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Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Psalms 1

 

 

Verses 1-6

Psalm 1

[Note.—This is regarded as a concise introduction to a limited Psalter, and not as the introduction to the whole Book of Psalm. The authorship of the psalm is uncertain. In some MSS. it is regarded simply as a preface, and in others it is connected with the second psalm. According to some MSS, in Acts 13:33, the second psalm is quoted as the first. Some peculiarities of language, as well as the general tone of thought, are considered to point to Solomon as the author, whilst some words seem to bring it to a later period than David"s. Probably it was written before the disruption of Israel, or at least before the decadence of the kingdom of Judah.]

1. Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

2. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

3. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

4. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

5. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

6. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

The Trees of God

"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful" ( Psalm 1:1).

We might suppose that this statement, both on the one side and on the other, amounted to nothing more than a mere assertion of individual opinion. It might be imagined, on a superficial examination of the circumstances, that some man had ventured to give it as his opinion that the godly man would be blessed, and that the ungodly man would fail of blessing. This is not matter of opinion; this is matter of law, matter of historical necessity. Moreover, the statement—if it be only a statement—is open to immediate contradiction if it be not confirmed and illustrated by the history of mankind. This gives us a very solid standing-ground in our study. Opinion is free, and opinion cannot raise itself above the line of discussion; it must always be subject to criticism and to controversy. But this is not matter of mere opinion; this is the result of the inductive process, this is the outcome of law, this is the upgathering of vast and minute experience. If it is not that, how easy the contradiction! how tempting the field of action, in which an infant may become a soldier, and the man of feeble speech may overwhelm with the evidence of fact all the sophisms of the most eloquent orator! Thus we are upon very solid ground. If the first psalm is not true, every one amongst us can disprove it. The appeal is to life, to fact, to actual circumstance and condition. The ungodly Prayer of Manasseh , therefore, may stand up and say—not in the individual instance or within narrow lines, but literally the ungodly humanity may stand up and say,—The first psalm is a lie: I am happy, I am blessed; I am ungodly, and yet I thrive, in the best sense of the term; I fear not God, I regard not Prayer of Manasseh , I am the centre of my own movement, I supply the motives of my own action, I give account only at the door of my own understanding and conscience, and I enjoy eternal midsummer in the soul: nature is to me one crystal beauty, one sparkling delight, one sufficing benediction; I know not God, and I am perfectly happy. If one ungodly man were foolish enough to make that speech, ten thousand of his race would instantly rise to modify his statement, if not positively to contradict it. The godly man will make his speech on the other side; he will not fail of emphasis, he will have no modification or reservation, but will say broadly, with sacred unction and telling firmness of tone,—The first psalm is a truth; I have in some measure lived it, proved it, illustrated it: loving God, I am happy; living in God, I am safe; obeying God, I am at rest; any failure in result is traceable to failure in process. The first Psalm , therefore, in its substance, meaning, purport, is a holy and incontrovertible declaration. We should look upon all the Scriptures from this point of view. The Scriptures are not filled with opinions. We may frankly admit that sometimes the mere construction of the sentence might suggest that an opinion was being adventured; but, as a matter of fact, there are no opinions in the Bible. The Bible, in its doctrines, is a book of facts. Everything that is theological in the Bible is first scientific, historical, actual. When the Scriptural writers talk about "the law of the Lord," they speak about something they have been watching a long time: they have seen one instance, and have wondered if another instance like it would occur; the second instance has transpired, and a third, and a twentieth, and a hundredth instance of the kind, and again another hundredth; and as the instances have multiplied themselves in such continuity and confirmatory succession, the watchers have said,—This is a law; and when they have written out what appears to he a matter of mere opinion, they have in reality set down with a steady hand the result of a lifetime of observation, confirmed by the experience of innumerable generations. The Book of Proverbs is not a book of opinions. When a proverb is written down a history is written down. We open the Book of Proverbs , and we find this sentence: "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." That is not a matter of opinion, a matter of sentiment,—some man"s conjecture about something he does not really understand. "Wine is a mocker,"—that is history; "strong drink is raging,"—that is a fact; "whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise,"—a million hands are uplifted to carry the vote, and there is no reply. Open the Book of Proverbs where we may, we shall find that we are not reading an opinion in reading a proverb inspired. Here is one: "A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him." Why, it could be contradicted instantly if it were not true; but humanity stands up and says,—Whoever told you that, told you in a sentence the history of innumerable broken hearts. So with all the Scriptures. If we suppose that in the Bible we have simply matters of opinion, then we are bound to controvert them, examine them, subject them to critical analysis to find out how much, if any, truth there is in them. If the text-book were a mere collection of miscellaneous opinions it would be useless to the preacher. When he opens the Bible he opens what is termed the law. He confirms it, or he could not preach it; his hearers confirm it, or they could not listen to it Mere opinions would either divert or distract the mind, would vex and torment the intellect; but words that come with the massiveness and the solemnity of history, and gather themselves up into all the sternness of actual law, come with a force which for the moment we may resist, but which in the long run we must accept. All these general observations we establish by the testimony and illustrate by the spirit of this first psalm. Let us read the word: the very reading of it may be an argument; it may compel such a tone in the very enunciation of it as shall itself accomplish all the work of formal reasoning.

