The Way to
God bless America. A large percentage of Americans who believe in God believe that God has done just that. What do we mean when we talk about blessing? Are blessings connected with material abundance or with personal success or with happiness? Does blessing refer to the brand of freedom so carefully crafted in this nation? Does blessing refer to our being perceived as a nation with the greatest military? What do we mean by blessing? What should we mean by blessing? How might this apply to America and more importantly how does blessing apply to the lives of God’s followers within this nation and world?
Psalm 1 opens with the word “blessed.” The Hebrew word used here is yrwx (esher), a word that appears throughout the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Scriptures. This word refers to something much greater than happiness, material abundance, or the supposed superiority of a nation. This word relates to a term, rwx, which means to go straight or proceed in a right manner or have a right understanding. The idea of blessing flows from a sense of well-being and rightness, of going in the right direction or living as deemed right. God will grant the people blessing, direction and a right relationship with him, if they choose to live in the way God provides for us all. This Psalm seeks to point the people of God toward right living so that they might experience the life God desires for people to live. So how should those who wish to receive this blessing live?
The wisdom shared by the poet offers three directives or signposts that can lead us down the right path. In verse 1, the poet instructs that the person seeking God’s blessing should not walk in the counsel of the wicked, stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. In stating the same truth in three ways, the poet uses parallelism in order to mark the intensity by which a person must avoid associating with those who live contrary to God’s design. By using the parallel terms of walk, stand, and sit, the poet develops the picture of a person who increasingly associates with people who live contrary to God’s direction.
Likewise, the terms wicked, sinner, and mocker express different aspects of people who live contrary to God’s actions. The wicked (mycWr – rasa’im) person is someone who is judged guilty by the courts, someone who lives contrary to a society defined by God’s shalom. A sinner (myxFH – hata’im) is a person who lives dominated by evil. This person does evil by choice. A mocker (mycl – lesim) is a person who actively works against the righteous and those who seek to live a righteous life. Each of these types of people drag down the righteous, encouraging a lifestyle contrary to the path God desires people to walk upon. Those who walk with the wicked, stand with the sinner and sit with the mocker cannot receive the blessing of right direction provided by God.
The second directive found in verse 2 is that people who wish to know God’s blessings should delight in the law of the Lord. The parallel that reflects the same thought challenges those seeking blessing to meditate on the law day and night. In other words, those seeking God’s blessing need to find meaning and joy in God’s law and think on it all day long. What we spend time on or find joy in reveals what we truly value.
For the obedient Hebrew person, in whose culture this Psalm was written, the law would refer to the Torah or the five books of Moses – Genesis-Deuteronomy. These five books made up the instruction and wisdom given by God for right living within God’s covenant community. This instruction and wisdom has since expanded, including the entirety of God’s inspired Scriptures. God has provided the words in the Bible so that we might know God and understand how we might live as those seeking the blessed life. Throughout the many years of the Bible’s composition, God utilized the talents, stories, and cultures of people in order to reveal His work of love and grace in the world. It takes time and guidance by God’s Holy Spirit to understand how God spoke into those cultures and now continues to speak into the modern world in order that people might receive the blessings of God. Thus, people seeking blessing must find joy in God’s word and spend time throughout each day learning of God’s wisdom, love, grace, and presence.
The third directive comes in the form of a contrast between those people, the wise, who allow God’s sovereignty in their lives and those people, the wicked, who do not submit to God’s sovereignty. The similes in verses 3 and 4 paint a picture of two different plants, one which thrives in usefulness and another which blows away as waste. The righteous or wise person depicted as a flourishing tree that yields fruit benefits because of its location. It has been planted by streams of water. Such a tree grows strong and provides fruit for others based on its location. This tree is not located next to the beneficial water through chance, but has been planted. The verb for planted is a passive participle, indicating that the tree has been placed next to the water by an outside force. Through finding joy in God’s word and meditating upon it, the wise person allows God to plant them in a beneficial location in which they can bear fruit, never wither, and prosper. The wise person allows God to reign in their life. This allows God to provide nourishment through His wisdom, grace, love, and shalom.
