There is a reason that Psalm 1 is in the position in which it finds itself. It is the first Psalm, and so it is supposed to set the standard for all of the other Psalms which will be coming up. The word “psalm” means literally a song or a hymn. We read that David before he was the king used to play the harp for King Saul, before Saul sought to kill him. We also read that David was a righteous man and a man after God’s heart (I Samuel 13:14). So what does he write about in this first Psalm which will set the stage for all of the psalms to come?
The battle between good and evil is a perennial one. That is his emphasis in this psalm. The battle between the good and the righteous is one that authors of the Scripture consistently reflect upon and give us insight. Lest we be swayed by this first psalm, we do know that “for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) As we read through the Psalms there is almost a “pay to play” and “quid-pro-quo” between us and God. If we are good then God will bless us. I am very, very uncomfortable with this theology. We know that Bad things Happen to Good People (Kushner).
So can we take anything of modern day substance from this first Psalm if it is all relative to us understanding that the theology behind it just might be one that can lead us to a dangerous belief that somehow our life is predicated upon our righteousness? The take that I see in this Psalm is not so much how God will view us if we are good or bad, but rather the happiness that will be a part of our life if we are to follow the way of the Lord.
You see, so often we think that we ought to be good so that God will like us and then as a result we will end up in heaven and not you know where. But really the reason we ought to follow God’s desires, is that if we do we simply will be happier. We will be happier if we love our husband and wife and remain faithful to them. We will be happier if we pay our taxes and work hard. David in Psalm 1 really lays out a way in which to be happy in this life: delight in the law of the Lord. It all seems very self-centered, I know. So maybe a compromise would sound something like this: We ought to do the will of God because we are so grateful for what God has done for us…made us righteous through the blood of Jesus. But as we do that which pleases God, we will also find joy which cannot be found elsewhere. There, that’s better.
Well, over these next 150 days (are you ready?) we are going to do just that, delight in the law of the Lord by reading His Word and meditate on his Psalms days and night. I hope they will lead to a joy and happiness in your life that will never be shaken. Oh, and Happy New Year!