This post may contain affiliate links which won’t change your price but will share some commission.

· · ·

EP 110: A Walk Through Psalm 1

Last year our ladies’ bible study group at church studied several of the Psalms together. My Psalm to share a message and put together some study questions was Psalm 1, and I wanted to share my time from that study with you today.

Psalm 1 is one I memorized years ago and I thought I was pretty familiar with it until I studied through it. So I hope when you listen to the podcast below or read the post; it will open up Psalm 1 to you a bit more. 

I’m including in the links a PDF download of the study questions I shared with my ladies group if you’d like to do a mini-study on Psalm 1 on your own time. 

Listen to the Podcast Below or Subscribe on your Favorite App:

Psalm 1 Study Guide

Methods of Meditation on Scripture

Free Printable Library

The Psalms: Rejoice, the Lord Is King (Preaching the Word) by James Johnston

Charles Spurgeon said: “The delightful study of the Psalms has yielded me boundless profit and ever-growing pleasure.”

 My hope is our time today in Psalm 1 will yield us boundless profit and ever-growing pleasure.

Since this is Psalm 1, I want to give a quick intro into Psalms’ book—this is just the ten thousand foot overview, and I’m sure there is much I’m going to miss, but it will give us a basic introduction.

For this overview, I am extremely indebted to a commentary from Crossway by James Johnston on The Psalms Volume 1. 

The book of Psalms is probably one of the most read and loved books of the Bible. I often turn to it to sit with favorites that help me praise the Lord (Psalm 100), pray to Him in challenging circumstances (Psalm 46), and those moments when I want to sit and worship Him (Psalm 8). 

The Psalms are a treasure we have as they reflect the prayer and praise of ancient Israel. 

Many of the psalms were written for Israel’s temple worship. Fifty-five of them are dedicated to the Director of Music, and some are connected with the temple musicians like the Sons of Korah. 

Jesus most likely shared Psalm 118 with his disciples before they left the upper room for the Mount of Olives in Matthew 26:30, and when Peter and John were arrested, the early church prayed with the words of Psalm 2 (see Acts 4:25). 

Charles Spurgeon called his well-known commentary on the Psalms; The Treasury of David because the Psalms are, as it states in Psalm 19:10 – more to be desired than gold than much fine gold. They are a treasure, and they open the door to the treasure chamber of our hearts when our hearts are open to the Spirit. Time in the Psalms will change us. 

They teach us to pray and worship. 

They are truth, they are poems, and they are a book. We’re going to break each of these down a bit more.

First, they are truth.

First, they are Truth:

The Psalms are scripture that God inspired by His Holy Spirit to teach and instruct us. They are rich with doctrine. The Psalm we are working through in this episode, Psalm 1, emphasizes this in the first two verses. 

Psalm 1:1-2

1 Blessed is the man

  who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

  nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,

  and on his law he meditates day and night.

“Law” is the Hebrew word for Torah in verse 2, and it means instruction that comes from God. The Psalms are divine Revelation, and we are to think and meditate and reflect on what they say.

So much of the Old Testament is covered in the Psalms; Creation, Abraham’s call, the Exodus, the Law of Moses, the monarchy of Israel, Israel’s disobedience, the exile, the return, and the hope of a greater kingdom with a perfect King!

The Psalms is the only Old Testament book written over one thousand years of Israel’s history. It’s the most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament. The book of Psalms is truth from God that is meant to teach and instruct us and engage our minds with doctrine. 

Second, they are Poems:

They engage our intellect and emotions.

Psalm 1 gives us a picture of this in verse two: 

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. The man God blesses is one who delights—addressing his heart—the emotions in his Law and meditates—addressing the head—the intellect.

Notice the heart is mentioned there first—this man has already come to love God’s Word, so he desires to think intentionally on it. We treasure and love the Word before we ponder what it means. Poetry engages our hearts so our whole being will engage with God’s Word.

The Psalms were meant to be sung, and James Johnston from his commentary on The Psalms Volume 1 said:

“The name psalm comes from the Greek word psalmos, a translation of the Hebrew word mizmor. Both words mean a song accompanied by musical instruments, particularly a harp.”

