Description / Transcription
Psalm 1, Psalm 2. They give us a way. They give us a doorway to pass through to find happiness in the wisdom of God. The blessed person fears and loves the King. Under the King’s lordship, the blessed person delights in the law of the Lord.
Please turn with me to Psalm 1 this evening, Psalm 1. Hear the word of our Lord.
“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.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.”
This is the Word of the Lord.
Let’s pray together.
Heavenly Father, we do thank You for this wonderful, diverse, unified book, the book of Psalms. We thank You for the many ways that it speaks, speaks of who we are, created in Your image, created as worshipers, and the many ways it speaks greater than that, of who You are, of Your manifold wisdom and goodness and beauty and might. We pray that You would be with us, especially tonight as we look at this book and specifically at Psalm 1, as a book of wisdom. As we embark on this series here in the evenings on wisdom, may it be for us wisdom, may through a look at Psalms and Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon and Job, may You teach us wisdom. May You who is perfect wisdom by Your Spirit implant within us a wisdom that guides and directs our lives so that we may in greater and greater ways reflect He who is wisdom incarnate, that is Jesus Christ. May You be with us tonight, specifically now as well look at the Psalms. May You be with me, may You guide my words, those that are forgettable and not faithful, may they indeed be forgettable for each of us, but those that are faithful, may You implant them in our hearts that we may live by them. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
So what you do at the beginning of a thing sets the tone. I remember all the way back when I was in middle school, I liked to play basketball. I still like to play, not as much as I did then, but I was a young lad, middle school, playing basketball and I was going against a team that was particularly tall. As soon as this very tall team won the tip off, they had a play where the guy that caught the ball threw it up for an alley-oop dunk right at the opening tip. Of course, their intentions were clear. Just as he dunked the ball, they were going to dunk us out of the gym, and if memory serves correctly, indeed, they did.
Now just recall. This was middle school and this was going on. It was setting a tone and setting a tone, indeed they did. It was quite discouraging at the time, but I was a little bit encouraged after the game when many of these same players were driving away in their cars. It was middle school, so you probably can put the calculation together.
So in literature we know that opening lines are often designed to set the tone, or to outline the program, or evoke what is going to be unfolded in the narrative that follows. Let me give you just a few famous examples.
You have Dickens from The Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
You have Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: It was, no, excuse me, “All happy families are alike, each unhappy is unhappy in its own way.”
Or Eliot’s The Wasteland: “April is the coolest month.”
Or, more importantly, scripture: “In the beginning God.”
These lines orient the reader to the story that is about to unfold. As we consider the Psalms, specifically consider the Psalms as wisdom this evening, it is as if we are entering a grand cathedral, or a house that’s been built over decades, even centuries. It has many rooms, it has many corridors, nooks and crannies that have all been perfected into a harmonious variety over time. But this great house, the Psalms, has one main entrance. A beautiful doorway. It’s Psalm and Psalm 2. They from a doorway with a pillar on either side, and we must pass through these pillars in order to gain entrance into this great house, the book of Psalms.
There’s no other way in. It’s through these two Psalms that we must pass to the rest of this great book.
Now as you may know, the big book of the Psalms actually has five books within it, patterned after the five books of the Pentateuch, or the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.
Book one of the Psalms is Psalms 1 to 41. Book two is Psalms 42 to 72. Book three, Psalms 72 to 89. Book four, Psalm 90 to 106. Then finally book five contains Psalms 107 to 150.
If you know the Psalms well, you know that book five ends purposely with an explosion of praise. It’s like the grand finale of a fireworks show as you get towards the end of the book of Psalms.
But tonight we’re not looking at the end, we’re looking at the beginning. We’re looking at this gate, this main entrance on the way to this eternal explosion of praise.
We’re beginning a series tonight on Wisdom for a New Year, looking at what are sometimes known as the five wisdom books of the Bible, specifically of the Old Testament. Job, which we were going to cover last week but we’ll get to here in a future week. Psalms, which we are covering tonight. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs.
