Enjoy a sample reading from one of our books and commentaries. The books all flow with Kris’ style of preaching and teaching. All rights reserved © Psychology of the Psalms by Kris Jackson
This is the Preface Psalm, the template for the next 149. If we get the opener right the rest will fall in place.
David’s early life was that of a shepherd of sheep while his later life was lived as a shepherd of men. In this opening chapter the Shepherd looks at both sides of the fence. A clear line is drawn after verse three. Verses 1-3 reveals Blessedness, while verses 4-6 reveals Cursedness. The two stanzas are divided, the positive from the negative, green pastures from barren deserts; victorious sheep from victimized sheep; the righteous from the ungodly; the church from the chaff; the man in the Word from the man in the World.
Albert Barnes notes in his commentary – “It has all the marks of being a general introduction to the Book of Psalms, and having been designed to express in a few sentences the substance of the entire collection, or to state the great principle which would be found to run through the whole of it – that a righteous life will be attended with prosperity and happiness, and that the life of the wicked will be followed by sorrow and ruin” (Barnes Notes, Baker Books).
Another point of interest is that verse three ends with “shall prosper” while verse six ends with “shall perish”. So these are the only two options, the Prospering and the Perishing. Of which division are you a member?
1. The Prospering Man’s Direction
Notice this follows on the shirttail of Job’s restoration to prosperity. “So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning…” (Job 42:12) The next inspired words following the conclusion of that ancient book are “BLESSED is the man…” I’ve heard people say, “You don’t want to end up like old Job!” Sure you do; Job got double for his trouble, he ended with twice as much as he had before the attacks of the enemy. By the conclusion of Job and the onset of Psalms it is clear that God wills for His people to be blessed.
“Blessed”, (Heb – ‘esher) means “happy, abounding, full, jubilant, in a state free from anxiety and much to be envied”. According to Strong’s Concordance it is used only as an interjection, “how happy!” or as Barnes translates, “O the happiness of the man!” NAS says, “How blessed is the man…” It is superlative speech, highly blessed, richly blessed. God is a good God who takes pleasure in blessing His own (3 John 2). Other psalms will mention numerous other benefits but by the law of first mention this psalm sets the flow for the rest of the 150 poetic songs, establishing that God wills prosperity for His people.
There are two covenants in this psalm, verses 4-6 answering to Mt. Sanai, verses 1-3 answering to Mt. Calvary. David could hear the echo from Ebal and Gerizim (Deut 27:14-26). The Old ends with a curse (Mal 4:6) while the New ends with a blessing (Rev 22:21). As with this psalm, the new covenant opens with “Blessed are ye” in the Beatitudes or “beautiful attitudes” (Mat 5:3-12). The first psalm is a preview for the Beatitudes, setting before the reader life and death, blessing and cursing.
A) HE LISTENS TO THE RIGHT COUNSEL
“…who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly”; Ann Landers, Dear Abbey and the other newspaper advice column experts can’t supply the answers to the tough questions of life because they don’t look to biblical truth for counsel. Jesus is “Wonderful, Counselor…” And the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, is called Advocate and Counselor. The Bible is wise counsel (Psa 73:24, 119:24) as are mature fellow believers (Prov 1:5). To not walk in the counsel of the “ungodly” one must judge what constitutes ungodly advice. The prospering man is able to discern character and wisdom. Two cannot walk together except they are agreed (Amos 3:3). To not walk in negative counsel then requires discernment and avoidance. A wise man is known by the company he avoids as much as the company he keeps. “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph 5:11). “But shun profane and vain babblings…” (2 Tim 2:16) Good News Translation says the righteous “reject the advice of evil people”. The straight and narrow way is chosen while the broad way that leads to destruction is discerned, deplored and dodged.
The shipmaster should have listened to Paul’s counsel. The Hebrews should have heeded to Caleb and Joshua. Ahab followed foolish advice that led to his destruction, the counsel of his wicked wife Jezebel and in another instance, the guidance of his 400 false prophets. Also, we read of the wicked counsel of Ohithophel that brought such chaos in David’s day. If a man “walks” or moves ahead in perverted counsel then obviously he could end up miles off course at the end of the day.
