More Notes on Psalm 1

[See, Some Thoughts on Psalm 1]

More Notes on Psalm 1

I. Blessed is the Man [v.1]

God setting His blessing on man is first mentioned in Genesis 1:28a, where the Scripture says: “And God blessed them.” Such blessing, however, came with one condition of obedience (Gen 2:16-17), which Adam failed to meet. God, therefore, curses the serpent, the man, and the woman (cf. Gen 3:1-19), leaving no part of creation quite as it was before. The covenant of works had been broken by Adam, making him cursed, vile in the eyes of God, filthy and in need of salvation. Man loses God’s blessing by disobedience, then, in Genesis 1-3, failing what is called the probationary period. This first Adam is not blessed for his obedience, but is cursed for his disobedience. Adam did not meditate in the Law of the Lord day and night, but, rather, willfully sided with the wicked one, taking his counsel from God’s enemy.

Psalm 1, then, is a surprising passage to read in that it describes who is blessed by the Lord. It is the ish (Heb., ‏אִישׁ[1]‎), i.e. man, who delights in the Law of the Lord day and night. His delight is not in the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but is in the will of God for His creatures made in His Image. The man of psalm 1 stands in marked contrast to the first ish/man,[2] the former living a life of unbroken obedience to the Law of the Lord, the latter committing one sin and receiving the due punishment to be meted out to him for the breaking of God’s Law. Comparing Scripture with Scripture we see that:

1.       Adam commits one act of disobedience.

i.                     The Man of Psalm 1 lives a life of perfect obedience.

2.       Adam walks in the counsel of the wicked.

i.                     The Man of Psalm 1 never takes counsel from any other source but God’s Word.

3.       Adam is cursed with the judgment of death for his sin.

i. The Man of Psalm 1 is said to flourish vigorously, and there is no mention of death in this psalm for this Righteous Man who perfectly abides in God’s Law.

4. All of the labor of Adam’s hands would be cursed with difficulty and futility.

i. The Man of Psalm 1 is said to prosper in all of his ways.

These two men stand in contradistinction to one another, in a way that seems to be reiterated by the apostle Paul in Romans 5 and 1st Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-45-49. For “by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners,” but the latter man stands in contrast to sinners.[3] And if the first ish, i.e. Adam, is the federal representative of humanity, then of whom is the second ish, i.e. the man of psalm 1, the federal representative?

The first ish and the second ish seem to stand in the same relationship to one another as the first Adam does to the Last Adam, which makes me think that Psalm 1 is not a prescription for us but a de-scription of Christ. Adam forsook the Law of God, but Christ says of Himself that He delights to do God’s will, which is to say that He delights in the Law of God, as is proven by the parallel remainder of this verse.[4] This is further proved by the fact that this Man of psalm 1 is said to not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers. If this is just any man, then how can it be true? Scripture tells us that all men born under the federal representation of Adam are wicked,[5] sinners,[6] and scoffers of God and His people.[7] How then can this Man not walk in the counsel of the wicked, if his own heart is, by nature of being a son of Adam, desperately wicked? How can he be said to not stand in the way of sinners, if he himself is a sinner? How can he be said to not sit in the seat of scoffers, when he himself is no better than those who scoffed at the Lord Jesus Christ as He was crucified?

I answer that it would be impossible for this man to do any of these things if he were merely a son of Adam, but not if the Man of Psalm 1 is the last ish/Man, the Federal Representative of Man under the New Covenant – the Lord Jesus Christ. The only logical conclusion for the interpretation of this psalm that makes it center around our obedience and not Christ’s obedience is that men are saved by their works, for it is those who x, y, and/or z who will stand at the judgment and be counted righteous. This is purely not the intention of my brothers and sisters who may have a problem with viewing Psalm 1 as being about Jesus, but it is, nonetheless, the logical conclusion of sloppy interpretation.

II. Psalm 1 as a Guide

Psalm 1 is about Christ’s active obedience to the commands of God’s Law, and His absolute love for the Father as expressed in that obedience, but it is also about us in this sense: It speaks of those who will not enter into judgment with God (vv.5-6), who will reject the evil and rejoice in God’s Law. And these are those who have been made after the image of the Son of God – i.e. the ekklesia, or the church. Understanding that it is Christ who goes before us, in whose steps we follow, shows us that the concept of merit does apply in Psalm 1, but only to Christ, whose righteousness is imputed to His elect. How we are to walk in His steps, following after Him, is laid out for us in the opening verses. And though it begins with His steps, we look farther down and see that it is the Lord’s meditation upon Scripture that drives him to do. The Blessed Man is steeped in Scripture. Notice that the Holy Spirit doesn’t say that the righteous man feeds the poor, shelters the widow, comforts the afflicted, but, rather, that the righteous man meditates on God’s Word day and night, and continually delights in God’s Word.

