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Psalms 1 and 2 form the general introduction to the whole book. Psalm 1 shows the ways of God, Psalm 2 shows the counsel or purpose of God.
Psalm 1 is about the faithfulness of the single person. He trusts in God and finds his joy in the meditation in His Word. It is someone who is under God’s law. Even more, we see here the One Who can say: “Your Law is within my heart” (Psa 40:8b).
While this description should appeal to every Israelite, indeed to every believer, it applies especially to the king of Israel. In particular, he has the task of meditating in the law of God (Deu 17:19).
In Psalm 2 we see the content of the Word of God: the Messiah and the firm counsel of God to make Him, the born King, His Son, King. His kingship is over His inheritance, Israel, and through Israel over the ends of the earth. God will achieve that goal.
Features of the Righteous One
Psalm 1 is the splendid introduction to the book of Psalms. It is a wisdom psalm, a psalm where teaching is given or summarized about the two paths man can choose in his life: the way of the righteous (Psa 1:1-3) or the way of the wicked (Psa 1:4-6). We see these two elements repeated throughout this book and in fact throughout the Bible. It is the choice between the way of blessing and the way of curse, the way with lasting fruit and the way where everything is blown away, the way of life and the way of death (cf. Deu 30:19).
It is in fact the difference between the way of Christ and the way of the antichrist. Christ is the Righteous One par excellence. He is the Only One Who could say: “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (Jn 8:29). The antichrist is the wicked and lawless one par excellence, the man of sin, the man who says in his heart: “There is no God” (Psa 14:1). He lives without regard to God in any respect.
The righteous is spoken of in the singular and the wicked in the plural. It is the God-fearing individual in the midst of and in opposition to the ungodly, apostate multitude. It is the few who walk the narrow way as opposed to the many who walk the broad way.
This first psalm is about the features of the God-fearing remnant of Israel. These are the features in particular of the Lord Jesus that will also be seen in the believing remnant in the end time. Those features are perfectly present in Him and are most definitely seen whenever and wherever He displays them. The remnant is not perfect, but they can demonstrate those features as a result of their connection with Him, because His Spirit works that in them.
We too, believers who belong to the church, have the task and the opportunity to show the features of the Lord Jesus in accordance with our heavenly position. It is written of us that we have put on “the new man which … has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph 4:24). The features of the new man are identical to those of the Lord Jesus. The new man becomes visible wherever believers show the features of the Lord Jesus.
Psalm 1 begins, and with it the entire book of Psalms, by pronouncing “blessed” or “happy”. In the sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus uses the same expression – translated from the Hebrew, asre, into the Greek, makarios (Mt 5:3-11). It is an exclamation of deep and abiding happiness and joy of God about the believer who lives amidst evil in fear of Him.
This first encounter with the God-fearing emphasizes that he lives in circumstances where God is not taken into account. In those circumstances he walks with God. God likes to identify with him and He will continue to give him His rest and peace. God particularly appreciates that he does not succumb to the pressure, but instead remains faithful to Him. God’s “well done” is a great encouragement to all who want to be faithful when the apostasy of the faith manifests itself more and more clearly.
It is noteworthy that the first features of the God-fearing believer are features that distinguish them from “the wicked”, the “sinners”, and the “scoffers”. Such people comprise the mass of God’s people. They are in charge in God’s people, just as they are today. The God-fearing lives in the midst of them, but has no fellowship with them. He lives separated from them, he does not participate with them.
The first feature of the righteous who walks with God is that he “does not walk in the counsel of the wicked”. This refers to the way he deliberates and by which he takes up his actions. There is no room for God in the deliberations of the wicked. A wicked person lives without involving God in his life, let alone giving Him authority over it. The principle of his life is that everything is centered around himself.
He “walks” in it, that is, his ungodly behavior results from his depraved way of thinking, which in turn results from excluding God in his decision-making. He devises sinful, selfish things in order to achieve satisfaction of his lusts at any cost. The God-fearing does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, he does not allow himself to be seduced or coerced into a way of deliberation or consultation in which God has no place, but he considers what God wants, he involves God in his deliberations.
The second feature of the man who walks with God is that he “does not stand in the path of sinners”. The word “stand” here is not a passive state, something like standing still. The word means to actively take a position, to deliberately stand somewhere. Sinners ignore God. They take that position consciously. By “the path” is meant, as usual, the path of life with its end. Sinners are people who have no interest in God’s purpose for their lives.
The meaning of the word “sin” is “to miss the goal”. Sinners miss God’s purpose with their lives. They live their lives as they see fit. That can be debauched, but it also can be very decent. Whatever they choose, they ask nothing of God, but decide for themselves what they do. It is “the broad way”, the easy and entertaining way of life, “that leads to destruction” (Mt 7:13). The God-fearing does not live this way, he does not stand in their path, but responds to God’s intention for his life.
