Psalm 1.

As humans, we need to understand the axioms of existence. What is the big picture? What are the fundamental presuppositions of the universe? As we read the book of Psalms, what is the underlying galvanizing reality that underpins them all?

Independence Day weekend is filled with national interest, with many looking to our government for happiness. Psalm 1, however, identifies the individual and their relationship to God's Word as the true source of happiness. Your relationship to God’s Word determines your state of being.

It has been said that “the Psalms are the inspired responses of believing human hearts to God’s revelation of Himself.” In the rest of Scripture, God reaches down to man, while in the Psalms, believers reach up to God. The psalmist praises God for His justice and mercy on the one hand, while on the other he wrestles through the paradox of God’s holiness and sovereignty existing simultaneously with sin and death. In short, the psalmist is just like you and I.

Where is relief to be found? Sprinkled throughout this book are Psalms that are classified as wisdom Psalms. Psalm 1 is one such Psalm. These Psalms lay down law upon which God’s governance of the universe rests. It is in these that the believer learns the wisdom that progressively brings comfort!

In Psalm 1, the Psalmist examines the question of humanity's state-of-being. To say that mankind’s state-of-being is in crisis is not overstatement for effect! It is simply the truth. Is your state-of-being in crisis? Wisdom in this Psalm illumines us with this truth: Your relationship to God’s Word determines your state of being.

To demonstrate this truth, the Psalmist contrasts two classes of individuals.

The State of Being of the Righteous (Psalm 1:1-3)

These verses do not outline a way to achieve this state; they are an observation of those in this state. The state is the by-product, not necessarily what was set out to be achieved. In a sense, it is the unintended consequence of righteousness.

A Happy State

The Hebrew word translated "blessed" also means "happy." Regardless of our personal definitions of happiness, wisdom informed by the Holy Spirit will always define happiness as the result of those who make God’s Word the center of their life.

In this sense, happiness for the true believer is “wholly controllable by the individual!” It results from a believing heart and mind that deliberately, progressively is committed to a certain pattern of thinking and a certain way of life, a course governed by God’s teaching here and Jesus' teaching in the New Testament. It’s being a good disciple of Jesus!

One commentator warns not to confuse happiness with pleasure. Pleasure is self-centered, transient, agreeable sensation or emotion. These feelings are instinctive responses to stimuli that gratify the senses. At times, they are frivolous and illusory.

Though the righteous are happy, they may also be lonely. The word “man” in verse 1 is singular, contrasted to an entire class called “wicked” in verse 4. Matthew 7:13 rings true: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."

A Disciplined State

Other than the miracle of salvation of a soul, resolution for the real difficult concerns in life are not found in miracles. By this time in the nation of Israel’s history, her era of miracles had come and go. It was no longer wise to wait for manna from heaven or the Red Sea to part. That had had its place, but faith now was to be focused in a different direction. The wisdom in this Psalm focuses faith to yearn for the character to discipline oneself to the habits of righteous living. It is in these habits that are found, as by product, the Happy state. Paul echos this same idea in his command to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:6-7.

The righteous state is negatively disciplined (Psalm 1:1) — one must long for the God-given character to reject the lifestyle of the wicked.

The verbs “walk," "stand," and "sit” in verse 1 refer to characteristic behavior. The sequence envisions a progression from casual association with the wicked to complete identification with them.

  • "The wicked" are those who neither put their trust in God nor fear Him.
  • "Sinners" seem less villainous than the wicked! A sinner is one who misses the mark. It may not be willful, but they are wayward as an inevitable byproduct of their human unredeemed condition. Habitual moral blunders are their lot, and sinning is a chronic condition.
  • "Scoffers" are mockers or cynics. They poke fun at morality. Those who desire to grow in the grace of holy living are the butt of their jokes.

A happy state is possessed by those who are engaged in this dynamic process of progressively moving out of the counsel, paths, and seats of the wicked into the counsel of the Word of God and those who embrace it.

The righteous state is positively disciplined (Psalm 1:2) — one must long for the God-given character to delight in the Law of the Lord and demonstrate it by meditating on it day and night.

To delight in something means to allow it to shape my conduct. Your state will not be a happy one if the Bible is only the concern of your mind and not your behavior. A happy state is the byproduct of delighting in the Word of God.

"Meditate" is an interesting Hebrew word. It is an imperfect verbal form that draws attention to the characteristic behavior. It is not the mystical contemplation of what I think about this word from God, but rather it is to repeat what the Word says and seek to obey to it. Meditation is not evidenced in a scholar's well-written or argued paper, but in the obedient life of the child of God.

The State of Being of the Wicked (Psalm 1:4-6)

Missouri is known as the “show me" state. In Psalm 1, the wicked are known as the “not so” state. They have no lasting root, no lasting leaves, and no lasting fruit.

Using the same word picture as verse 3, the wicked are like chaff.

Theirs is a judged state. They will not stand in judgement or be found in the assembly of the righteous. Ultimately, they will perish.

Application Points

  • Does God know your way? This Hebrew word is so much more rich than we use it in English. It carries with it emotional ties, empathy, intimacy, mutuality and responsibility! Are you a part of the “not so” state or are you in the blessed state known by the Lord Himself? It is unmistakably clear that what you are currently doing with God’s Word in your life will determine your state. What action are you taking on your knowledge of who God is, who you are, and what He has said to do?

  • If you have not, receive the gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ! Romans 5:17 says, "For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ."

  • If you are saved, your state is a happy one as you progressively delight in God’s Word! There are many counterfeit conceptions of happiness. God is the inventor of happiness, and He knows what happiness truly is. It is the property of those who progressively know and seek to obey the Word of God. If you continue to see God’s Word as burdensome, a yoke that is not easy and light – if the command to be holy for I am holy is austere and restrictive – you have yet to truly grasp what true happiness is. Ask God to open your eyes.