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It is with gratitude to our God and Father that we are hereby permitted to offer the reader a commentary on Psalms. In writing this, we have become increasingly aware of the great privilege God has given His people – both His earthly people, Israel, and His heavenly people, the church – by making this book part of His inspired Word.
Being engaged with the book of Psalms gives one a burning heart. The Emmaus disciples say to one another, after the Lord Jesus came to them and walked with them to Emmaus: “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32). They were sad at first, but because He opened the Scriptures to them, in which He Himself is presented (Luke 24:27; Luke 24:44), their sadness changed to joy (cf. John 16:20; John 16:22John 20:20).
We often see this change of feelings in Psalms. This is also recognizable in our own lives. We cry out to the Lord from the depths of our distress and He comforts us through the Scriptures: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
We have experienced something of this as we examined this part of the Scriptures, or rather, were examined by this part of the Scriptures. We hope and pray that it will not be a passing experience for ourselves. We hope and pray that the reader, while reading and examining, may also experience this.
Ger de Koning / Tony Jonathan
Middelburg / Arnhem, Translation May 2021
Introduction to Psalms
The book of Psalms, like all the other books of the Old Testament, is a testimony about the Lord Jesus Christ (John 5:39). The Lord Jesus puts it this way: “All things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). The explanation of Psalms is found in the New Testament. There we see that the psalms are not only applied to the Lord Jesus, but are also and especially fulfilled in Him. They were given with that prophetic purpose. We see this, for example, in some quotes from Psalms that are fulfilled in Christ on the cross (John 19:24; John 19:28; Psalms 22:18; Psalms 22:15). It says with these quotes that is was “to fulfill the Scripture” which shows that the Lord Jesus Himself is speaking in the psalms. The Man Jesus Christ experienced the feelings described in Psalms perfectly and at their deepest.
Directly connected to this, we find in this book prophetically the condition and experiences of the Jewish believing remnant in the end times. The Messiah has a special connection with them. The remnant experiences the way God works with them toward His designated goal. As a result, they encounter all kinds of diverse circumstances in which faith is tested and refined. This is not only true of the faithful believers of the Old Testament, but also for New Testament believers. The result is one grand praise of God by all that has breath, as described in the last psalm (Psalms 150:1-Joshua :).
This book stands at the center of the Bible, forming its heart, as it were. In this book we hear, so to speak, the beating of the heart of believers who walk with God in this world. The words of the psalms have echoed and vibrated in the hearts of countless believers throughout the years. They have been of support to believers in the greatest need. They express the feelings of their hearts. For example, Psalm 23, which is probably the best known psalm, is for many a much-loved chapter in the Bible.
The closing verse of the second part of the book says: “The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended” (Psalms 72:20). We can infer that David’s previous psalms have the character of “prayers”. There is also one single mention of “[A Psalm] of Praise, of David” (Psalms 145:1), whereby the word “praise” in Hebrew, tehilla, being the singular of the Hebrew title of Psalms, tehillim. These two features, prayer and praise, are the two typical features of the believer who walks with God in this world. He prays for help and salvation in and out of hardship, and then he praises God for that help and salvation.
Psalms received its Hebrew name sefer tehillim from the Jewish rabbis. The name means ‘the book of praise’. That name was given because of the use of this book in the services in the temple of Solomon. Later, in the second or first century BC, the Old Testament, Psalms included, was translated into Greek (the Septuagint). The book was then given the Greek title psalmoi, which means ‘song accompanied by an instrument’.
The book of Psalms is a collection of one hundred and fifty songs written by different writers over a period of about a thousand years. The oldest psalm, Psalm 90, is of Moses (Psalms 90:1), which means that is written about 1500 BC. The (probably) youngest psalm, Psalm 137, was written during the Babylonian exile (Psalms 137:1), that is about 600 BC. It may even be that Psalm 126 was written after the return from exile (Psalms 126:1), that is in 500 BC. Already at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah we find that the psalms are sung (Ezra 3:10-2 Kings :; Nehemiah 7:44; Nehemiah 12:24Nehemiah 12:36; Nehemiah 12:45-1 Corinthians :).
The order of the chapters in Psalms is not arbitrary. We can infer from Paul’s speech in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch that each psalm is in its proper place. In that speech, Paul quotes a verse from Psalms and says that this verse is written in “the second Psalm” (Acts 13:33).
