“Oh the happinesses of the man (the one, the person) who never walks in the council of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor remain standing in the dwelling place of the scornful.”
The Book of Psalms contains the poetic description of a life spent in the service of YHWH and obedience to His commandments. The Righteous One is compared to the Fool–who says in his heart there is no God–because the Righteous man seeks to obey the Lord and His commandments. In the Psalms, the Righteous Man becomes a Righteous King and is almost always presented to the people as David (the chosen, anointed Messiah). In the world of the New Testament and the reign of Christ, we see that these Davidic pictures are all foreshadowing the Incarnation and divine reign of THE Messiah who is not just the adopted Son of God that the Israelite kings were but is truly God himself and His divine, pre-eternal Son.
Through a series of longer “study” posts and shorter “discussion” posts, we’ll be engaging the imagery and theology of Psalm 1 and hopefully encourage and instruct one another as we go.
Psalm 1 contains the entirety of the theological instruction of the Psalter. In six short verses we are introduced to the two characters (the righteous one and the fool), the Law of God, the Covenant Blessings, and the two ways: life and death. Each of these themes is repeated throughout the Psalter, and it’s important to recognize that the author of Psalm 1 has created a perfect prologue to the proceeding passages. It’s also important to note, that these images have been adopted and presented to us by the Church in relation to Christ and that He (David’s heir and divine Son of God) is the fulfillment of these Psalmic images.
Psalm 1 begins as above: “Oh the blessedness (literally the happinesses) of the man who NEVER walks, stands, or abides with the ungodly. It’s a fabulous bit of Hebrew poetry built upon the actions of walking, standing, and dwelling–think Exodus imagery here–in relation to the person who is going about life’s way. The righteous man who wants covenant blessing must NEVER (the prohibition in Hebrew has this connotation) walk on the way of death; NEVER stand in the council of the ungodly; and NEVER “abide as though to live” among the unrighteous. His delight (hephetz), rather, is in the Torah of YHWH, and it is on His law that he (the righteous man) chews. In contrast to the one who sits around the table with the ungodly, the man who receives covenant blessing sits and eats at the table of Torah and becomes like a tree planted by living water which grows, flourishes, and produces fruit. The wicked, on the contrary, receive the covenant curses and wither and are lost on the wind like chaff.
For the original audience of the Psalms, this image was a very visceral. They had spent generations dwelling among the ungodly in slavery and their decision to stop walking in God’s way and to stand listening to the ungodly led to their forty year wilderness wandering. Before finally entering the Promised Land they had taken time to rehearse the blessings and curses of the Law as they looked across the flowing Jordan river (next to which they would be planted). Every year they would listen to the words of the Exodus as they celebrated Passover. Every year they would read the Torah in its entirety, starting in Genesis and ending with the words of Promise as they crossed the Jordan into Canaan. Every day they were given the opportunity to examine their lives before Torah and to place themselves on the Path of the Righteous or the Way of the Ungodly.
Before moving forward, consider these two images: the way of life and the way of death. The Righteous one is happy and blessed on the way of God’s commandments and the Ungodly is forgotten as quickly as chaff. How do these two ways present themselves through the Old Testament Scripture and the Gospels/Epistles?