Psalm 1: A Stark Choice

In a new series of devotionals, Simon Curran looks at Psalm 1.

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither –
    whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Life is frequently neither simple nor clear cut.  As we grow in maturity (or just age!) we realise it’s complex and frequently messy.  The world in which we live is rarely black or white but is much more often splattered with several shades of grey.

The very first Psalm though presents us with a stark choice, an ‘either/or’ with no middle ground.  How am I going to live my life?  What is my life going to revolve around, how am I going to live today?

The Psalmist paints a wonderful picture of a tree planted by streams of water.  It is a beautiful image of a life rooted in God, where a man or woman positively delights in the ‘Torah of YHWH’ (‘Law’ is far too legalistic an interpretation for what is going on here, conjuring up as it does, images of do’s and don’ts.  ‘Torah’ rather relates to the whole instruction of God and his gracious saving acts).

For the person who meditates on God’s word both day and night there is the promise that they will flourish like that tree.  That doesn’t mean that their life will be easy or comfortable (that is clear enough from the rest of the Psalter, e.g. Psalm 22:1!) but it does mean that their life will be well lived, that they will be fruitful in bringing God’s blessing to others, his love, his joy, his peace.

So, the first Psalm presents us with a choice. How are we going to live?  We are invited to live by the ’Torah’ of the God who Jesus revealed as our all wise and all loving heavenly Father, that’s a good path to travel but the Psalmist is also clear that there is another way, a road that might well seem good but is a road that ultimately leads to nowhere (Matthew 7.13).  It’s not a road that God wants anyone to travel.

The good news is that in Jesus God himself has come into our world in person so that all who trust in him should not perish like the windblown chaff but they might flourish and prosper.