Psalm 1 Commentary: (See the type of psalm Psalm 1 is at our Psalm 1 Genre article.)
Psalm 1 Commentary: Topic & Theme
So, what is Psalm 1 talking about?
Psalm 1 is about the blessings of the righteous. And that blessing is contrasted with the unenviable end of the wicked – judgment. So a fuller statement of what Psalm 1 is about could be this: “The Righteous are Blessed and the Wicked are Judged.”
Psalm 1 Commentary: Relevant Today
Is this message needed today? How often do the righteous face discouragement – because it seems like this isn’t the case? The righteous are often put at a disadvantage. We’re slandered. We find ourselves in this nation in the midst of an apparent cultural shift where biblical values and norms are no longer valued or considered normal. We’re now the outcasts. And it’s actually the wicked – those who don’t think like God – they’re the ones who seem to be prospering.
So, a message like we have in Psalm 1 is needed for us today. We need to allow the Scripture to renew our mind about the true state of the righteous and the wicked.
And what is that true state? Blessing for the righteous. Judgment for the wicked.
Psalm 1 Commentary: Why it was Written
We could talk about the underlying or implied situation that called for the writing of this psalm. But I think it probably isn’t much more than the psalmist considering how truly blessed he was, by God’s grace, and contrasting that with those who didn’t love the Lord.
Psalm 1 Commentary: Structure
As for the structure of this psalm, it doesn’t follow a lament or praise pattern. Its pattern is pretty unique, actually. Its structure is based on several contrasts between the godly and the wicked.
Psalm 1 Commentary: Verse 1 Contrasted with Verse 2
The first two verses serve as a contrast. Psalm 1:1 – the man is blessed who doesn’t do those things listed there. Psalm 1:2 – in contrast to those who would participate in those evil things – this man’s delight is somewhere else.
Psalm 1 Commentary: Verse 3 Contrasted with Verse 4
Next two verses are also a contrast. Psalm 1:3. The blessed righteous man is like a healthy tree. In contrast – Psalm 1:4 – the wicked are like vegetation alright – but vegetation that’s dead, dried up, and blowing away.
Psalm 1 Commentary: Verse 5 Contrasted with Verse 6
And so the last two verses contrast the final end of these two types of people. The wicked – Psalm 1:5 will be judged and found to be guilty. In contrast – Psalm 1:6 – God is personally acquainted and familiar with the way of the righteous. And so, the implied idea is that the righteous won’t meet the fate of the wicked.
So, that’s the structure. It’s three sets of two verses each contrasting the righteous and the wicked.
Psalm 1 Commentary: Verse-by-Verse Exposition
And with those considerations in our minds we can proceed to investigate the poetic texture of Psalm 1 – which mainly consists of interpreting the images painted for us.
Psalm 1 1 Meaning
Psalm 1 2 Commentary
Psalm 1 3 Meaning
Psalm 1 Commentary: Verse 4
But what about the kind of man whose activities we saw in Psalm 1:1? You know – following ungodly counsel, enamored with godless lifestyles, associating himself with godless individuals. What’s his life really like?
On the other hand – Psalm 1:4… chaff. When you think of chaff, do you think of permanence? No, chaff is just the stuff on the outside of the kernel of wheat, right? It flakes off of the wheat kernel and – as we’re told in Psalm 1:4 – the wind blows it away. So, it’s not permanent. It’s not grounded. It’s not planted like the tree was. Does chaff bear any fruit? Do you get apples from chaff? Or grapes from chaff?
Is chaff good for anything? Is it productive? No. All you can do with chaff is get rid of it from the threshing floor. And that’s the picture we have of the ungodly. Their lives bear no fruit for the Lord. They’re useless for his purposes and plans in this world.
Psalm 1 5 Commentary
Psalm 1 6 Commentary
Psalm 1 Commentary: The Choice is Yours
And until that day, we’re all confronted with choices. I think the very structure of this psalm even leads us to think this way. You have Psalm 1:1 – you could choose the way of the godless, but Psalm 1:2 – a godly man doesn’t. Psalm 1:3 – you could have a life characterized by the kind of success that really matters or Psalm 1:4 – you could be inconsequential in God’s eyes by leading a godless rebellious life. Psalm 1:5 – you know how the godless will turn out – you don’t want that, do you? On the other hand, Psalm 1:6 – the righteous are intimately known by the Lord. But the wicked will be destroyed.
It’s your choice. Blessing? Or destruction?
And every single one of us were in the latter group once. We were guilty before God. Rejecting wisdom and happy with our sin. And the Lord drew us to himself. We believed. And God changed things, didn’t he? Would you say that that’s a blessing? You might not characterize your life as blessed. But are you thinking about it the way that God does? Would you ponder the blessings that God gives to those who are righteous by his grace? Would you consider the alternative?
I trust we can give to God a portion of the praise that’s due him as we’ve reflected on the Blessing of the Righteous.