The third feature of the man who walks with God is that he “does not sit in the seat of the scoffers”. The scoffers are people who ridicule God by ridiculing believers. Their rejection of God takes the crudest form, that of mocking God. Their sin is that of the tongue. They are the boasters, the overconfident, the frivolous. They sit glued to their own seat, their own throne, and put on a big mouth against God. Sitting in a seat shows pride and hardening. The mockery that is uttered is done deliberately. The God-fearing loathes that seat, and puts God in charge of his life.
We see an ascendancy in evil: Those who, as the wicked, do not reckon with God, will, as sinners, ignore their obligation to do what God says, leading to an open scoffing at God and His will.
Psa 1:2 tells why it is that the things mentioned in Psa 1:1 are not present with the God-fearing. It is because he finds his joy “in the law of the LORD” in which he “meditates day and night” (cf. Psa 26:4-8). It is impossible for anyone to be “blessed” without engaging in the Word of God. Not the acting according to the law is in the foreground, but loving the law, finding one’s joy in it. Acting according to the law without love and joy we see with the Pharisees. The heart of the God-fearing is occupied with it day and night, that is, constantly, unceasingly.
The “law” is not limited to the five books of Moses or even to the Old Testament as a whole. The Hebrew word for law, torah, implies all teaching that comes from God. The law is also God’s demand to live by His commandments to be justified thereby (Lev 18:5). However, the psalmist is not speaking here of the deadly effects that the law has for every person because he cannot keep it. He is speaking of the life-giving aspects of the law. He who walks with God and lives in fellowship with Him because he has new life, finds his deepest joy in always being engaged in the teaching of God, for this gives him the deepest happiness.
It is a joy for the God-fearing to read God’s Word and to meditate in it day and night (cf. Psa 19:7-10). He has an insatiable hunger for it and is like the believers in Berea, of whom we read: “They received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily [to see] whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). It is not a meditation at a certain time of day, but a day and night activity. He reads a text, takes it to his heart and carries it with him all day. And if he can’t sleep at night, he continues to meditates in it. Regardless of the time of day or the circumstances, the God-fearing responds to life in accordance with God’s Word.
We must remember by “and in His law he meditates day and night” that the Spirit of God works through the Word of God. We cannot separate them. The Word of God without the Spirit of God is dead orthodoxy, merely intellectual, without new, spiritual life. Likewise, the Spirit without the Word is an impossibility. If that happens, the spirit, that is, the spirit of man, will try to imitate the working of the Holy Spirit, and that will only lead to unbridled fanaticism.
‘Day and night’ does not mean that the believer studies the Bible twenty-four hours a day and stop doing other things. The believer who finds his joy in the Word day and night can be compared to a young man in love who constantly thinks about his beloved during all the activities of the day. During all the activities of the day, everything is permeated with the contemplation of the Word. What we read of Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus, indicates that meaning: “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19).
What is written in Psa 1:1-2 has been perfectly fulfilled in and through the Lord Jesus. What will be true of every Israelite in the realm of peace (Jer 31:33-34; Heb 8:10) is perfectly true of Christ. The ideal of the final state is already seen in Him. In no way did He let Himself to be guided by the counsel of the wicked, never did He stand in the path of sinners, and of course was not sitting in the seat of scoffers. During His life on earth, He is in the midst of people who exclude God, while He is completely separated from them.
During His life on earth, His joy is in the law of Yahweh, which is in His heart (Psa 40:8). He has done what is said to Joshua: “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it” (Jos 1:8). He did all that the law commanded and He did nothing that the law forbade (cf. Mt 5:17).
Here the believer, who is not open to sin (Psa 1:1), but is formed by the Word of God (Psa 1:2), is compared to a healthy, fruitful, and enduring tree planted by streams of water. Comparing a person to a tree is more common, both positively and negatively (Jer 17:7-8; Lk 6:43-45). The God-fearing is “like a tree planted by streams of water”. He did not occupy that place himself, but was planted there by God. He is “the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified” (Isa 61:3).
There are also trees that are not planted by the LORD, but have planted themselves. They claim to be healthy and fruitful, but they moderate that place, like the Pharisees. They will be uprooted, as the Lord Jesus says in reference to them: “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted” (Mt 15:13).
The tree planted by God is not planted just by one stream of water, but by “streams of water”, plural. We can apply this to what the God-fearing has received in Christ, such as the blessing of forgiveness and grace, the blessing of promises through union with Christ, the blessing of fellowship with Christ. These and many more blessings are streams of water that come to us from the Word of God when we are planted by it.
