The Portrait of a Truly Blessed and Happy Person (Ps 1)
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
The Portrait of a Truly Blessed and Happy Person
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; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 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. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Psalm 1 (ESV)
What does a truly blessed and happy person look like?
In some sense, everybody is looking for happiness. They look for it in wealth, physical health, education, beauty, family and relationships, entertainment, and recreation; however, for most people (even Christians), if they were honest, true joy commonly alludes them. They struggle with constant emptiness, dissatisfaction, and lack of joy.
To illustrate this: There is a story about a dissatisfied king. Since he was unhappy, he called his wise men and counselors and asked them what he should do to have happiness—to have fulfillment, joy and peace. He questioned,
Should I get one more wife? I’m not happy with the one I have? Should I buy new paintings? Should I take more vacations and where? Should I conquer more kingdoms? I have tried all these things and nothing seems to fill this void in my life. What should I do to have true happiness?
His wisemen replied, “Find the happiest man in your kingdom and wear his shirt and then you will find true happiness.” The king replied, “That’s it! Go find him.” Weeks past and the king asked his servants if they had found the happiest man in the kingdom and they replied, “Yes.” He said, “Well, where is his shirt?” They replied, “He didn’t have one.”
This fits many people’s constant search for happiness. They try to find it in things, career, education, and yet they find themselves still unhappy. In Psalm 1, the Psalmist give us the secret to true happiness. The Psalmist begins the worship hymnal of the Hebrews with the portrait of a truly happy and blesses person. The word “blessed” actually means to be supremely and divinely happy, regardless of circumstances and situations.
No doubt, the Psalmist begins the Psalms with Psalm 1 as a template or preface for the rest of the Psalms. It has been said that the rest of the Psalms are just an exposition of Psalm 1. Spurgeon said Psalm 1 is “the text upon which the whole of the Psalms make up a divine sermon.”
What is the portrait of a blessed person? We’ll consider a blessed person, then give a few applications for our university at the end.
The Blessed Person Stays Away from the Progressive and Destructive Pathway of Sin
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;
Observation Question: What are the progressive steps of sin and how are they demonstrated in verse 1?
Interestingly, the Psalmist begins with what the truly happy person is not. He is not a person that participates in sin. Temptation typically includes some promise of fulfillment or joy. When Satan tempted Eve, he said if she ate of the forbidden fruit, she would be like God. However, it ultimately led to her death, that of her husband, and their children. Sin can never fulfill us or make us happy. That was proved wrong with the first temptation. However, the strategy of temptation remains the same. Do this, buy this, participate in this, think like this, and you will be happy, apart from God.
The Psalmist recognizes this, but also notes that there is a progressive and destructive process to sin. Each sin is essentially a gateway to more sin and worse consequences. The progressive destructive process is seen in the verbs walk, stand, and sit, and in the nouns wicked (“ungodly” NKJV), sinners, and scoffers. (1) The person starts off simply listening to people who leave God out of everything and view things from a secular worldview. (2) Then, the person stands in the pathway of sinners—those who approve of, pursue, and practice sin for enjoyment and without remorse. To stand in the pathway means to identify with them and do the same. (3) Then the person sits with mockers—those who mock the holy things of God. The person essentially becomes a missionary of evil—mocking the righteous and calling others to the same path. The person started off as a follower of God, but then he started listening to the wrong music, watching the wrong YouTube channel, hanging around the wrong friends, sitting in the wrong classrooms. Then he began to approve of and practice the same sins as others. Then, he became a mocker of holy things.
Application Question: How do we avoid this devastating progression of sin?
