Sunday, February 6, 2011

The First Psalm

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.
I read this psalm many times as a child. Truth be told, I read the first part of most every book of the Bible many times during my childhood. I lacked the willpower to continue on toward the ends of them. At that time it seemed so simple. The thrust of the text was: Be good, stay away from the bad people, and read your Bible; then you will be saved and successful. I remember a picture in a children's bible that corresponded to this psalm. It completely supported my view. The drawing showed a group of thuggish figures in the distance vandalizing, stealing, or something equally horrible, while calling the handsome boy in the foreground to join them. Naturally, I put myself in the handsome boy's position. I consoled myself that I would never steal, vandalize, or do something equally horrible and went on with my day happy that I was righteous and promised success.

I now see the big problem in the first psalm. The reasoning supported by the illustration was deeply flawed. I am in trouble. I do not stand in the path of sinners; I am stuck inside the very body of a sinner. Sure, I don't do anything really bad or fraternize with people who do, but it doesn't matter. I have acted selfishly and self-righteously. Considering myself righteous on my own merit proves my depravity. Furthermore, the psalm states clearly that part of being righteous is being separate from sinners, but every person I interact with is guilty as well. I am destined to perish with the unrighteous, who happen to be the rest of humanity. The reward of righteousness is nothing more than a cruel irony that can never be attained.

Thankfully the psalmist leaves a clue to the path of righteousness that dispels the previous line of thought:
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
This law tells that a sinner can be made righteous, not by his own striving, but by the power of God.  The righteous man now has reason to delight. He gives thanks because of the miraculous promise of a Messiah who will deliver in spite of iniquity. The sinner can be set free from the bondage of the sin within him. His standing will not be effected by the sinful company he keeps. Even they can have the same freedom as well!

I am humbled by the psalm's second stanza. I would perish. I could not be in the assembly of the righteous. I could not stand in judgment. I would be useless, singed nothingness. Yet, the Law proclaims that the Lord can still know my way. I can still be considered righteous before Him. I can be like a firmly planted tree. May it be so, and let the delighting begin.


  1. This is a great blog! What version of the Bible do you use?

  2. Thank you for reading and being the very first person to comment! To answer your question, I use the NASB for this blog, although I usually consult the ESV and NIV as well.