Psalm 1 – The Way of the Righteous and the Wicked

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Ps 1:1

  1. The word “blessed” is “esher” in Hebrew and means something like “happy” and “content” and is closely related to the Hebrew word “ashar” which means “to be straight”.
    1. The Christian life is often compared to a “road” (Acts 9:2) and being “blessed” means staying on the road and going “straight”, avoiding both ditches and moving forward.
    2. To be blessed, then, means both that one is right with God, but also that this leads to both happiness and contentment.
    3. My own personal testimony is that I have never felt so good as from the day I consciously chose to enter wholeheartedly into God’s way and become a follower of Jesus. I am not saying that everything in life has been perfect, far from it, but there has always been a sense of security and a feeling that God is with me, a feeling that has enabled me to be “calm in the storm” and to walk through difficulties with my head held high.
  2. The blessed one neither “follows”, “walks on” nor “sits among” the wicked. It is important to understand that the believer not only follows God’s way, the believer also renounces something.
    1. Accepting Jesus means at the same time saying no to the sins in which we have lived in the past. To become a disciple of Jesus, one must first repent (Acts 2:37-41).
    2. According to Paul’s letter to the Romans, all men have sinned (Romans 3:23). We all wrestle with different sins, but none of us comes away unscathed. In the process of becoming a disciple of Jesus, it is good to go through your life, reflect on the sins and wrongs you have committed, confess them to God and ask for forgiveness of sins. If you do that, God will forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
  3. It’s probably not lost on anyone that the media bombards us daily with views on how we should look, behave and live our lives. The person of faith does not let this source of inspiration (or any other for that matter) be the deciding factor.
    1. For example, the man of faith does not get his view of sex from Hollywood but from the Bible.
    2. The believer respects the laws of his country but does not bow to the unjust laws of the politicians, but instead has his highest loyalty to the kingdom of God rather than to Sweden or the country he now lives in.
    3. The believer does not let family and its traditions be more important than God.
    4. The believer remembers that even one’s own inner self can actually play tricks on us. Even the believer still wrestles with sin (Rom 7:15).
  4. Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew that: “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who pass through it.” (Matthew 7:13)
    1. The Christian life is described as a way that leads to God (John 14:6), but according to Jesus, the life of the wicked is also a “way”. The ungodly live their lives with a certain focus, such as the pursuit of money, women or happiness. The believer knows that one does not become blessed by walking that path, but knows that true happiness and blessedness can only be found by walking in God’s way.
  5. A person of faith does not necessarily have to withdraw from society and become a hermit just to avoid the risk of “sitting among scoffers”. However, it is important that in a context where one behaves badly or sinfully, it should be noticed that the believer is different.
    1. For example, it may not be wrong for a Christian to go to the pub, but it is definitely wrong for a Christian to drink drunk.
    2. For example, if a colleague is being bullied at work, it should be obvious that the believer is not participating in the bullying, and it is not enough to simply not participate, because then you become a passive bully. A believer does not participate in the bullying but speaks out in an effort to stop the bullying.
    3. The exhortation not to sit among scoffers also means that as a Christian one should not participate in bullshit, buffoonery and defamation of other Christians. Thanks to the possibility of anonymity, internet forums are overflowing with people of faith who talk trash about other believers. As a Christian, one should not participate in such a debate if it is only about talking shit about other people.

Ps 1:2

  1. Where in English it says “teaching”, in Hebrew it says “torah”, which is often translated into English as “the Law”. The word “torah” originally means “instruction”, “teaching” or “law” and can therefore be translated slightly differently depending on the context. Sometimes the word torah is used to mean “the law”, “the five books of Moses”, “the Old Testament” or “God’s teaching”.
    1. The believer has joy in the whole “teaching of the Lord”, not just the five books of Moses. The whole word of God is happiness and bliss for the believer. But not only that, God’s personal address to the believer is of course also joy for the believer.
    2. What gives you joy? The answer to that question probably shows what’s closest to your heart. For the blessed, “joy” means taking part in the “teaching of the Lord”.
      1. I can personally testify to this! When I really began to see that the Bible is indeed “God’s Word”, a kind of love for the Word slowly but surely began, which has led me to devote my whole life to studying and preaching God’s Word, among other things. What you are reading right now, as you can imagine, is part of this “joy in the Lord’s teaching”.
      2. If you find the Bible dry and boring to read, then you should ask a more experienced believer for help. The Bible is not boring, but it can sometimes be difficult to understand. Don’t miss the chance to discover the joy to be found in God’s Word!
      3. The challenge for those who preach and proclaim from God’s Word is to make the Bible understandable to ordinary people. A preacher who preaches so intricately that no one understands him has failed in the task of proclaiming the Word of God. My experience is that it is possible to preach both deeply and simply at the same time.
    3. According to Edmund Calamy, Martin Luther is reported to have said in a speech, “I cannot live in Paradise without the Word, but with it I could live well in Hell.”
    4. There is, of course, nothing wrong with feeling joy in things other than God’s Word, but to feel no joy at all when reading the Bible suggests that the believer has much more to discover in his or her relationship with God.
    5. Notice that it says the Lord’s teaching, not the preacher’s teaching. Hopefully the pastor is preaching the Lord’s teaching in a right and biblical way, but unfortunately that is not always the case. The believer should therefore always be careful not to be led astray into a doctrine that is not in accord with the Bible and the Lord’s teaching.
      1. The believer should also take the opportunity to encourage those preachers who do their best to preach the whole word of God and the gospel of truth without falling into the temptation to speak only what people want to hear.
  2. The one who wants to be saved “ponders” the word of God. This means not only “reading” or “listening” to the Word of God, but also “thinking about” Scripture and letting the Word sink into the heart and perhaps even influence the life one lives.
    1. Personally, I like to read a whole chapter in the morning and read a short verse in the evening. This gives me the opportunity to both read through the whole Bible but also to delve into a shorter context. In between, I have the great privilege of working with God’s Word and preparing my sermons by writing these Bible commentaries. This gives me a fantastic insight into God’s Word, which I am more than happy to share with anyone who wants to listen or read, free of charge.
    2. Does this Bible verse mean that you have to walk around constantly thinking about God’s Word? No, it does not. But it does mean that you adjust your life so that the Bible affects your whole life. When new situations or opportunities come up, you think about what God wants you to do in the new situation. You simply let the Bible be a “guide” for your life.
      1. A few years ago, the phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD) was popular. It’s not wrong to wonder what Jesus would do if he were in my situation. Often this can lead to hopefully at least making more correct and biblical decisions than if one had not thought this way.

