A Personal Reflection on Psalm 1
I was generally a ‘good kid,’ obedient to my mother’s voice and normally fearful of breaking rules. But I did have my moments of committing miscreant deeds here and there. One memory from these rebellious moments stands out: It was the first time I had knowingly disobeyed my mother’s instruction and broke several school rules.
One day, in between classes, I was walking with a friend to the front gate of our school. She was inviting me to skip class. Two voices were debating inside my head as I was trying to give my friend an answer. One voice said, “Walk away.” The other, “This will be fun.” We eventually reached the threshold of that gate. I stood there for what I thought was an eternity. Then, with a sudden clarity of mind, I only heard the second voice. I had made a choice. I decided to skip class. I sat in a taxi riding away from obedience towards defiance. This became a habit. It happened at least once or twice a month that year. Until I was caught.
Psalm 1 shows a regression in the behavior of the one who chooses to heed the counsel of the wicked: walking, standing, and then finally sitting in the very seat of the enemy.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers. (Psalm 1:1)
When he entices us to follow his counsel, he is subtle with it. First, he slowly walks us to the gate. Then when we reach the threshold, he deceives us to go stand on the path of destruction. Before we know it, he has successfully invited us to sit on his seat riding away from God’s path for us.
But the one who refuses the wicked’s counsel will walk a very different path. The Lord knows the way of this man (v.6).
This man’s delight is in the law of the Lord. (Psalm 1:2)
My mother’s side of the family loves to eat. We enjoyed roasting whole pigs on Sundays, what Filipinos call “lechon,” as a way to bond with one another. This tradition is one of my earliest childhood memories where my whole family would gather around a lechon—yelling, laughing, and eating it with our bare hands. I remember relishing every bite of the lechon along with the company.
This is the picture I see of the man delighting in the law of the LORD. He is feasting on the word of God, savoring His every syllable, relishing every bite of His truth along with His company. This man has an insatiable hunger for God’s word. He takes pleasure in consuming it daily. You sense in him a depth of joy and gratitude for the grace of knowing God’s heart through His written word.
This man meditates on God’s law day and night. (Psalm 1:2)
The word ‘meditate’ from this Psalm is the Hebrew word, ‘hagah,’ which means to whisper aloud to yourself. The image I see here is a man talking to himself—telling himself God’s law, day and night. I know it’s absurd to be talking to yourself, but God says that if you do this—if you intentionally speak His word over yourself, again and again and again, you become like a tree.
This man is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. (Psalm 1:3)
My conversion towards faith in Jesus began on a quiet, uneventful, sunny day under an acacia tree. This sudden recollection not too long ago excited me so. Trees carry such weight in the way God has expressed Himself to humanity. To have my walk with Jesus begin under a tree makes me smile.
The significance of trees in the Scriptures cannot be overemphasized. A tree exposed man’s heart in the Garden (Genesis 3). Jesus died on a tree to rescue us. Jesus tells us to bear much fruit, another tree reference, as evidence of being His disciples to bring glory to the Father (John 15:8). And in this Psalm, God tells us that we can become like a tree if we constantly whisper aloud His word to ourselves.
And not just any tree, but a thriving, life-giving kind of tree. This tree not only yields fruit, but it yields it at a time that it’s supposed to. Its fruit will be what is needed at an appointed season. Even its leaf is constant, undying. It will never end. It will never pass away.
This tree is an image of abundant life, of healing life, of life eternal. I see in this Psalm the tree of life. The same tree of life back in the Garden (Genesis 2), and the same tree of life that we will see in the new creation (Revelation 22). We can become like this tree—someone who becomes God’s conduit of abundance, healing, restoration, and eternal life to others.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. The wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. (Psalm 1:4-5)
The tree is in such stark contrast to the one who chooses to walk on the path of wickedness and disregard God’s laws, who becomes like chaff—unrooted, shriveled, worthless, and at the mercy of the wind’s whims. The wicked’s life will wither away without meaning and purpose. The wicked’s life will end in ruins.
The one who chooses to neglect God’s word will be unable to rise in the time of judgment, unable to defend himself in court. He will not even stand in the company of the righteous.
The LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:6)
Yahweh has established the steps of those who take to heart His words on the path of life and healing. Yahweh will safeguard his course and will usher him into indestructible life. But with the wicked, his path will crumble and pass away. His steps will lead to his undoing and downfall.
As followers of Jesus, will we take on the way of the righteous and become a tree of life? Or will we take on the way of the wicked and become chaff?