Now some of you when you think of the Psalms, you maybe don’t think of a book of wisdom. Proverbs, yes, that makes sense as you’ll hear from Pastor Mike Miller next week. Ecclesiastes, yes. But aren’t the Psalms more like a song and prayer book rather than a book of wisdom? Yes, but it is the Psalms, a rich and varied book that doesn’t lack wisdom literature within it.
Generally speaking, we could say the wisest person must first be a worshiper. Right? What is the most wise thing we can do, is worship God, and this is a book of worship. But more specifically, this first psalm which will take up most of our attention tonight, is a wisdom psalm. This book, a book of prayer, a book or worship, starts here with Psalm 1 and Psalm 1 is a genuine wisdom psalm.
So I have three loose points this evening. The first point is we’re going to enter the grand house of the Psalms by looking at Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 together. Then secondly we will look briefly at the blessed kingship of Psalm 2, and then most of our time will be spent with our third point, looking at blessed clarity from Psalm 1.
But let’s enter this grand house. As we enter this grand house of the Psalms, we’re going to look at this wonderful orienting doorway of Psalms 1 and 2 together.
Now if you’ve ever traveled to Europe, and especially visited some of the old European universities, one thing that you will often notice are these Latin phrases. Latin’s everywhere in Europe, right? But these Latin phrases that are sometimes right above a doorway or an archway, maybe even above a place where you’re entering into a building. And what these are designed to encapsulate is something of the heart of that university’s original founding mission.
One of my favorites is found in Aberdeen, University of Aberdeen, they have this famous gateway above which is the Latin for Psalm 111, which we read here tonight, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” You also find that, of course, in the Proverbs.
Probably the most well-known gates at a university here in America is Harvard’s Veritas, the Veritas shield is prominent over all 27 gates entering into Harvard’s yard.
The assumption is if you pass under these words at these institutions, you’re not merely there to admire the words. Right? You’re not merely there to see their beautiful setting. You in one sense as you go through these gates, under these words, you’re called upon to affirm them, to embrace them, to recognize that there’s something you’re pushing towards here in this learning center by going under these words. So you’re to seek wisdom, you’re to find truth here under these doorways and in these places of learning.
Well, Psalm 1 and 2 stand here as we enter the Psalms much like these doorways, these gateways, and they call forth from us a response, a response, an affirmation, a recognition of their truth. Something we don’t merely recognize intellectually but with feeling and a desire to fulfill what the words themselves present to us.
So as we enter this book as book of wisdom here this evening, these psalms invite not only our intellectual assent but an affirmation of our whole being, our thoughts, our wills, our emotion. They invite us to say a hearty amen to what is given to us in these two psalms.
But how do these two psalms from this doorway? How do they form one cohesive doorway? How do they go together? How do they provide entrance into this great book of Psalms?
Look with me, if you have your Bibles open, at the first line of Psalm 1. The first line of Psalm 1 – “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked.” That’s verse 1, Psalm 1. Now look at the last verse of Psalm 2, the last verse of Psalm 2, specifically the last line – “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”
Now, seminary nerds and I spend my day around a lot of seminary nerds, in fact I might be one myself, we call this an inclusio, an inclusio. Simply what that is, it’s a literary unit. You have something at the beginning and something at the end and it encloses it into one cohesive unit. So what this shows is that these two psalms in some sense they go together. The fact that the same thing is said at the beginning of Psalm 1 and the same thing is said at the end of Psalm 2, we have a tying together, where there’s a common theme in the midst of their diverse elements.
There’s a specific focus here, and you catch that in the language of “blessed.” There’s a focus on blessing.
So these two psalms are related, they’re connected, they function like a doorway with two pillars, like that alley-oop dunk they set the tone. They evoke themes that are to come. They call us out of where we are, they orient us to now, what is going to follow.
Now they do this together, Psalm 1 and 2, they form an archway together, two pillars holding up an archway. But they are distinct. Right? Let me just tease out a little bit of their distinction here. Psalm 1 presents specifically an individual person’s discipleship. The two ways, the two pictures, the two ends, the righteous and the wicked, blessing and judgment. It presses the reader to ask, “What way am I on? Am I on the way of blessing or am I on the way of judgment? Am I on the blessed path?”
