Summary: Year C Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany February 11th, 2001

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Year C Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany February 11th, 2001

Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church

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By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor


Psalm 1

Title: “The way of the righteous and that of the wicked.”

This psalm is set as the introduction, prologue, preamble, preface to the entire Psalter. It is classified as a “Wisdom Psalm” because it sees life as presenting two basic options, two ways, two fundamental approaches to all of life: the way of the righteous and that of the wicked, of those who conform to God’s purpose, revealed in both creation and the Torah, and those who ignore it. Obedience to God’s revealed plan results in happiness. There is no middle ground, no third way. Following God’s way can present choices between what is good and what is better, but the fundamental choice is unambiguous, either or. What shapes a person’s thinking shapes a person’s life.

This psalm is didactic poetry, finely crafted but without meter, not meant for singing so much as for private reflection. When it was composed cannot be determined. Presumed to be postexilic, it is really timeless and not related to any period or event in history as such. Its structure is easy to discern. Verses one to three, extol the solid foundation of the righteous person; verses four and five decry the unsubstantial life of the ungodly and verse six summarizes the fate of the two ways. The doctrine of the “two ways” treated here finds a striking parallel in Jeremiah 17:5-8.

In verse one, “happy those: Lit, “Happy or blessed is the man. The Hebrew, ‘ashre, is difficult to translate in one word. It is an exclamation rather than a noun or adjective. Some stabs at translating is are: “Oh, the blessedness (or happiness) of…,” “Congratulations to the one who…,” “How rewarding the life of…,” “To be envied or admired is the one who…” It is a joyous exclamation and an enthusiastic observation of fact, not a wish. The state of bliss is the result of right behavior, the end product or by-product of living a life in conformity with God’s revelation. “Man,” as used here, includes women and children. In the Hebrew mentality, part of a man’s happiness is his family or corporate personality, who share in his blessings as he shares in theirs.

The counsel of the wicked…way of sinners…company with scoffers: These three phrases – lit, walking with the wicked, standing with sinners, sitting with scoffers- are in synonymous parallelism and mean essentially the same thing. It is possible, if the text is not pressed too hard, to see a progression into evil. First one merely “walks” with evil; then one stops and “stands;” then one “sits” also the Hebrew word for “lives” or “stays” with evil.

The wicked: Originally the Hebrew word, reshaim, denoted, men who has been proven guilty of a particular charge. In the Psalter it means those who are enemies of God, Israelites and Gentiles alike. These humans have their own principles and maxims, their own rules of life, opposed to God’s. To walk in their counsel is to follow their advice and ways.

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