"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night" ( Psalm 1:1-2).

What say you? Do you write a negative verdict over the face of that decision? Is there a man who loves the darkness, serves the devil, pants for hell, who could deny that,—a man so lost that he could deny the opening verses of the first psalm? We cannot tell what they feel who have gone over the brink and fallen into the fire and the brimstone, by which future punishment is at all events symbolised to our dull imagination; but one instance is given in parable from which large inferences may be drawn. The man who was tormented in the flames said: I have five brethren—send to them; keep them out of this place, save them if it be possible! That was a parable, but it finds an answer in every human consciousness. The father says when he is most lost,—Spare my child the sight of this shame! do not let my son follow my example! I have wasted my substance with riotous living—may no child of mine follow his father"s evil example! That we have heard from human lips; that we have not read in some Jewish book five thousand years old: it is written in the journals of the day; it is to be met in the groans that rise from unhappy civilization at this moment; it is the testimony of humanity. What can the ungodly, the sinner, or the scornful have by way of blessing? Their position is a negative one, or a position of resistance; and their spirit is a spirit of blasphemousness and flippancy. There is no rest in blasphemy; there is no contentment in flippancy. The scorner is no friend of good men. Any man who could indulge a sneer at the Bible is a bad man. We can imagine men who have great intellectual difficulties and literary difficulties of many kinds reverently closing the old book and saying nothing more about it—being dumb evermore; but the man who can turn the Bible into a subject for jesting and foolish speaking and sneering is in his heart bad. He may pay twenty shillings in the pound, he may have amongst citizens a good and honest name; but if he can sneer at the book which is the corner-stone of our best life, that sneer makes him a base Prayer of Manasseh , and he will break down at some point and reveal himself as a child of the devil. We are not referring to intellectual doubt—of real earnest difficulty; nor to those who are really anxious to have certain great questions solved; we refer only to the scornful, the sneering, the jibing,—those who turn sacred mysteries into occasions of trifling; those who sneer at the little child on bent knees, with clasped hands, and with eyes that look up to the motherly heavens;—it is of the man belonging to that class we speak, and speak solemnly, with tears in the heart, and without bitterness or resentment; and in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, whom we adore as one God, we pronounce him to be a bad man. Appearances shall not deceive us; occasional tones in the voice shall not divert the concentration of our inquiry and our judgment,—he is a bad man. The drunkard may be nearer heaven"s kingdom than he can ever be: he has blasphemed against the Holy Ghost.

