The blessings of delighting in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1 not as you know it)

To be precise, ten years ago, I discovered the method of reading the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus and what he did for us, and this changed my life. I learnt this from Joseph Prince, and this crystallized when I listened to the likes of Tim Keller, the late Edmund Clowney (Tim’s mentor) and others. Now, I cannot help but see Jesus in every nook and cranny of the Bible, even in somewhat often ignored texts. Just like the angel of the Lord stood and opposed Balaam, Jesus now stands in my way, and won’t let me pass until I acknowledge him in the text. 

This morning, I read Psalm 1, the famous Psalm of David, and wow, I saw Jesus. 

Psalm 1:1-6 (NKJV)

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.

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.

The ungodly are not so,

But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.

Therefore, the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,

Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

What is the traditional understanding of this Psalm? What have you learnt from listening to any Christian talk about these verses? For me, these verses have been used to contrast between good obedient Christians and sinful wicked people. Basically, the message is this – if you DO NOT – not walk, not stand, not sit, and DO GOOD – Delight in the law of the Lord, and in His law meditate day and night, then good things are going to happen – 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.

And we see the contrast in the life of the wicked (non-Christian or rebellious or backslidden Christian). The ungodly, and sinners are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore, the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

And so, we listen and head out to live out the Psalm and then two things happen.

  1. Those who apply the Psalm, and experience the blessings listed become self-righteous – “Check me out, I applied the principles in Psalm 1, and look at the results”. To these people, the Bible is a manual for success. The Bible is just like any other motivational book, and the Bible authors are motivational speakers.
  2. Those who apply the Psalm, and don’t see any results suffer guilt and condemnation – “Look at my sorry me. I applied the principles in Psalm 1, and nothing happened. I may be the wicked person. Probably, my past sins caught up with me”. To these people, the Bible is a sword that cut right through and disemboweled them. 

This is what happens when we read the Bible through the lens of our own performance – which is an Old Testament lens.

Yes, David, a saint under the law contrasts those who follow the mosaic covenant and those who don’t. And yes, the law promises blessings to those who live up to it, and curses to those who are disobedient. Read Deuteronomy 28 and get the drift. So, here in Psalm 1, we see a man who obeys and delights in the law, and the blessings he receives. The wicked are those who do the opposite and receive curses.

But we of the new covenant, we who are under the gospel of grace, should read this Psalm from a different lens. 

Let’s look at this Psalm through the lens of the new covenant. 

Psalm 1:1-3 (NKJV)

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.

Who is this man? You? Me? 

Only one man could fit these descriptions and follow these prescriptions. His name, Jesus. Not even David lived up to this Psalm. David’s many failures are well documented, but Jesus did the NOT’s – walked not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the path of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful. And Jesus also did the Do’s – But his delight was in the law of the Lord, And in His law, he meditated day and night. And because Jesus obeyed and delighted in the law of the Lord, the blessings listed in Vs 3 – 4 were very evident in his life. 

Suddenly, you see that prophetically, David saw into the future. He saw his descendant, a perfect man, a man who had no flaws, a blessed man who would keep all of God’s laws. (Matthew 5:17)

Now, this is not good news at all. Jesus’ perfection is bad news because we are by nature sinners. We are like the chaff which the wind drives away, the ungodly and sinners who shall not stand in the judgment, nor in the congregation of the righteous, and our paths lead to destruction. This is who we are. So, when we attempt to live out Psalm 1, we are setting ourselves for failure. When we “live up to it”, we become proud and pharisaical, and when we fail, we are riddled with guilt and condemnation.

Through the lens of the new covenant, Psalm 1 takes a whole new meaning – a life changing meaning. 

Jesus is this blessed man, and God imputes his perfect record to us. This means God sees us as the blessed man. He sees as righteous, as ones who walked not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the path of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful; And our delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law, we meditate day and night.

Jesus is the blessed man of Psalm 1

Delighting in the law of the Lord also takes a whole new meaning. How do we delight in the law of the Lord, the law which Paul writes led to death, and brought condemnation? (2 Corinthians 3:17)

This is how we do it (Montell Jordan)

We delight (Hebrew, hepes which means pleasure, or that in which one takes delight), and meditate (Hebrew, haga which means to murmur, to ponder) in the truth that Jesus has fulfilled the law on our behalf, Jesus has accomplished for us what we couldn’t do by ourselves. This meditating is muttering under your breath like, “Wow, this is grace, this is awesome, Jesus fulfilled the law for me and his righteousness has been imputed to me a sinner. Oh wow. This is amazing. This is unbelievable. Wow”. It is taking delight in the good news of grace. It is utterly being mesmerized by the unconditional love God has for us. It is our breath taken away by the beauty and loveliness of Jesus and his work for us. 

And here are the blessings we receive because Jesus the blessed man fulfilled the law for us.

  1. We are like a tree planted by the streams of water – Nourished.
  2. We bring forth fruit in season – fruitful.
  3. Our leaves also shall not wither – always refreshed, ever green.
  4. Whatever we do prospers – flourish.
  5. The fifth blessing is the opposite of who the wicked man is. The wicked man is like chaff, which the wind drives away. This means he is not stable. He is easily swayed by every wind and doctrine, and in our day fake news. The opposite is true. We receive the blessing of stability, certainty, sure footedness, as steady as a rock. 

These are the blessings we receive because of what Jesus did for us. See, here there is no room for pride or self-loathing. When I receive and enjoy these blessings, there is no reason for pride, and when these blessings don’t show up for whatever reason, it is not because God is withholding the blessings because of my sins. No. It’s all Jesus. Jesus the blessed man won these blessings for us. 

Through the years, as Jenny and I have delighted and pondered on the gospel of grace, we have enjoyed these blessings. On our walk this past weekend, Jenny and I talked about the challenges she has faced at work, and we concluded that if she hadn’t been delighting and pondering on the gospel of grace, she wouldn’t have survived the onslaught her new job threw at her. I remember telling her how settled and rested I’ve become, and she affirmed it. We acknowledged we face life with confidence despite its many challenges.

How did Jesus win these blessings for us?

Even though Jesus was the blessed man, yet God punished Jesus as if he was wicked. Jesus stood in the place of sinners and God treated Jesus as if he had walked in the way of the wicked. Jesus took our place so we could stand in judgment – stand in the company of those made righteous by faith and not by law, so we could stand in the congregation of the righteous, and so God could know (yada) us intimately and care for us.

Through the lens of the new covenant, Psalm 1 takes a whole different meaning. The burden shifts from our performance and obedience to Jesus’ performance and obedience. Because of Jesus, God sees you as the blessed man and you receive all the blessings of the blessed man. 

Now, go live like the blessed man. 

That’s what grace looks like

Photo by Nitish Kadam on Unsplash

Posted by

Husband | Orthodox Charismatic Christian | Leads The Life Place | Enjoys meeting new people, reading, cooking, traveling and exercise | Loves Jo’burg