NIV says the blessed man does not “walk in step with the wicked”. We walk divergent paths, not joining the lemmings’ crazy stampede. Joseph of Arimathea broke with the majority vote of the rest of the “Council” (Luke 23:51). The blessed man sticks out like a sore thumb and like the sore thumb he often smarts for it.
By “walk” we picture a steady, one foot in front of the other advance or journey. The pace for the race is set in the first psalm; listen to the right counsel.
B) HE RUNS WITH THE RIGHT CROWD
“…nor stands in the path of sinners”. By stance David isn’t speaking necessarily of being in agreement with sinners but just being indifferent to their ways. Standing implies idleness, halting between two opinions, not making a move for or against. Idly “standing around” can get a person in as much trouble as actively walking in the counsel of the ungodly.
The prodigal son listened to the wrong voice then ran with the wrong crowd. The advice you follow determines the vice you swallow. Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom then ended up moving to Sodom. Show me your direction and I’ll show you your destiny. Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future. Peter warmed his hands at the enemy’s fire. None of these characters were caught up in sinful activity, at least not at first. They were just idly standing “in the way of sinners” and once hanging around in that “way”, given time, they naturally adopt the way. A “way” or “path” is not simply an opinion or worldview, but a course one follows.
The progression implied is that once a believer is nudged off course in his walking he will find himself at a standstill, standing “in the way of sinners”, stalled in a state of confusion which serves the tempter well because it stalls progress.
The first subject addressed in verse one dealt with the “ungodly”, the second with “sinners”. The first suggests belief, the second behavior. The “ungodly” in attitude are by default “sinners” in action because what a person is determines what a person does.
C) HE LIVES WITH THE RIGHT CONVICTION
“…nor sits in the seat of the scornful”. Note the progression: steps, stance, seat; walking, standing, sitting. To sit means a position has been taken, it pictures defiance, or attitude. Taking a seat implies the position a man takes on an issue. Listening to the wrong voice (walking in the counsel) leads to a misguided attitude (standing in the path) which concretizes a conviction or position (sitting in the seat). The Word speaks of “the seat of Moses”, “Satan’s seat”, etc. but also shows believers “seated in heavenly places…” To be seated means that we have taken a side on an issue then placed our full weight on our conviction. The Hebrew word goes beyond merely sitting down but rather taking up residency. So wrong counsel leads to the wrong crowd which establishes a wrong set of convictions and once the convictions get rooted it is very hard to steer such a person back to the right road.
Notice the downward slide: “ungodly…sinners…scornful”. Each step becomes more damnable. The direction is away from God. The man who is seated has made up his mind. He has “hunkered down” in his ways, his seat then affects his speech, because the word used, luwts, means to mock and scorn by stammering or babbling. We would call it “shooting off the mouth”. Dear young person, don’t sit in that “seat” (especially the backseat).
As you might expect, in describing the blessed man David starts with a list of “no-nos”. From the initial verse of the Preface Psalm he went “negative”, three times, “walketh not”, “nor standeth”, “nor sitteth” (KJV), in other words, there are things a godly believer is not permitted to do. The next verse is quite positive but he first gets the negative out of the way to magnify the positive.
2. The Prospering Man’s Devotion
A) IN THE LAW
“But his delight is in the law…” (vs 2) Delight means “affording great pleasure or a high degree of satisfaction”. The “ungodly, sinner and scornful” listed before delight themselves in unrighteousness; the Godly delights himself in truth. The Hebrew chephets is translated as delight, pleasure, desire and precious. The prospering man not only delights in the Law, he finds his greatest pleasure in it.
David speaks of meditating, filling the mind with the Word. In verse one he is marching correctly because in verse two he is meditating correctly – “and in his law he meditates day and night”. A man becomes the direct reflection of what he thinks about throughout the day. David rejoiced in the word (Psa 119:162) claiming to find “great spoil” within its pages. So the Word in general is our joy but here David says his “delight” is in the “Law” part of the Word for that is all the Bible David had at the time. Still he found special security in the “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” of the Bible, those portions of scripture often rejected of the carnal believer as being too “legalistic”. If he could rejoice in the judgments, statutes and commandments, the Law, then how much more can we rejoice in the promises, precepts and prophecies offered under Grace? David had only five Bible books in his day while we have all sixty-six. How much more cause for delight!
