This is the first entry of my planned blog series to discuss each of the psalms of the psaltery. I plan to continue with Proverbs as well and I do not know if I will be able to keep up with the one-a-day pace for each of these but the goal is to finish both eventually.
As mentioned by C.H. Spurgeon (Psalm 1 by C. H. Spurgeon) and others it is worth taking a moment to just point out that this is the first psalm. The Lord places an emphasis on the first in a series of things as having special significance (i.e. the “firstfruits”) so we would do well to make note of this (see Thomas Watson’s verse 1 entry in C.H. Spurgeon’s commentary). Moreover, the first in a series affects the nature of the remainder in that series, i.e. if the firstfuits are holy, then the rest are holy (Romans 11:16). We can also see in mathematics from the equation 1+1=2 that the number two is comprised of two instances of the previous number, so here we have demonstrated the concept that the second of something must account for (and at least in an abstract sense, be comprised of) the first of its kind. So it is that we can expect the themes and concepts raised in this first psalm to influence and affect our reading of all subsequent psalms, as a cornerstone of sorts.
“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.”
(Psalm 1:1-2 ESV)
Praise God the very first word of the psaltery is “Blessed.” It is as if the Lord could not wait to bless us so he made it the first word of the psaltery. Moreover, this blessing implies multiplicity and abundance (Spurgeon id). But this blessing is conditional.
To receive the blessing, we must not:
- Walk in the counsel of the wicked. There is some good discussion in Spurgeon’s commentary (see his source notes) on this but it goes without saying that if someone tells you to rob someone you probably are not going to do it. Therefore, we should expect the counsel of the wicked to be more nuanced than that (“Did God actually say…” sayeth the Serpent; Genesis 3:1 ESV). Further, the godly can render ungodly counsel and vice versa. All counsel should be tested against the Word itself (see David Guzik commentary). If the Word does not provide clarity then we should seek the advice of our pastors and elders as to what their take on the matter is. One final note, I think one of the Devil’s most common tactics is false pressure. This pressure can be peer pressure, time pressure or just a general feeling of urgency (you have to buy this now or someone else will!). God does not make haste. God does not try to squeeze us into compliance or make us panicky or nervous. If we are feeling these pressures or forces they are not from God (there are some helpful books on social psychology related to irrational decision making that might be worth looking into for more information on this).
- Stand in the way of sinners. I think it’s important to emphasize “way” here. Oftentimes (but not always) you can see where a certain sin will lead you. It’s almost (not to make too light of the subject) as if we could imagine sin as a cruise through the Caribbean. If you’ve ever taken such a cruise or looked into one then you know there are certain well-defined stops for such cruises. There are certain well known islands such as Jamaica that you will stop in more likely than not. So it is with sin. If you take the “lust” cruise there are certain other accompanying “stops” on that voyage; you could say that is the “path” or “way” of lust. So the solution is don’t buy that ticket and moreover, don’t go to those places where you know sinners congregate.
- Sit with the scoffers. What kind of mental state are you in when you’re sitting as compared to standing? Notwithstanding some chairs are more comfortable than others chances are you are going to be more relaxed and off guard when you are sitting than when you are standing. And off guard is exactly not how you want to be around sinners. As you relax you let things slip by that you would not if you were more alert. We are not to let our guard down around sinners; this is when we should be our most alert.
Now we have heard what we are prohibited from doing if we are to be blessed. So what should we do? Get in the Word. We should not just read the Word but we should delight in it. I just want to take a break to pray on that for us.
Lord, your word is beautiful as you are, may we delight in it as our source of joy, wisdom and life. Put in our hearts an ardent desire to read your word and to consume it as we would our favorite meal. May we savor the word and become acquainted with all of its nuance and complexities, that it may guide us in the path everlasting.
How often should we meditate on the word? Day and night. Since these are the only two “times” of the day this means always (see Matthew Henry’s commentary). I personally try to always apportion time in the morning and then as opportunity provides, take time to pray to the Lord throughout the day (it can be but for a moment) and if I can, read from the psaltery. I have read of others who always read in the morning and the evening and some even morning, noon and evening (and even midnight!). As your heart guides you please be blessed in your doing. The more the better.
End of Part 1.
*ESV=English Standard Version