Sunday, December 23, 2012

Psalm 1

The first psalm, paired with psalm 2, stands at the start of the book and offers a kind of frontispiece to the book as a whole. In this psalm, much like the start of the book of proverbs, a contrasting picture is constructed of the wise man and the foolish man, though wisdom and folly themselves are not mentioned.

The blessed man is the one who avoids the wickeds’ counsel, and instead finds his source and root and delight in the Torah of God. The natural consequence, we are told, is abundance and stability, as depicted in v3. In contrast, the wicked are like chaff (v4), both unfruitful and unstable. The natural sequence for the wicked is given dramatic climax in vv5-6, being both unfruitful and unstable, they ‘will not stand in the judgment’, and ultimately their way perishes. This is because the “the Lord knows the way of the righteous”.

It is God’s personal, intimate acquaintance, an active knowing, that establishes the righteous.
In many ways this psalm invites us, the reader, to follow the path of the blessed man, and the key focal point of action is v2, the delight and meditation upon the Torah. Although Psalms is a book of ‘wisdom literature’, it never holds wisdom in tension with Law, but refers us again and again to the Law as the revelation of God and basis of relation with him. Furthermore, the canonical structure of Psalms into 5 ‘books’ invites us to contemplate Psalms itself as a book of ‘Law’, it is instruction in the life of the worshipper.

This psalm leads us to Jesus in three ways. Firstly, in the New Testament the Law finds an ultimate fulfilment in Christ. As Christians we do not ‘follow’ the Law, per se, but find in Christ the final revelation of God and the basis of relation with him. So our invitation is to delight and meditate on Christ, and when we do study the Torah, we do so in the light of Christ its fulfilment.

Secondly, the source of our fruitfulness and stability is Christ himself. When we consider the agricultural metaphors of John 15 and Romans 11:16-24, our flourishing, vitality, and rootedness all depend upon a living connection to Jesus himself, the true branch.

Thirdly, who is the truly blessed man? It is Jesus himself. As this psalm presents us with a paradigm for living, Jesus has lived it. He delighted and meditated upon God’s Law, he avoided the way of the wicked, he was like a tree, abundant and stable, and ultimately he is the one who stands in the judgment, so that the righteous are vindicated and the wicked perish.

So let’s take this invitation, let’s delve into the psalms, and delight in God’s Word to us, and dwell upon it richly, in imitation and union of our Lord Jesus, and follow him to find the source of life and blessing.

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