The psalmists were poets, and they paint pictures that help us picture and feel what we’re reading.

Some examples of pictures we see in the Psalms are from:

Psalm 17:8 states – Hide me in the shadow of your wings”, instead of just stating – “Protect me.”

Psalm 80:5 states – “You have fed them with the bread of tears” instead of just stating, “The people are sad.”

One more quote from Mr. Johnston’s commentary:

“The Psalms wake up our emotions to respond to God and to live like we should. No other book so powerfully shapes our minds and our hearts. Through the Psalms, we can adapt our thinking and feeling to be in line with the heart and mind of God.”

Lastly, the Psalms are a Book:

Specifically, they are a book of five smaller books. It is uncertain why Psalms is divided into five books. Some sources, including Jewish Midrash traditions, suggest the five-fold division is based on the five books of the Torah (Genesis to Deuteronomy).

Let me list the breakdown first, and then we’ll touch on each of these books within the Psalms a bit more. 

Book One: Psalms 1-41 

Book Two: Psalms 42-72 

Book Three: Psalms 73-89 

Book Four: Psalms 90-106 

Book Five: Psalms 107-150 

These Psalms have been carefully put together in order for a purpose—remember, this is a book. 

I liked the picture I came across as a way to think of the book of Psalms. We are familiar with Handel’s Messiah or even a musical like Oklahoma. There are beautiful songs in each, and each song can stand on its own, but when you put them together, you have a story. 

Such is with the Psalms—each can stand alone—but together, they tell a story from beginning to end. The story starts with Israel during David and Solomon’s time and continues through the exile, and ends when God has returned his people to the land. 

Book 1, which covers Psalms 1-41, focuses clearly on David’s experience as King. A summary for these Psalms could be “God rescues his king from his enemies.

Book 2, which covers Psalms 42-72, we note that David is not the author of these first nine Psalms, but they are connected with a group of Levites called the Sons of Korah and Asaph, who was one of David’s choirmasters. 

The focus isn’t on David the king individually in these but on the experience of God’s people. A summary of Book 2 can be “God rescues his people from their enemies through His king.”

Book 3, which covers Psalms 73-89, finds Israel in a period that seems to describe the destruction of the temple, and it was probably compiled after Israel was taken into exile to Babylon. These are some of the Psalms that ask hard questions; things like, how could God allow this? How long will it last? Is there any hope? We might summarize book 3 with “How could God abandon his king and his people?”

Book 4, which covers 90-106, was also compiled during the time of exile. The book ends with a prayer for God to return the people from exile in Psalm 106:47: Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. 

The people didn’t seem to be brought home when this book was written. A theme might be: “God is still King over all the world.”

And Book 5, which covers Psalms 107-150, was compiled after the exile when God brought Israel back home. Psalm 119 is the center of gravity for this book with the celebration of God’s Word. 

We also find the Psalms of Ascent in book 5, Psalms 120—134.

The city of Jerusalem is situated on a high hill. Jews traveling to Jerusalem for one of the three main annual Jewish festivals traditionally sang these songs on the “ascent” or the city’s uphill road. According to some traditions, the Jewish priests also sang some of these Songs of Ascent as they walked up the steps to the temple in Jerusalem.

Each of the psalms in this collection begins with the title “A Song of Ascents.” While perhaps they were not originally composed for this purpose, these psalms were later grouped together for use in traveling toward Jerusalem for the yearly Jewish festivals.

From this last book of Psalms, we see the people should look for a king greater than David. They should have learned from the exile there is more to God’s plan than an earthly kingdom. This last book’s theme can be taken from Psalm 150:6: Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

The 150 psalms in the book of Psalms have often been categorized into various types. There is no one way to organize the psalms, but most systems include similar categories with only slight variations. Some of the various types are Psalms of Lament, Thanksgiving, Wisdom, Hymns, the Psalms of Ascent, and Royal Psalms. 