Ps 1:3

  1. This image of the tree is made more vivid by the fact that the climate in the Middle East meant that Israel’s waterways dried up, which of course led to the greenery around it dwindling, only to reappear when the waters returned. But the trees planted along the irrigated canals did not dry up because they had constant access to the water of the great rivers.
    1. A tree planted by a watercourse can be sure to always have access to water. Such a tree is stable, full of life and fruit-bearing because the tree is well cared for and has the right conditions. But not only can the tree provide good fruit for anyone who is hungry, the tree can also provide shade for anyone who suffers from the heat.
      1. Those who want to be saved make the Bible a natural part of everyday life. Like the tree that always has access to water, the believer should always have access to the Word. Such a life leads to being stable in one’s faith and not wavering back and forth through the various periods of life, one can give good vital Biblical teaching to people at well-chosen times, one can give “shade” to people who are struggling, one can give reassuring advice to the despairing, and one can give answers to life’s questions to those who hunger for eternal life.
      2. Paul’s list of the fruits of the Spirit reads, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Such things the law is not against.” (Gal 5:22-23) 
      3. Trees that are not planted by watercourses only receive water at special times, such as when it rains, and do not become a stable and fruit-bearing tree. Christians who only receive God’s word on special occasions do not become stable in their faith and do not bear fruit at the right time, instead they blossom from time to time and then dry up again.
  2. A tree does not produce fruit all year round, but only when it is in season. So the believer should not despair if he does not always see fruit in his life but should patiently go through all the periods of life and be thankful for the season that is now. Sometimes it is a time for quiet, reflection and deeper Bible study, while at other times it is a time for energetically fighting for the spread of God’s kingdom through evangelism and miracles, for example.
    1. If you have seen God do great miracles in and through your life in the past, but don’t see this anymore, don’t give up! In fact, you may be going through a period in your life where you’re not seeing much fruit, but that doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong.
  3. Just because you are a believer, you no longer suffer from sadness, failure and boredom. However, God can always turn any difficult situation into something good: “We know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
    1. The success you have is linked to the Word of God and the fruits described in the Bible. It is not the case that God allows fruits of goodness and self-control to grow while you are successful in luring money. What we humans see as success is not necessarily what God sees as success. What one succeeds well at is living a life that is good before God.

Ps 1:4

  1. All the positive things described about the believer, all that the ungodly lack. The ungodly person does not live close to God’s word, is unstable, does not bear fruit in due season and is not successful in living as God wants. For the moment, it may seem that the wicked is living a successful life, but in an eternal perspective, things look quite different (Ps 73).
    1. 1 God is indeed good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But my feet were about to stumble, my steps were about to falter,3 for I envied the proud, when I saw that the wicked prospered. …16 When I tried to understand this, it seemed too difficult to me,17 until I entered the sanctuary of God and saw how they fare in the end.” (Ps 73:1-3, 16-17).
  2. The husk is the thin shell around a grain that must be removed before the grain can be ground into flour. The chaff is so light and thin that it is often enough to throw the grain into the air and the chaff blows away in the wind.
  3. Consider the difference between a tree and chaff.

Ps 1:5

  1. When Jesus returns, all believers will be “saved” (1 Peter 1:5) and all dead believers will be “raised to life” while all dead unbelievers will be “raised to judgment” (John 5:29). Because Jesus sacrificed himself by dying on the cross, at his return he will not condemn believers but will instead save “those who wait for him” (Heb 9:28). However, according to Paul, Christians will also stand before the judgment seat of Christ and “receive recompense for what he has done in this life, good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10) but it is only the ungodly who “will be judged and condemned.” (2 Peter 3:7).
  2. According to Matthew, Jesus will sit on his throne and “separate the sheep from the goats”. Believers will “take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world” (Matthew 25:34), while unbelievers will go “to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Those who do not belong to Jesus will “go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matt 25:46).
  3. After this day of judgment, “the heavens will disappear with a violent roar, and the heavenly bodies will be dissolved by heat, and the earth and the works that are in it will be no more.” (2 Pet 3:7-10) and there will be a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell (2 Pet 3:13, Rev 21:1).

Ps 1:6

  1. Jesus warns in the Gospel of Matthew against walking on the “broad road”: “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. And the gate is narrow, and the way is strait that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
    1. It may feel easier for the moment to go the wide way, to go with the flow and to be part of a large group. But when you get to the end of that road, it won’t have been worth it. Better to take the narrow road right now.
  2. The first Christians were called “that way”. The way that leads to heaven is Jesus. (Acts 9:2, John 14:5-6).
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