1. To avoid the devastating progression of sin, we must be wise in our relationships with those not following God.
In 1 Corinthians 15:33, Paul said, “bad company corrupts good morals.” And in 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul said, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” When something is unequally yoked, there is an uneven pulling in a wrong direction. We should be careful of being in relationships with the world where they are influencing us instead of us influencing them. Unfortunately, many Christians get into unwise relationships that pull them away from God. As mentioned, first they are simply listening to ungodly conversations and plans, then practicing the same behavior, then mocking those who practice holiness and follow God. Our relationships are supremely important because they influence our direction—whether towards God or away from him. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
2. To avoid the devastating progression of sin, we must guard our minds against secular-worldviews and practices.
The reason we do this is because the pathway to depravity starts with simply listening to the counsel of the ungodly—whether through books, the news, music, or relationships. Our minds are the doorway to a blessed, happy life and also to a cursed life that God destroys. Therefore, the righteous must be discerning about what they allow in their minds. In 2 Corinthians 11:3, Paul lamented this when considering the Corinthians. He said, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” In Philippians 4:8-9, he said this to the Philippians:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
To guard our minds, we must reject ungodly views and practices, and instead think on and practice what is righteous. What are we listening to, reading, and watching? It will affect whether we have God’s blessing or not.
3. To avoid the devastating progression of sin, we must be willing to walk the path less traveled, including at times being alone.
The Psalmist doesn’t say this, but we know it from Scripture and experience, the people on the path of the wicked are the majority and the blessed are the few. Jesus said it this way in Matthew 7:13-14:
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
The way which leads to true happiness and life is narrow. It’s hard to find and difficult to travel, and therefore only a few take the path. Most are on the broad road that is easy to find, easy to walk, and widely promoted, but it ultimately leads to dissatisfaction and destruction. Often times, the blessed life is lonely and hard.
4. To avoid the devastating progression of sin, we must be willing to be mocked, hated, and even persecuted for our beliefs.
The people on the broad path often mock those on the narrow path. Unfortunately, many of the strongest mockers were raised in church but grew weary of what they would call the “narrow views of Scripture, the conservative ethics, and the exclusivity of the Gospel.” Therefore, they abandoned it for the path of destruction and mock those on the way to life.
The blessed person is not one without problems; he has many, including the antagonism of the world around him. The outside world will commonly mock our views about the importance of a baby’s life or the value of caring for orphans, widows, and the elderly. There will be those who mock our views about marriage, parenting, and sexual purity. There will be those who mock our belief that there is only one way to eternal life—through Jesus Christ our Lord. In some places, these beliefs might get one ostracized, fired, or even put in jail. The righteous life, though leading to joy and eternal life, is a hard road which many will mock and persecute. However, we must bear it willingly. In Luke 14:27, Christ said it this way: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Are we willing to be persecuted to be truly blessed by God? Matthew 5:10 says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
If we are going to have a truly happy life, we must avoid the progressive, destructive pathway of sin. Sin may promise fulfillment, but it will only bring pain, sorrow, and destruction.
The Blessed Person Delights in and Meditates on God’s Word
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Next, the Psalmist focuses on what the truly blessed person does. He “delights” in the law of the Lord. What does it mean to delight? The word is used in the Old Testament of a man delighting in a woman (Gen 34:19; Esther 2:14). When a man truly delights in female, he often thinks about her all the time. He texts her throughout the day, and he often talks with her very late at night. At some point, he may even propose to that person with the hope of being with her for the rest of his life, without hindrance. This is how our relationship with God’s Word should be. If we delight in it, it should continually be progressing. In 1 Peter 2:2, Peter says, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” He actually commands believers to “long” for Scripture or “crave” it like a newborn.
Because the blessed person “delights” in God’s Word, he “meditates” on it day and night, which refers to all the time. To “meditate” means to mutter under one’s breath—to basically talk to one’s self about the goodness of God’s Word all day. The truly blessed person commonly begins the day with God’s Word, so it can ruminate throughout the day in his or her mind. In fact, the Hebrew word for “meditate” was used of a cow chewing his cud. A cow has a four chambered stomach; therefore, it chews, swallows down to one stomach, regurgitates, chews again, takes down to the next stomach, and so on. The purpose is to get all the nutrients out. This is what the blessed person does throughout the day. The Word of God never leaves his mind. He is always thinking about it.
When the text says “law,” it is the word “torah,” which means “instruction.” It is used to refer to the Mosaic law, the first five books of the Bible, or even the whole Old Testament. Since it probably referred to whole Old Testament, which was all of Scripture at that time, it, no doubt, refers to the completed Canon which we have today.
Application Question: Why do some people not delight in God’s Word?