It is with this psalm that we will spend, of course, most of our time this evening. But Psalm 2 lifts us up from this more individual, personal discipleship perspective to a more global one. If Psalm 1 speaks of the most pressing individual matter before us, you must know where you are going and you must be sure that you’re counted among the congregation of the righteous, Psalm 2 says you must know where history is in some sense going , you must see the whole show, you must understand that the world has been promised ultimately to one person, the Messiah, King. It causes to ask, “Are we a part of that great body of people that are in submission to the King?”
Well, as we now turn to these psalms individually, we are, as I said, going to spend the bulk of our time with Psalm 1, but first a few comments on our second point here this evening on Psalm 2.
Psalm 2, you probably know and probably picked up as Pastor Mike was reading it here this evening, is not properly considered a wisdom psalm. It’s actually categorized as something called a Royal Psalm due to its preoccupation with the Lord’s anointed, with the King. But that said, it teaches a lot of wisdom.
What do I mean? It’s a very wise thing to know who’s in charge. It’s a very wise thing to know who’s in charge and how we are relating to the one who is in charge. Psalm 2 looks to the grand sweep of rulers, powers, and it asks in astonishment, how can it be that people don’t recognize who’s actually in power? Right? How can these kings and princes think they actually have power? How unwise, how foolish, that even the greatest rulers of that day, or the greatest rulers of our day, think that they have ultimate power.
No, God has established power. He has established power here on earth in His anointed King and the powers that be are warned, we are warned, to fear Him and to love Him. Kiss the Son, is what it says in verse 12. Serve Him with fear and rejoice with trembling, it says in verse 11. The fear of the Lord, it tells us in Proverbs and is Psalms, is what? The beginning of wisdom. Not a cowering fear, but a fear that knows where authority is, a fear that knows the power of God. This is a first step of wisdom, for us to know that all authority, all wisdom, all power, belongs to the Alpha and Omega, belongs to Jesus Christ, the eternal King, indeed, the eternal Son of God.
But more. As we pursue wisdom, it is out of fear of this King but also a love for the King. The kiss spoken of here. What is the kiss? It’s a sign of loving submission. When an Ancient Near Eastern king reported the subjugation and homage of a conquered king, he would say, “So-and-so, king over there, came and kissed my feet.” Kissed my feet. Psalm 2 would have the reader of this book to lovingly submit him or herself to the King, who we know to be the eternal Lord Jesus Christ. He’s died a death for our sins, He’s been raised from the dead. He’s now conquered death, He rules on high, He’s coming again. Salvation and wisdom is found in entering into His kingdom through humbly bowing our knee in love to Him, and indeed kissing Him in love.
Psalm 2 speaks of the blessing of being under this King.
But now let’s turn our attention to the blessed clarity of our main passage, Psalm 1. Psalm 1. As we read Psalm 1, its wisdom jumps out at us. Partly because it sounds a lot like what? It sounds a lot like Proverbs. It presents the clarity of two, and only two. You’re on this path or you’re on that path. There’s two ways for a person here to walk. It presents two pictures of what this life looks like, and only two. It presents to us two destinations, light and dark, on and off, right and wrong, wise and foolish. That is what is presented to us.
We’re going to look at how the content directs us in that way, but first I want to know how the psalms, not just this psalm but all the psalms, come to us packaged in a certain way. What do I mean? They come packaged in a certain way. The Psalms are what we call poetry, Hebrew poetry. As poetry, they frequently teach us not merely through its content, but also through its form. Right? A good poem is going to teach you something through the words, but also how the words are put together. The form of the words, and that’s no different in Hebrew poetry, although to know Hebrew poetry, you have to know how it works in contradistinction to how English poetry might work.
Well, Psalm 1 has two elements of form that communicate powerfully to us. The first highlights the sort of organizing idea of Psalm 1. That is, the idea of the way, the way. In verses 1 to 2, we see a description and fate of the way of the righteous and then if you look at the end, so that’s the first two verses, if you look at the end, verses 5 and 6, we have a description and fate of the way of the wicked. Way is at the heart of this psalm. One leads to happiness, the other leads to destruction. The images of one walking and leading and going in a particular direction. The Spirit is saying nothing is more crucial than you, me, being on the right way, the right road, the right path.