But the "blessed man" not only avoids and abandons, as it were with horror, the ungodly, the sinful, and the scornful;—that is the negative aspect of the case. What is the affirmative? We find that in the second verse: "His delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night." We must have positive sustenance. It is not enough to shut up the bad book—we must have the good book in its place; it is not enough to desist from eating bad food—we must have the pure and honest bread to eat; it is not enough to abandon the seat of the scornful; it is not enough to give up drinking and to long for it all the time, because then in our very longing we may be a kind of drunkard still: we must be filled with the Spirit of God—dispossession followed by possession; liberation followed by inspiration,—the outcast devil finding his place occupied when he returns to reconquer his victim. Why have we such incertitude in Christian persuasion and such inconstancy in Christian life? Because we have lost the Bible. We do not read it: we glance at it; we read a verse or a paragraph now and then, but we do not eat it—devour it—consume it We have Bibles: we ourselves should be Bibles. Let the word of God dwell in you richly—"it is written": yes, and "it is written again," and yet "again." Who really knows the law of the Lord? Who meditates in it day and night? Who so does is a blessed man: he eats at the king"s table, he listens to the king"s music, he lives in the king"s light. It matters not that we may be able to quote large portions of the Bible—for it is just possible that a man may recite the entire record from the first chapter of Genesis to the Amen of the Apocalypse, and know nothing about the Bible. We must get at the Bible that is in the Bible—at the music that is in the notes; there stand the black and white notes: we know the name of each, we know the duration of each in music-time, we can speak learnedly about the notes; but where is the music itself—the singing in the soul—the resonance which only the spirit can hear? Where the all-spiritual realisation of the thought? It is not enough to be chapter-and-verse readers; it is not enough to be happy and rich in literal quotation; these gifts of memory we do not despise, we would rather covet them; but apart from the spiritual perception of meanings they are worse than useless. The Bible is not a text, the Bible is not a chapter, the Bible is not a book of chapters; the Bible is a revelation. And where" does a revelation begin?—where human nature begins. Where does a revelation end?—where Melchisedek ended. What is the measure or a revelation?—it has none. Is it a fixed quantity?—yes, as infinity is a fixed quantity. Does it acquire the weariness of a long monotony?—never! What is it, then?—a continual surprise. A man says, when you take him out upon a dull grey day to look at the landscape, and you tell him that he really cannot see it now, that he can imagine the light playing upon it,—no! no man can imagine light. Could the sun at the moment of the man"s supposed imagining break forth from behind the cold grey cloud and leap upon the landscape, making it gleam and sparkle and awakening all the silent birds, then the man would find that his imagination was not equal to the mystery of God. So the Bible, being a Revelation , is a continual surprise. It brightens upon the mind, charms the fancy; it satisfies all the innermost desires of the spirit; it fills the soul with sweet content;—a surprise every morning, a benediction every night. It is impossible for me to convey any sense adequate to the occasion of the manner in which the book of God grows upon me every year of my life. It is my best friend. Would that I could tell you all it tells me! Would that some arrangement could be made by which a preacher could instantaneously summon his audience and preach when the fire stings him and all the angels stir him into the passion for preaching! Oh that men would simply make the law of the Lord their delight, and meditate in it day and night! What preaching we should have then! A word would be a sermon; a sermon would be a library; one hint would start the mind upon infinite ranges of thought and contemplation. A prepared pew would make a prepared pulpit; but a prepared pulpit can never make a prepared pew. Given an audience, earnest, longing, impatient of all process and detail, and then one spark—one little spark—falling on the prepared material, behold, the answer of the people would be as the blaze of an altar-fire, rising instantly to the great, watching, healing heavens! You cannot disturb permanently the man who is rooted in Biblical doctrine and Biblical thought. Many a man supposes that when he shakes a tree he is shaking the root. Sometimes it appears as if the wind would tear up the deep roots of the great trees. It is not so in all instances. The root is deeper than the strength of the wind can reach. What is true in many instances in the forest is true in many instances in the Church: if our roots are deep-struck into divine soil, we may be shaken: the branches may creak, a few leaves will be blown off—ay, a few twigs may be splintered and shivered; but the tree—the great life-tree—is safe at the root, because the root is hidden in the wisdom and protected by the eternity of the living God.

"And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper" ( Psalm 1:3).

A man"s life should be rooted in God—in God"s law, in God"s service. It should not be as a flower plucked, but as a flower unplucked, growing in the eternal stream. Where God is there is no famine. A life severed from God"s law cannot grow, cannot be at rest; it will be the victim of circumstances, affrighted by surprises, and disquieted by many fears. The good man—the student and servant of God"s law—is not only like a tree, he is like a tree planted by rivers of water. So long as the rivers run his roots are nourished; he lives in the great scheme and system of things; no vagrant is Hebrews , but a citizen and a householder. His likeness unto a tree planted by the rivers of water is full of suggestion: a tree is permanent, fruitful, beautiful; its branches are for refreshment, and its shadow for rest; it answers the sun and rain; it waits for God, and puts forth its life at his bidding. Notice the word "prosper": that word is used in no mean or narrow sense, but refers to a prosperity that is real, ultimate, and unchangeable. If we say that the good man does not always prosper, we may say the same thing in effect about God himself. The good man prospers as God prospers. God complains that his law is slighted and his word disobeyed; yet he says that his law shall be set up in the earth, and that his word shall not return unto him void. Some adversities are temporary; they may indeed be part of a process; as truly as God prospers will the good man prosper,—their purposes are identical. The circumstances which suggest that the good man"s prosperity is uncertain are like the hills and valleys which suggest to our limited vision that the earth cannot be a globe. We know, however, that all the hills and valleys fall under a higher law, an infinite astronomy. We have just said that where God is there is no famine. These words may be taken in their widest sense, as relating to the intellect, the imagination, and every faculty which belongs to manhood. When there is no bread in the field, yet is there a great feast in the heart. When the fig-tree ceases to bear, the hunger of the soul is satisfied with fruit from the tree of life. Jesus Christ said he had bread to eat that the world knew not of. He laid down the greatest possible doctrine of the sustenance of man when he said: "Man shall not live by bread alone,"—God has a thousand ways of sustaining life: every word which proceedeth out of his mouth is a living word and a way of life to those who receive it. Thus in the deepest sense of the words we live and move and have our being in God; not a limited and stunted being, starved and hungered because of the spareness of God"s bounty, but a being as enduring as his own, and made secure by all the resources of his throne and Godhead.

