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; 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.
Many have viewed the Christian life as one of self denial, one that pushes away the pleasures of the world for a stoic, uneventful alternative. This conception has been deserved, at times, as many followers of Jesus have believed it themselves and used it as their metric of success. Self denial, while it absolutely has its place, is not the main goal of the Christian life; instead, satisfaction is the end result God has in mind for His people. That’s exactly what Psalm 1:1-3 has in mind.
The chapter begins on the word blessed, a loaded word in Christianity today but one that is truly rich in meaning. While the word blessed normal comes after sneezes and hashtags today, this word has in view all that constitutes human happiness and flourishing. The goal of this chapter is to reveal the path to the kind of thriving, wonderful life God has in mind for His people. That is seen in this blessing falling on “the man,” the broadest term that could be used for mankind. This kind of flourishing blessedness is available to any person who would follow the wisdom of the following verses.
Verse 1 first reveals where the blessed life is not found. True blessing is not found by one who listens to ungodly counsel, stands in ungodly paths, or makes a habit of sitting with ungodly company. One of the great lies of the world is that real freedom can only be found by casting off all restraints. People normally advise others to “live a little” right before they propose some kind of sinful plan for the evening ahead. This lie does not lead to real freedom but bondage. Many can attest to following every desire of their heart only to discover their internal longings did not provide a flourishing life. Often, we need to know where not to look before we find where we should look.
Verse 2 shifts towards the positive end of things. Instead of following sinful paths, the blessed man delights in God’s law and meditates upon it. When we hear about the law of God, it’s easy to only think of the Ten Commandments and the book of Leviticus. In this Psalm, the entirety of Scripture is in view. What God has revealed in His Word will be both the delight and meditation of the truly blessed, flourishing person.
Delight is not a word thrown around often today, but it is a powerful word. When we think of delight, it speaks of being captivated or entranced by something. I can think back to when I was a young child and I was so enamored with a new toy that I wanted it in my bed when I went to sleep. I was never asked if that’s what I wanted to do, I simply demanded it because I cared for that object. This is how the blessed person feels about the Bible. It will be a source of joy and delight for the person who leads a flourishing life according to God’s standards. This does not mean that reading the Bible will always be easy or equally delighting, but it means that in general there will be a desire for Scripture. I have often found that when my delight in God’s Word is lacking, it’s because I’ve had some time apart from it. The saying “distance makes the heart grow fond” should not be applied to Scripture. The more we are in the Bible, the more we will learn to delight in it.
The second thing the blessed person does with Scripture is meditate upon it. Eastern meditation is normally about emptying our minds, but Biblical meditation is about focusing our minds on something. Meditating on God’s Word means bringing it to memory again and again. It’s amazing how easy it is to set aside some time in the morning, read through a passage of Scripture, and immediately forget what it said. If reading the Bible is like chewing and swallowing, then meditating on the Bible is like digesting. It cannot be overstated how important it is to bring Scripture back to mind throughout the day. This may mean sharing verses with a friend so you’re forced to remember it or carrying around a notebook or index card where you write down verses that spoke to you, but bringing it back up will yield incredible results.
Where verse 2 describes the habits of the blessed man, verse 3 describes his standing. First, the blessed person is like a tree that is planted. The image is showing an immovable person, one not easily shaken by daily pressures. Second, the blessed person is by rivers of water. Throughout the Bible, God’s Word is compared to water, particularly in Ephesians 5 when husbands are called to use the “water by the word” to lead their families well. This planted tree is in a good place, one where the source of life is close at hand. Third, the blessed person produces fruit in its time. No one wants to live a fruitless, meaningless life. The person who delights and meditates God’s Word will be productive.
The beauty of this passage is that it shares how the flourishing life is available to all. Maybe you’re in a place where you would never describe your Bible reading as a delight or something you meditate upon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start now. Start a habit of daily Bible reading and commit to it. The longer you stick with it, the more satisfying you will find it. Other paths will not lead to the satisfaction you’re truly hoping for. The satisfaction we were made for is only found in the Word of God. Let’s not waste our time looking for it elsewhere.