The Old Testament is called TeNaCh in Hebrew. This word is called an ‘acronym’, which is a word formed by the initial letters of a number of words. TeNaCh is a word made up of the initial letters of the three parts of the Old Testament. These parts are successively: the Torah (law of Moses), the Nevi’im (the prophets) and the Chetuvim (the scriptures or psalms).
This division is mentioned by the Lord Jesus (Luke 24:44). In fact, the book of Psalms is one of the many books of the Chetuvim (the scriptures). But because this book is both the first and the largest book of the Chetuvim, this third part of the Old Testament is called psalms instead of the scriptures.
The most quotes in the New Testament are from the book of Psalms, along with the book of Isaiah. Of the approximately 283 direct quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament, 116 come from Psalms.
The Writers of Psalms
Many thousands of psalms were written during the Old Testament period. From King David we know many psalms. He is the principal writer. He wrote most of the psalms. That is why in the Codex Sinaiticus this book is called ‘the Psalms of David’. King Solomon, David’s son, also wrote songs or psalms, even a 1,005 (1 Kings 4:32). One of them, Psalm 127, is found in the book of Psalms (Psalms 127:1). In addition, there are several other composers – we list them below – who wrote one or more psalms.
Of the thousands of psalms, the Holy Spirit has inspired 150. Together they form a part of the Word of God: the book of Psalms. Of most of the psalms, we know who the author is.
1. David wrote at least 73 psalms; these are the psalms that bear his name in the heading: Psalms 3-32; 34-41; 51-65; 68-70; 86; 101; 103; 108-110; 122; 124; 131; 133; 138-145. To these are added Psalm 2 and Psalm 95. These psalms have no name in the heading in the book of Psalms. However, the New Testament quotes from them, stating that both psalms are by David (Acts 4:25; Psalms 2:1; Hebrews 4:7; Psalms 95:7-Ruth :). That brings the total of psalms that are at least by David to 75, which is half of all psalms.
2. Asaph wrote twelve psalms: Psalms 50; 73-83.
3. The sons of Korah wrote eleven psalms: Psalms 42-49; 84; 85; 87.
4. Heman the Ezrahite, wrote one: Psalm 88.
5. Ethan, also an Ezrahite, wrote one: Psalm 89.
6. Moses wrote one: Psalm 90.
7. Solomon wrote two: Psalms 72; 127.
David is called in the Bible “the man … the sweet psalmist of Israel“ (2 Samuel 23:1). According to what we read in Amos, David did “improvise to the sound of the harp” (Amos 6:5). He also gave instructions about music in the service of the temple (Ezra 3:10; Nehemiah 12:24).
Like Joseph and Moses, David is also a type of Christ. All three exhibit in their lives the dichotomy of suffering through rejection and glorification afterwards. They experienced what Christ says of Himself: “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26). Thus the psalms many times interpret Christ’s feelings and experiences.
One of the features of Hebrew poetry is the use of ‘parallelism’. This is a style of writing in which a particular message given in the first sentence is repeated in other terms in the next sentence or expanded upon. This can be done with or without extending the message, with a contrast or with a climax. In stories, prose, and especially in poetry, parallel sentences are often found. In doing so, the verses can also exhibit a variety of patterns that will not be elaborated on here.
Several types of parallelism can be distinguished. We will mention two of them, making the meaning clear:
1. Parallels that correspond to each other, also called synonymous parallelism. We find this especially in ‘teaching psalms’, psalms that contain teaching. In this case, a thought from the first line of the verse is expressed in the next line with different words and sometimes a little more elaborate. It is two sentences representing one thought. An example is:
“Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?” (Psalms 2:1).
2. Parallels that are opposite, that form a contrast, also called antithetical parallelism. In this case, a thought from the first line of the verse is expressed in opposite terms in the next verse. This is often indicated by the word “but” at the beginning of the second line of the verse. An example of this is:
“For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalms 1:6).
In addition to parallel phrases, many linguistic devices are used in Hebrew literature, some of which we will mention in the explanation.
It is important to realize each time that God is speaking in this book and speaking to us. This means that we find in it the intercourse between God and man. To portray this intercourse, He has used the psalm writers. We see this, for example, in Psalm 45, where the Holy Spirit is at work in the psalmist when he says: “My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Psalms 45:1).