A very practical lesson arises from the words "bringeth forth his fruit in his season." We are not to look even in Christian life for what is ordinarily understood by "fruit" all the year round. Upon this point many Christians disquiet themselves unnecessarily. There is a time for rest, for recruital; and time spent in legitimate sleep is time made for larger and harder work. Let the tree be the symbol and image of our life. It has its season of fruitlessness, but not of fruitlessness in any blameworthy sense. The tree is part of the great course of things—a speck in an infinite system—and it keeps all the time and law of the stupendous universe. So it is with the Christian heart. There are times of abundant labour, of almost excessive joy, of hope above the brightness of the sun, and of realisations which transform the earth into heaven: there are times when our energy seems to be more than equal to all the exigencies of life: we can work without weariness, we can suffer without complaining; we are quite sure that the morning draweth nigh, and that in the end the victory will be with God. At other times there are seasons of depression, almost intolerable weariness, somewhat indeed of sickness of heart, as if a great pain had fixed itself within us; at other times we know that we are not bringing forth fruit to the glory of God or for the use of Prayer of Manasseh , and in such times we call ourselves cumberers of the ground, and urge our idleness against ourselves with all the force of a criminal accusation. The Christian should deal with himself reasonably in all these things. The year is not one season, nor is human life one monotonous experience. A tree may be by the rivers of water, and may be planted even by the hand of God himself, and yet there will be portions of the year when not a leaf can be seen on its branches, and when no fruit is offered to the hunger of man. We are not to be judged by this or that one day or season, but by the whole scope and circumference of life. As to the promise "whatsoever he doeth shall prosper," we come upon unwritten but inevitable assumptions and conditions. The character is the guarantee of the action. Read by itself, "whatsoever he doeth shall prosper" is marked by an apparent wildness, as if it would be impossible for a man to attempt anything that would not be instantly turned in the direction of his wishes. It is our reading, however, that would be wild, not the inspired words that would be without licence; we must remember that a certain quality of character is described in the psalm. The portrait is that of a "man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful;" but whose "delight is in the law of the Lord," and in his law doth this man "meditate day and night;" we are therefore first of all to fix our attention upon the quality of the character described, and then we are to read "whatsoever he doeth shall prosper:" such a man cannot do anything wilfully wrong; such a man cannot tempt the providence of God; such a man cannot project himself into his plans so far as to exclude the general welfare and the honour of the divine throne; such a man is all but identical with God in thought and purpose and love, and therefore his personal prosperity is as secured as is the prosperity of every divine principle and purpose.

"The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away" ( Psalm 1:4).

