A Few Thoughts on Psalm 1


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A Few Thoughts on Psalm 1

This is an impressive Psalm and is an introduction to the Book of Psalms. Two sets of people and two ways are revealed, summed up in the last verse, the way of the ungodly and the way of the righteous. The righteous class are introduced in the first phrase, but it is in the singular: “Blessed is the man”. Ultimately this one man is the Lord Jesus Christ.

At first his qualities are described by what he is not. The Psalmist gives us three poetic parallels, and when these are lined up, each of the three phrases seem to be a progressive decline in the character and position of the ungodly:
Psalm 1:1 (KJV): 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.

Thus the Psalmist by this method also introduces to us the ungodly, sinners and the scornful.

And this is contrasted with what the blessed man is:
Psalm 1:2 (KJV): But his delight is in the law of the LORD;
and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

Two key words are introduced, “delight” and “meditate”. Both of these qualities are not natural to man, but there needs to be an initial choice or persuasion that this course is worth embracing, then these qualities need to be cultivated and allowed to grow. The whole purpose of the Book of Psalms could be summarised in these two words. This Book of Psalms and the whole counsel of God is designed to develop this “delight” and a mind that “meditates” upon the word.

The ultimate destiny of these two classes of people are clearly depicted. The wicked or ungodly will become like chaff that the wind drives away, while the righteous will become like trees planted by rivers or streams of water bringing forth fruit.

The parallelism of verse 6 is condensed, and the following underlined phrases and words are required to complete the parallelism:
For the LORD knoweth (or regards) the way of the righteous and they shall live:
but God does not give regard to the way of the ungodly and they shall perish

Parallelism is a major feature of the OT Hebrew poetry. An advantage of this unique form is that the meaning of the poetry is not lost when translated into other languages. Modern translations usually show these parallel statements in verse form, while it is obscured in the KJV. The RV/KJV Interlinear Bible shows the KJV in verse form.

It appears that Jeremiah meditated upon this Psalm, and applied it to his own circumstances. He expands this Psalm and gives more detail to the difficult times and trials using the figure of drought:
Jeremiah 17:7-8 (KJV): 7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

Jeremiah also gives the contrast as revealed in Psalm 1:
Jeremiah 17:5-6 (KJV): 5 Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. 6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.

Jeremiah under Spirit guidance is very searching in his application of Psalm 1. We need to be humbled by the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ and allow the influence of the Word to awaken a delight in the Word and a desire to meditate therein. By this means our hearts and minds will direct us in the Way. Jeremiah adds another searching comment in v9 and Yahweh then speaks directly by means of a summary in v10, giving the final outcome, similar to the outcome of the two ways of Psalm 1:
Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV): 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

Many of the Psalms are written by David, the man after God’s own heart. They reveal his thoughts, prayers and praises. Some are written by his close associates such as Asaph who became the chief musician. Some are anonymous, and some of these seem to be by Hezekiah. A unique feature of the Psalms is that in some instances they reveal the thoughts of Jesus more than the thoughts and circumstances of David, for example Psalms 16 and 22 that are quoted in the NT. Thus the partial revelation of God by the prophets anticipates the complete revelation of God in His Son Hebrews 1:1-2.

Kind regards