The other element of form that is instructive here are these two ways, and in Hebrew this psalm contains what is known, I’m going to give you another geeky seminary term, incipient acrostic. All right, what does that mean? That means that the opening word of this psalm in Hebrew begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet is aleph, and the closing word in this psalm is the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet, which is tav. So this articulates in the word of one commentator the diametric opposition between life on the one hand and death. Or the opposition between the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. The two are as far apart as aleph and tav, or we might say, as A to Z.
Well, as we look now at the content of this psalm, we note again the first word, the first all-important word, “blessed.” Blessed.
This word might conjure up in your mind something from the New Testament. Right? The Sermon on the Mount where each Beatitude begins with “blessed,” or “happy is the one.” Following the Lord is not only right, it’s not only our duty, it should be our joy, and indeed it produces within us blessedness, happiness. There’s an eternal perspective when the psalmist is saying here that highlights not only the perspective God has on the righteous, they are blessed in His sight, but also the state, the state of the righteous. When walking with God in light of His Word, there’s an emotional well-being, a psychological well-being, a blessed peace that is possessed sweetly by the believer.
But as we consider the happy way of the righteous, where does a righteous person get his or her signals for living? Directions for living? The psalmist has no interest in what we might call the soft sell of modern marketing. Right? He starts off actually with a negative, that is and what is to be avoided. The righteous person moves down the way of blessedness by shunning or avoiding certain things. Walks not, that’s the language that the psalmist uses.
The righteous person knows a certain separateness. He’s not neutral with regard to evil. He shuns it.
Now the substance of this avoidance maneuver with regard to evil is seen specifically in the nouns and the verbs that you find in verse 1. Look at the nouns first in verse 1, the important nouns that you find in each line there: Counsel, way, and then seat. Counsel, way, and seat.
Counsel, let’s start there. That has to do with thinking, with forming plans, with a mindset, with an outlook. The wise one avoids the thinking, the mindset, the outlook of the wicked.
But then there’s a second noun – way. What does way have to do with it? It has to do with the direction a person takes, with behavior, with actions, with practices. The righteous one is to avoid the practices of the wicked.
Then you have the third noun – seat. Seat has to do with the company he keeps, where he settles, belongs, is comfortable. The righteous do not belong or are not ultimately comfortable with the wicked.
So the psalmist here starts with mind and thinking and then direction and behavior and then thirdly with the company one keeps. So you have three degrees here of departure from God, that the people of God are called upon to shun, to avoid.
We see here, you could say, a picture of the hardening of a heart, the progress, or the devolution of the hardening of a heart. We must remember a heart hardening and closing off to God is not a moment thing. It’s not a punctiliar thing. It’s a process, a process that ends with a very visceral attitude of scoffing.
We see this process further not only in the nouns of verse 1, but also the verbs. The nouns are counsel, way, and seat; the verbs correspond to them, and they show a slowing down. Right? I could even show you here, you’re walking with somebody, right? And conversing. But then you stand and have a little bit of a longer, drawn-out conversation, and then you might go and actually sit down. Right? That shows some sort of progress. They’re right in the words themselves, the verbs themselves.
So verse 1, the nouns are counsel, way, seat. The verbs are walking, standing, and then sitting. The wise psalmist is warning not to step foot on that wicked way. Do not set foot on this way lest you become increasingly hardened to sin, lest you slow down from considering through walking to considering through a more drawn-out conversation to actually sitting down with evil.
So let’s reflect a little bit on this whole process, that these nouns and verbs together characterize for us. What might it look like? Well, first we have this pair of the noun of counsel and the verb of walking. The wise person is careful to not listen in a receptive way to that which is wicked, to that which is contrary to God’s will.
Of course, living in our world we cannot fully help hearing the mindsets and outlooks of the wicked unless we totally turn off our hearing, but we can guard the ears of our heart by not proactively taking in the empty and twisted ideas of the wicked through choices in friends, books, music, podcasts, movies. What are all the ways that we receptively take in content? Where we’re eagerly listening and trying to take that content and appropriate it in our own outlook and ways? This is saying shun those ways.
