Who or what is most responsible for what you think, believe, and do? It’s important to know, because the most influential aspects of your life, whether people or things, control your destiny in this world and after death. Each of us are socialized by individuals or ideologies that impact our decision-making processes.
Socialization refers to the process of learning how to behave in an acceptable way, and agents of socialization, including parents, peers, education, or religious beliefs, teach us what is most important to learn to become well-functioning members of society. In Psalm 1, the author argued that who or what gives you advice on living and also whom you interact with on a continuous basis will influence your successes or failures in this life and the next.
The author of Psalm 1 divided people into two groups: the righteous and the wicked. The two categories of people are different in whom they go to for advice and their relationship, or lack thereof, with God. This psalm contrasted the two in ways that stress that they are mutually exclusive, meaning that if you belong to one group, then you cannot belong to the other category.
Psalm 1: 1-3 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
The various commentaries and translations refer to the first word, blessed, as meaning happy, fortunate, prosperous, favored by God, and oh the joys. All of them express that the person who is blessed has much good to gain in this life, as there are rewards for those who do not listen to, are not guided by, or who do not associate with people who do not know God’s words and do not live as God commands, referred to by the author as the ungodly, or in other translation as the wicked.
Instead, their happiness results from loving God’s words and studying them diligently and consistently, meaning day and night. To be blessed, one must make the Scriptures the most important source for their decision-making processes, meaning that the most influential agent of socialization for God’s people should be God’s Word.
This is still the case today, for the apostle Paul reminded his young protege, Timothy, to remain faithful to the holy Scriptures that he had been taught since childhood, because they had given him the wisdom to receive the salvation that resulted from trusting in God. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, he said, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” We are still in need of learning and understanding God’s Word.
On several occasions, God commanded different prophets and others to eat the scroll, meaning to read God’s commands and learn them, so that they could pass them along to God’s people. In Ezekiel 3:1-3, we read, “The voice said to me, ‘Son of man, eat what I am giving you—eat this scroll! Then go and give its message to the people of Israel.‘ So I opened my mouth, and he fed me the scroll. ‘Fill your stomach with this,’ he said. And when I ate it, it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.”
And God advised Joshua to read His commands and not deviate from them if he wanted to be successful, admonishing him in Joshua 1:7-8 with these words, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” We must be sure that we do not try to make the Scripture fit our own worldview, but read them as God intended.
The prophet Jeremiah asserted that he loved reading God’s commands, stating in Jeremiah 15:16, “When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.” For me, I enjoy reading the Scriptures, and I know that Satan knows the importance of our reading our Bibles, which is why I think I always seem to get sleepy when reading my Bible, and I have to fight to stay awake and keep reading and reflecting on what I have read. I have been a Bible reader since I was a child, but with each new reading, according to the trials or triumphs in my life, I get a whole new meaning sometimes of the same Scriptures.
The author of Psalm 1 assures us that the person who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it night and day is like a tree planted by the rivers of waters: fruitful, never brown or withered, and successful. This analogy makes a lot of sense, especially if you read John 15 in which Jesus describes Himself as the true vine, with God’s people as the branches, and God as the Husbandman who prunes the branches to make them more fruitful.
As long as the branch is connected to the vine, they are fed all the nutrients needed to be fruitful, and when the branch is no longer attached to the vine, it withers and dies, is not fruitful, and is only good as firewood. While abiding in Jesus, the true vine, we as the branches are fed through the Holy Spirit, which teaches us and brings all things to our remembrance so that we can be fruitful.
Being fruitful here does not mean reaping material goods like gold or silver, but demonstrating the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which are listed in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” These are the kinds of fruit that leads to successful lives, and the ungodly or wicked simply do not produce this fruit. Matthew 7:16-18 states that you will know people by their fruit, meaning the ways that they treat others and live their lives: A good tree does not produce bad fruit, and a bad tree does not produce good fruit. The author makes that clear in the distinction between the righteous and the ungodly or wicked.
Indeed, the prophet Jeremiah understood that there is a difference between those cursed and those blessed, when it comes to being a healthy, fruitful tree or a unhealthy, stunted shrub that does not produce fruit. Jeremiah 17:5-8 states, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.'” Now, that is something to shout about!
Psalm 1: 4-6 The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
The difference between the destinies of the righteous and the wicked are diametrically opposite. The ungodly who put their trust in other human beings and not God will not do well on Judgment Day; instead, they will be cursed rather than blessed, described as like chaff blown away in the wind. But, the righteous who love the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night will be able to stand before the judgment seat of God, knowing that they will inherit eternal life. We are assured that the Lord knows the righteous and knows their every word, thought, and action, and that they are what He expects them to be.
In this psalm, we learn that God has an expectation of us to read our Bibles consistently, and not just to read it, but to really chew on every word and thought. We need to mine the nuggets from every sentence, paragraph, and chapter, seeking to understand what God expects of us as His children. I know that it can be difficult sometimes to understand, but if you start your Bible reading with a prayer for wisdom, understanding, and a discerning heart, God will answer that prayer.
Also, I have found that reading more than one translation or more than one commentary helps. I read liberal, conservative, and moderate commentaries. I depend on the Holy Spirit to let me know what to take in and what not to take into my spirit. But, I truly am amazed that the Scriptures from over 2000 years ago still have a contemporary message for God’s people to learn and take to heart. Thank you, Lord! For me, the Bible is the key to successful and happy living.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Grant me wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and discernment as I read Your Word. Help me not to lean to my own understanding, but to trust in You to reveal the mysteries of the Word. I want to live according to Your commands. Help me to study to show myself as someone who need not be ashamed, correctly presenting the word of truth. To You we offer glory, honor, and thanksgiving. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.