But notice, his delight was “in the law”, not “under the law”. He found freedom in these pages, not religious regulation and frustra-tion. The Hebrew word is Torah which originally spoke only of the five Mosaic books of the Pentateuch but later included the other books we know as being the Old Testament.
“Meditate” here is hagah which means “to mutter, to murmur, to speak or utter in a low murmuring voice”, so scriptural meditation is more than just memorizing, it is speaking the word to oneself over and over. The word in the mind naturally becomes the word in the mouth. The “scornful” just mentioned mutters, stammers or babbles his derision against the things of God, while conversely the godly talk lowly and slowly of the good things of God. One is “mutter”-ance, the other utterance.
This delight operated both day and nighttime – “You thrill to God’s word, you chew on scripture day and night” (MSG). By day he walked by precepts, at night he slept by promises; precepts for keeping, promises for sleeping. Day and night meditation speaks of habitual meditation, just as the sun comes up and goes down by routine. Also, it is constant meditation, because day and night speaks of the whole span of a twenty-four hour period. David was “in the Word” constantly and consistently.
B) IN THE LORD
Meditation is in the law “of the Lord…” – if we confess that His pages are great, how much greater is His person! The Bible is not just a collection of inspired human writings, it doesn’t “contain” truth, it “is” truth. It is the Book of the Law but also the book of the Lord. David delighted in his Lord as he delighted in His law.
3. The Prospering Man’s Description
“And he shall be like a tree…” (vs 3)
Imagine life without trees. From childhood we have climbed them, been shaded by them, warmed by them, fed by their fruit. There is so much gospel preached by these hundred-year old standard bearers. We could use a few more saints who are like trees – not willows bowing in depression, Aspens easily cracked by the mountain storm or bramble trees stabbing and jabbing the neighbors. We need Oaks, Cedars of Lebanon that endure summer storms and blizzard cold; wide-reaching, storm-grappling, heaven-aspiring, fruit-bearing trees.
The student and lover of the word “shall be” like these mighty shade givers. It is a process, development, he may not be so right now but given enough time he “shall be” in their likeness.
Meditation in the Word leads us to “rivers” of living water. Our fruit-fulness depends on our relationship to God the Spirit for it is called “fruit of the Spirit”. His presence in our lives depends on our break from the world, according to verse one, and our love for the Word, in verse two. The soil no doubt is important to the tree’s health but not near as important as is its ability to tap into hidden water supplies. I’ve seen healthy believers in all kinds of environments but never one who was not tapped into the Spirit of God.
Each word of this verse builds a descriptive picture of the believer’s strength. Note the adjectives:
Prominent – “Like a tree…” Trees stand up and stand out. Some are short and scrawny, spiritual shrubs, while others attain great stature like “General Sherman” of the Sequoias. A tree is known by its height, its reach, its fruit and the number of rings in its trunk – “for as the days of a tree are the days of my people…” (Isa 65:22)
Planted – “planted by the rivers of water…” or “firmly planted” (AMP), “by the riverbank” (NLT). A mighty root system in prayer, fellowship and the Word makes these “trees of righteousness” (Isa 61:3) unmovable. We were planted together with Christ by baptism into His death. Paul speaks of being “rooted and grounded in love”. We are “planted in the house of the Lord” (Psa 92:13) which means we don’t church hop or church shop. The tree that survives seeks out the Spirit like roots drilling for water. “By” the rivers denotes close-ness, snuggling up next to its spiritual Source, the Holy Spirit being symbolized by rivers of water (Isa 41:18, John 7:39).
Productive – “that brings forth his fruit…” Fruit is a natural part of the tree’s life cycle. If the tree has “nothing but leaves” there is some sort of an impediment or handicap. Tapped into “rivers of waters” the trees of the Lord are “full of sap” (Psa 104: 16) and in that connection with the Holy Spirit they automatically bring forth fruit unto perfection.
Patient – “in his season…” Fruit is produced in seasons but the tree’s life is patient and perpetual. You may or may not be at the top of your game today but be patient; the season of success is on its way. Notice “his fruit”, “his season” and “his leaf”. Don’t seek to be someone else, though only a part of the orchard or forest, each tree stands individual.
