Are you sure you didn’t take a wrong turn? What if you did…
As we travel along this road called ‘Life’, we often come across junctions where the road divides and goes in different directions. We choose one way and continue, but there comes a time when we wonder — Did I take the correct turn? Today we will look at Psalm 1 and try to reflect and understand the path we are on.
The Book of Psalms is known to be a collection of praise and prayers unto the Lord, at the same time there are psalms which are didactic (teaching) in nature. Psalm 1 is one such psalm, it helps us to see where we are and thus it leads us to praise and pray unto the Lord.
Walk, Stand and Sit
The psalm begins by describing a blessed man, but instead of describing what he does, it mentions what he does not. He does not walk with the wicked or stand with sinners or sit with mocker. We can see that a blessed person is someone who is ‘set apart’, he lives in the world but is not like the rest.
The world we live in is not so different from the world of Psalm 1. It attracts us to walk in ways that are tempting and seductive. It leads us to get stuck to addictions and ideas that are dubious at best. It traps us and forces us to do things we wouldn’t want to do. Walk, stand and sit — it’s a dangerous progression and it mirrors the downward spiral of sin. Are you lost in this spiral?
Delights day and night
The psalm goes on to describe the blessed man as someone who delights on the ‘law of the Lord’ and meditates on it day and night. The ‘law of the Lord’ here refers to the revealed word of God, which in our time has been fully revealed in the form of the Bible.
Do we delight in the word of God? Yes, we may read it, but do we delight in it? If we delight in the word of God, then we will spend much time with it, reading, reflecting, obeying and praying about it. This is what the blessed man does. ‘Meditating upon it day and night’ does not mean sitting with the Bible in one corner of the house whole day; instead it refers to faithful reflection to seek its meaning and to live it every moment of our life.
Like a tree planted by the river
Further, the blessed man is compared to a tree planted by the river. What is so special about it? The tree planted by the river is special because it gets nourishment all through the year in the arid conditions of Israel. This enables it to produce fruit in the right time. Trees that are far away from the river lack nourishment due to the dry conditions around.
Here the metaphor refers to a close relationship with God through the word. When we remain in Christ, we delight in his word and when that happens, we know what to avoid thus we end up being a blessing to those around. It is similar to the metaphor used by Jesus, describing himself as the vine. If we remain in Him, we receive nourishment; disconnected, we dry up and wither.
Chaff that blows away
The next part of Psalm 1 describes the other end of the spectrum — the wicked. One of the general comments we often hear is — ‘the wicked always seem to prosper’. When we look around it may seem to be so, but then the first thing to ponder about is this — are we not wicked?
The purpose of the Psalm is not so much to define and differentiate between the wicked and the blessed rather it attempts to help us reflect upon our own journey. It points to our actions and the consequences that follow.
Thus, irrespective of how successful we are, wickedness will surely take us down with it. Its fate is described as that of chaff — highly unpredictable, with absolutely no sense of security.
The psalm goes on to say that the wicked will not stand in the judgement! What does that mean? Judgement is required to prove guilt, but in our case, we all are guilty of wickedness. Therefore, nothing needs to be proved, only the consequence awaits us. We see a clear separation of the wicked from the righteous — who are these righteous people?
If we take time to reflect on the metaphors above, we will realize that each of us has walked, stood and sat in the trap of sin. Our natural tendency is not to delight in the word or to obey it rather we like to do the opposite, it comes more naturally to us. Who then can be saved, when we all walk on the same path?
The Lord watches over…
The psalm clearly tells us that only the righteous belong to the Lord, He will watch over their path, while the path of the wicked will lead to destruction. Who is righteous here, who will get saved? The question still remains.
The psalm does not answer, but it surely makes us reflect on which road we are taking. Are we going on the path that leads to destruction? If we are honest then we will realize that yes, we are going towards an ‘eternal death’.
The simple choice
Long time back the Lord had given a simple choice to the Israelites; to choose between life and death (Deut 30:15–20). This choice involved turning away from the previous ways. Psalm 1 helps to look at where our ways are leading us. Will we turn away from death and choose life?
God has made a way for us to turn away from death to life through His Son — Jesus Christ. Paul describes it in Philippians 3:8,9 as follows:
What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
When we look at the offer of love that we have in Christ and turn away from sin, we start a new journey that leads to life. This is the way which the Lord watches over. We are not righteous by deeds, but by faith in Christ, we are made righteous. This enables us to stay away from the trap of sin, delight in the word of God and live life like a blessed man — being a blessing to those around.
Thus Psalm 1 causes us to reflect. Those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus recognize his grace and praise Him while those who have not yet done that have the opportunity to pray and seek Him. In this life, Christ makes it possible to take a U-turn!
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16