No Neutrality: Psalm 1:1-6

No Neutrality: Psalm 1:1-6
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday June 12, 2022

Notes, not a Transcript

The book of Psalms is a collection of praise-full songs and poetry which are designed to drive us to God. They’re collected and divided into five individual books within the single book of Psalms. The division of the 5 books isn’t a notional one. Rather it is specific. The psalms speaks to the range of human emotion including discouragement, and praise, shame, and exaltation, joy, and so on.

The New Testament quotes from the psalms more than 100 times. Even satan gave Psalm 91:11-12 a go in Luke 4:10-11. Matthew opens up declaring Jesus connection to David and quotes from the Psalms 15 times in driving that point home.

Psalm 91:11-12 (ESV)
11 For he will command his angels concerning you    to guard you in all your ways.

12 On their hands they will bear you up,    lest you strike your foot against a stone.

Luke 4:10-11 (ESV)
10 for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,    to guard you,’
11 and
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,    lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Perhaps Ezra, the scribe, organized these Psalms; perhaps the 5 books of the Psalms match the 5 books of the Torah Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. 
Ezra, in the eighth chapter of the book Nehemiah is reading from the scrolls of the law. He is reading to a people who’d been dispersed and left unknowingly parched without the word. They’re pierced to the heart when they hear this refreshing word again (and for the first time):

Nehemiah 8:8-10 (ESV)
8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.
10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”


At first blush, the Psalms can feel like they’re haphazardly sprinkled around.  Not following chronology or author, their genre and types jump across books; however, the Psalm’s structure is definite.  We studied Psalm 119 noting that it is broken up into 22 stanzas each with one for the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Psalm 1 starts with Aleph and ends in Tav, begins with “blessing and ends with perish”.

This is a beatitude in structure celebrating the blessed life. There are several Psalms like this, beatitudes’ at least 25 of them.
There are several named authors across the collection. Moses, Ethan, and Herman are explicitly listed. We certainly know Solomon wrote some (if not many), the Sons of Korah are attributed to 11, Asaph to 12, and David as having written 73. 
Each book is capped and fished off with a song of praise. For example, book 1, Psalm 1 – Psalm 41, starts where it finishes. “Blessed,” Psalm 41 starts V1 and ends V13 with emphasis on blessing. On the first Psalm, John Calvin sees the first Psalm as a kind of setting up the reader’s mind on the Law of God. Moreover, those songs of praise that cap off each Psalm. The final Psalm, Psalm 150, is the magnum opus of praise:

Psalm 150 (ESV)
 Praise the Lord!
       Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
  2    Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
  3    Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
  4    Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
  5    Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
  6    Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
       Praise the Lord!


With that mindset of meditation on His Law, and in a mood of praise, let’s approach the Psalms, excited to uncover riches that cause praise and are worthy of deep, prolonged thought which inspires and feed further praise.

  Psalm 1:1–6 (ESV)
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;


The Psalmist starts with this phrase, “blessed is the man who…” we’re going to follow this first psalm through two threads:

1) the blessed
2) the wicked. 
For the blessed and the wicked, we’ll see what they don’t do, what they do, and we’ll see both the condition and outflow of each type.  In studying these two schools of person, we’ll see from this first Psalm that there is no neutrality with God.  We’re, as Jesus said, hot for God or cold for God, perhaps you’re smart and think, what about warmish, and Jesus reacted to warmish in Revelation 3:16.

Revelation 3:16 (ESV)
16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

Blessed.   Bless, blessing a notion used 111 times across the Psalms:

Psalm 32:1–2 (ESV)
1  Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2  Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Psalm 40:4 (ESV)
4  Blessed is the man who makes
the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!

How is the blessed person marked:  Skip to verse 2:

 Psalm 1:2 (ESV)
  2    but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and ni

He delights in the law of the Lord.  This law is God’s revealed character and nature in His law in the Torah books we mentioned earlier, the first five books of the Bible.  Also, we see straight out of the gate one of those 272 mentioned of Yahweh – the personal name of God.  

Exodus 3:14–15 (ESV)
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.


YHWH, the Tetragrammaton, the four letters your Bible may use Lord with ORD in small capitals to capture your attention to YHWH, the personal I AM, God, The Lord.  The I am that I am. 
The blessed people’s delight is in the law, the character, the instruction of the God that caused all things to exist revealed in the very Word.  Not through a feeling (tempered by JDs late night pizza) but the consistent living Word of God.
The blessed person lives as someone consumed by the Law.  Here the Psalmist says, “day and night  .”  The “blessed person” is not a passive hobbyist, but the very substance of living is the Word.  Not cultural things, but the very Word of God is life’s substance, filter, encouragement, everything – this person is blessed. 
What else is the blessed person like:

Psalm 1:3 (ESV)
  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.

The blessed person is like a tree. In Jeremiah the reference to the tree is used.

