Psalm 1 has much to offer in the way of perspective on living, and how to be successful. For the Christian, it distills the basic ethos of our philosophy, to know Him and by knowing to love Him. The psalm does not promise a specific level of blessing, but rather a way of living that improves life. Below are my thoughts, broken down by verse.
What does it mean to be “blessed”?
The Hebrew word (H835) is “esher” and is derived from (H833) “ashar” which means to “be straight”. When used figuratively, “ashar” means to go forward (because the way is straight), and thus “esher” means to prosper, to increase, and to reap the joy of prosperity and increase. This declaration should be taken generally, not specifically. How much prosperity or increase is not stated, only that by being blessed, we are better off than we were before.
What is the progression of vs 1, and why is it important?
A blessed man or woman does not walk, or stand, or sit in the way of ungodly people. The progression is toward an increasing intimacy with ungodliness. I don’t think you should push the metaphor too far, as the counsel of the ungodly, the way of sinners, and the seat of the scornful do not track perfectly as a progression, but there is something to be learned from the idea that one could precede the other.
What is the “counsel of the ungodly”?
I think this can be taken both in the general and specific sense. Specifically, you should be careful of the source of counsel. Are you seeking out people to inform your life who evidence Godly wisdom, or do you listen to the ungodly?
Generally, the messages shouted from media via television, radio, billboards, books, political figures, celebrities, etc… all carry forms of counsel. It is useful to be wary of those messages and if they come from ungodly sources, and carry ungodly counsel.
In order to discern “ungodly counsel” we need to be knowledgeable enough about the character of Godly counsel to spot when it is divergent.
Also, its important, I think, to know that ungodly counsel can come from within. Are the thoughts we think ungodly? Have we bought into lies, has our understanding been darkened? Cultivating humility is vital in guarding against this, and spending time in God’s word is necessary to inform our perspectives and correct our misunderstandings.
What is the “way of sinners”?
To me, this is describing the kind of company we keep. Do we seek out communities that encourage and build us up? Do we engage with people who are actively counter to the God we serve? This shouldn’t be taken as encouragement for isolationism. But the attitude you take towards the different people and communities in your life is important. Are you supporting communities/people who are actively counter to who Jesus is and what He taught us? If so, then you would be wise to seek out communities that will push you towards a Christ like character.
It can also be understood as describing the “way sinners act”, and thus as an encouragement or admonish to avoid acting the way sinners act. – Mt 7:13 You should seek to avoid anger, jealousy, hate, pride, vanity, greed, and the lusts of the flesh. To cultivate any of these things in your life is to sow destruction.
What is the “seat of the scornful”?
I believer that this means to be the kind of person who expresses contempt or derision, to be occupied with finding that with which to express contempt or derision about.
To be preoccupied with scorn is to cultivate hate and pride. And it will drive love away. Love recognizes fault, is grieved by it if it is unrepented, and releases it in forgiveness when it is repented. But it is never derisive. It does not seek to tear down even when given the option. Love may feel grief, but not anger.
What does it mean to meditate on the “law” day and night?
The law here should be taken to include all of God’s revealed word, not just the specific laws given under the Mosaic covenant. The emphasis here is on knowing and understanding the full spirit and intent of God’s purpose and instruction for His creation. The goal here is to know God, to understand Him, to love Him and thus by nature to obey Him.
What does meditation look like to you?
Meditation takes a number of forms, both formal and informal. Sometimes it means formal, in depth study. To take a passage, research its meaning, ask questions and pursue the answers. To document the process and go over it iteratively. To get outside critique.
Sometimes it takes the form of idle contemplation, to take something you know well and to work it into your daily habits and ways of thinking. Sometimes it takes the form of idle questions, pulling in cross references from other parts of scripture that you know, spending time knitting together what it all means.
I do not read the bible as regularly as I would like. I study passages frequently, because of my teaching responsibilities. But I often take what I learn from teaching, from participating in sermons or classes, and over time knit it together to form a cohesive philosophy. I try to connect what I know to how my life is being lived.
Above all, meditation means spending time thinking about God word, spending time cultivating an understanding of God through the mediums He has revealed himself in (specifically His written word).
What kind of blessings are promised if you follow those two instructions?
The psalmist uses the metaphor of a tree planted by water, a tree that is fruitful. It is worth noting that the tree bears fruit “in its season”. This seems to indicate that the blessings of obedience may not always be immediately known or felt. Sometimes they may take time to reveal themselves. But blessings grow over time, gaining strength and building on themselves.
A tree that grows by a river of water has constant access to the source of life, both from the water and from the nutrients brought to the soil by the river.
What does the metaphor translate into in real life?
I believe the emphasis here is not necessarily on material gain, but on contentedness and joy with what life does deliver to us. I believe that, when we follow Godly principles and counsel we will experience prosperity, but the promise doesn’t indicate how much or where we will start from. Material wealth can be relative. But a Godly outlook, an outlook informed and shaped by a deep understanding of God’s word and God’s nature and character will find joy in whatever lot you are given, and will prosper that situation making it better.
Why are the ungodly like the chaff?
Because they provide no value. Chaff is the useless organic material that surrounds the grain. It is separated during harvest and destroyed. The ungodly may grow for a time with the godly, and experience the common grace and benefits of the fruit of the earth, but when harvest comes, they will be separated and destroyed. There is no eternal value in ungodliness.
Weeds and chaff represent those who embrace ungodliness. Ultimately, they are a drag on prosperity, causing waste, frustration, and despair. They feed on the prosperity of the godly.
What does “the judgement” mean?
The judgement is the final judgement, when God will separate those who believe from those who do not, the godly from the ungodly. We do not know when this time will come, but it will come. Part of being able to be content on this earth, is being able to reconcile all the evil the ungodly propagate on this earth. Knowing that God will balance the scale, that He will judge and bring justice is vital to being able to accept the short term injustices of life.
Who ultimately decides?
Each individual decides his fate by how he chooses to relate to the God who created him. But in the end, God will judge, meting out reward and punishment to those who deserve it, balancing the scales off all the wrong that has happened in this world.