Sunday, October 18, 2009

Psalm 1 – Prophetic Words For A Beautiful, Blessed Life

One of my most treasured items currently is a card I received from family members at my last birthday. It has an ornate tree on the front and inside it are the words of Psalm 1 from the old King James Version. The card has pride of place on my window sill at work where I can frequently reflect on its meaning.

The first psalm is clearly in the group of my favourites—and for so many reasons. But recently I was awoken with thought in my mind toward the importance of inputs in life; and there are two sorts of inputs I believe this psalm refers to.

INPUT 1 – Counsel/Way/Presence of the Godly & Love of His Word (vv. 1-2)

As the first and second verses ascribe to the negative and positive, we’re to be careful who we spend lots of time with. It seems a device of first up command in wisdom literature tradition—something a young man or woman needs to be aware of. We must seek the consistent council/counsel/way of the godly persons in our midst.[1]

There are various arguments for the meanings of the cognate words[2] in verse 1. There are various ways the parallelism of the lines of this first verse could be viewed. Progression is favoured: the godly person walks; they see the godly and stand—having gotten his/her attention; then, they sit in “council” with them.[3] (Though negatively set, I’ve tried to transpose it positively.)

Further, Scroggie highlights three sets of triplets: “Walking—standing—sitting,” “Counsel—way—seat,” and “Ungodly—sinners—scornful.”[4] The paralleling of these three is obvious; they fit together, complementing each other to provide for us a comprehensive image of one way or the other; good/evil—righteous/wicked. We do not ‘walk in counsel of the ungodly,’ ‘stand in the way of sinners,’ or ‘sit in the seat of scoffers.’

Obviously, the incredibly positive and life-giving thought comes in verse 2, where ‘the LORD’s Torah’ is the believer’s delight and they utter and murmur it continually. The blessed one is set apart not by social status, or necessarily by behaviour, but “by attitude and by what draws one’s attention.”[5]

And, ‘the Law’ is frequently misunderstood. It is not “a list of rules and the appropriate punishments, but the fullness of God’s teaching for his children.”[6] (Italics added for emphasis.) It’s deeper, thicker and richer than anyone can assimilate in any one helping, or even over an entire lifetime. We can’t put a construct around it.

So, fellowship (v. 1) and self-discovery through divine biblical revelation (v. 2) are key fundamental inputs. They are the ‘cause’ part of the cause and effect process toward the blessed life.

INPUT 2 – (Conditional on Input 1) God’s Provision of Water, Feeding the Tree of Life (v. 3)

The ‘tree of life’ is mentioned variously throughout the Bible and importantly it’s a bookend at both ends in Genesis and Revelation. Pivotally, it’s also alluded to no less than four times in Proverbs.[7]

But, this ‘tree of life’ is not just about source—where we go to. Our lives are metaphors of plant life. Whether we wither and slowly die or we grow and thrive depends on input one. God has set up the conditions for us to realise the divine prophesy in our lives provided we do this.

He orders the flow of our lives hence; in the presence of water our burgeoning fruit thrives—ready for a season that yet awaits.

INPUT 1 + INPUT 2 = OUTCOME (A Blessed, Righteous Life)

Verses 3-6 speak of ‘the effect,’ given the first two verses are adhered to. This is the prophesy we need to believe in when we’re at the sharp end of things. And though it may appear simplistic, we’re to rise in faith to meet God’s promise.

In faith alone we’re blessed. It can be no other way.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1]Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 1-50 – Word Biblical Commentary 19 (Dallas, Texas: Word, Inc., 2002), S. 57.

[2] Some of the cognate words thrown up by Craigie include: Counsel, council, fellowship, way, dominion/power, throne, assembly. ‘Counsel’ and ‘way’ are favoured.

[3] Craigie, Ibid, S. 57.

[4] W. Graham Scroggie (1877-1958), A Guide to the Psalms: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Psalms (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1995), p. 49. Broyles (endnote 5) also concurs.

[5] Craig C. Broyles, Psalms – New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson/Paternoster, 1999), p. 42.

[6] Allan M. Harman, Commentary on the Psalms – Mentor (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1998), p. 72.

[7] See Proverbs 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4.


mark said...

Very intering read steve...still as one living in the era of a "new covenant" believer we find ourselves in the position of both living with the teacher and the out our lives in pursuit of "his" presence only fascillitaed thru obedience to the living word sustained by grace entirely on his part we are able to enter in to this same blessing that the writer of this psalm calls our attention too. mark
We do however have that extra,over the top,incredible blessing of himself as a living person..speaking...encourageing...directing...revealing...loving all the while conforming us to the image of himself whilst at the same time imputing a righteousness that is by faith in him and not in the fullness of his law of which we have all fallen short...

S.J. Wickham said...

Hi Mark
I like to think that following the virtuous life a la Psalm 1, we are being conformed into Christ's likeness. I see the psalms and indeed the whole Old Testament reaching forward into the New Covenant tradition.
Blessings mate!