: yada) the way of the righteous. He knows our hearts intimately and personally, and helps us: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Rom 8:26)
Therefore, may our Father in heaven grant us comfort from this psalm; keep us in the delight of His Word, give us patience with and a spirit of prayer for the ungodly in our midst, that by any means possible they may be converted to faith in your Son; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Thank you for reading. This concludes our look at Psalm 1. Amen.