Psalm 1: When Delight Overcomes Distraction
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.
Psalm 1 presents two (and only two) ways to live: the way of the world or the way of the Word. Those who “walk in the way of the wicked, stand in the way of sinners, and sit in the seat of scoffers” are simply people oriented around the world’s values. This is the wide and easy gate leading to destruction (Matthew 7:13).
Be the Tree, Not the Chaff
“The wicked” of Psalm 1 are those who seek independence from God, those who have only a human or earthly perspective on life, those who live according to the world’s standards and not God’s. At times this way of life appears to be the way of success, acceptance, and prosperity (see Psalm 73). However, Psalm 1 helps us see things in ultimate perspective: the prosperity of the wicked is fleeting, for they are like chaff blown away by the wind.
The alternative is a life of dependent delight in divine instruction. The “righteous” recognize the poverty of the world’s wisdom and values and so orient their lives around God’s revealed Word. This is the life of faith (see Jeremiah 17:7–8) that leads to blessing, fruitfulness, and fellowship with God now and forever. Think a beautiful, sturdy, well-watered, fruitful tree (v. 3). Be the tree, not the chaff.
Sustained Thought and Heartful Response
Verse 2 is the key verse: “but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night." Notice the progression: delight, then meditation. Delight is a response of the heart to the beauty and value of something or someone—in this case, to God’s Word. But meditation involves careful sustained thought—it takes work and involves the will.
Meditation done well should serve, strengthen, and sustain delight. Meditation allows the Word to penetrate our minds, hearts, and wills more deeply. Through meditation, we are “transformed by the renewal of our mind” (Romans 12:2). Meditation sends our roots down deep, taking in more and more of the life-giving water of the Word.
Our lives are unbelievably distracted. We are experts at multi-tasking, surfing, and skimming, but it is harder than ever to meditate. Therefore, it is imperative to intentionally cultivate meditation on God’s Word.
If possible, find a consistent time, place, and plan. Then read slowly and carefully. Reread and reread. Read out loud (which is implied in the Hebrew word for meditation in Psalm 1:2). Read prayerfully. Read with a pen in hand. Memorize texts that you read. Read with other people and talk about what you see. Study a book of the Bible with a good commentary. Pray about a plan for Bible meditation this year, and talk about your plan with a Christian friend.
May you lay hold of the blessing of Psalm 1 as you delight in the beauty and value of God’s revealed Word and seek to sustain and strengthen that delight through intentional meditation.
Brian Tabb serves as the Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, MN.