Psalm 1: Wisdom for Happiness
I am certainly no expert on trees or plants of any kind. Shortly after purchasing our home, Tricia and I had an impulse moment that involved purchasing a near-mature tree to plant in our front yard. We brought the tree home, looked up the proper procedure for getting it into the ground, and did the hard work of getting it into the ground. However, a freshly planted tree needs a constant source of water while its existing roots become established in the newly introduced soil. So there we were: water in the morning, water in the afternoon, and water in the evening. The water keeps the tree nourished and fed, as its roots protrude deep into the ground. Water makes the tree happy.
All of us strive for happiness in one way or another. Here in Psalm 1, we are given a direct avenue to tap into the truest form of happiness that only comes from the Lord. What does the Psalmist say makes a person blessed, or happy, before the Lord?
The psalmist begins by offering the reader a contrast. The blessed person attends to these words: First, he discards wicked ways: “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.” Second, he delights in the law, or instruction, of the Lord: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” The psalmist says fleeing wickedness and delighting in God’s law is what makes a person blessed.
True happiness is found in these. Don’t look to sin to find blessed happiness. In fact, divine happiness is found in the absence and fleeing of sin and evil! But, we do not stop there: A person is not merely blessed because of the absence of something. Blessedness comes with delighting in God’s law, His instruction; one is blessed when filled with the thoughts and desires of God’s ways.
Much like the tree I planted and consistently watered, if we pursue a delight in God’s law, we too will become established and stable; our roots will protrude deep into the ground. Our leaves will not wither. Instead, we will too prosper before the Lord. The Psalmist says just as much in verse 3: “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.” Blessing comes to those who diligently seek to know, meditate on, and delight in God’s Law. Embracing what is evil in the sight of the Lord will yield the opposite result, as we see in verses 4-5: “For the wicked are not so, but are like the chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous”.
The psalmist is saying this: without embracing the ways of the Lord, our roots remain shallow, and we will be left without any basis for stability when met with judgment. Those who embrace a delight in God’s ways will remain standing, healthy, and prosperous; and those who embrace delight elsewhere will be swept away like chaff in the wind. “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
However, the stable tree, the wise and obedient person, is a stunning picture. It should make us ask the question: are we always this stable, this wise and obedient? We really aren’t. Sometimes it seems like our roots are ready to pull from the ground. Because of our sin, we should feel the tension between the stability of the wise one in this psalm and ourselves. We have not been this wise. We have not always delighted in God’s instruction. So, who has? Jesus has. Jesus was, in an ultimate way, characterized by delighting in God’s instruction. He never considered sinful paths an option. In all that Jesus did, He prospered. In this, in Jesus’s perfect walk of wisdom, he was truly righteous. And, ultimately, if we pursue Jesus and are found in Him we participate in the blessed wisdom and righteousness that He alone is. In Christ the wise and blessed one, we are blessed and happy in Him.