As a result, fruit emerges from the life of the righteous and it is “its fruit” which he gives “in its season”. Each tree has its own fruit and produces it in the season designated for that tree, no sooner and no later. We can think by “its fruit in its season”, for example, of the fruit of patience in a time of suffering and the fruit of faith in a time of trial. The reader can add to these examples. In the life of every believer, the characteristic fruits for that believer emerge in the circumstances in which he finds himself.
This also makes it clear that God’s truth is not just knowledge of facts. God’s truth must be understood in a believing heart. The fruit then begins to grow in circumstances favorable to that particular fruit (Psa 1:2; cf. Mt 13:18-23) and will become visible in due time. The fruit is not that which we ourselves have produced, but the fruit is “Christ in us”. We see this in the Lord Jesus’ imagery in John 15. Because we abide in Christ, we, the branches, bring forth fruit (Jn 15:4-5). This fruit comes from the vine and not from the branches. It is the sap of the vine, which is transformed by the branches into fruit. It is indeed Christ in us, visible to others.
The point is that we are in Christ and He is in us. Only then do we “bear much fruit”, for without Him we “can do nothing” including bearing fruit (Jn 15:5). With the Lord Jesus there is always an abundance of fruit. With us, some fruits dominate, while other fruits are not so perceptible or even absent. God’s intention is that the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) will become manifest in fullness in our lives. Paul is a fruit bearing tree. He writes to the believers in Rome: “I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ” (Rom 15:29).
Then it is mentioned that “its leaf does not wither”. The main thing about a tree is its fruit. But its leaf is also important, because it shows if a tree is healthy, even if there is no fruit. Leaves are a symbol of the external, the visible, in other words, the confession. The one with whom only the leaf of confession is visible, without any good fruit, will wither away. But if the Word of God rules in the heart, the confession will remain ‘green’, full of vitality. The confession of the God-fearing is in accordance with his fruit. In what he shows and says, there is no posturing or hypocrisy. In word and deed his life shows sincerity, freshness and strength.
The life of such a person is characterized by success. A successful life of the God-fearing is not determined by the amount of his bank account or the prestige he has acquired among men. “Whatever he does” comes from his fellowship with God. He knows His will, because he continually meditates in His Word. He is not after his own success, but his desire is to glorify God. And he succeeds, because he draws his life force from the waters of the Word of God.
We see this in perfection in the Lord Jesus. It is His food to do the will of Him Who sent Him to accomplish His work (Jn 4:34). And that work He did accomplish (Jn 17:4; Jn 19:30). Because He was guided by His God in all things, the entire will of God will “prosper”. While to unbelief He is the loser, to faith He is the great Victor. Soon, when He comes back to earth, this will also be evident to all creation. Success should not be determined by immediate results, but should be seen in the perspective of God’s plans. This applies to our personal lives and to the world as a whole.
In summary, we can say the following: What richly flowing streams of water are to a tree planted on their banks, the Word of God is to everyone who devotes himself to meditating in it. It makes him, in accordance with his position and calling, always fruitful in good deeds which he performs at the right time. His inner and outer life remain fresh and vigorous because of it. Whatever he undertakes, he brings to a successful conclusion. The cause of this is the working power of the Word of God and the blessing that God connects to it. In the Old Testament we find this beautifully illustrated in the life of Joseph: everything he does succeeds.
When we think about leaves that do not wither and fall off, our thoughts go to the fig tree that is cursed by the Lord (Mt 21:18-19). The Lord goes to it and only finds leaves on it and no fruits. The fig tree is a tree that produces fruit even in spring. These are unripe fruits from the previous year that have remained through the winter and ripen in the spring, the early figs. Because this fig tree has no fruit at all, the Lord Jesus says: “No longer shall there ever be [any] fruit from you. And at once the fig tree withered” (Mt 21:19b).
Prophetically, this fig tree is a picture of Israel (cf. Mt 24:32). Israel doesn’t bear fruit that the heart of God longs for (Mic 7:1). As a result, the leaves – which speak of confession (see above) – must be condemned and wither and fall off. In the New Testament church we see the same thing with the church in Ephesus (Rev 2:1-4). Because the fruit or first love has disappeared – love is the first feature of the fruit of the Spirit – the Lord Jesus must take away the testimony, the lampstand (Rev 2:5).
Israel, however, still has a future. The branch of the fig tree will soften and the leaves will sprout (Mt 24:32). Then the Lord will find the fruit He so longs to find. That fruit will be brought to Him by the new Israel, an Israel that He has kept for Himself as a remnant according to the election of grace. “Then all your people [will be] righteous; they will possess the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified” (Isa 60:21).
