Year B – Proper 20 – Psalm 1

1 Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Summary The psalmist has two categories of people in mind, and every person falls into one of those two categories:  There are tree-like people (v.3), and there are chaff-like people (v.4), and what makes them different is this: tree-like people are those who delight in the instruction of God (v.2), whereas chaff-like people are those who delight in the instruction of the wicked (v.1).  Tree-like people meditate on God’s instruction day and night (v.2), whereas chaff-like people sit under the teaching of scoffers (v.1).  Tree-like people bear fruit (v.3), producing goodness in others and in the world; whereas, chaff-like people do not bear fruit, because that’s not something chaff does (v.4).  Tree-like people are happy (v.1) , in that they are planted by streams of water (v.3), which is to say, they have roots anchored where they’ll be nourished by God’s Word; whereas, chaff-life people are not happy (v.4), in that they will be driven away by the wind (v.4), which is to say, ultimately blown out of history and importance, since they did not have roots anchored where they’d be nourished by God’s Word.

Insight The Psalter has a lot to say about “the righteous” and “the wicked,” but those are not the two categories which this palm discusses, per se.  This psalm discusses those who delight in being influenced by God and those who delight in being influenced by the world.  Why?  Because, as the very first psalm in the Psalter, this psalm’s job is to lay groundwork for everything that follows; in other words, this psalm explains the two categories of people whom the Psalter goes on to discuss: the righteous are righteous because they delight in being shaped by God, and the wicked are wicked because they delight in being shaped by the wicked, by sinners, by scoffers.  What’s more, the Psalter goes on to offer an opportunity for the very thing it commendsbeing shaped by God’s Word: The Psalter, more than any other book, leads us in thinking and feeling after God’s own thoughts and feelings.  So, immerse yourself in it, meditate on it, pray it, sing it, and you will be like a tree planted by rivers of water.

Child Catechism
Q:  Who are like trees planted by streams of water?
A:  Those who delight in the law of the Lord!

DiscussionWhat if you do not currently delight in God’s Word…but want to?  Is it possible to acquire a taste?  Have you ever acquired a taste, before?  How?

Prayer O God, we will be happy, ultimately, if we do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit under the teaching of scoffers, but rather delight in Your law and meditate on it day and night.  Grant that we would so delight in and meditate on Your Word that we would be like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, whose leaves do not wither.  Grant also that we would remember that the wicked do not prosper, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.  AMEN.

Contributed by Scott Cline

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