1. For some, they don’t delight in God’s Word because they don’t like being told what to do. Torah is God’s instructions on life, morality, parenting, work-ethic, salvation, and everything else. Many don’t want to be told how to think, how to act, or how to live. God’s law is God’s instruction for us.
Why do others not delight in God’s Word?
2. For others, they don’t delight in God’s Word because they think they know it all. Unfortunately, this is a sin that those saved at a young age and raised in the faith or those who have been saved for a long time are especially prone to. They feel like they know Scripture, so they are bored with it. They don’t pay attention during sermons. They have little time for reading and memorizing Scripture, and therefore, they don’t delight in it anymore.
3. For others, they don’t delight because they are practicing some sin—listening to the counsel of the ungodly, standing in the way of sinners, or even mocking God and his Word—which negatively affects their appetite for God’s Word.
First Peter 2:1-3 says,
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
In order to “long” for God’s Word, we must first “put away all” forms of sin. It will hinder our appetite for God’s Word. James 1:21 says the same thing: “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” Sin hinders our desire for God’s Word. It’s been commonly said, “Sin will keep you out of God’s Word, or God’s Word will keep you out of sin.” This is a truth all believers experience in some form or another.
4. Some don’t delight in God’s Word simply because they are not saved. In John 8:31, Jesus said it this way: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” A lack of desire for God’s Word and not abiding in it might be a proof of not truly being born again.
Therefore, if we don’t delight in God’s Word, we must examine our hearts. Why don’t we delight in it? There is nothing wrong with God’s Word; therefore, it must be us. Do we need to repent, truly accept Christ as Lord, and become his disciple? Do we need to repent of pride or rebellion, which hardening our hearts? Only those who delight in God’s Word and meditate on it are the ones God blesses.
The Blessed Person Expands God’s Kingdom
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.
Next, the Psalmist describes the various ways God blesses the righteous person—the one who turns away from sin to meditate on and practice God’s Word. What are some of ways God blesses the righteous?
1. The one God blesses is like a tree in that he is a blessing to others.
Trees don’t bear fruit for themselves; they bear it for others. They also provide shelter and clean air for others. Likewise, God blesses the righteous so they can be a blessing. That’s what God said to Abraham in Genesis 12:2. He would be blessed and be a blessing. The blessed person will commonly have others coming to him for counsel, support, leadership, and ultimately to hear them share the Word of God. Because the blessed person turns away from sin and delights in God’s Word, God anoints and uses him.
Are we allowing ourselves to be a blessing to others? The difference between the righteous and the wicked on this point is that the wicked are all about themselves—even when they help others (cf. Gen 11, 12). They help others to be seen and praised. Life is about their career, success, and fulfillment, instead of God’s glory and truly helping others.
2. The one God blesses is strategically planted.
He is not a wild tree. He is a tree that strategically “planted” and cultivated for maximum productivity. Certainly, God does this, but the believer participates in this process. When it says he is planted by the “streams,” the word is literally “canals.” This probably doesn’t picture it being planted by a river but irrigational canals which flow right by the tree—allowing it to draw from the life-giving water. It also must be noted that “canals” is plural. There are many canals surrounding this tree so it can gain from their life-giving water
By God’s grace, the believer strategically plans his time so he can be at church on Sunday to receive God’s Word, small group throughout the week. He strategically plans to encounter God’s Word in the morning before starting the day and at night, to focus on God before ending the day. He listens to worship throughout the day, which recites, sings, and prays God’s Word. There are strategic canals throughout this person week, enabling him to always be receiving God’s Word.
Are we strategically planning our days, weeks, and months to constantly encounter God’s Word?
3. The one God blesses bears fruits in season.
As we delight in and meditate on God’s Word, God will produce fruits in every season of life—seasons of lack, plenty, waiting, and sorrow. The psalmist doesn’t name these fruits because they are innumerable. The godly man or woman produces thanksgiving in seasons of plenty, faith in seasons of doubt, patience in suffering, peace in turmoil, mercy when wronged, gentleness when falsely accused, strength in temptation, humility in leadership, and prayer in all seasons.
Because these fruits are seasonal, we may often have to patiently wait on God to produce them. God knows the seasons, and he will produce the fruits which are needed.
