Psalm 1:1-6, NIV 1984
1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
Studying in a Chinese institution built on Christian values, perhaps Psalm 1 is the most familiar psalm I could ever draw among the Psalms of David. When I was in Fourth Year High School, our Bible Teacher, Ms. Esther Jane Y. Uy, the school principal and a deaconess of the school’s mother church, made us memorize these lines with much enthusiasm. I once even remember reciting this verse in both Mandarin and Fukien from memory. Apart from this academic duty, this had a single-most impact in my life. “What does it mean to be ‘blessed’?”, was asked once from us. This psalm occupies a special place among Psalms for being the first one in the sequence. It signifies an importance not just in the life of the Israelite nation but our own personal life.
The initial part of the psalm defines to us what a “blessed” man is not. There we get “does not walk in step with the wicked,” “stand in the way that sinners take” and “sit in the company of mockers.” From this we know that a blessed man would never associate himself with anything that is evil or sinful. So, should we forsake friends who have yet to know God fully and faithfully? No, just that our primary focus is not them for our walk is with God. As he states the negation, the psalmist also speaks that the blessed man is someone who “delights … in” God’s law and “meditates on” it day and night. What does it mean to us? It means He reflects on God’s law daily, not just reading but ruminating on God’s law. It is digesting every single word of God to bits and pieces that can be applied to someone’s walk with God.
Following the first two verses, the psalmist compares the blessed man to a tree. Perhaps, he was dwelling on the fact that like a blessed man, a tree also takes time to grow and grow strong. Like a tree, a blessed man also needs nourishment that comes spiritually from the word of God. Unlike actual streams of water that can dry up in drought, the word of God is a stream that never runs out. This reminds me of the time Jesus exulted the Samaritan woman to drink of the living water which is the Word of God from whom the word came to be. Like a healthy tree, the indication of a spiritually healthy man of God is bearing “fruit” or results in God’s work and thick, healthy “leaves” or having a good spiritual outlook in life.
As there is good in this world, there is also bad; as there is blessedness, there is wickedness. The psalmist works a contrast between a blessed man and a wicked man. He describes them as chaff; dead and dry shells that have no purpose but to be tossed in the wind or burned. This describes the uselessness of a wicked man’s life. He cannot grow lest bearing fruit for what remains of him is merely a shell that is ebbed of life and seed. I have seen chaffs being burned in the countryside and it portrays a grim reminder of a wicked man’s fate, an eternity in the fires of hell.
Even as wickedness may often triumph here on earth, the Lord assures us that He will keep watch over us. Oftentimes, the image of blessedness is often obscured by the suffering we experience in daily life. It is for that reason He exclaimed His faithfulness in the sixth and last verse of the poem. This ministers well to the times of King David when the surrounding kingdoms, nations and people continually threaten the existence of God’s chosen nation. His promise of faithfulness and justice gives us an assurance that a life of a blessed man will never escape his sovereign wisdom.