Monday, July 15, 2013

Meditation on Psalm 1

What is it that makes someone successful in life? What is it that distinguishes the person who fulfills or exceeds their potential, who flourishes, from the person who bumbles around in mediocrity or worse? Countless books have been written trying to identify the defining characteristic of the successful. There are any number of seminars I could go to that claim to be able to teach me how to be the best me I can be. And I’m sure they have stuff to offer. 
But God has his own answer. 
According to Psalm 1, I can be like a tree planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in its season, with its leaf not withering (verse 3). Imagine that. A tree with a constant source of water. Nourished. Growing. Green and lush and beautiful. Bearing fruit. Fulfilling its potential. Psalm 1 says that the defining feature of people who flourish in God’s eyes is that their
delight is in the Lord’s instruction,
and [they] meditate on it day and night.
(Psalm 1:2)

If I am to flourish like that tree, the source of my nutrition is to be the Lord’s instructions. For the ancient readers, this would have meant the Pentatuch. For us, it encompasses the entire Bible. I am to read it, to think about it, to delight in it. I am to constantly have the stories of God’s dealings with humanity on my heart and on my tongue. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and Joshua and Sampson and Barak and Ruth and Saul and David and Jonathan should be more real to me than the characters of my favourite TV show or novel. I should celebrate their successes, grieve over their failures. I should find myself in their story - which is, in Christ, my story. With the prophets, I should long for the coming of the Messiah. With the angels, I should rejoice at his appearing. With the apostles, I should wonder at his resurrection, marvel at his love for me and resolve to spend my days proclaiming his gospel.
Most of us know what it is to obsess over a story - be it Twilight or The West Wing or Pride and Prejudice. While we watch it or read it, it has us gripped. When we turn it off, it stays with us. We wonder what will happen next. Our minds replay our favourite scenes. We dream about the hero. Sometimes it is so in our hearts that we talk about it almost without meaning to. It just comes out
The word of God is like a stream that refreshes and nourishes us. It causes us to grow and flourish. As we delight in it and meditate on it, we are changed. We see the world as God sees it. Our tastes alter. Some things start to matter more. Some things matter less. Certain pastimes that once seemed desirable lose their charms. Our outlook is different, healthier. Through his word, God makes us into that tree that bears fruit and does not wither in the heat of summer or in the cold of winter.
An interesting thing about this Psalm is that it only gives us two options. Either we are like the tree nourished by the stream or we are like chaff, disconnected, dry and blown away by the wind. The chaff are the ungodly: those who first ‘walk in the wicked’s counsel’, (that is, they take the advice of the evil), who then ‘stand in the way of offenders’ (they do evil independantly) and who finally ‘sit in the session of scoffers’ (they offer evil advice to others.) The chaff are destined for destruction. While they sat comfortably in their scoffers court (verse 1), they will not be able to stand when facing God’s righteous judgement. They have no roots, no source of nourishment. They will be blown away and lost (verses 5-6).
The word of God is the stream that nourishes us. Delighting in it is the defining feature of those who are flourishing in God’s eyes. As New Testament believers, we know that stream to be the incarnate Word, Jesus himself. In John 4, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that  “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (4:14)
The Incarnate Word is the hero of the written word. When we read the bible, Jesus becomes increasingly real and precious to us. We delight in him. Dream of him. Wonder at his love. We become grounded and nourished. Like the tree, we do not wither in summer or winter. Indeed, in life and death we flourish; growing green and lush and bearing fruit in season.
Psalm 1
How happy is the man
who does not follow the advice of the wicked
or take the path of sinners
or join a group of mockers!
Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.
He is like a tree planted beside streams of water
that bears its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
The wicked are not like this;
instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not survive the judgment,
and sinners will not be in the community of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.


  1. Great post. That was such a helpful read for me today.

    Is this another one of your devotions like the one you wrote before?

  2. The last one got me into Psalms again. This was just done for me. I'm going to try to think hard about each Psalm in turn and write something.