The meaning of the psalms for the Christian
Many Christians do not understand the meaning of the psalms because they do not know their New Testament position in Christ. They forget that the Old Testament is about an earthly people, Israel, before to the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross. This people has no assurance of faith, an assurance so feature of the heavenly people of God, the church, in the New Testament. In their life of faith they are guided by the psalms, whereas these are feature of the life of faith of the Old Testament believers. The experience of their faith runs up and down with their feelings. The cause of this is not knowing the certainty of salvation by faith. By the Spirit of God every child of God can possess that certainty.
That assurance is that the relationship to God depends on faith in the accomplished work of Christ and not on feelings. The Old Testament believer knows nothing of this, for that work was not yet accomplished at that time. Hence, there can be no question yet of resting in that work, which is the privilege of the New Testament believer. Feelings are part of the life of faith, but they are not the foundation of it. The faithful acceptance of Christ and His work determines the relationship to God Who is thereby known as Father.
Through the prophets God speaks to man. In the psalms we hear man speaking to God in the midst of circumstances that are also future events to which the prophets have referred. The psalms are prophecy from the heart of the God-fearing person to God and not the other way around, which is common for the prophets, who speak to man on behalf of God. They are expressions of trust. The psalms presuppose knowledge of the prophecies.
In addition to the Lord Jesus, we find believers speaking in this book. These are prophetically the faithful of the end times, the faithful remnant of Israel that is closely connected to the Lord Jesus. The feelings of the psalmists that they had in their day and what they expressed will be present in the hearts of the faithful in the end times in the future.
The book of Psalms clearly has a prophetic character. This is evident from what Peter says in his speech on the day of Pentecost: “For David says of Him, ‘I SAW THE LORD ALWAYS IN MY PRESENCE; FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, SO THAT I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN. ‘THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL LIVE IN HOPE; BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY. ‘YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.’ “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT [one] OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY” (Acts 2:25-Obadiah :; Psalms 16:8-1 Kings :).
The psalms point to events that will take place in the future. They are about Israel and Zion and the Lord Jesus as King over His people. The psalms cannot apply prophetically to the church. We have a clear example in the so-called revenge psalms, in which the God-fearing Jews ask for judgment on their enemies (Psalms 69:22-Hosea :; Psalms 137:7-1 Samuel :). This is not the language of the church of God. Following the Lord, it befits us, believers of the church, to pray for those who persecute us and do evil (Matthew 5:43-Acts :; Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60).
The psalms cannot tell us anything of the fundamental truths of Christianity, simply because they have not yet been revealed. The horizon of the psalms is earthly; they deal with the feelings of people who are under the law. In the New Testament, the psalms are also seen as part of the law. After Paul quotes a number of verses from the psalms, he says of them that this is all “whatever the Law says” (Romans 3:19).
Many Christians find their feelings reflected in the psalms because they have wrongfully placed themselves under the law. The book lets us hear the feelings of believers who want to keep the law of God, but discover time and again that they are transgressing the law. Such a person is described in Romans 7 (Romans 7:7-Lamentations :). As indicated above, the book does not describe the feelings of the Christian who knows the Father and what his position before God is, but of the pious Jew who does not have free access into the sanctuary. In the Old Testament, access to God has not yet been made known.
Our position, through the eternal life we have been given, is connected with the revelation of the Father’s heart declared by the Lord Jesus when He came to earth. This is unknown at the origin of the psalms. Israel does know God as Father, but in the sense of Creator, as the Origin of His people (Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8; Malachi 2:10). We know God as the Father of the Lord Jesus Who is our life, the Father of the Son.
Added to this is the testimony the Holy Spirit gives of the Lord Jesus sitting at the right hand of God in heaven and what our place in connection with Him there is. The Holy Spirit dwells in the New Testament believer who has accepted the gospel of his salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-Numbers :; Ephesians 1:13). Old Testament believers know the Holy Spirit, but do not have Him indwelling. He worked on earth during Old Testament times, but He did not dwell on earth. The Holy Spirit has come to dwell on earth in the church and in the believer only after the Lord Jesus is glorified in heaven (John 7:37-Malachi :; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19).