So this was just a quick overview, and one more aspect that is so important to remember as you read the Psalms is, they are a book about Christ.

Connection of Psalms 1 & 2:

Luke 24:44 Jesus tells his disciples; “Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

So we are beginning today with Psalm 1, and this Psalm, along with Psalm 2, are strategically linked together.

Psalm 1 starts with Blessed is the man.

Psalm 2 ends with Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

These Psalms – 1 & 2 – parallel each other, and the King from David’s line and—those who take refuge in Him—will be blessed because they live as he does. They think about and embrace the things He thinks about and embraces, and they are blessed. 

Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man

  who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

  nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,

  and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree

  planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

  and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

4 The wicked are not so,

  but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

  nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

  but the way of the wicked will perish.

We all desire to be happy. We’d love lasting happiness, and Psalm 1 starts describing the man who is truly happy or blessed. Some translations begin this verse with “how happy is the man,” which describes a deep sense of joy that comes from God’s grace in our lives, not the superficial happiness of the world based on circumstances. 

Did you notice as you read through the Psalm that the first word is Blessed and the last is perish? Two complete opposites here. In this Psalm, the way of the righteous and the way of the ungodly are contrasted.

Blessed is used over twenty times in just the Psalms and various scriptures throughout the New Testament. Remember how often we came across it as we worked through the Beatitudes in the series on the Sermon on the Mount?

The authorship of this Psalm varies depending on the source. Some say it’s not known but must give credit to David. Almost all the other Psalms in Book One (Psalms 1-41) of the Psalms have “of David” at the top. But this Psalm and Psalm 2 are bracketed by blessing and conclude with warnings. They each warn of a way that leads to destruction, and together, they set a scene and put down markers for our reading through this book of the Bible.

The early church father Jerome describes Psalm 1 as the preface to the Psalms, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, and compared it to the great door of the building that is the Psalter.

So as we open this door to the Psalter today and walk through Psalm 1, we’re going to see who it tells us the blessed man is. Our Psalm starts by telling us first what he doesn’t do: 

Psalm 1:1:

Blessed is the man

  who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

  nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

First, he doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked. This person doesn’t live out their daily life according to worldly advice. They aren’t picking up the advice, perspectives, values, and worldview of the ungodly. If they do this long enough, they will move to the next level. There is a downward progression going on here in the descriptions we have. 

Next, he’s not influenced by sinners. He doesn’t stand in the way of sinners, “to stand in someone’s way” in Hebrew means something like “to stand in his moccasins”: to do what he does, to adopt his lifestyle, his habits, his patterns of conduct. 

So, he’s not conforming to their lifestyle or behaviors; their attitudes are not becoming his attitudes. If he continued down this course, he would continue to descend and find himself in the seat of scoffers.

Or Sit in the Seat of Scoffers:

If you’re sitting in the seat of scoffers, you’re participating in much that is godless and mocking the things of God and those who obey the ways of God. So, the blessed man—he’s not settled into the seat of those who might make fun of things of God. He’s not going to spread laughter and mock the things of God, and he’s not going to mock those who obey the ways of God. 

We have a negative description of the blessed man, and it is describing someone who doesn’t let the culture around them shape what he thinks and does and enjoys. Sometimes it can be easier to fit in instead of going against the grain. 

The reality is, we’ve all been here, even as believers. We may have taken worldly counsel or ignored godly counsel. We may have adopted worldly lifestyles or habits. We may have made fun of or criticized those obeying God, maybe not outwardly but in our thoughts. 

As it states in 1 John 1:8 – If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 

But we see that blessing comes to those who don’t march to the beat of the world’s drum. 

The grammar here in verse 1 gives us an interesting problem to face – because it requires complete obedience—it’s stating that the blessed man never sinned. 

Willem VanGemeren, a noted OT scholar, stated on this verse:

“The perfect mood of the verbs in each case emphasizes that the godly are never involved with anything tainted with evil.”

