Summary: The first Psalm introduces us to the blessings of the righteous man.

August 26, 2012 Psalm 1

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 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, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

I. The desire of “blessed”

The book of Psalms starts with a wonderful word: blessed. If someone asks you how you’re doing, you might just say the simple word “Blessed.” When you say you’re blessed it’s better than saying “I’m ok” or even “I’ve been fortunate,” because fortunate is derived from the Latin word fortuna which means luck. “Blessed” brings to mind the divine blessings that God gives from above.

There are two main Hebrew words for “blessed.” One is barak and one is ashar. Barak is used primarily from a divine aspect as a gift from heaven above, apart from any work on the part of anyone. When God’s Word uses barak it has nothing to do with someone has earned it or not. It is dependent solely on the grace of the merciful LORD. But asher is used more reciprocally. God promises blessing, but He conditions it on behavior of the person. Such is the case today when God talks about who is blessed in Psalm 1.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

The blessing of such a type that the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says that it is a word that denotes envious desire. In other words, when people look at that person they say, “I wish I had what he has.” In that sense, he’s blessed.

Psalm 73 is a psalm of Asaph. In it he describes the envious desire he had of the wicked. Why did he envy them and in that sense “bless” them? He writes,

I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.

5 They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.

He looked over their physical lives and saw how easy they had life. They were rich and prosperous. They had healthy and strong bodies. Here he was, constantly struggling against sin and temptation, trying his best to lead a repentant life to the glory of God, and it was oh so difficult! On the other hand, the wicked had not concern or care about what God thought. Yet they seemed to pay no price for their ignorance. They just enjoyed life in their own little cocoon. When he looked at that he said, “Man, they have life easy! I wish I had it so easy! It would be great to live life like that.”

But then he remembered something important.

16 When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me

17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

Psalm 1 reminds us that the wicked are like the chaff that the wind blows away. The chaff is the husk that surrounds a kernel of grain. It has no nutritious value whatsoever. It is light and fluffy and blows away in the wind. This is the ultimate destiny of the wicked. God won’t care how popular they were. He won’t care if they made millions of dollars or won humanitarian awards. All of that will seem like nothing to him, as meaningless as chaff. God will say to them, “Get away from me. Depart into the fires of hell.”

This loss of prosperity happens even prior to Judgment Day. Just this week a small article was in the news showing Lindsey Lohan walk from the beach, having to carry all of her things by herself because her friend left her there to fend for herself. Oh, the shame of it all! (Great news, huh?) But at any rate, isn’t that what happens with so many former stars? As they grow older they have a real hard time dealing with their diminishing fame. The bodies that they took so much pride in get old and worn out. The only popularity they get is when they are arrested for drugs or for divorce. It will be much worse on Judgment Day. The wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. . . . the way of the wicked will perish.

If this is the eternal destiny of those who live without Christ, then why do you learn their songs by heart? Why do you study their every move and put their posters up on your wall? Why do you envy the “freedom” of the single person who is promiscuous? Is that really a blessed life? Do you think God is going to say, “Well, I see you never worshiped me, but since you could throw that leather ball through that metal rim so well and everybody else worshiped you and blessed you, I guess I have to also.” Of course not.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Think about the way that we are being counseled by the wicked in such an insidious way today. For instance, one thing I’ve noticed is how so many kids shows push the envelope on romance all the time. The kids that start out so innocent in the early start of the show and there is some funny humour in them. But as the kids grow, they feel a need to sexualize them. A romance is developed so that the whole show revolves around when the star will finally get to kiss the girl of his dreams. Kids watch this and think, “That’s how romance works! I need a girl friend too!” It’s not that having a girl friend is evil, but there’s a lot more to life than that.

Adults aren’t immune from it either. Again and again we are being told that the most hateful thing to do is to tell someone they are doing something wrong. The counsel from America is just to try and understand everyone. When a recent politician said that a woman’s body could somehow reject the pregnancy of a rape, the outrage by the media and the following mockery against all people who oppose abortion was telling. All anti-abortion people have been lumped together to be complete buffoons and hicks. Such attacks make us scared to say anything out of fear of being branded with the so-called “hicks.” Inadvertantly, we’re listening to their advice just to mind our own business. It seems so much more blessed to stay out of it.

II. The source of the “blessed”

In contrast to going along with the crowd and just following their advice and fearing their mockery, God compares the righteous to a tree planted by streams of water. Think about the picture that the Psalmist is drawing for us. They don’t plant themselves. The tree is powerless to do so. When the tree is fortunate enough to be planted by a steady water source they establish deep roots and firmly establish the tree in the ground. It doesn’t need to different sources – just the one source is enough. Trees stand firm in the place where they are planted, producing good fruit. Their leaves look green and healthy. They don’t feel the need to go anywhere. They are happy where they are.

The tree is representative of the the righteous man whom the Lord has planted. The stream is representative of the Word of God. The Psalmist said, his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. The word for “law” is “Torah” in the Hebrew. It doesn’t just mean the law. It is a more general term here, referring to the whole counsel of the LORD; whatever He has to say; both Law and Gospel.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman, whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. In your baptism you were blessed enough to be planted in the stream of Jesus’ righteousness. When you were brought to the church you were given the opportunity to keep feeding on the Word of God, so you could learn more about what a sinner you are and what a gracious LORD you have. You don’t need alcohol, drugs or philosophy. All you need is the Word.