Who can gather again the chaff which has been driven away? Where is it? whose is it? who will claim it? who will buy it? who will care for it? But there are appearances to the contrary. Some ungodly men seem to be well-established: they have property, they have influence, their eyes stand out with fatness; they have more than heart can wish. What are we to make of such circumstances and realities, for realities they certainly appear to be to the casual observer? We are to remember that appearance is one thing, and reality is another. At a little distance the chaff might be mistaken for wheat We are to remember also that the Bible itself recognises what we mistake for realities: comments upon them, explains them, and makes them of no account in the measurement and valuation of God"s providence. The prosperity of the wicked has never escaped the attention of good men; it has made some of them stumble; it has been turned into an argument against a discriminating providence; nay, more, it has been used as an illustration to prove that if God is more than usually mindful of any of his creatures, he seems to have set the seal of his special approbation upon men of worldly mind. Here we are thrown back upon the quality of character. We must make the well-known distinction between character and reputation. Character is what a man really is in his very heart and thought; reputation is what the man is thought to be by those who are associated with him, or who observe his method of life, or estimate the success which may have attended his labours. The distinction between the godly and the ungodly must be vital. Such is the distinction between wheat and chaff; in wheat there are harvests for generations through all time, in chaff there is nothing but emptiness and rottenness. We do not always discover quality by a superficial inspection. Character must be put to the severest tests before its real value can be ascertained. We cannot regard painted ships as of any value for purposes of navigation. Not what a horse is upon the artist"s canvas, but what he is on the battlefield, must be the standard of value. Not in form but in power must be the continual rule of criticism and judgment. There may be a beauty of form without any beauty of inspiration; all merely formal beauty becomes monotonous and oppressive; it is the light within that makes day; it is the inspiration of the understanding that gives men clear discernment of the times and distinct mastery of events. The wheat and the chaff come very near to one another; they may at a little distance be mistaken one for the other. But every man"s character should be tried; every man"s work shall have the test of fire applied to it; and not until such final tests have been applied can we really tell, in some instances, which is good and which is bad. Driven by the wind, carried here and there, without soul or force of their own;—to know whose they are we must know where the wind is—the wind of popularity, the wind of success, the wind of divine visitation. What mocking words are applied to the ungodly man! The Bible everywhere treats him with contempt. It sees him in great power, spreading himself like a green bay tree, and then it declares that he cannot be found, yea though he be searched for in the soil where he grew, not a fibre of his roots can be discovered. The life of the hypocrite is described as a candle which has to be blown out, and which shall leave only an intolerable odour behind. The bad man"s house is represented as founded upon the sand, and its doom is foretold. Never do we find anything of solidity, real value, or true praise connected with the bad man"s name in all the Biblical record. Nor is this a merely metaphysical criticism on the part of the Bible; we know it of our own observation and experience to be a true judgment of fact. Who would employ a man who was known to be really bad at heart? Who would rely upon him? Who would trust him with property? Who would consult him in perplexity? The bad man may be used for temporary purposes: he may be turned into a mere convenience, but even the men who use him despise him, and as soon as the purposes of convenience have been completed the instrument is thrown away. The ungodly man can have no true friends. Though he form truces with his associates and enter into covenants signed and sealed and marked by all the appearance of solidity they will be as nothing in the day of temptation and trial. Ungodliness cannot stand; it has no virtue, strength, or pith; it is the creature of circumstances; it is an accident of the weather; it is driven about by the wind.

"Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous" ( Psalm 1:5).

These are the true and final tests of character. Put into the hands of a sower a handful of chaff and a handful of wheat, and can the former "stand" in his judgment? Mark , there is a judgment! There is a congregation of the righteous! At present judgment is partial and uncertain, and at present society is mixed; but the time of judgment and separation is coming! Man soon comes to the end of his probation. Where are the ungodly of the last generation? What impression is produced by the recollection of their names,—a recollection of self-will, self-indulgence, self-promotion; not a recollection of purity, Wisdom of Solomon , sympathy, or noble service? Words of this kind show that society is organised by its Creator, and is not left in tumultuousness, without order, direction, or final outcome. The words "judgment" and "congregation" point to conditions of an ultimate kind. Regard life as chaotic, without law, order, or purpose, and then verily the race will be to the swift and the battle to the strong. Everything depends upon the point of view from which life is surveyed. To the man who is without God in the world life is a scramble, or a series of chances, or a mere department of gambling, no one knowing who may be first to-morrow or who may win in the impending contest: principles go for nothing; convictions are laughed at; prayer is despised. But has history justified this view of life? Has our own personal history justified it? The answer is instantaneous, emphatic, and complete. Appearances notwithstanding, it is still clear to the observing mind that human history has shape, direction, and purpose; it is a marvellous unity; its very complexity cannot destroy its order; at the heart of things there is a thought, a determination, a divine decree. Taking, therefore, this view of the case, we see the high and solid reasoning of the text,—"Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous." This outcome is noted as a simple sequence. It is not an arbitrary arrangement or a penalty inflicted without a cause; it is the logical outcome of certain moral processes; evil leads to disappointment, misery, and perdition;—good leads to satisfaction, enjoyment, and heaven. If this were the voice of the Bible only men might quibble about it and propose certain difficult questions in relation to it; but we see the outworking of this law in social life, and are prepared to confirm it according to the variety and extent of our own experience. Let us not regard words of this kind merely as petty warnings or as having; in them any tone of vindictiveness, as if God simply by the exercise of his almightiness determined to have his own way at last. This is not a question of mere power at all. It is a question of moral force, moral quality, and moral triumph. Written all over the universe in every department of nature and providence and revelation is the sublime law that the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal,—not an arbitrary division of classes, but a philosophical, moral, and sublime realisation of the mysterious processes which are known by the names of cause and effect.