This isn’t to say that the righteous won’t do these things. Matthew 25:34-40 tells us very clearly that the righteous will do these things, as does James in his epistle and John in his! However, what precedes these acts of righteousness that stand in contrast to the deeds of the wicked is the consumption of God’s Word, delight in God’s Word, reflection upon God’s Word, and a perpetual turning to God’s Word. This is where it begins, and this is where, again, we can see how the Blessed Man is, first and foremost, Christ, or the Last Adam. Adam’s disobedience in eating of the forbidden fruit also entailed neglecting God’s Word and taking the counsel of the serpent of old. Adam knew God’s commandment, but he didn’t obey it. Adam knew the judgment awaiting him for his turning away from God’s commandment, but he ate of the fruit anyway. Adam didn’t delight in God’s command or meditate in it. Adam heard the blasphemous words of the serpent, and knowing that they were untrue, nonetheless chose to act in accordance with them in sinning against God.

Then of what does God’s Law here, then, consist? Is the psalmist only speaking of the moral Laws of God written in the Decalogue? Is he referring to the Mosaic Law which applied only to Israel? Or is he speaking of the Pentateuch? Biblical theology may have a more satisfying answer, but I believe that the Holy Spirit is here referring to the whole canon of Scripture, Old and New Testament. Whether or not the writer had this in mind is not here relevant, since what is signified by the word “Law” is clearly the revealed will of God for man. That will encompasses the Decalogue and what is given in the Mosaic Law, I believe, but can also be applied to the entire Pentateuch, as well as, at the least, Joshua, Judges, Job, and Ruth (assuming these are all pre-Davidic books, which I believe they are), since the New Testament refers to many places in the Old Testament as Law which are not, strictly speaking, actually Law.[8] Therefore, in so far as we can say that the Word of God, in its entirety, expresses what the perfect will of God for His children is, then we can say that Psalm 1’s reference to the Law of the Lord encompasses a much broader range of imperatives, including the implications of imperatives given throughout both didactic writings and narratives.

Looking at Psalm 1 in light of this, we learn that since Christ’s obedience has been imputed to us, so that we who were formerly registered as wicked rebels against the Lord and His Christ have been made sons of the living God, we can see in verse 2 an indication of how we are to follow Christ, by submitting to Scripture in every detail of our lives. We cannot compartmentalize what is spiritual and what isn’t, since we are now slaves to righteousness. All of our life now belongs to God and He tells us what is true and what isn’t, what’s good and what’s not, what’s beautiful and what’s hideous. We are to turn to Scripture, not the counsel of the wicked or the scoffing of the ungodly scoffers. This is what God, after all, promises His elect people in Isaiah 44:3-4:

…I will pour water on the thirsty land,

and streams on dry ground;

I will pour out My Spirit upon your offspring,

and my blessing on your descendants;

They shall spring up among the grasss

like willows by flowing streams.

This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s,’

another will call on the name of Jacob,

and another will write on his hand,

‘The Lord’s,’

and name himself by the name of Israel.”

[Lord, change my heart!]


[1] The English Standard Version translation makes the following comment on the word ish: “The Singular word for man (ish) is used here to portray a representative example of a godly person…”

[2] Ish is used first in Genesis 2:23, where Adam and Eve are united in marriage. This would, chronologically, fit into Genesis 1:26-31, and, therefore, seems to indicate that ish is being used in a similar manner. Adam is only the federal representative of the human raced when he is married to Eve, for at that point in history federal responsibility became possible, as Adam was no longer the only other human in existence.

[3] Cf. Ro 5:19 & Ps 1:1-2

[4] Psalm 40:8: “I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within My heart.”

[5] Cf. Gen 6:5; Jer 17:9; Matt 15:10-20

[6] Cf. Ro 3:23; 5:12-14,19a

[7] Cf. John 15:18-25

[8] Some examples include: John 10:34 and 15:25, where two psalms are referred to as being found in the Law; Romans 3:19, where the Psalms, Proverbs, and Isaiah are referred to as the Law; and 1 Corinthians 14:21 also calls Isaiah the Law. The point to be made here is that we may justifiably believe that the Holy Spirit is here referring to all of God’s revealed will, and not just the Decalogue, Mosaic Covenant, or Pentateuch.

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