Another difference is the knowledge of salvation. The New Testament believer knows that the Lord Jesus has obtained an eternal salvation, which makes a repetition of His sacrifice unnecessary. The Old Testament believer does not know a once for all accomplished sacrifice and must come up with a sacrifice every time he has sinned. This proves that he does not know perfect salvation, for there is not yet a once for all accomplished work (Hebrews 10:1-Leviticus :; Hebrews 10:11-2 Chronicles :).
So, what value do the psalms have then for us, Christians? Much, in every respect. First, we find in the psalms the feelings of the Lord Jesus in connection with His earthly people. We get to know His feelings, His suffering and compassion for His own who are in trouble and tribulation. Precisely because it is about Him, we, Christians, want to know more about that. We want to know Him better.
Secondly, through the psalms we get to know the feelings of the faithful remnant in the end times. Because the Lord Jesus also passed through great and deep suffering, He suffers with the remnant. This concerns all the suffering they undergo on the part of men.
Third, for all that is written in the book of Psalms, what is true of the entire Old Testament applies: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Although our position before God and our relationship to God is different, higher, than that of the Old Testament believers, we do share a lot with them. For the God of David is also our God and Abraham’s faith in God is also our faith.
We also share with them our love for God and His Word and the confidence that He will fulfill all His promises. Like them, we experience the enmity of people who hate God and who therefore also hate His own, us. Like them, we go through much trouble and sorrow. With us, as with them, that can be the result of our own unfaithfulness. It can also, like them, happen that we don’t understand why certain things happen to us and we have our questions about that. We recognize many of the feelings of God-fearing Israelites in our lives with the Lord. Their faith and the experience of it are an example for us.
The Lord Jesus and His Own
Yet another aspect of our keen interest in the psalms is that we are directly involved in the great end result of all God’s ways that the Spirit reveals in Psalms. New Testament believers are joined to Christ in the closest way possible, namely, as a body with a head. As a result, they will reign with Him over the nations in the realm of peace. He, Who is the Messiah of His earthly people and the worldwide Lord and King, has been given by God as Head above all things to the church (Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 1:22-Isaiah :). Therefore, they take the greatest interest in Him, even when it comes to His connection with His earthly people.
In all ages there have been faithful ones in Israel who have always had the same feelings in their hearts that we find here. But they have always been individuals, never the multitude. The Lord Jesus makes Himself one with the remnant. The suffering of the people and the suffering of the Lord Jesus are found in this book. Even today He makes Himself one with all who suffer for His Name.
With regard to the suffering of the Lord Jesus in connection with His people, it is good to see that there are several aspects to that suffering. First, He suffers as atonement with God on behalf of all, on the Day of atonement, represented by the first goat that is brought as a sin offering (Leviticus 16:15-Psalms :). This implies that on the basis of the work of the Lord Jesus, atonement can be offered to all people. Second, He also suffers as substitute for His people. This is shown on the Day of atonement when the high priest laid his hands on the head of the second goat which is presented as the send away goat, the goat for Azazel (Leviticus 16:20-Song of Solomon :). This implies that the Lord Jesus, through His work on the cross, actually reconciled with God all who accepted the offer of reconciliation.
This atoning suffering with its two aspects is always in singular in the New Testament. It is a suffering suffered by the Lord Jesus alone, just as on the Day of atonement all the work is done by the high priest, alone. This illustrates what happened on the cross in the three hours of darkness. Then He was all alone, even forsaken by God.
Another aspect of His suffering is a suffering that He endures together with His people. This is the case in the suffering inflicted on His people from the side of men. This suffering in the New Testament is always in plural. That suffering is aptly rendered as follows: “In all their affliction He was afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9). We see a picture of this in the furnace of blazing fire into which Daniel’s friends are thrown because of their faithfulness to God. He joins them in the midst of the fire (Daniel 3:23-Lamentations :). This is suffering for the sake of righteousness, suffering because of the fact that they are doing God’s will, bearing witness to Him in the world.
There is another side to the suffering of His people, namely the suffering – plural in the New Testament – into which God takes them in order to purify them. This suffering was not necessary with the Lord, He was the Holy One and the blameless and unstained Lamb. His suffering in His earthly life and on the cross on the part of men was necessary just to show us that He was the Holy One, Who was qualified to be offered as a sacrifice of sins.