Those who do not allow God’s sovereignty over their lives cannot receive blessing. In this, they become like chaff blown in the wind. They are blown to and fro by the forces of this world. Chaff is the bi-product of the grain harvest. A grain harvester would take the plant and wave it about in the wind, which would cause the useful heavy grain to fall to the ground and the useless light chaff to blow away in the wind. The wicked are pictured as useless, fruitless, and without worth. In this useless state, they cannot offer blessing or experience blessing. The wicked have no true place in God’s world. They might seem to flourish, but truthfully, their flourishing is at the expense of others rather than within community.
Verse 5 continues speaking of the fruitless plight of the wicked. The opening statement that speaks of standing in judgement does not picture an end times judgement, but rather the hoped for social situation in Ancient Israel. The hope was that the righteous would offer wisdom in governing others, pursuing justice. The wicked person cannot do this because their visions of justice are not justice at all. Instead their justice is inspired by wickedness, sin, and mocking. They also cannot gather in the assembly of the righteous. In other words, they cannot experience true, holy fellowship with the people of God. Their pursuit of the sinful lifestyle denies them the grace, love and shalom of God’s community. Thus, they do not experience the blessing of God’s direction and wholeness in their lives. They can neither offer God’s blessing to others nor receive the fullness of God’s blessing because they refuse to walk according to God’s ways, failing to meditate upon God’s word.
The opposite of the statements in verse 5 are also true. The righteous or blessed person lives in a just relationship with society, seeking God’s justice and redemption in the midst of interpersonal relationships. This person also receives the gift of God’s community. The righteous person lives in the midst of righteous people, benefitting from the community that God creates. Part of the blessing received from our loving God for those who truly pursue His will and study His word is that of a blessed and righteous community built on the love and righteousness of God.
Verse 6 offers a final contrast between the righteous and the wicked. In so doing, it illustrates the life of the blessed individual. The blessed know that the Lord watches over their way. God offers direction, assurance and relationship as the blessed righteous person walks the path of life. God’s regard, His attention, His compassion is focused upon the righteous person.
The alternative to blessing is the way of the wicked, which brings about perishing. The person who surrounds their self with those intent on rebelling against God, disregards the truths of Scripture, and who does not acknowledge and bow to God’s sovereignty in their life faces destruction. God does not desire this path for anyone, but allows people, in their denial of God’s blessing, to follow it.
The blessing received from God is that God involves Himself along the path of life. This blessing comes through choosing not to dwell or live in the ways of evil. This blessing comes through seeking out God’s wisdom, given in the words of Scripture. This blessing comes with an obedient heart that bows down and allows God to transplant him or her beside the streams of water that bring life. Blessing is not about abundance in riches, material gain, or freedom to do as we wish. Blessing is found in discovering the path of righteousness, living according to God’s guidance, living a life inspired by God’s ways, and allowing God to live in relationship with us.
Prayer: O Lord, you are the giver and revealer of wisdom. Thank you for offering us your guidance in this life so that we might become the people you have created us to be, a people who live in reflection of you. Thank you for giving us opportunity to avoid living the life of the wicked. Thank you for inviting us to embrace the life of the righteous. Strengthen us to do so. Enable us to grow and bear fruit. Grant us blessings as we walk along the path of life. In Christ’s holy name we pray, Amen!
 Robert Davidson, The Vitality of Worship. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 10.
 F. Brown, et al., The Brown-Drivers-Briggs Hebrew English Lexicon. (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1997), 80.
 Gerald H. Wilson, The NIV Application Commentary: Psalms Volume 1. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 94.
 Craig C. Broyles, New International Biblical Commentary: Psalms. (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1999), 42.
 Gerald H. Wilson, The NIV Application Commentary: Psalms Volume 1. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 97.
 Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 1-50. (Nashville: Nelson, 2004), 61.
 Michael Wilcock, The Message of Psalms 1-72. (Downers Grove: IVP, 2001), 22.