Blessedness vs. Wickedness

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:

Psalm 119:97-106

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.

Singing Psalms with Little Saints

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom,
Teaching and admonishing one another
In psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,
Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Colossians 3:16
Long before I became a mother, I yearned to have children who sang. During my own years of home education in a Reformed Christian family, we grew our love of hymns into a love of Psalms—a love of melody into a love of harmony—a love of corporate singing on Sundays into a love of singing at home as a family all week long. I loved almost nothing more than monthly Psalm sings with our church family—and to this day, there is almost nothing which fills me with more delight than filling my home with the echoes of boisterous harmony. This love, instilled during my own childhood, was something I longed to continue cultivating as I moved on to college academics and beyond.

To read the rest of this article,
written by me for my friend
Amy Sloan to share,
head over to HumilityAndDoxology.com

Sacred psalmody, December

We worked hard on Psalm 70 all November, and while my kids had it perfected more quickly than I did, we all got there eventually. I would still love to learn the center section in four part harmony. Considering the month we had, I’m pretty pleased that the kids could absolutely hold their own on soprano, even when I broke into confident alto for the polyphonic section.

Now we have embarked into December, and we began learning Psalm 130. Again, it is a musical version of the actual NKJV text, so we are committing an entire Psalm to memory this month. It is a worthy endeavor and beautiful practice! I’m not entirely certain that the kids will fall in love with it because they tend to prefer major keys over minor, and complicated harmonies where they can each master their own part rather than needing to excel in unison and pitch-matching.

I think the meditations, discussion, and prayers this Psalm inspires will be a glorious gathering of blessing, and memorizing it through song will make it joyfully attainable.

Sacred Psalmody 2020

God is so kind to require our praise in song, and then to mercifully act in His kindness to make it an absolutely delightful practice! What a good Father. I realize that I may have a little edge on this perspective, because I was raised singing Scripture and other spiritual songs basically from infancy. Some of my dearest, earliest memories are from singing with my father at bedtime, accompanied by his strummed guitar. He put verses to music to help me hide the Word in my heart from my youngest days. I truly believe this is one of the most effective ways my parents walked me into the Christian life of faith, and effectively engaged my heart and mind in the things of the Lord while He graciously granted me the gift of never knowing a time without calling on His name.

I became a pianist shortly after my early introduction to being a singer, and was a church accompanist by the time I was a teenager. I have accompanied in CREC, Anglican, and PCA churches. When I attended Whitworth University, I wanted to get my Bachelor’s in accompaniment but they didn’t have that focus at the time. Although I was bummed, I did get a general music BA with an emphasis on church music, and a minor in theology, using voice as my instrument and choir as my main focus. There was nothing like it – I was only there for two years, having spent three years prior at a lovely community college – and I fondly look at that time at Whitworth as a season of foundational both musical and spiritual growth for me.

Since becoming a homeschooling mama, I have been essentially grooming and growing my own little chorale. When God took me through the years of multiple miscarriages, our wandering in the wilderness of struggling to grow our family, one of my big heartbreaks was the idea that I would not have children filling my home with music. Oh! how the Lord laughs, and how I laugh with Him! for my Lord has fulfilled that desire now to overflowing! It brings tears to my eyes. (And more than an occasional headache or need for ear plugs.) Honestly though, there is almost nothing that brings more joy to my heart than hearing the voices of my children united in the joyful noise of praising the King.

In addition to singing every day in our Morning Time routine here at home, I have also had the blessing of teaching Singing School to three different local Christian homeschooling co ops. I love to bring others along with us in our journey of singing praise to God, including (especially!) the Psalms.

I do not subscribe to the idea of sole psalmody in worship as do some good brothers and sisters in Christ, but I do deeply believe we ought to sing Psalms. We ought to know them and love them and work hard to deepen our knowledge of their wisdom and theology and singability.

My children and I have the goal to learn at least one sung/chanted version of each of the 150 Psalms before our home education days together are ended. My oldest child is already in seventh grade, so I have some motivation to quicken the pace. If we were to memorize one Psalm a month, it would take over twelve years to accomplish that goal. So it is more than a little lofty. Praise the Lord, I still have a toddler, and have many years for growing and singing and educating left ahead of me.

Please allow me now to share with you the Psalms we chose to memorize for the year 2020.

January ~ Psalm 117 ~ text: KJV; music: David R. Erb; source: Cantica Sanctorum
February ~ Psalm 121 ~ text: NKJV; music: David R. Erb; source: Cantica Sanctorum
March ~ Psalm 23 ~ text: Henry W. Baker; music: Old Irish melody, St. Columba; source: Cantus Christi
April ~ Psalm 34 ~ text: The Book of Psalms for Singing; music: John Wainwright, Yorkshire; source: Cantus Christi
May ~ Psalm 122 ~ text: Tate & Brady; music: William Tans, Colchester; source: Cantus Christi
June ~ Psalm 98 ~ text: text: The Book of Psalms for Singing; music: Thomas Jarman, Desert; source: Cantus Christi
July ~ Psalm 148 ~ text: The Book of Psalms for Singing; music: Horatio Palmer, St. Catherine’s; source: Cantus Christi
August ~ Psalm 63 ~ text: Psalter of 1912; music: Thomas Tallis, Third Mode Melody; source: Cantus Christi
September ~ Psalm 111 ~ text: NKJV; music: Gustav Holst, David R. Erb; source: Cantica Sanctorum
October ~ Psalm 103 ~ text: Johann Gramann, Catherine Winkworth; music: Johann Kugelmann, Heinrich Schutz; source: Cantus Christi
November ~ Psalm 70 ~ text: NKJV; music: David R. Erb; source: Cantus Christi
December ~ Psalm 130 ~ text: NKJV; music: David R. Erb; source: Cantus Christi