The remnant suffers inwardly, in their conscience, when they see what the Lord Jesus has done for them to free them from their sins. They become aware of their guilt. Their comfort is that they become aware of the forgiveness of their sins. The remnant also suffers on the part of those who persecute them because of their connection to Christ. Then they plead their innocence. Their comfort is that the Lord Jesus knows their suffering and shares in it.
Division of Psalms
The book of Psalms can be divided into five books:
Book 1 consists of Psalms 1-41
Book 2 consists of Psalms 42-72
Book 3 consists of Psalms 73-89
Book 4 consists of Psalms 90-106
Book 5 consists of Psalms 107-150
This division is evident from the ending of the books 1-4, each of which is characterized by the same praise (Psalms 41:13; Psalms 72:19Psalms 89:52; Psalms 106:48). In doing so, we find a double “amen” in the books 1-3 (Psalms 41:13; Psalms 72:19; Psalms 89:52) and an “Amen. Hallelujah” (Psalms 106:48). The book of Psalms closes with five ‘hallelujah-palms’, all of which begin and end with “hallelujah” (Psalms 146-150).
Because of the division of the collection of the psalms into five books, it has already been called by the Jews ‘the Pentateuch of David’. Pentateuch means ‘five-piece’. Known is the Pentateuch of Moses, which are the books Genesis through Deuteronomy. The Pentateuch of Moses can be compared to the five books into which the psalms can be divided. This division supports the observation made above that there is a clear order in the psalms:
Book 1 Psalms 1-41 / Genesis
Book 2 Psalms 42-72 / Exodus
Book 3 Psalms 73-89 / Leviticus
Book 4 Psalms 90-106 / Numbers
Book 5 Psalms 107-150 / Deuteronomy
1. Book 1 mentions most about the Lord Jesus and also about the remnant in connection with Him. The Lord Jesus is the center of God’s counsels and the source of blessing for the faithful remnant of Israel.
In this first book of psalms, as in Genesis, it is about the Son of Man, Who created all things and to Whom all things are subject (Genesis 1:1; John 1:3; Psalms 8:4; Psalms 8:7).
2. Book 2 deals with the remnant from the two tribes. This remnant has fled from Jerusalem because of the antichrist who is introducing idolatry (Matthew 24:15-Nehemiah :). Their fleeing is because of the antichrist and is used by God to purify their faith.
The second book of psalms begins with crying out to God in great distress and ends with the glory of God. We also see this in Exodus.
3. Book 3 deals with the history of the ten tribes. They are brought back into the land. The separation of the people into two and ten tribes is undone. There is one people under one King, their Messiah. Here we see Israel connected to the sanctuary.
In the third book of Psalms we often hear about the sanctuary, where God dwells. This is also the theme of Leviticus.
4. In book 4 we see that after the failure of the first man, through the second Man, Christ, the promises made to Israel are fulfilled. There is blessing not only for restored Israel, but through them for all mankind. All blessing is the result of Christ’s work on the cross and of His government.
The fourth book of psalms speaks of the journey of the people of God through the desert. This is also the subject of Numbers.
5. In book 5 we are given a review of all God’s ways and shown their final fulfillment. This is also what the book of Deuteronomy shows us. In book 5 of Psalms we see the full result, where God and the people have been brought together in harmony. Also, we see the foundation on which the people stand before God.
Introduction to book 1 (Psalms 1-41)
Book 1 is the book of Genesis of Psalms. Like Genesis, book 1 shows us the principles of the counsels of God in Christ. In Genesis we find how God created man and for what purpose. In book 1 of Psalms we see the way of the perfect Man according to God’s thoughts.
In book 1 we can see the following subdivisions:
1. In Psalms 1-8 we see Christ in His ministry and His work. His ministry as King over Israel in Psalm 2 culminates in His glory as Son of Man Who rules over all creation in Psalm 8.
We can consider these chapters as an introduction to the entire book of Psalms.
a. In Psalms 1-2 the Son of God, the King of Israel.
b. In Psalms 3-7 the faithful remnant.
c. In Psalm 8 the Son of Man, to Whom all things are subjected.
