Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
2 But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
In some translations, Psalm 1 begins by saying, "Blessed is the man". In a very basic and straightforward way, the road to being happy and contented, or blessed in life is described. The first Psalm in a sense lays out a pattern for the entirety of what follows in Psalms, the contrast between two paths of life, those who follow God and those who do not. It is what is called a "Wisdom Psalm", psalms that are similar to those found in Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. Wisdom literature, in general, tends to contrast the life choices made by those who reject God with those who follow God.
Psalm 1 was written by David and offers good advice on living a blessed life. He begins with the choices to avoid such as following advice from the wicked, standing around with sinners, and joining in with mockers. I like the humorous description found in The Message,
"you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon,
you don’t slink along Dead-End Road,
you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College."
David is talking about influence, and specifically who is influencing us, who is helping form our attitudes, shape our values, and motivate our actions. Where do we find our moral compass? Who's truth are we listening to? Where are we going for guidance? There is great danger in jumping on the bandwagons of social opinions where "truth" is subjective and often without substance, a tool to be used for manipulation and influence. What to believe, where to find answers, who to trust are difficult problems to solve today, and many are willing to be led by the loudest voices or most popular causes, regardless of sound reasoning or logic. Political correctness, societal norms, populist thought, and going with the flow: life is easier if we are all on the same path. Yet, for believers, there is inherent risk. The populist way, the road most traveled, is not necessarily the right one to be on. Jesus spoke of a wide gate and broad road that many would find, but in spite of it being the most traveled, it led to destruction. Instead, He proferred, the small gate and narrow road would lead us to life.
So David offers the alternative choice that would bring blessing, that of delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating on it day and night. He calls us to trust God's truth to influence our thoughts, to shape our values, to form our attitudes, and motivate our actions. To counteract the power of the secular with the power of the divine. To let the Word of God, His Truth, be the preeminent foundation for our lives. His Word, which is described as a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, as living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. The unfolding of His word gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?
We could go on, but as David encourages us, we need to trust the Word of God rather than the word of man. The result, he says, is blessing. We become like trees, planted by a river, rooted and strong, producing fruit, healthy and prosperous. In other words, we are blessed, happy, and content!
Robert Frost wrote a poem many years ago called "The Road Not Taken". It ends with these words:
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
Let's take the road less traveled by!
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