To start our day with the psalmody of the first psalm is to glimpse the breathtaking height from which we have fallen…from the bottom of the ravine into which we have fallen.
I think, in all the times that I have read this detail of the contrast between lives of the righteous and the wicked, I have inevitably framed it as a cautionary tale of what happens to backsliders. I place myself as regularly walking the path of the righteous, blessed man seeking the will of God with moments of weakness where I find myself sitting in the all-too-comfortable mocking chairs and walking down the easy path of sin.
But those times of weakness are just sad exceptions to an otherwise upright life, right? I console myself that I am certainly not the chaff of which they speak…at least not full time.
Yet I look to my left and my right at the table find only mockers; I survey my trail mates as I walk through life and find only sinners. Where are the righteous in whose company I have convinced myself that I am?
This psalm reminds me that I am not looking down to where I sometimes fall into sinful patterns and behaviors. I can only look up from the floor of the ravine that I call my home and seek those exceptional moments where I follow the leading of the Spirit to acts of righteousness, acts that I can only do through His power.
Some might argue that the psalm speaks to the duality of man, where we are equal parts righteous and wicked. Oh, if that were only the case, I would gladly accept 50% righteousness over the zero that I have now. Until God’s plan for me is completed and I am in His presence, I have no righteousness apart from Jesus.
It is only because of Christ that I am able to make any claim on God’s blessings and promises to the righteous contained in this reading, for as long as I attempt to work it out on my own I will remain cemented to the floor of the ravine clawing futilely at the insurmountable wall between me and rightness before God.
To add to that distance, I have to endure God’s indifference to my efforts at personal righteousness apart from His son. Note that God “watches over” (Hebrew: yodea’) the righteous, which is the same as knows or “knew” from Matthew 7:23:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
So even if I follow all the rules and guidelines in the Bible, if I do not believe in Jesus as the Christ and receive that gift of righteousness that can only be imputed through Him, then God remains indifferent to my toil. Thus is the futility of trying to lead a “good” life without Christ at the center.
Psalmody 1 Study Guide
What kind of pictures come to your mind when you think of the word “blessed”?
In verses 1-2 the text outlines what a blessed person does, and does not, pursue. How would you explain these thing in your own words?
In your own words, how would you restate the warnings of verses 4-6?
If blessed means “happy”, how would you summarize what this psalm says about the best way to find true happiness? Do you agree?
Review the “thought life” guidelines given in Philippians 4:8. What food for thought can you find in psalm 1 that especially strikes you as fitting in relation to the Philippians verse?
Read Proverbs 2:1-5. What buried treasure would you like God to help you find in your study of Psalms?
It is important to note that the promise of prosperity mentioned in verse 3 is qualified by the context: “whatever he does” will be determined by living in obedience to Scriptures. That is what will prosper, the ability to live in obedience.