Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. (Psalm 1:1-3)
Psalm 1 is the opening psalm to the Hebrew psalter and it sets the tone for the rest of the book of Psalms. It is more proverb that poem as it talks about the blessedness of meditating on the law of the Lord. In this psalm, we see the contrast between the blessed man and the wicked man. That contrast is made evident in how they handle the law of the Lord.
The psalm opens with a beatitude: “Blessed is the man.” The psalmist then goes on to describe three things that mark off the blessed man. The blessed man is one who “walks not in the “counsel of the wicked,” “stand in the way of sinners,” and “sit in the seat of scoffers.” Note the progression from walk to stand to sit. Each one marks an increasing commitment to evil. Whereas the terms, wicked, sinner and scoffer all describe the man who is not blessed. In other words, the blessed man is one who does not find his counsel in wicked men, who does not identify with sinners and who does not camp out in the presence of scoffers.
What does the blessed man do? He finds his delight in the law of the Lord. He doesn’t just pay lip service to the law of the Lord, nor does he simply believe the law of the Lord. Rather he takes his delight in the law of the Lord. The law of the Lord is a joy to the blessed man. His finds his comfort and spiritual nourishment from the law of the Lord. The prophet Jeremiah once said, “Your words were found, wand I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” Jeremiah was a blessed man!
The blessed man delights in the law of the Lord so much that it is his mediation day and night! In other words, he simply doesn’t read the law of the Lord, nor does he simply study the law of the Lord. He meditates on the law of the Lord all day long. To meditate is to fill your mind with the law of the Lord, to drink deeply of its truths and ruminate on them. The man who meditates on the law of the Lord is blessed because every thought, word and deed is filtered through the law of the Lord.
The psalmist then gives an illustration of the blessed man. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.” A tree is steady, strong and solid. It stands firm against the winds of change. Furthermore, this tree is planted near a stream of water so that it has a constant source of nourishment. This true always bears its fruit when the time is right. Fruitfulness is the metaphor Jesus uses most to describe true disciples. Finally, this tree’s leaves do not wither; this tree is always fresh and always in bloom. This is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on the law day and night.
The wicked man does not fare quite as well. Because he does not delight in the law of the Lord, nor does he meditate on it day and night, he is like chaff that is blown away by the wind. The wicked man is not rooted, but goes where the wind blows. He is also dry and fruitless like chaff. As a result, when judgment day comes, the wicked will not stand; they will be ex-communicated from the congregation.
The fate of the blessed man and the wicked man couldn’t be more different. For the blessed man, the Lord knows his way. This isn’t just “knowing about” the way of the blessed man. Rather it speaks to favor and affection. The Lord knows with favor and affection the way of the blessed man. In contrast, the way of the wicked will perish. This isn’t simply death, but judgment and eternal punishment.
This opening psalm gets to the heart of the matter very directly. The man who wishes to be blessed of the Lord will delight in his law and meditate on it day and night.