2. In Psalms 9-15 we see the enemy and the antichrist, the tribulation and the redemption.
3. In Psalms 16-41 we see Christ amidst His own, to reveal God and sanctify His own.
a. In Psalm 16 we see Christ impeccable and immaculate. He is the foundation for the prayer for salvation in Psalm 17 and the answer to prayer in Psalm 18.
b. In Psalm 22 we recognize Christ’s work as a sin offering, while Psalm 40 describes His work as a burnt offering.
c. Psalm 41 shows that the two paths of Psalm 1 will culminate in the contrast between believing and not believing in the work of Christ on the cross.
Psalms 1-2 form the general introduction to the whole book. Psalm 1 shows the ways of God, Psalm 2 shows the counsel or intention 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” (Psalms 40:8).
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 (Deuteronomy 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 brilliant 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 (Psalms 1:1-Leviticus :) or the way of the wicked (Psalms 1:4-Joshua :). 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. Deuteronomy 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” (John 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” (Psalms 14:1). He lives with no consideration for God in any respect.
The righteous is spoken of in the singular and the wicked in the plural. It is the God-fearing few in the midst of and in opposition to the ungodly, apostate multitude. It is the few who walk the narrow path as opposed to the many who walk the broad path.
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 times. 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” (Ephesians 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 (Matthew 5:3-1 Kings :). 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 introduction to the God-fearing person 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 call the shots in God’s people, just as they do 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” (Matthew 7:13). The God-fearing does not live this way, he does not stand in their way, 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 grand speakers, 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 deliberate. 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 mockery of God and His will.
Psalms 1:2 tells why it is that the things mentioned in Psalms 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. Psalms 26:4-Ruth :). 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.
“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 and thereby to be righteous (Leviticus 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. Psalms 19:7-2 Samuel :). 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” (Luke 2:19).
What is written in Psalms 1:1-Exodus : has been perfectly fulfilled in and through the Lord Jesus. What will be true of every Israelite in the realm of peace (Jeremiah 31:33-Nahum :; Hebrews 8:10) is perfectly true of Christ. The ideal of the final state is already seen in Him. In no way did let Himself to be guided by the counsel of 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 (Psalms 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” (Joshua 1:8). He did all that the law commanded and He did nothing that the law forbade (cf. Matthew 5:17).
Here the believer, who is not open to sin (Psalms 1:1), but is formed by the Word of God (Psalms 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 (Jeremiah 17:7-Ruth :; Luke 6:43-Romans :). 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” (Isaiah 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” (Matthew 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 person 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 of “its fruit in its season” as, for example, 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 feature 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 (Psalms 1:2; cf. Matthew 13:18-Isaiah :) 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 (John 15:4-Deuteronomy :). 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 (John 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 for the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) to be 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” (Romans 15:29).
Then it is mentioned that “its leaf does not withe”. 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 (John 4:34). And that work He did accomplish (John 17:4; John 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 at large.
In summary, we can say the following: What richly flowing streams 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 (Matthew 21:18-Psalms :). The Lord goes to it and only finds leaves on it and no fruit. 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” (Matthew 21:19).
Prophetically, this fig tree is a picture of Israel (cf. Matthew 24:32). Israel doesn’t bear fruit that the heart of God desires (Micah 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 (Revelation 2:1-Numbers :). 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 (Revelation 2:5).
Israel, however, still has a future. The branch of the fig tree will soften and the leaves will sprout (Matthew 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 preserved 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” (Isaiah 60:21).
It is clear that in Psalm 1 we find a painting of the faithful remnant of Israel in the future (Isaiah 66:1-Exodus :). The wicked are the unbelieving part of Israel on whom God’s judgment is coming (Isaiah 66:3-Numbers :).
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 Psalms 1:4. The first line of Psalms 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” (Matthew 3:12; cf. Job 21:18; Psalms 35:5; Hosea 13:3). Prophetically, the chaff represents the unbelievers in Israel (Zechariah 13:8-1 Samuel :). They will be taken away by judgment, while the righteous will enter the kingdom alive (Matthew 24:40-Mark :).
Psalms 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” (Psalms 1:5). 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 (Revelation 20:11-Ezra :). 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 (Isaiah 4:3-Numbers :). 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 (Matthew 13:49-Philippians :; Revelation 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 (Matthew 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 … (Matthew 5:1-1 Kings :). 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 (Matthew 7:13-2 Chronicles :). 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” (Matthew 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/