If you have not read the intro, I suggest you do so before carrying on.
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;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will 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 wicked will perish. (ESV)
Psalm 1 sits here oddly. It reads much more like something we would find in one of the discourse section of Proverbs. After all, it is not a prayer and is more about instruction. And yet it sits here and its placement is intentional. It serves, with Ps. 2, as an introduction to the book as a whole, a point we will return to below.
The man is blessed. He flourishes. He is in right relation with God and the created order. This man enjoys the good life. But what does that life look like?
The man does not walk, stand, or sit with sinners. The progression might seem backwards. We might think that walking is worse than sitting, but the opposite is actually the case. The man does not make a decision based on the counsel of the sinful. They say not to eat with the tax collectors and the outcasts, but He came to call sinners to repentance. He does not make a way of life of those who try to ruin lives. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, they advise; but He turns the other cheek and His arms are stretched out. He does not come together to plot with those who are trying to tear lives apart. They say that the sinners should not touch Him, but His touch cleanses the impure, heals the sick, and forgives sins.
For this man delights in the law of the Lord. It is to the Lord that he looks for instruction. “Not my will, but Yours be done,” He says. God’s instruction becomes His meditation. It becomes the center of His life, the compass for His direction, the story He inhabits. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
This Man is like a tree. The imagery is important and connects with Jer. 17:5-8. Making the connection we see that the tree imagery is about being rooted in the land for the good of the world. The dust is driven out of the land, exiled, and not good for anything. This Man is rooted. He is faithful to God above all else. No matter where He goes, God is there. Where Israel has failed, Jesus fulfills. Where Israel faltered, Jesus bears up. Where Israel fell, Jesus rises. He is obedient and so He is like this tree bearing fruit for the good of the world. He is like a tree because His obedience leads Him to be crucified on one.
The wicked will not stand in the judgment. Neither does this man. The Sin Bearing One does not stand, He is fastened to a cross. He does not hold His head high, but hangs His head in loving obedience. He is not wicked and punished by God, but wicked in the eyes of the world and therefore left staggering under the cross He was called to carry. For they did not understand or else they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. For this is God’s glory, this is God’s revelation, this is God in the flesh, the fullest expression of who God is: a Crucified Man.
But the Lord knows the way of the righteous. God knows Jesus is obedient. God knows He has come to bear the sins of Israel and the whole world, to deliver people from alienation, to bring the abundant life which entails bearing one’s cross. God knows the way of the righteous, the way of the Humble One, His own way of self-giving love. God knows, when the world seems to say otherwise.
And this way will endure forever. This way is God’s new thing, God’s new creation by which He is redeeming the world and will redeem it finally. The way of the wicked, the proud, the graceless, the self-righteous, the crucifiers, the ones who did not stand up for the wrongly condemned, this way will perish. For that present sinful reality is fading away because Jesus has been lifted up for all to see so that they may be saved. The Light of the World will grow brighter, for darkness cannot overcome the light. Look to the Crucified One. Turn to Him and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for He is God and there is no other.
Psalm 1 as an introduction to the book as a whole now comes to the forefront. Psalm 1 tells us what it looks like to read Psalms. Seen this way, only those who see Jesus in the Psalms are worthy to enter in. The right reader of the Psalms is the one who sees a man crucified on a tree. No other reading will be allowed. Psalm 1 tells us that the Psalms demand our attention and worship of this man, Jesus of Nazareth; no other posture but bowed reverence is acceptable.
So who is the righteous man? “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals. And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.” (Rev. 5:5-6)
The conquering Lion is the slain Lamb.