4. The one God blesses is consistent and reliable, even during difficult seasons.
His “leaf does not wither.” In winter, his leaves are evergreen; they don’t shrivel up and die. And in the summer, they don’t turn brown from a drought or lack of rain. This person is reliable and constant in the various seasons of life because God enables him to be. For many, in hard seasons, they are unreliable. That’s not necessarily their fault, but they haven’t yet developed the consistency of the blessed person. With Joseph, while a slave and a prisoner, he didn’t quit and give up, he excelled in serving others and God. He was evergreen. With Paul, he wrote some of his most impactful letters during seasons in prison, while awaiting a potential death penalty. He was evergreen. Likewise, that is the grace God gives the blessed person in the difficult seasons of life. May God do the same with us.
Are we being faithful in the difficult seasons? Are we trusting God in them or turning away from him because of them?
5. The one God blesses prospers in everything.
Some versions translate this “whatsoever he does shall prosper.” However, the ESV probably translates it best when it says, “In all that he does, he prospers.” Yes, that may include the success of endeavors—schooling, working, parenting, etc. But more importantly, the person prospers, even when his endeavors don’t. The difficulty in marriage—though tragic—allows this person to blossom—becoming more loving and patient. The difficult co-worker—instead of making the blessed person bitter and inclined to return evil for evil—he instead blesses instead of curses. When God blesses us, we prosper—though our endeavors and circumstances may not.
The Psalmist wrote this to the Israelites who were called to spread God’s kingdom on the earth, especially to the Gentiles. Therefore, these blessings should be considered in that context. He blessed the Israelites, so they be conduits of his kingdom. When Abraham was blessed, God used him to spread his faith to his family and others. Likewise, David expanded God’s kingdom in Canaan and strengthened the faith of God’s people. Christ, through his death, saved an innumerable multitude from death and separation from God. The blessed person is blessing to many by spreading God’s kingdom throughout their family, workplace, and ultimately the earth.
Are we spreading God’s kingdom in every sphere of our life?
The Blessed Person Has an Eternal Perspective
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will 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 wicked will perish.
Finally, verses 4-6 highlight the blessed person by contrasting him with the wicked. Unlike the righteous who are fruit-bearing trees, the wicked are like chaff which the wind drives away. This is a picture of how wheat while growing is covered by chaff, which is inedible and unusable. When harvested, the wheat was beaten by animals or instruments on the threshing floor, which breaks off the chaff. Then, the wheat was thrown into the air, and because of its weight, it falls back to the ground while the chaff is blown away.
This a paradox that is seen throughout the Psalms. Often the Psalmist will declare how he became discouraged looking at the wicked, as in Psalm 73 with Asaph. The wicked were healthy and wealthy; it looked like they had no problems in life, while the righteous suffered. However, when the righteous went into the sanctuary—the counsel of God—they began to see the wicked from God’s perspective (Ps 73:13). The lives of the wicked may seem blessed now, but their lives are ultimately worthless. Their works will not stand in the judgment. Everything they do will be destroyed by God’s winnowing fire. Their works will be proved to be only wood and hay—nothing that will stand in the judgment (cf. 1 Cor 3). Their ungodly lives prove that they rejected God, and therefore, they will not stand with the righteous in heaven. This is the eternal perspective that the righteous have and must maintain. Because without it, the righteous might get discouraged and compromise his or her views and actions to fit in with the world, who seem to be prospering.
To be a blessed person, we must have an eternal perspective because our hope for tomorrow affects how we live today. If we have no hope for tomorrow, then we will live for the temporary, which ultimately will be destroyed.
The Psalmist says though the wicked may seem like they are flourishing, their works are temporary and unfruitful. God knows the righteous in the sense of he guides, protects, and blesses them. But the wicked will perish (v. 6).
The blessed person stays away from the progressive and destructive path of the wicked, delights in and meditates on God’s Word, expands God’s kingdom, and has an eternal perspective.
As we close, we must recognize that the portrait of the blessed person is impossible for any person to fulfill. In fact, in verse 1, the perfect tense of the Hebrew verbs bears this out. It essentially refers to the person who “never” walks in the counsel of the wicked, never stands in the pathway of sinners, and never sits in the seat of mockers.
