This Psalm is like the opening to A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, in which he frames the destiny of two cities with the opening line, “It was the best of times and the worst of times.” David is framing out the purpose of life by presenting to us the choice of two pathways—one path leading to a life of joy, happiness, and prosperity; and the other—a life of sin, scorn, and defeat.
Two pathways, two lives, two choices. Psalm 1 presents us with such stark realities and such clear outcomes.
What choices lead to prosperity?
“Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)
First, be discerning of who has influence over your life. David is instructing us in verse 1 that the kind of people we walk with, stand next to, and sit with, will have influence over our life. Don’t hang out with sinful, scornful people. They are the joy suckers who will drain us of life and happiness. Don’t listen to such people.
Second, delight yourself in God’s Law. C.S. Lewis writes, “One’s delight in the Law is a delight in having touched firmness; like the pedestrian’s delight in feeling the hard road beneath his feet after a false short cut has long entangled him in muddy fields.” Truth brings firmness and stability.
The prosperous man or woman is the one who delights in following God’s law. This person knows right from wrong, good from evil, and delights in doing the right thing. This is a leader who understands God’s ways and makes decisions based on God’s guidance.
Third, meditate in God’s Word. Prosperity is birthed in one’s heart and mind through hagah of the Bible. Hagah is the Hebrew word that we translate in English, “meditate.” But meditation is too tame a word for this Hebrew word (see my blog, “Sage’s Bone,” February 17, 2017). The word “gnaw” or “growl” is the same word for “meditate.” Isaiah says this, “As a lion or a young lion growls over his prey,” (31:4); the Hebrew word for “growl” is hagah, and is usually translated “meditate.” The idea here is of deeper meaning than just one who “thinks deeply.” But, rather, a better translation for meditation might be “chewing, fussing over, and eating of a bone.”
Sometimes one of my labs, Sage, has come home with a prize: a deer leg bone! Once, I was sitting out by my fire pit at Hebron Woods, our property in Black Forest, working on a sermon, and she plopped down with this massive bone, almost bigger than she is, and commenced to go through the routine every dog owner knows: shaking it, staring at it, slinging it up in the air, then dragging it to a quiet, solitary place and just chewing. From that point, her pleasure was purely solitary—she licked it, worried over it, but finally settled into just gnawing it—then all you heard were these low, rumbling, growling sounds. This is Isaiah’s meaning of hagah.
It’s the principle of really ingesting the nutrients and metabolizing the protein of a bone. The way of prosperity is the metabolizing of God’s promises, perspective, and power into our spiritual veins. This is the primary way to prosperity. This is the meaning of “in God’s law he meditates day and night.”
Like a Tree
David gives us a powerful metaphor for the prosperous man,
“He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:3)
David wrote 79 of the 150 Psalms, and the Psalms often pick up the outdoorsman that David was—indeed all the writers of the Psalms are steeped in the beauty of God’s creation. David must have loved the mountains, streams, rivers, and nature that he spent so much time living in. David writes that the person who wants to experience God’s prosperity path, is like a tree planted by and daily drinking from the rivers of God.
We were in Buena Vista, Colorado, last weekend, and we took a hike that started with us crossing the roaring Arkansas River and working our way up a steep mountainside away from the river. The further we moved away from the river, the more the ecosystem became arid, dry, and hot. The only plants we saw were scrub oak, pinon pine, and cacti. But then the trail went down again to the river. Alongside the river we walked a trail of rich vegetation, flowers, bees, and butterflies. There were huge hundred-year-old oaks providing shade as we hiked. The contrast couldn’t have been more stark.
So it is with our lives. If we choose God’s ways, God’s Word, and God’s guidance, we are guaranteed a life of abundance and prosperity. We will be likened to a tree growing firm and beautiful next to the rivers of God. Choose well, my friend.
Planted by the rivers,