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Psalm 1

Psalm 1
The blessed Man

by Anton Stier

We already saw that the Psalms can be divided according to the five books of Moses. So Psalm 1 comes under the ‘Genesis-section’. Genesis, in the Hebrew Bible called Bereshit (in the beginning), and contains the main principles of God’s counsel concerning man and his ways.

Two ways

The Psalmist shows the deep contrast between God’s counsel and man’s counsel. One leads to life, the other to death. It is as if we hear the voice of the Lord through Moses: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deut. 30:19). This life to be chosen is beautifully illustrated in verse 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.” Note carefully he is like a tree. The tree here is a metaphor. Life in fact is the LORD Himself, as we can see in the following verse (20) of Deuteronomy 30: “... that thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for He is thy life...”.1 It meanwhile is the answer to the question who is “the blessed Man is, 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 pleasure is in the way of the Lord; and in his way will he meditate day and night.”
It is the Messiah of Israel. Only He could say: “I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8) and: “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish the work” (John 4:34). During His earthly ministry He proved to be as a tree planted by the rivers of water, whose leaves never withered.

The New Jerusalem

We also clearly see a parallel with Genesis 2:9 concerning ‘the tree of life in the middle of the garden’. This image will have it’s fulfilment in the New Jerusalem, about which we read in Revelation 22:2: “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

Whatsoever He doeth shall prosper
In verse 3 the psalmist then shows us how that life of the Man, the Messiah, develops itself: “whatsoever He doeth shall prosper.”
The first words of Jesus at the age of twelve were: “wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). His last words on the cross were: “It is finished” (John 10:30). All His works in the years in between prospered. But after His death and resurrection, there is still much work to fulfil, like ‘the judgement of the ungodly’.

The ungodly
In contrast to the blessed Man (singular) are the ungodly (plural), who in future will fall under the judgment of the blessed Man. The apostle Paul refers to that judgement when he addresses the Geek philosophers in Athens; “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man (!) whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:30, 31).

This judgment will take place at the return of the Messiah, when the thrones of judgment of the house of David will stand in Jerusalem (Psalm 122:5).
The ungodly shall not be able to stand in that righteous judgment (verse 5), because they have walked in the counsel of the ungodly, stood in the way of sinners and sat in the seat of the scorners (verse 1,2). Then the time has come that they, who thought they could walk, stand and sit in their way, will be scattered like chaff in the wind (verse 4).

Verse 5 shows that believers (described as ‘the congregation of the righteous’) will participate in the execution of His judgments. Paul reminds the Corinthians of this fact, when they seem not able to clear their own differences and seek help from others.
“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (1 Cor. 6:12). In a certain way we can see this principle already operating in their midst: “But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth”. Remember that in the Corinthian Church the principles of the expected Kingdom were at that time still in operation!

The way of the righteous
The Psalm ends up with his final conclusion: “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” Again we see the two ways. One shall perish, but the other (known to the Lord and) leads to abundant blessing. In fact it leads to the same position of the obedient man: “like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season”.
Listen to the Lord’s most beautiful promises to the remnant of Israel:
“Thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting; the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.” (Isa. 60:21)
“And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (Isa. 58:11).
All this is the work of the blessed Man, because whatsoever he doeth shall prosper to the honour and glory of his Name.

Footnote:
Paul uses almost the same words in his letter to the Philippians (1:21): “For to me to live is Christ.”