The second with the pair of way and standing clearly this means the one pursuing wisdom does not begin down a pathway in his or her living of practicing sin. The wise one examines her life and measures it against God’s commands. Is there in my life a developing pattern of disobedience and rebellion? If so, then perhaps there’s some slippage from the first category now into this second category, of being in the way of the wicked.
Now, by God’s grace, there’s always time for repentance, for turning back when we go down the practice of sin, but we also must be warned as this psalm would warn us of the increased practice of wickedness having an effect of hardening our hearts, desensitizing us to the Spirit’s leadings and promptings.
Then third, the pair of seat and sitting. Seat and sitting, of course, has a very settled notion to it. A settled notion. Not just conversing with scoffers, not just practicing wickedness, but in one sense being at home, being at home, being settled with sinners, being comfortable with wickedness, reveling in it, even scoffing at righteousness.
So we see the psalmist here encouraging a different way than this way. Encouraging us to be different, to be counter-cultural. To not be the nice, easygoing guy or gal but resisting pressure, resisting the mold. Peer pressure. It’s always around. As you’ll hear, I’m sure, next week, peer pressure is a huge them in Proverbs and in wisdom literature. It’s always around us now, it was always around then, it’s a perennial issue.
What peer pressure makes us think is that if we don’t think a certain way, if we don’t follow a certain path, then we must be dumb idiots. We must be profoundly uncool people. It makes us think that if we don’t join in certain behaviors and postures, we will be on that painful outside looking in.
But the psalmist says, no, resist the mold, resist the pressure, resist the common way, and pursue blessing, pursue genuine, authentic happiness.
Well, beginning in verse 2 there’s a positive side to the righteous believers’ direction, the one that’s pursuing wisdom, has avoidance maneuvers, but now we have some more positive direction. Look at the verb here, the key verb of verse 2. It’s meditate, meditate. The Hebrew word behind this is an interesting one, it’s the Hebrew word hagah. Hagah can describe a lion who is growling and purring and playing over a piece of meat.
Maybe we haven’t seen a lot of that in our life. Maybe if you went on a safari in Africa, hopefully at a distance. Right?
But maybe we could think of a dog. Maybe you have a dog with its favorite bone. Right? Just loving on it, picking apart every piece. What is being pictured here is a kind of loving devouring of the law, of the Torah.
But what is the Torah? What is Torah? What is that law referred to here? Torah is one of those words that kind of has various meanings, depending on the context. Right? Sometimes it can just mean the first five books of the Bible. That’s the Torah. Sometimes it can mean the law, the specific laws of God.
But for here, for the psalms, that’s too confining of a definition. Torah in its fullest sense means teaching, it means instruction, it means doctrine. Torah includes what we find throughout Scripture, even in the praises and prayers of the saints that were put into print here in the Psalms.
This Torah, then, it’s teaching from God, and it’s to be a delight to the righteous. God’s people have such a love for it that it’s a preoccupation, it’s a day and night affair, to meditate, to hagah on God’s Word.
But what does this meditating look like? For us this might be like when someone tells you a phone number and you get that phone number from them and you start saying it over and over under your breath until it gets inside you. Right? Or you have your spouse or your friend, help me remember this number, and you keep saying it over and over again. Help me remember this.
It’s taking that external word and trying, attempting to make it internal. It’s placing the Torah before us constantly, maybe for you as it is for some in my family, writing verses and putting them on a mirror, on a dashboard, on a refrigerator, on the lock screen of your smartphone. It’s ensuring that God’s Word is before us and that by God’s grace, by prayer, by meditation, it’s becoming a part of us.
Sometimes meditating on God’s Word is that which will keep you from stepping into the way of the world. It’s that word that once it becomes a part of you that comes in and reminds you just as you’re about to believe a lie, it becomes that word which reminds you of the truth. It’s a warning that comes just right before your to commit a sin and give into temptation. It’s placing our eyes on God and on His Word, not on ourselves, and then that word enters in and guides us and protects us.
Daily intake of the Word of God keeps us on the way of the Lord and proves a guard against the hardening effects of sin in our lives.