Harry Ironside tells the story of a gathering of Jews and Arabs whether they were discussing Psalm 1—trying to figure out who the Psalmist referred to. Could it be Abraham? No, he lied about his wife, they said. Could it be Moses? No, he killed a man and lost his temper. Could it be David? No, he committed adultery and murder. Well, who is it? Then, an elderly Jew arose and said this:
My brothers, I have a little book here; it is called the New Testament. I have been reading it; and if I could believe this book, if I could be sure that it is true, I would say that the man of the first Psalm was Jesus of Nazareth.
This Psalm confronts us with our need for Christ, for none of us have ever lived a life totally free of sin; none of us have perfectly meditated on and lived out God’s Word. But, Christ has. Again Psalm 1 is the “preface” for the book of Psalms, which throughout has much messianic prophecies and foreboding. The Psalmists again and again prophetically declare, we need Christ—the promised seed who will be broken for our sins and crush the serpent, the perfect Davidic king who will rule all nations (cf. Ps 2). Only, he perfectly fulfills Psalm 1 and therefore can help us live a blessed life. In Matthew 11:28-30, Christ said this:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Christ promises to train us as we take on his yoke—his burdens in this life. Therefore, as we get close to Christ, he will train us on how to have a life that God blesses—a life of joy, kingdom fruitfulness, and God’s pleasure regardless of our circumstances and opposition. He perfectly modeled this. He will train us how to reject sin and those who promote it and how to strategically plant ourselves around canals of God’s Word so we can live fruitful lives.
Are we drawing near Christ? Are we taking on his burden of ministering to the world and building his church? God wants to bless us and give us true joy, regardless of our circumstances.
Applications for our University
Before closing, what are some applications for us as a university? How can we have a blessed university? Very simple:
1. To be a blessed university, we must stay away from secular worldviews—the counsel of the wicked. Though a university represents a diversity of ideas, there are some ideas we must not endorse, but only critique in comparison to the truth of God’s Word. When we start to endorse and train our students to adopt them, we will lose God’s blessing like many Christian universities before us. They may be popular in the world, such as Harvard and others, but before God, they are like chaff that wind blows away.
2. To be a blessed university, we must be devoted to Scripture by actively promoting study, meditation, and practice of it in our school—through chapels, small groups, teaching all disciplines from a Christian worldview, and biblical courses. History bears this out: When Christian schools become secular, it begins with them turning away from God’s Word. They get rid of church and/or denominational affiliations, then Christian classes, then chapels, then teaching from a Christian worldview, and then professors don’t need to be a Christian, as long as they accept the Christian ethos. Then, Christianity falls in total disrepute and it becomes a school of mockers. They mock creation, the exclusivity of marriage between a man and a woman, the virgin birth, the exclusivity of salvation through Christ alone. We must hold onto God’s Word and continue to cultivate canals where trees can grow.
3. To be a blessed university, we must keep an eternal perspective. Yes, other universities may be revered, get government funds and accolades, and we as a Christian school may be mocked and looked down upon. However, we must desire God’s pleasure and affirmation instead of the world’s. The affirmation of the world is like chaff that the wind will soon blow away. Only those who do God’s will abide forever (1 John 2:17).
4. Finally, to be a blessed university, we must keep Christ and his gospel as our center. It is his gospel that brings us together, as a redeemed community. It must be proclaimed to our students, to ourselves continually, and to the world. Apart from Christ, God cannot bless us. If we turn away from God’s Son, eventually we too will be cast away like chaff and eventually destroyed.
Let’s pray that God blesses our university and keeps us from the pathway of the wicked.
• Pray that God would protect our school (students, staff, and faculty) from secularization—adopting secular worldviews and rejecting God’s revelation.
• Pray that God would help us strategically draw our community to the life-giving canals of God’s Word—that each class would be taught from a Christian worldview, that chapels would not cease to preach, sing, and pray God’s Word, that Bible classes would continue to be taught as foundational to the rest of our curriculum.
• Pray that Christ and his gospel would be our center and those who don’t know Christ would be saved.