GETTING THE MESSAGE/‘Blessed is the man’
Psalm 1 begins with “Blessed is the man.” This is an announcement from the Lord God. He tells sinful men there is a way to be blessed in his sight. This is good news. No man can be truly blessed unless God pronounces blessing upon him. But if God says you are blessed, you are blessed indeed.
This psalm and the Sermon on the Mount follow a similar pattern. Both begin with the theme of who is blessed by the Lord and both end with the judgment of the Lord. In his sermon, Jesus makes clear that a man cannot be blessed in the sight of God unless he is righteous, but also that a sinful man can’t be righteous by keeping the law or by his own works. He needs God’s grace in Christ Jesus.
Therefore the righteous are those who live by faith. They know their sin (blessed are the poor in spirit). Jesus instructs those who come to him to live according to his precepts. The way will not be easy. His people are to seek to build treasure in heaven, trust their heavenly Father in all circumstances, live for God’s glory rather than the applause of men, and anticipate the judgment to come.
When we look at Psalm 1, it is also a summary of the way of the faith. It begins negatively because we must turn from the way of the sinful world: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the way of sinners.”
People in the world have thousands of different ideas of what is blessed or what will promote their own happiness, and they try to pursue it. But what they all have in common is that the way of happiness for them is not in serving the Lord for his glory. The man who walks by faith has turned away from the common path, or the way of men, to the way of the Lord.
“His delight is in the law of the Lord” (verse 2). The word law is not only referring to the moral law, but the whole revelation of the Lord in his word: all the instruction, teaching, and doctrines. A man’s delight in Scripture is founded upon having experienced the mercy or grace of God. One may be an expert in Scripture, but there is no delight in Scripture (in a gracious way) apart from the truth of redeeming love. You must think upon the blessedness of redemption to delight in God’s word.
The “Lord” is the most commonly used name in Scripture for the Most High God. It denotes the self-existence of God, his immutable, unchangeable being, and his eternal nature. He told Moses, “I am who I am.” This name is also his covenant name in which he promises his steadfast love to sinners, forgiving their transgressions, sins, and iniquities (Exodus 34).
The gospel teaches us Christ came to save sinners. He came to save them from the punishment their sins deserve so their sins are not held against them in judgment. He came to save them from the pollution of their sins, a debased mind and vain heart. He came to give them a tender heart, delighting in his word and having ambitions for the glory of God rather than their own.
We see the description of the man who truly delights in the word of the Lord in verse 3. He is like a fruitful tree planted by streams of water. He bears fruit “in season,” that is, he lives out his redeemed condition by seeking to honor the Lord in times of plenty or times of difficulty.
The fruitful man owes all he is to God. The blessed man is one whom the Lord has planted, watched over, and cared for. What fruit tree is not blessed that has an expert farmer? Jesus knows how to prune, water, and protect you from enemies as only the Son of God can. Jesus said, “I am the vine you are the branches.” You are a blessed man if you abide in Christ.
You may feel as a Christian at times that your leaf withers, but the Lord extracts fruit from you even then. Your faith sustains you because he is with you. Let storms, droughts, heart rending problems come, but nevertheless say, “I am thine O Lord, I have heard thy voice.”
Verse 5 takes us to the judgment of God. Every detail of judgment mentioned reminds the Christian of his own blessedness. The wicked “will not stand in judgment.” They have no justification before God, but Christ has provided justification for his own. Sinners have “no seat” with the people of God, but Christ has made a place for his people. “The wicked will perish,” but the Christian has an incorruptible inheritance in Christ. So let us seek to be blessed before the Lord.