To illustrate what the psalmist has opened up with in verses 1 to 2, he begins to provide pictures in verses 3 to 4. The righteous man meditates upon and delights in God’s Word is like a tree planted by streams of water, like a tree planted by streams of water. The image of a tree here. What does that evoke? What does that draw forth for us? Well, stability. Right? It’s planted in the ground. Vitality, because of its location. It’s receiving nutrients constantly because it’s by streams of water. Productivity because it gives its fruit in due season. Durability because it does not wither. And even prosperity, all that he does prosper, prospers.
Now let me say a word here about this word “all,” the descriptor “all” and the absolute and sort of ideal language that the psalmist uses here. What we find in wisdom literature, including the Psalms, is that it often speaks with a broad brush. A broad brush. It shows the normal course of the way of things. It doesn’t show the setbacks, it doesn’t show the nasty side, the upside-downness of a fallen world where sometimes it appears that the wicked do prosper.
You so see plenty of that in the Psalms, by the way. I could point you to another wisdom psalm that does show sort of the upside-downness of things often in this world, and that’s Psalm 73.
But this psalm speaks with the present and with the eternity in view. This is a part of a larger, eternal whole where the ultimate end of the righteous is in mind. That’s what this psalm is trying to picture for us, that’s why it uses absolute language.
Before moving to verse 4, I want to note something about the linkage here between verses 1 and 2 and verse 3, because these are connected. Sometimes when we look at our Christian discipleship we can wonder why we seem stuck in neutral. Right?
I remember when Lisa and I lived in the D.C. area we used to visit Charlotte frequently because my sister and her family live here. One of the things that we loved about Charlotte, and we still do, are all the vibrant crepe myrtles. All right, right now they’re pruned down to the trunks, but once you come to spring, once you come to summer, these beautiful crepe myrtles. We now have actually two on either side of our driveway, sort of like two pillars and an entryway into our house. It’s kind of cool.
Well, around maybe 12 years ago, when we were living in D.C., we got back to Bethesda and we said, “Let’s buy a crepe myrtle.” So we got one and we put it in our backyard. One thing that we figured out, doing a little reading, doing a little observation when we were down here in Charlotte, is these things need sunlight, so we planted it in our backyard, it would get plenty of sun, plenty of rain, these necessary nutrients for a productive, fruitful crepe myrtle.
But we noticed over time its leaves turning a different color, its losing of its strength, its blooms not being very vibrant. Somehow, somewhere, it was being exposed to some pretty negative influences. To be totally honest, if I’m totally honest here, in a Psalm 73 way, we never quite figured out what was going wrong with our crepe myrtle by the time we moved away. It must have been something in the soil but we weren’t clever enough to get at it by the time we moved. Compared to Charlotte’s grand crepe myrtles, ours was rather pathetic.
Well, some of you are gardeners. You know this same process. You know that there’s a clear connection between the health and growth and fruitfulness of your plants and not only the positive things that they are receiving, sun, water, but also the avoidance of certain pests and negative influences in the environment. If we care for our plants in this way, are we caring for our discipleship in the same way? Right?
Are we exposing ourselves over and over daily to yes, the nutrients of God’s Word, that we need to grow and bear fruit in season? But are we also examining our environment, the influences that are surrounding us so that decay doesn’t creep in and settle and harden that positive influence of the Word?
Well, now the image of the wicked person contrasts with the vibrant tree in verse 4. The contrast is abrupt. Not so, is what it says. It’s abrupt, it’s terse. The psalmist took four clauses to explain and amplify the picture of the righteous as a tree, one line, one line depicts the wicked, “The wicked are as chaff.” Rather than being rooted, rather than being weighty, rather than being enduring, the wicked are like chaff that blow away in the wind. Chaff is dry, scaly, protective casing of grain that is light and easily blows in the wind.
Maybe an image more familiar. It’s like a dandelion. Right? A dandelion with that white hair and you just blow it off and it’s gone. It glides in the air.
What we’ve seen there thus far in Psalm 1 contrasting ways, contrasting pictures. The Psalm now finishes in verses 5 to 6 with an ultimate parting of ways. This separation of these two ways begins in this life, but extends into the next with two different ends. This is a solemn psalm that doesn’t trifle with destiny. The wicked cannot be, the wicked cannot stand at the end in judgment. Their lot is not with God, their lot is not with the righteous, but their end is not arbitrary. It’s connected to their way of life.