It is clear that in Psalm 1 we find a painting of the faithful remnant of Israel in the future (Isa 66:1-2). The wicked are the unbelieving part of Israel on whom God’s judgment is coming (Isa 66:3-4).
The contrast between the God-fearing – or the faithful remnant – described in the previous verses and the wicked now being described is strongly expressed in Psa 1:4. The first line of Psa 1:4 reads in Hebrew “not so the wicked”, indicating that the emphasis is on the words “not so”. It is a short and powerful exclamation saying that the existence of the wicked is totally different. The wicked have nothing of all that the God-fearing has and does. It is completely absent from the wicked.
The God-fearing is a vigorous, healthy, fruit-bearing, evergreen tree. Against this the wicked contrast dramatically, for they “are like chaff which the wind drives away”. The picture now portrayed is no longer that of a tree, but of a threshing floor, where the chaff is separated from the wheat. On a threshing floor, usually on a hill, both the chaff and the wheat are thrown up into the air, so that the chaff is blown away by the wind and separated from the wheat.
The chaff looks externally like wheat, but is worthless, useless, and weightless. The chaff, the wicked, may remain for some time among the wheat, the righteous, but the time is coming when the wind of God’s judgment will blow it away. Christ will deal with the wicked at His coming. Then “He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Mt 3:12; cf. Job 21:18; Psa 35:5; Hos 13:3). Prophetically, the chaff represents the unbelievers in Israel (Zec 13:8-9). They will be taken away by judgment, while the righteous will enter the kingdom alive (Mt 24:40-41).
Psa 1:5 begins with “therefore”, a word that indicates a conclusion from the preceding. Because the wicked are so worthless and weightless, “therefore the wicked will not stand in judgment”. The end of the wicked is not always clear during their lives while they are practicing wickedness. They may reap appreciation from people. But from God’s perspective, the wicked have no future. That will become apparent when they stand before the great white throne to be judged by Christ (Rev 20:11-15). Then they will have nothing left to say. All their boasting will be gone. They will be stunned to hear their judgment and without any resistance undergo their judgment: eternal fire.
When the wicked are blown away by judgment, “the assembly of the righteous” remains. No sinner is part of it. It is a holy fellowship. All dirt has been washed off from it and the blood-guilt has been washed away from it (Isa 4:3-4). On earth there is already a radical separation between the righteous and the sinners. That separation will be everlasting. On earth, the sinners have cast out the righteous from their fellowship. In the realm of peace and for all eternity, sinners will not be in the fellowship of the righteous (Mt 13:49-50; Rev 21:27).
Two Ways, Two Destinations
The word “for” with which this verse begins indicates that the reason, or summary, follows from the judgment of the previous verses. “The way”, both that “of the righteous” and that “of the wicked”, refers to the entire walk of life of both groups. The LORD knows what both ways are like and what they end in.
Of the way of the righteous we read that “the LORD knows” it. This “knowing” has a deeper meaning than that He is familiar with it, that He knows which way they are going. It is not a purely intellectual knowing, but a knowing grounded in experience through communion of life, a knowing from love. Knowing the way of the righteous means that He has fellowship with the righteous on the way they go. He shares in their experiences. They go their way with Him and therefore He goes with them.
“But”– this indicates the contrast with the previous line – ”the way of the wicked will perish.” Their way is a way that leads to destruction and death. The LORD does not know their way. They live their lives in a way that He abhors. Their whole life will perish, like the chaff. When He judges them, He will say to them: “I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS” (Mt 7:23). They will not enter the realm of peace, but will be eternally unhappy and miserable.
This last verse clearly identifies the difference between the reason for the happiness of the righteous and the reason for the calamity of the wicked. God knows, approves, loves and rejoices over the life of the righteous, but He has no part in the life of the wicked. That life He does not approve, He does not love it, and He does not rejoice over it. Their eternal destiny depends on His appreciation of the lives of both groups.
The psalm begins with God’s blessing on the single person, on the righteous (singular). The psalm ends with the warning that one who nevertheless chooses the way of the wicked (plural), the way without Him, will end in destruction.
Also in the sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus begins with a multitude of blessings: Happy, happy, happy … (Mt 5:1-11). The sermon on the Mount ends with the two ways: the broad way, on which many walk, and the narrow way, on which few, some, walk (Mt 7:13-14). Reference is also made to two builders: one who builds on the sand and one who builds on the rock. The latter is the one who obeys the words of the Lord Jesus, “these words of Mine” (Mt 7:26).
We do not yet find this last in Psalm 1. Here we hear about the way with God, but we hear nothing about believing in a person, the Christ, the Immanuel or the God with us. All subsequent psalms are about Him.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 1". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12