Today: [Psalms One] Navigating the Gauntlet of Wickedness. In Psalm 1 we see an admonition about being particular about the company we keep and the people we hang out with. If we follow David’s counsel in this Psalm the promise is that we will put ourselves in a position where everything we do will prosper by the blessing of God and the hand of God. We are compared to trees planted by God on the banks of the rivers of His resources that will survive the dry times when we follow in His counsel.
[Psa 1:1-6 KJV] 1 Blessed [is] the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. 4 The ungodly [are] not so: but [are] like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
The book of Psalms is believed to have been put together as a collection in the 4th century before the time of Jesus. It is thought that it was used as a prayer book in the temple that Zerubabbel built and later used in Herod’s temple in Jesus’ time as well for that purpose. The word used for the title means “instrumental music” and implies that the collection of Psalms that make up the book are actually lyrics set to music. Many of the Psalms are attributed to David but authors also include Moses, Solomon, the sons of Korah and many other authors.
The psalms themselves cover an authorship period from 1440 BC to 538 BC approximately the time of the first exile (of the northern tribes to Babylon). The instruments that were believed to be used to put these to music were mostly stringed instruments such as the harp, lute and lyre. The original Hebrew title is “tehillim” which means “praises”. While it took many years to finalize the collection it is believed to have evolved from the time of Solomon as a collection and gone through many additions, redactions and revisions achieving its form as we recognize it today again, in Zerubbabel’s time.
The Psalms is divided into 5 books in the Hebrew bible some believe to make it correspond numerically with the 5 books of the Torah. The Psalms that we have today is relatively the same as the Psalms that Jesus would have read from and enjoyed Himself. The 5 volumes of the Psalms are actually named after the books of Moses. Psalm 1-41 are the Genesis book; 42-72 – Exodus book; 73-89 – the Leviticus book; 90 – 106 the Numbers book; 107-150 the Numbers book.
Christian use of the Psalms includes both devotional and doctrinal purposes. The psalms also hold a prophetic significance. There are 16 psalms all composed before Jesus’ time that presage his birth, life, ministry, death, burial and resurrection. Many in recent years believe that the numbering of the chapters of the psalms correspond to the numbers of the years on our current calendar. Still other Jewish sources see a code of sorts in the book of Psalms, claiming it represents an Almanac of Mankind throughout history. Whatever the case may be it is the longest book of the bible comprising 150 chapters, or songs.
Psalms 1:1 begins with “blessed is the man…” The theme of blessing runs throughout the psalms therefore it is a good idea to study this word. It’s meaning includes “to be level, to be right, to be relieved, to lead, and to move forward”. The Hebrew word is “eser” from where the proper name “Asher” one of the patriarchs originates. Therefore Asher as a person and as a tribe speaks to us of the man or woman who is blessed of God. In Deut. 33:24 Moses prophesies that “Asher shall dip his foot in oil…” There is actually an oil exploration company for years that has scoured the land apportioned to the tribe of Asher in Joshua’s time for oil deposits for this reason. What it more reasonably tells us about is the connection of the blessing of God with the anointing of God. We are blessed because of the anointing of God on our lives that causes us to make the choices that Psalms 1 speaks of.
The first verse of Psalms 1 thereby the first verse of the entire book could be construed to be a commentary or postscript to the preceding book of Job:
[Psa 1:1 KJV] 1 Blessed [is] the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
Job and his 3 friends were ungodly, sinful and scornful in the company of one another and it seems that in the arrangement of the Old Testament canon God is saying “this is not the course of action you want to take or the company that you want to keep…” When the verse says not to walk in the counsel of the ungodly it means not to follow or even be conversant with the advice of those who are spiritually criminal in their character. Many times believers want to study all about conspiracy theories and what the wicked are doing but the Psalmist tells us it is not necessary or even desirable to do so even for the purpose of keeping ourselves informed.
When we are told not to stand in the way of sinners what is this telling us? The word stand means to “be employed by, or continue to dwell with, to stand by, or stand fast with or stand up for” those who have forfeited their testimony in God. This is a sobering admonition. In Abraham’s day Lot had to choose to live in Sodom and was said to have vexed his righteousness soul (2 Pet. 2:7). For us we seem at times to live on “planet Sodom” not by choice but by virtue of the widespread and ever present influences of ungodliness around us. Yet the admonition is clear that we are to identify and separate ourselves from these components of society as is within our power.
