Trees have roots and fruits, and we see this in Psalm 1 applied to a godly man. How do we apply this to our walk with the Lord? What can we learn about blessing, delighting, meditating, prosperity, and fruitfulness? Where do we go for nourishment?
Verse: 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.”
The book of Psalms opens with two psalms which really end up setting the stage for the entire rest of the book to come. It generally makes sense to begin in the beginning of a book before reading on through it, but not everyone has had that experience with Psalms. A lot of people are introduced to Psalms through super common ones like Psalm 23 – the Lord is my Shepherd – or Psalm 100 – about entering His courts thanksgiving and His gates with praise. But one of my absolute favorite ways to read wisdom literature in Scripture is from beginning to end. My kids and I read both Psalms and Proverbs this way: straight through, on repeat, all the time. I can not count how many times we have read those two books together already, and can’t imagine how many times we will have done it throughout our lifetimes. This is a good heritage to pass on, and a worthy foundation to set.
So if we were to approach the book of Psalms by starting at the beginning, we would see that Psalm 1 presents two ways of living—actually, very similarly to what Proverbs does with the way of wisdom and the way of folly—but here in Psalm 1, it is the way of the blessed man and the way of the wicked man. Some theologians actually say that Psalm 2 is not a separate song but a continuation of the first—the King mentioned there is not David, but a foreshadowing of Christ, the Son of David that God’s people were anticipating. Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm. But back to Psalm 1!
This is a wisdom psalm (again—that connection to Proverbs), it is intended for the training and instruction of God’s people. The book of psalms was the hymnal of the Hebrews, the Jews, God’s people. And right here in the beginning of that book is a teaching method commonly found throughout the Bible: two ways in contrast; a positive example beside a negative example; one meant for imitation and the other for warning. We’ve already established that the two options in Psalm 1 are that of blessedness and that of wickedness. What does blessed mean? This is actually the Hebrew word that my son Asher’s name comes from: asherey, ashrei, esher (it’s phonetic so you can find it transliterated different ways). It is a word that means happy, blessed, fulfilled. It is a contented state of joy that is an internal happiness which brings blessing from the inside out—not the outside in. It is not a happiness based on situation or blessedness based on materialism. This kind of true blessing, true happiness, comes from walking with the Lord.
The first half of this psalm gives beautifully poetic description about what the blessed man is like. We see the blessed man described as a tree planted by rivers of water, yielding good fruit, not withering but prospering! And from where did this tree stem? Where are its roots? Delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating on the law of God day and night—that is where these tree roots are nurtured and nourished. And then back to the beginning, we see that this man steers well away from sinners and scoffers and wickedness.
We must see that the very first thing mentioned is the distinction between godly and ungodly influences. We must resist the influence of the ungodly, carefully protecting ourselves from ungodly influences. Therefore, we must rather put ourselves in the way of godliness, righteousness, and meditation on God’s holiness. This is where blessedness and happiness lie. This is the path of good fruit and prosperity. Psalm 119 is a long treatise on exactly this! Here is a brief example:
Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
to keep your righteous rules.
Throughout the psalter, but notably right here in the very first chapter, we see that devotion to God and His Word is not a slavish duty nor hedge against superstition. Rather than a burden, it is a delight and pleasure and joy. He meditates on it! This meditation is considering, pondering, wrestling with, and being occupied with—meditating on God’s Word means focusing on it and seeking to understand it, memorize it, and—dare I suggest—even sing it.
But how does the psalmist go on to describe the wicked? In an abrupt shift, he declares simply: “the wicked are not so.” He describes them as chaff that has been shaken off the grain. Therefore, because of their very nature as inconsequential and useless, they will not stand in judgment but will blow away like the dry hulls of chaff when a farmer winnows wheat. Chaff is worthless, meaningless. Ultimately, we are told that the end of the wicked is far from prosperity: the wicked will simply perish.
So we see that there are two ways we can live—the Lord presents us here with the two paths: that of wickedness and that of blessedness. This is the ultimate distinction in life. And here is one simple yet profound note: although we would all like to think of ourselves as the blessed one, the tree planted by rivers of water… we are only that one thanks to the irresistible grace of God. But for that undeserved mercy, we would lie squarely in the path of the wicked one. Praise the Lord for His sovereign plan and gift of Jesus Christ! Because of Him, we can be blessed. We can be happy. We can be fruitful and prosperous. Like that tree representing the happy and blessed man, we do not have to fear dry seasons because of the constant water supply nourishing our roots. Because of the Living Water of Jesus Christ our Savior, we can endure adversity, persecution, drought, affliction. It is the law of God, His very Word—which we have the modern gift of carrying around in our very pockets, not to mention in a dozen different copies on our shelves at home—which is our sustenance. May we thus brim over with love for God’s Word. May we raise children whose roots are planted by the riverside. May our homes be orchards with fruit ripe for plucking and harvesting and sharing. This is how we can share in the prosperity and blessing of the man in Psalm 1. Rely on Jesus and trust in Him, letting Him be your righteousness and hope, your joy and delight. Do not walk in the ways of the wicked—but rather, choose to delight in the law of God and meditate on His living Word.