Psalms 1–2: The Righteous & The Wicked

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 1: Wednesday

For Yahweh knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.
Psalm 1:6 LSB

Today begins the reading of this wonderful book. Another thing I really like about Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan is that the reading from Psalms is on every Wednesday. If the week has been challenging, exhausting, a week of quiet or one of grief, turning to the Psalms in the middle of the week turns us to God to worship and find rest in Him. The Psalms give us a voice for our greatest time of blessing and our darkest times of anguish. They teach us who God is, who we are, and how to walk and live before Him in love and trust.

Today’s Bible reading is Psalms 1–2. Both Psalms are about the righteous and the wicked. The focus of Psalm 1 is on the individual, and the focus of Psalm 2 is on the nations.

Psalm 1 begins with what the righteous man does not do, and then goes describes what the righteous does. This is a great psalm to keep in mind as you begin to read through the Bible.

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the way of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of Yahweh,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
Psalm 1:1–2 LSB

The righteous does not walk, stand or sit in the counsel, the way, or the seat of the wicked, but instead delights in Yahweh’s law and meditates on it. Remember that Yahweh is God’s personal, covenant name for His people.

Meditates in verse 2 is not the mindless meditation of Eastern religions. It is not zoning out or trying to work ourselves up into an experience by repetition of a mantra or any other practice. The Hebrew word means to “consider, think (mull) over; ponder.” Its “root means “think through something, with personal interest in actual life-application.”1 In other words, don’t look into the mirror of God’s word, then go away and forget what you’ve read. Ponder what you’ve read. Ask yourself what am I learning from God’s Word that is a light to my feet and a lamp to my path. What have I learned? What am I to do?

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he looked at himself and has gone away, he immediately forgot what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of freedom, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:23–25 LSB

Derek Kidner writes,

The three negatives [v. 1] have cleared the way for what is positive, which is their true function and the value of their hard cutting edge…The law of the Lord stands opposed to ‘the counsel of the wicked’ (1), to which it is ultimately the only answer. The psalm is content to develop this one theme, implying that whatever really shapes a man’s thinking shapes his life. This is conveniently illustrated also by the next psalm, where the word for ‘plot’ [RSV](2:1b) is the same as for meditates here, with results that follow from very different thoughts that are entertained there. In our verse [1:2], the deliberate echo of the charge to Joshua [Joshua 1:8] reminds the man of action that the call to think hard about the will of God is not merely for the recluse, but is the secret of acheiving anything worthwhile (cf. prospers, here, with Jos. 1:8). Law (tôr â) basically means ‘direction’ or ‘instruction’; it can be confined to a single command, or can extend, as here, to Scripture as a whole.2

Before I go on, I want to interject, the LSB uses the word meditates in 1:2, and meditate in 2:1. Kidner notes it’s the same Hebrew word. The RSV translates it as plot, and the NASB translates it as devising. Do you see how 2:1 explains the meaning of the word meditate and why it’s not a mindless, zoning out?

Verse 3 is the result of delighting, thinking through, and living out the law of Yahweh.

And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:3 LSB

Kidner explains:

With this attractive picture, forming with verse 4 the centrepiece of the psalm, cf. the more elaborate passage, Jeremiah 17:5–8. The phrase its fruit in its season emphasizes both the distinctiveness and the quiet growth of the product; for the tree is no mere channel, piping the water unchanged from one place to another, but a living organism which absorbs it, to produce in due course something new and delightful, proper to its kind and to its time. The promised immunity of the leaf from withering is not independent of the rhythm of the seasons (cf. the preceding line, and see on 31:15,), but freedom from the crippling damage of drought (cf. Je. 17:8b).3

From Kidner’s comment, you might conclude that prospers does not mean getting rich or having everything you do meet with success. Rather,

The root means to accomplish satisfactorilly what is intended. Real prosperity results from the work of God in the life of one who seeks God with all his heart (II Chr 31:21; cf Josh 1:8; Ps 1:3)…Joseph is called a prosperous man, for Yahweh turned all of his misfortunes into benefit for Jacob’s sons (Gen 39:2–3, 23).4

Did you notice the references to Joshua and how Psalm 1 and Joshua 1 together give greater understanding to each passage? Isn’t it amazing that just yesterday the Bible reading included Joshua 1?

Psalm 2 moves on to the nations that rage and plot against Yahweh and His Annointed. This is a Messianic Psalm. It’s quoted in Acts and in Hebrews as a reference to Jesus Christ.

In those times when I observe with fear or anger the news and events of a day, Psalm 2 reminds me that God is there. The wicked may rage and rebel against God, but He scoffs at them, He will shatter them, and they will perish. When my personal life is affected by the actions of the powerful, I must go back and let Psalm 1 be the guide for my life with the assurance that the Lord knows my way, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Reading these Psalms together, Psalm 1 begins by describing those who are blessed, and Psalm 2 closes by describing those who are blessed. We see the way and end of the wicked, but their actions are bookended by the blessings of the righteous.

That is reassurance and rest for my heart.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Jordan: Deror avi. Public Domain.
1HELPS Lexicon, The Discovery Bible.
2,3Derek Kidner, Psalm 1–72 (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1973) 48.
4Andrew Bowling, “1917 sālēah, II, prosper, succeed, be profitable,” vol. I, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke, eds. (The Moody Bible Institute, Chicago IL: 1980) 766.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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