The New Life Version says the tree produces “at the right time”. In season means there is a correct timing for each believer to ripen and come into his or her proper ministry.
Permanent – “his leaf shall not wither…” When roots go deep enough, temporary dry spells are of no concern, “never dries up” (NLV). A true believer can ride out any spiritual famine through faith. Jeremiah amplified that thought saying, “her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (Jer 17:8).
Prosperous – “shall prosper”, “shall succeed” (NCV).While “the grass withers, and the flower thereof fades away” (the picture of natural man in his short-lived glory (1 Pet 1:21), the believer with taproot toughness only becomes stronger and more fruitful. The tree’s fallen spores take root and multiply, appearing to prosper in “whatever he does…”
The “rivers” in this text speak of the believer’s need for the Holy Spirit to produce leaf and life. The word is in plural speaking of the myriad ways in which the Spirit works, anointing, empowering, sealing, convicting, regenerating, enlightening, etc. The Hebrew word peleg means “to split, cleave, divide”. So the rivers hear are better viewed as “divisions” or “dividing lines”, as canals or irrigation ditches, specifically dug to usher water to the needy fruit trees. It is our duty to go to the water supply but the Spirit meanwhile brings the water supply to us.
The “leaf” here represents the outward testimony of the believer. We are to remain supple, green, lithe and full of life. Spiritual drought causes leaves to wither. Jesus cursed the tree that had “nothing but leaves”. Leaves are good. They catch attention. They produce a helpful cover of shade. But fruit, not just leaves, must be present if the tree is to fulfill its intended purpose (read John 15).
“The ungodly are not so…” (vs 4) A double negative is used in the original, “no, not so”, which implies that it is impossible for the ungodly to live a blessed life. Nature, conscience, natural and spiritual forces are all working against his benefit so if there are those who appear to be blessed living on the desert side of the fence it is only temporary at best. So David’s wording is a warning to hear and we need to hear it well, “no, not so”, the wicked can never be “like a tree planted”, only as the refuse chaff blown away with the wind.
Opposed to the healthy root system of the trees of righteousness, ungodly men are “like the chaff which the wind drives away”. Having no spiritual roots they have no resistance to outside pressure, like chaff blown about of winds, so light that even minor breezes carry them away. Chaff is waste product, without substance or purpose, that which is threshed, sifted and pitched aside. Consider cases where grain elevators have exploded by spontaneous combustion, because of the smoldering chaff. The whole world system built on the weakness of chaff will one day explode in fire and great heat!
These frightening words are spoken to the “ungodly”. Remember, according to verse one that the “ungodly” are those involved in just the first step on the road to perdition. If the ungodly shall perish, where will the sinners and scornful appear? The initial “woe” for the first class of spiritual rebels becomes “woe, woe, woe” by the time all the chickens have come home to roost.
Ungodly and sinners have no hope beyond this life. They “shall not stand in the judgment”, rather they will melt like wax at the presence of the Lord. They cannot stand up to judgment because their works are of faulty material, “wood, hay, straw” (1 Cor 3:12), nor can they make judgments because their own lives do not meet God’s standard. They will be out of place “in the congregation of the righteous” seeing they had no time for the righteous here below.
Verse six closes with two paths, the high road and the low road. Jesus called them the straight and narrow way and the broad way. The “Lord knows the way of the righteous”. He should, having walked that way before us. And He knows our “way”, our words, wishes, willingness, etc. But the “way of the ungodly shall perish”. No two words are more final or definite, “shall perish”. The Son was given that men might not perish (John 3:16). “Shall perish!” – the drowning man’s head disappears, the perishable fruit has spoiled, the space walker’s hose has been severed. When the protecting hand of the Keeper has let go its hold on the worker of iniquity there is no further remedy; curtain closed.
The ungodly personally shall perish but so must his “way”. Every false way will eventually be shown for what it is. There is a “way of truth” (Psa 119:30) and a “way of error” (Jude 11). “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes” (Prov 16:2) but only the way of the righteous leads to the City of God.
For the believer there is no dead end, only an endless beginning. Such is the last verse of the first psalm for the blessed child of God – the end is only the beginning!