These blessings in Psalm 1 are for the man who has never sinned and always been separated from it. Augustine said of the man of Psalm 1:

This is to be understood of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

I want to share an interesting story about a man named Joseph Flacks. He was visiting Palestine in the early twentieth century and had an opportunity to speak with a gathering of Jews and Arabs. He chose to talk about this Psalm. He read it in Hebrew and in the discussion and asked: Who is this blessed man of who the psalmist speaks?

This man never walked in the counsel of the wicked or stood in the way of sinners or sat in the seat of mockers. He was an absolutely sinless man. 

Nobody spoke. So Flacks said, “Was he our great father, Abraham?” One old man said, “No, it cannot be Abraham. He denied his wife and told a lie about her.” “Well, how about the lawgiver Moses?” “No,” someone said, “It cannot be Moses. He killed a man and lost his temper by the waters of Meribah.”

Flacks suggested David. It was not David; he committed both murder and adultery.

There was a long silence. Then an elderly Jew arose and said, “My brothers, I have a little book here; it is called the New Testament. I have been reading it, and if I could believe this book, if I could be sure that it is true, I would say that the man of the first Psalm was Jesus of Nazareth.”

This elderly Jewish man was right—this first verse of Psalm 1 points to Jesus—Jesus is the blessed man of Psalm 1. 

Because of Jesus, those of us who have come to Jesus in true repentance and faith by trusting in his death and resurrection—all the blessings of Psalm 1 become ours because of His obedience.

The righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us, and we now have the Spirit of Christ living in us, so we are able to delight in His Word, turn from sin, and meditate on His Word. We are the blessed man of Psalm 1 only because of Jesus. 

Living out Psalm 1 in our lives means we are becoming more and more like Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. 

This description of the blessed man continues in verse 2:

2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,

  and on his law he meditates day and night.

God blesses the one who constantly and intentionally focuses on His Word. The Word “law” here in verse two doesn’t just refer to the ten commandments, but the Hebrew word Torah means instruction. In this particular context of this Psalm, it refers to the scriptures as a whole, especially the Psalms. 

The man who is blessed loves God, desires to know God, and wants to know how to please God. To do this, He needs to be reading and meditating or thinking deeply on God’s Word. The term meditate here means to mutter or murmur—kind of like talking to yourself under your breath. 

What are some ways we can meditate on God’s Word? I’m linking to a PDF handout with some ways to practice meditating on God’s Word. But you can simply do your daily reading, write a verse or two on an index card and carry it with you all day and read through it, pray it, ask questions of the text to gain an understanding of what this verse tells you about who God is and in light of Who God is what does He desire of you. Share with someone what you learned from the text or applied from the text. 

Memorizing God’s Word is another way to meditate on it throughout your day, but you need not just to memorize it but bring it to your mind and think on it and pray through it. 

We want not just to master the Word but to be mastered by it. 

What are the Blessed compared to? 

3 He is like a tree

  planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

  and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

First, the tree is planted. It didn’t haphazardly come about by a seedling floating in the air. When we plant a new tree in our yard, we choose it and pick the location for where it will best grow. There are is a purpose and a plan for the tree. Just like the believer, the Lord chooses where we need to be planted for our good and growth. 

Psalm 139:16 tells us – all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 

Second, it’s planted by streams of water. It is right next to life-giving water. It’s here where its roots can go deep and draw the nourishment it needs. It’s describing someone whose roots go deeply into God, the source of life. It’s going to flourish. 

Third, this tree yields fruit in its season, so its “fruit” does not fail. In their life, you see the fruit of their roots.

As we meditate on God’s Word and delight in it, we will bear fruit just like this tree will bear fruit. As the Word works in us and our roots are digging deep, we will produce: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, and this fruit will come about in challenging seasons of our lives. 

We will face difficulties, but our roots are dug deep, and our tree will not be shaken. 

Fourth the leaf of this tree does not wither. When an unbelieving world sees a man put out leaves while the hot winds of life torch him, there can only be one explanation. He has roots that are drinking deep from living water. 

Last here in verse three is: in all that he does, he prospers. This verse is taken out of context by our prosperity preachers. 

