Psalm 1

“1 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; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 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. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

This short Psalm of just six verses serves as an introduction to the entire book of Psalms. When read and prayed meditatively, this psalm reveals so many things that no one single commentary can capture. It is important to understand that the Hebrew Bible places first the Law, the Prophets and the Writings in its Canon. For the Hebrew Bible, the Law of the Lord is paramount, every other part of the scripture becomes important to the level that they reemphasized or meditated the Law of the Lord. This explains why this first Psalm is referred to as a summary of the not just the entire book of the Psalms but also the Biblical block known as the Writings.

Attention is to be paid to verses one and two. A truly blessed man, is he who delights, meditates, contemplates and keeps the Law of the Lord. On the contrary, a wicked man is one who despises, treats with contempt and disregard the Law of the Lord. Keeping the Law of the Lord then becomes the paradigm for true blessedness.

Verses three and four draws a kind of conclusion from keeping or not keeping the Law of the Lord: while the blessed man because he keeps God´s law yields fruits, the wicked man is like a chaff driven away by the wind.

Verses five and six establishes a very important fact: there are only two ways in life namely, the way of righteousness and the way of wickedness or evil. The Psalm does not know of any middle way: On judgement day, God will reward righteousness, but wickedness will be punished.

When this Psalm is read alongside the New Testament, its complete sense is revealed. So, the question comes: what then is this Law of the Lord? At this point references could be made to Matt 5 – 7 (the sermon on the mount and its parallels in Luke); the event of the transfiguration and the event of the Last Supper (especially the washing of the disciple´s feet) and the Mandatum novum. These events present Jesus Christ as the New Law giver: “you have heard that it was said to the men of old … but I say this to you …” “and they appeared to him Moses and Elijah …”, “I give you a new commandment …”. The Law of the Lord is Love. St. Paul explains the meaning of love so well in 1Corinthians 13: 4-7. Above all, love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love does not kill or injure the other. Love does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right.

So, whenever you consciously work against the good of your neighbour as well as the good of the community, you are not observing the Law of the Lord. Whenever, you remain silent in the face of oppression and falsehood, you are not keeping the Law of the Lord. Whenever you promote and appraise wrongdoings, you are not keeping the Law of the Lord.

However, God is a God of Mercy and compassion; always ready to forgive but not without your conversion and changing your ways. The prophet Isaiah captures this attitude of God very clearly: “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7).

© Valentine Umoh 2018
Studies Biblical Theology @ Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona