Why study the Psalms?
They’re part of the Word of God, and all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
The Psalms teach us about God – and knowing about God is the greatest knowledge.
The teach us about the Son of God. Quite a few of the Psalms have prophecies about the Messiah.
They are prayers. Studying them teaches us how to pray, and knowing how to talk properly to God is a very, very important thing.
Many of them were originally used as worship songs. Studying them teaches us how to be better worshipers, how to worship God in spirit and in truth.
Many of them are poetry. The right combination of words can be beautiful, powerful, moving. The Psalms help us appreciate interesting and beautiful combinations of words and the imagery they create.
Many of them express emotions, sometimes strong emotions. The Psalms cover the full range of emotions. So, when we are experiencing an emotion, a psalm with the same emotion is there which can help us in our situation.
Let’s start with Psalm 1. It begins the book of Psalms for a reason. It teaches us the way to have a happy and successful life. I’m using the ESV, the English Standard Version.
Ashray – blessed, but better translated “very happy” 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; but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.
Blessed: Not “baruch” – blessed in the sense of causing someone to prosper, but better translated as happy. Ashray is plural. It emphasizes happiness. It means not just happy, but very happy.
Most people are not happy. This man is not just happy – he is very happy.
Do you want to be happy? Do what this man does.
He’s very happy because he avoids evil influences and delights in and meditates on the law of the Lord. Because of this he has a successful life in this world followed by eternal life in the world to come.
Let’s look more closely at his avoidance of evil influences:
He does not walk in the counsel of the wicked. He knows what wickedness is. He knows who the wicked are. He knows how to identify them. When they give wicked counsel; when they advise him to do wicked things, he rejects their counsel. He does not act on their advice.
He does not stand in the way that sinners take. He knows what sin is. He knows who the sinners are. He knows how to identify them. When they are sinning, he does not go with them. When they are going in a sinful direction, he does not go with them.
He does not sit in the seat of scoffers. He knows what scoffing is. He knows who are the ones who mock God and the things connected to God. He knows how to identify scoffers. He does not sit with them. He does not spend time with them. He does not keep company with them.
He does not allow the wicked, the sinners and the scoffers to influence him. He rejects their company, their counsel and their ways.
Now, let’s take a closer look at what he allows himself to be influenced by. He allows himself to be influenced by the Torah – the divinely inspired teaching – which for us today includes not just the five books of Moses, but everything from Genesis to Revelation.
His delight is in Adonai’s teaching. He knows it is the faithful and true Word of the Lord. He knows he can trust it. He knows it is full of divine wisdom. He knows it will help him have a successful life in this world followed by eternal life in the world to come.
All this delights him. It thrills him. It pleases him – a lot. It makes him very happy.
He allows himself to be influenced by the Word of God all the time – constantly, continually. He disciplines himself so that he meditates on the Lord’s teaching day and night.
That means he reads the Word of God each day. He reads it carefully. He reads it thoughtfully. He ponders its meaning. He considers its implications for his life. He thinks about how to apply it to the decisions he makes.
Because he does this, the Word of God is alive in him. It’s living in him, in his mind and heart, ready for him to apply to the situations he will encounter.
The person who is careful to avoid evil influences and cultivates the good influences of the divine teaching will not only be very happy – he will be very successful.
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.
Imagine a fruit tree: maybe an apple or pear or cherry tree. It’s planted in a dry place. Not enough water is getting from the roots to the trunk and the branches. The leaves start withering. The tree is no longer strong and healthy. It’s unable to produce fruit.
Now imagine a fruit tree planted by streams of water. There is a continual and abundant supply of water for the roots, trunk, branches and leaves. This tree is strong and healthy. It’s leaves are a vibrant green. It produces an abundant amount of fruit when it should.
This is what the life of the man is like who is avoids sinful influences and systematically exposes himself to the good influences of the Word of God.
Whatever he does, he prospers. How could it be otherwise? He allows God’s teaching to shape his thinking and form his decisions. Therefore he knows the right things to do. And he chooses to do the right things. And the Lord is aware of this, and favors him, graces him, helps him. Therefore he is successful.
Those who oppose God are not like this very happy and successful man. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Now imagine, not a tree planted by streams of water which produces abundant fruit – but a pile of chaff – the light outer husks of wheat or barely seeds. The chaff is not nutritious. It’s light. It’s insubstantial. Imagine that chaff on the top of the hill and a gust of wind comes and blows the chaff away.
That’s what the life of the wicked is like. He is a lightweight. His life is unproductive. Unsuccessful. Temporary. Ultimately meaningless.
There will be consequences, not only in this life, but beyond this life – for the wicked and for the righteous who delight in Adonai’s teaching. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
The world can be divided into two groups: the righteous and the wicked.
God will judge the world. He will judge every human being. He will determine if his life has been successful or not; if he is acceptable to Him or not; if he will enter the kingdom of God and live forever or perish in Hell. The Lord may judge and punish a person in this world. Or, He may only judge and punish him on the Day of Judgment. If God judges the wicked in this world, they will not stand. They will not win. They will not be vindicated. They will fall, not stand. And when the Lord judges the wicked on the Day of Judgment, none of them will be declared innocent. They will be condemned and punished. They will fall, not stand.
Sinners will not stand in the congregation of the righteous. There is a congregation of the righteous. There is a great assembly of the righteous – now, in this world, and there is a greater congregation of the righteous in the world to come. After death, resurrection and judgment, there is an even greater congregation of the righteous. The righteous of all nations and ages will be an eternal assembly in the new heavens and the new Earth and the new Jerusalem.
Sinners may think they are the wise ones, the smart ones, the successful ones, the righteous ones. They may consider themselves to be part of the congregation of the righteous, but the truth is they have no standing in the true congregation of the righteous. They will never be part of the congregation of the righteous – in this world or in the world to come. The righteous God will make sure of that. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
The all-powerful and all-righteous Lord, who knows all – knows the way of the righteous. And He favors those who travel that way. He graces them. He helps them. He helps them succeed.
And that same Lord knows the way of the wicked. And He opposes the way of the wicked. He is working against that way. And He will make sure that those who travel that way will not succeed. Not only not succeed, but perish.
There is coming a time when not only will the wicked perish, but the way of the wicked will perish. Their way of evil, wickedness, defiance and rebellion will come to an end. No more wicked. No more wickedness. No more way of the wicked. Only the righteous and the way of the righteous – forever and ever.
How very happy 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; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 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. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
How To Apply Psalm 1 To Our Lives
Start your day by reading the Bible, before you begin your regular activities. If you start your day with the Bible, it’s more likely that you will continue your day with the Bible. If you don’t start your day with the Bible, your entire day may be Bibleless.
Read it every day – even if it’s just a little bit. Build that habit into your life.
Reading the Lord’s teaching is not like reading a newspaper or watching TV. It’s a spiritual activity. It shouldn’t be done in a mindless, spiritless way. The mind must be fully engaged – and so must the spirit. It must be accompanied by prayer, a prayer like:
Lord, thank You for Your Word. May Your Spirit fill me. As I read Your Word, may the Spirit guide me into all truth by helping me understand the Bible. Help me understand it, remember it. Help me apply it to my life today. Help me to think about it throughout the day.