"For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish" ( Psalm 1:6).

The question is not whether the righteous is apparently stronger than the ungodly, but what is the relation of the Lord to them both? The final award is not with man but with God. The destiny of the righteous and the ungodly is as distinct as their characters. There is no blending of one into the other,—the one lives, the other perishes. Consistently throughout the Bible life is always associated with obedience or righteousness, and death with disobedience or unrighteousness. Upon this point the Bible bears no equivocal or doubtful testimony. The voice of the Lord is one from the beginning to the end of his testimony. Great value attaches to a consistency of this kind. Consider that the records of the Bible extend over thousands of years and relate to every variety of human disposition and social circumstance; consider further that the Bible is the joint production of numerous writers who in many cases knew nothing of what the others had written, and then remember that from beginning to end the face of the Lord is represented as set against evil, and shining like a benediction upon good; and say if there be not in this very consistency itself, at least the beginning or suggestion of a noble argument. The consistency has a bearing upon the character of God himself. It is because he never changes in his own moral quality that he never changes in relation to the actions of men. In his first interview with man he spoke of life and death; in the final judgment of the world life and death will be the two categories under which the human race will be classified. That "the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous" is the good man"s supreme comfort. "He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." At first it might appear as if the knowledge of the Lord were a terror to the good Prayer of Manasseh , whereas, on the contrary, it is the noblest comfort which sustains him. Not that the good man challenges the divine scrutiny in the matter of his actions, but that he is able to invite the Lord to look into the secret purpose of his heart and understand what is the supreme wish of his life. The Apostle Peter represents this truth in a manner most pathetic: "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." Peter was not here calling attention to his personal life, which was full of blunder and of shame, but was calling attention to the one purpose and uppermost desire of his life. That is a consolation always open to the good man. To know that the motive is right is to know that the end must be good. "When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path." "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." The Apostle Paul has a noble figure upon this matter:—"The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his." The prophet Nahum bears testimony to this great truth, saying, "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him." What we have to be supremely anxious about is the main purpose or desire of life; that being right, actions will adjust themselves accordingly, and, notwithstanding innumerable mistakes, the substance of the character shall be good, and a crown of glory shall be granted to the faithful servant.

The whole of this psalm suggests many inquiries of a practical kind. First of all, are we blessed? The psalm relates to the blessedness of a peculiar character, and we are entitled to ask how far we correspond to its lineaments. We may be blessed in many ways, and must be blessed in all if we follow the way that is divine. We know what it is to be blessed in human relations by associating ourselves with those who are of the right spirit and purpose. "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." This is the law of blessing and destruction. To walk with God is to move constantly in an upward and heavenly direction. Another question which we may put Isaiah , Do we distinguish between blessedness and transient happiness? There is a great difficulty in this direction. We are so much the creatures of circumstances that we may interpret momentary emotions as indicative of solidity of character. Blessedness is a question of moral rectitude and not: a question of transient emotions. Being right we shall of necessity be blessed. Instead, therefore, of looking for the effect, let us steadfastly fix our minds upon the cause, knowing that it is impossible to have happiness from the outside, and that all blessedness expresses an inward and spiritual condition. We may well interrogate ourselves further in the matter of our own fruitfulness. What is the kind of fruit which we bring forth? What are our actions? How are our words regarded by those who are walking in darkness or are inquiring for the solution of great problems? "Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings." The root being right, the fruit shall be good. "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now Isaiah , and of that which is to come." Are we to be compared to the worthless chaff? We need not shrink from the question as if it could not be answered, for we well know that the reply is in our own hearts. Pitiable is the life of the ungodly. They are as stubble before the wind and as chaff that the storm carrieth away. Christ, the Saviour of the world, will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. However much appearances may be on the side of those who are ungodly, we read concerning them that "the world passeth away, and the lust thereof;" it is a momentary satisfaction, which perishes in the using. Whom God calls blessed can never be desolate; whom God calls cursed can never know true joy. Let us set it down as a fact in life, as a standard of judgment, that it is impossible for us to alter moral qualities and moral issues; we are called upon to accept the moral constitution of the universe as God has appointed it, to work out its laws, and either by obedience to enter into its heaven, or by disobedience to be flung away as sons of perdition.

 


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Bibliography Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 1:4". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/psalms-1.html. 1885-95.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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