But what of the righteous? God knows. God knows. That’s the one explanation here. God knows the righteous. Know here is a continual verb. He continually knows us. Every twist, every turn. If you’re in loving submission to the King tonight, you can be confident God ultimately, intimately, personally is concerned with every step that you take and will ensure that every step that you take ultimately leads to blessing with Him for all of eternity. He cares for us. He preserves us.
So Psalm 1, a wisdom psalm, which would have us delight in the way of blessing, delight in the way of wisdom, and would have us shun the way of the wicked. Psalm 2 teaches us the wisdom of fearing and lovingly submitting to the King. Psalm 1 provides a picture of the righteous person’s pathway under the King’s rule. These two, they go together, they hold together.
But let me suggest it is important to not only read them as two pillars welcoming us into this grand book of Psalms but also to consider them in light of something we call typology. Throwing out a lot of big seminary nerd words for you. Typology. Typology may sound like a fancy word, but you can understand it simply if you think of it in terms of the theological solidarity of Scripture, or that all of Scripture holds together and feeds in to common themes.
So there are types and places like the psalms which find clear relationship with what we find in the New Testament. So in Psalm 2 there’s a type here of an anointed king, and that anointed king is partially fulfilled later in David, yes, but ultimately through whom? Through the eternal righteous King Jesus.
One way of looking at the singular righteous person here in Psalm 1 is to see that while this is about us in one sense, it also points beyond. It points beyond. He must, if we are going to find any hope, this righteous person in Psalm 1, because we know that we haven’t always stayed on the way of the righteous. We’ve stood in the way of sinners. Our fruit hasn’t always yielded in season as it should. As those with faith in and love of Jesus, we desire to be like this righteous one, we pursue to be like this righteous one in Psalm 1, but we know that a contrary nature still festers within us. We sin. We often oppose God.
So he, the righteous one here, is ultimately fulfilled, ultimately fulfilled in Christ, who was born under the law in order to redeem us. He is the one who never wavered, whose fruit is unending, who is eternally rooted with God.
As I said, this is not to say the righteous man has no relevance for us. Men and women of faith in Christ, our walk with Christ involves being transformed into His perfect image, but we do fail, and when we do, we need to repent, obey, believe the Gospel, trust in the act of righteousness of Christ on our behalf.
So this righteous man is a type of Christ, our Lord. You even see a hint of maybe the Church here, in verse 5, too, that with should be counted among the congregation of the righteous.
So in conclusion, let’s return to seeing these two psalms, Psalm 1 and 2 together. What is the one word that frames these two psalms? The first and last lines, blessed. When we are looking for wisdom here in the new year in these psalms, we are looking at the ways of blessing, the way of true godly happiness. What better aspiration could there be for us in this new year?
The psalms are incredibly clear on where true happiness is found. This is because this book addresses our deepest longings, our deepest desires.
The Church father Augustin famously said all men, all men want to be happy and do what they do in order to be happy, and they are not all happy because they do not seek happiness in the place where it can be found.
Psalm 1, Psalm 2. They give us a way. They give us a doorway to pass through to find happiness in the wisdom of God. The blessed person fears and loves the King. Under the King’s lordship, the blessed person delights in the law of the Lord.
Let’s pray together. Our heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word. We thank You for the book of Psalms. We thank you for the pathways it gives us of blessing. O Father, each of us desires to be on the pathway of righteousness this year. If some actually feel they don’t desire that, may You put that desire within them by converting them, by giving them a new nature, by trusting in Christ that they might follow Him in the pathways of righteousness. For those of us united to Christ, may You grant us by the Spirit a deeper desire to pursue the pathway of blessing, of wisdom, and may this psalm help orient us to that direction here this evening. May it fuel within us a great desire to meditate on the Word, meditate on the book of Psalms, that our praises might be enriched and that our pathways might become clearer to us. Father, we indeed ask for Your blessing and may You bless us through Your Word. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.