Just as the tree loves being planted by the stream, the righteous man loves having such access to God’s Word and sacraments. He meditates on all of the word of the LORD. He reads a Bible story and contemplates to Himself what the people in the Bible did right or wrong and how God responded. He sees how God patiently and lovingly dealt with the rebellious Israelites and disciples. He sees God’s Son take on flesh on the cross and rise from the dead for the sins of the world. He sees how loving and merciful God is in Christ. He sees the great sacrifices that God’s people made throughout the entire history of the Bible, as well as their shortfalls. He asks himself, “Where have I fallen short? How could God love me? Who am I imitating?” He loves reading about God’s mercy and patience in Christ. He contemplates how God has given him the sunshine or his health for that day. He likes doing this. It is his living stream. This is what the righteous man does to continue to grow and be blessed. There is no place he would rather be than in the Word. The blessings of God’s judgment, peace and love and forgiveness flow from the Word.

IV. The prosperity of the blessed

Notice something else! I found this to be interesting. As I was meditating on this Word for the week, I walked by my apple tree in the back yard. I noticed a whole slew of apples that had fallen from the tree and were rotting under the tree. Every time I walk by I would see the bees and the butterflies feeding on the apples. I got to thinking about that. The apple tree produces more apples than we could ever use. (You can have some if you want.) The apple tree doesn’t eat it’s own apple. Nor does it enjoy it’s own shade. The apples and the shade provide us and the worms and the butterflies and the bees with food. They provide branches for the birds and shade for us. This is how God designed the apple tree and why He put the fruit on the tree; so that the fruit would benefit US.

Apply that when you think about the promises of blessing for the man who is planted by streams of water. Whatever he does prospers. The sinful nature reads that and says, “Oh goodie! I will be PROSPEROUS if I feed on the Word! I will be BLESSED if I only meditate on the Word.” Driven by greed, the sinful nature wants to do what God says so that He can give them PROSPERITY. But who prospers from the shade and fruit of the tree? Not the tree, but the people who live off of the tree. So if you think about it in your own life – why do you want to go to church? Why do you study the Word? Why do you take the sacrament? If your goal is always self serving to see how much you can prosper for YOURSELF, then you have missed the point, no? The tree was not made to produce for the tree. So the LORD doesn’t prosper you for your own good. He prospers you for the good of others.

Your growth in the Word can be of great benefit to others. Your prayer life can play a part in bringing God and His angels to the rescue of a friend in need. Your example of patience and faith can be a great influence on your children when they are worried. You can reassure them of God’s angels and pray for them and with them. Your witness and testimony of Christ can drop the fruit of life into the heart and soul of the hungry soul that passes under your shade.

The tree doesn’t choose who doesn’t pick its fruit. It doesn’t care. It doesn’t decide to stop producing fruit if nobody likes the fruit it has to offer. Neither should you. Neither should it concern you if they let your fruit waste on the ground or if people complain about the taste of your fruit. Your simple concern should be to keep on drinking from the stream, so that the water can keep on feeding you and enabling you to produce fruit. It’s such an interesting thing when you think about it.

V. The prosperity flows in the heat of life

This kind of “prosperity” that flows from the stream can flow forth no matter how hot it gets out or how hard the wind blows. Trees that are planted by streams are pretty much immune from the weather. That’s the wonderful thing about how the Holy Spirit works in the heart of a believer. He generates the most wonderful fruit in even the most awful circumstances. The truth of the matter is that He produces the most wonderful fruit EXACTLY in the worst of circumstances.

Think of David who had to live under the shame of knowing that he had murdered his neighbor and stolen his wife. When you read through the anguish that he went through in the Psalms, writing about how his bones were wasting away, you might say, “How would anyone consider David to be blessed?” But it was through his anguish that he was taught was a sinner he was and how gracious and forgiving the LORD really was. The Holy Spirit used David’s sin to drive him to a strong faith in the coming Savior. He also used David’s anguish to write some of the Psalms which are wonderful confessions of sin and faith.

Think of Paul who was suffering from some sort of trouble in his flesh. His weakness made him feel weak and helpless. He also had to endure being beaten and put in jail. He had the daily pressure of praying for the congregations which he helped to establish. Yet his weakness also drove him to pray more. His weakness drove him to clearly see how weak he was. It drove him to rely on God all the more. So he wrote the passages we love so dearly in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Think most importantly of Jesus from the cross. Here was a man who was being tortured and mocked, even cursed by His own Father. The axe was chopping down on this Mighty God of a man who was suffering under the curse of God on humanity. Yet in the midst of His suffering you could hear the most wonderful blessings come forth from this most cursed Man. In the midst of their mockery He blessed those who were at His feet and His side with love and forgiveness; praying for them, providing for them and dieing for them. He promised the world that He had finished and paid for their sins. In the worst of circumstances He who was cursed with death and hell blessed us with His death and provided us with His righteousness and salvation. As the Tree fell His fruit spread on the ground for all to come and eat. Instead of feeling sorry for Him, we worship Him in His most awful spot for providing the life giving fruit of righteousness and salvation to eat from.

God has planted you by the wonderful stream of Jesus’ love and forgiveness. He promises you a steady flow of His love and mercy in the blood of Christ that will take you into heaven. As you see people walk by in life from the heavenly perspective, it is easy to become envious of them. They seem to be going places and have not a worry in the world. Do not bless them with your envy. They are headed for a cliff. Like the useless chaff they will be thrown into the eternal fires of hell. But you are not. You have the promise of eternal life in Christ. Even after you are chopped off God promises that He will resurrect your body and bring your tree back to life, just as Jesus did. So do not fear and do not panic. Keep drinking from the blessed stream by meditating on the Word, and believe in God’s promise that He will watch over your way. Stay where you are, prospering in the blessed streams of Christ. Amen.