Ponder here: Jesus is this perfect man. His prosperity came through suffering and death. God’s economy works differently than the world. 

Our success comes through suffering and trials. The psalmist is saying that God’s Word that we delight in and meditate on will have its intended effect on us. God’s Word will be successful in everything it is set out to do. 

Next, we have the contrast of the blessed man with the wicked man:

Verse 4 tells us: the wicked are not so but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

As the chaff is separated from the wheat, in the process the heads of wheat are being crushed to separate them from the husk. Then it’s all tossed in the air so the lighter husks, the chaff, blows away. While the useful part of the grain, the heavy kernels, drop to the ground. (Video of separating the chaff from the wheat.)

Chaff doesn’t produce fruit; it has no roots, and winds reveal the chaff as soon as the wheat is tossed into the air. 

Two ways are being contrasted here. Two kinds of people. Two ways of life. It’s the righteous and the wicked. Wicked is not a politically correct statement. It seems harsh. 

We know people who don’t love God, but we wouldn’t necessarily call them wicked. They may be kind and generous and caring, but the truth of scripture is clear.

 If they aren’t known by God, if they aren’t in Christ —they are wicked. 

This does not mean we go around using this term in our evangelism, but it is a reality of the state of those who are unsaved. Before we came to Christ, we were wicked – we too were enemies of God destined for an eternity in Hell. 

A final judgment is coming:

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

  nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

  but the way of the wicked will perish.

We move to the future here, where all will stand before the Lord in judgment. This is anticipating an end time—a final accounting. 

The wicked are a group of people, unlike the blessed man. They walked and stood and sat in the way of sinners, and when the judgment comes, they are not going to stand. 

It doesn’t matter how kind they’ve been or how much money they donated, or how they volunteered. If they lived their lives void of the One True God—they will perish. Even their way will perish – their way of life and what they did and practiced will also perish. 

In bringing this all together, did you notice that we start with a man at the beginning of the Psalm? He is blessed. He is like a tree planted by streams of water. At the end of the Psalm, we have a congregation of the righteous. 

This congregation of the righteous are those who identify with the blessed man. Their lives are like the life of the blessed man. We come back again to who is the blessed man.

There wasn’t a leader or a king in Israel’s history who turned out to be the man of Psalm 1. All have fallen short, all have sinned. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day seemed to think of themselves as the righteous instead of the wicked. They would have read Psalm 1 and identified themselves as the “blessed man” and the “congregation of the righteous.”

Their security was in following the law outwardly. Jesus warned them:

Matthew 23:28: You also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Jesus is the only true righteous man, and he comes to those who think they are the “blessed man” or those who think they are the “congregation of the righteous.” 

He opens their eyes to see they are desperately wicked and without hope apart from Him. They need to confess of their wickedness and turn to Him to be their righteousness.

Jesus is the only righteous one who perfectly delighted in the law of the Lord and meditated on it day and night. Jesus is like the tree planted by streams of water. His life was abundantly fruitful, and all that He did, He prospered. His life, death, and resurrection accomplished the salvation of sinners—all those who can’t live up to the demands of Psalm 1 but put their faith and trust in Jesus alone for salvation. 

So now what? Can we live as this Psalm describes? We can’t apart from Christ. Jesus obeyed perfectly in our place so we can delight in the way of the Lord. Jesus endured the judgment we deserved, so we can now stand in the judgment because of His righteousness, not our own. 

It is only by His grace that we can be the person of Psalm 1. It is only by being united to Jesus – the only one who was able to live this way perfectly.

Trying harder isn’t the way to live like this man. Being united to Jesus is where it begins. As we begin to read, study, and apply God’s Word to our lives, God will change us.

When the storms come blowing through, we will be like the tree. It doesn’t mean we will be unaffected by the storms, but God’s Word will have its intended effect on our lives. 

We’ll have stability in the storms. It will prosper us and make us strong, and we will bear fruit no matter what storms may come. 

Psalm 1 is the path to true happiness to true blessedness. If we are in Christ, Psalm 1 will be the pattern of our lives.