Jeremiah 17:8 (ESV)
8  He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

This is the warning to the people about the Sin of Judah, idolatry, reliance on flesh, dishonest wealth,, and the “pen of iron” that the names of idols were written in the horns of their alters, not on their heart, like Jeremiah 31:33. This person is contrasted in V8 by the one who is like a tree, like the blessed man in Psalm 1, this person doesn’t wither. Why, because they have the sun and air, sure but because of deep roots and connectedness to the sources and nourishment. You cut off the rootball of the tree and give it the same air sun and water as everything else, you’ll see it in the leaves as it slowly dies. This blessed one is not like the wicked in Psalm 1, and not like the one who continues after Jeremiah 17:8, in 17:9

Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV)
33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)
9  The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?

Like a tree – draw your mind further into the Psalms to:
Psalm 37:34–40 (ESV)
34    Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
35    I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36    But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
though I sought him, he could not be found.
37    Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
38    But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
39    The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40    The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.


Perhaps we’d read this and think the planted tree at a point in time is blooming and fruitful, and this is how we know we’re in God, perpetually.  But that’s not what the passage says, don’t skip “in its season.”  We trust God with the seasons, so looking at someone’s life and seeing success doesn’t mean Godliness – palm 37:35, the ruthless man spreads like a green laurel tree.  The blameless and upright was a future. There is no neutrality with God.

Look at

Psalm 92:12–14 (ESV)
12  The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13  They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
14  They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,

Consider the book of Jeremiah
Consider also,

Psalm 73:17 (ESV)
17    until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.


The believer’s view isn’t a point in time.  We know that we live in the here and now, looking to the future there and then, the promised future, and so we’re blessed in God.  We’re sustained by delighting in the law, and we continue living in the world, unbroken by the world and deeply nourished like a tree by the stream.  This is why we pant:

Psalm 42:1–5 (ESV)
  1    As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
  2    My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
       When shall I come and appear before God?
  3    My tears have been my food
day and night,
       while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
  4    These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
       how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
       with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
  5    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
       Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation


So, we come to verse 4, which brings this second category in, though it was hinted at in Verse 1, so let us draw them together. 

Psalm 1:1 (ESV)
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;


The blessed man (category 1) avoided things that the wicked (category 2) lives in.  The wicked live as chaff, contrasted by the blessed living as a tree. 
This concept of chaff is scripturally important.  Chaff covers the wheat grain; it has to be separated to get to the valuable portions of the crop.  So, they’d walk over the wheat harvest and subject it to pressure crushing in a winnowing process to break off the grain.  The chaff was lightweight.  It’s floated off when tossed into the air; see some references:

Isaiah 5:24 (ESV)
24    Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble,
and as dry grass sinks down in the flame,
       so their root will be as rottenness,
and their blossom go up like dust;
       for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts,
and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 33:11 (ESV)
11    You conceive chaff; you give birth to stubble;
your breath is a fire that will consume you.


Isaiah 33 talks about righteous people surviving God’s judgment.  The Assyrians conceive chaff.
The wicked V1 stand in the way of sinners (they congregate here, gain understanding here, taking on the characteristics of the wicked), they also walk (living and functioning in the council of the wicked) they seek to know what the wicked world thinks on issues of morality and truth, there is no neutrality with God.  Unlike the blessed man, the Wicked V4

 Psalm 1:4 (ESV)
  4    The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.


The wicked become blown about carelessly because they’re not anchored, deeply nourished, and satisfied by the world, no deep planting or ever green.  The wicked need philosophies of men and the council of their fellow wicked men to make them feel informed, new ways of teaching and new interpretive lenses, they need to appease groups and move among those groups as accepted, they’re friendly with the world’s own ideas, philosophies and philosophizers. 

This need to be informed and accepted by, and to conform Biblical understandings to the world is a shallow mooring to God and Jesus drew on this same metaphor, of being like light weight chaff

Matthew 15:13 (ESV)
13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.

The wind drives them away – their roots in God aren’t deep, their nourishment and satisfaction isn’t in God. They’re not connected to Him, known by Him, they’re wicked and separated from the harvest of wheat.
What’s the outcome:

Psalm 1:5 (ESV)
  5    Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;


They may blossom in this life.  However, they’re made happy at a time, not a lasting richness found in God.

Hosea 13:3 (ESV)
  3    Therefore they shall be like the morning mist
or like the dew that goes early away,
       like the chaff that swirls from the threshing floor
or like smoke from a window.



Isaiah 17:13 (ESV)
13    The nations roar like the roaring of many waters,
but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away,
       chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind
and whirling dust before the storm.

And so, we blessed must be nourished from the Word of God, the great I am, the aleph and the tav, the causation of life, we must echo John:

1 John 4:4 (ESV)
4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.


 Psalm 1:6 (ESV)
  6    for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Two categories:

1, the blessed and
2, the wicked.

Because there is no neutrality with God.

And so the blessed, nourished deeply from the Law, meditating day and night, a constant substance of living, sing with the Psalmist:

Psalm 150 (ESV)
 Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
2  Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
3  Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
4  Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
5  Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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