Sitting in the seat of the scorner as last mentioned in verse one is a uniquely Christian shortcoming. When the love of God is extracted from Christian conscience – the only thing left is the level of Pharisaic scorn of the type that existed in the religious culture in Jerusalem that ultimately crucified Christ. To sit in the seat of the scornful as contrasted by standing or walking belies the inherent slothfulness of critical people. You show me a critical person and I will show you a person who is not about their Father’s business. Those who are seeking first the kingdom do not have time to find fault with or to minutely examine and comment on or make their opinions known about those around them with whom they disagree. You may be exposed to these sorts from time to time and that you would be hard pressed to avoid but the warning of Psalms 1 is not to allow yourself to spend so much time as to even sit in their presence. This is a very literal piece of advice from David. If someone begins to scorn and mock and deride it is time to stand up, find your car keys and make your exit. Many times this is the only defense you have from those who are critical of others – to remain too long even to defend only results in contamination of your own spirit.
In giving 3 things not to do David follows up with what you should do. If you aren’t wasting your time with the counsel of the ungodly or standing in the way of sinners or sitting in the seat of the scornful – what are you supposed to do with all your time? David says let your delight be in the law of the Lord and let the word of God be your meditation day and night. The word meditate implies more than just thinking. It is an action word meaning to mutter, murmur or whisper. We should have the word of God on our lips as much as possible and let it be with us throughout the day and even in the night seasons.
To follow these initial admonitions of David will result in you being like a tree planted by a river. A tree planted by a river is a tree that will have deep roots and a water supply even in a time of drought when other trees are perishing. David realized by the spirit of God that the word of God was a resource such as Jesus would speak of centuries later:
[Jhn 7:38 KJV] 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
What is not IN you cannot flow OUT of you. There are many streams of information that flow in to us and can in reality contaminate our spirit. David compels us to fill our lives with godly influences through His word to keep us strong and cause us to survive and thrive even in challenging times. The promise of God is if we will follow these practices which are very pragmatic in nature that “our leaf will not whither” and we will have fruitfulness in our lives. In fact to be perfectly clear David declares and the spirit of God through David that “whatever we do will prosper…” Notice it isn’t whatever we think or believe – but whatever we do. What are we doing? That is what will prosper and become enlarged in our lives. Let our “doing” be the things that make for righteousness, procede from faith, and originate in our personal vision and God’s plan for our lives.
The ungodly are like the chaff. They have growth for a time and are seemingly productive and even fruitful but in the end the best of them will be blown away with the winds of adversity that find them in the dry seasons. Who are these people? We want to know because we don’t want to allow attributes that define the ungodly to be in our lives neither do we want to make or maintain substantive connections with those who fit this description. The ungodly are those who by extraction for the original Hebrew definition are “troublers, disturbers, those who ‘violate, make trouble, condemn or vex’.” People of this nature usually come on very strong and seem to be impregnable and unimpeachable in their reasonings and strategies but David counsels us to wait and watch and see that their end is soon coming and they will blow out with the winds of adversity like the chaff looking for some new controversy to associate themselves with.
Verse 5 tells us that these so described shall not endure the time of judgment neither should they be seen as one of the congregation of the righteous. We can love them but we cannot join them. It is not our place to identify or excoriate them or make their plight worse than it is soon to be but we are to realize and recognize these behaviors and not accept their counsel, or stand up for or endorse their character or actions, or to even allow ourselves to sit idly in their presence. What is our response? Keep on seeking the kingdom and refuse to be distracted.
Finally verse 6 reminds us that God knows the way of the righteous. What is our righteousness based on? 1 Cor. 1:30-31 tells us that Jesus is our righteousness. John 14:6 tells us that Jesus is also our way. So when the verse says that God knows the way of the righteous what is that saying to us in a New Testament context? The only thing that God knows, or chooses to know or wants to know of us is CHRIST. The word “knows” means to “acquaint oneself, to be intimate with as a husband and wife”. This tells us that the only thing God wants to get close to in us is Christ. It is Christ in us or the potential of Christ in us that represents that which God wants to get close to. He wants to know Himself as He is represented in Christ in us and as we give ourselves over to Him we become like that tree – stepping into a place of prosperity and blessing that others are excluded from by the character choices they make.
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