Sunday Devotional: Psalm 1:1

1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the assembly of scoffers.

For the month of November, I want to go through Psalm 1. First, because many of my devotionals to date have been New Testament, and I want to spend some time in the Old Testament. Also, since I’m in doing NaNoWriMo this month, I can draw from notes I made for a study I did some years ago on this psalm. I hope these thoughts are of use to you in your walk with the Lord.

In the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for “blessed” is translated into the Greek word makarioi, which is the same word used in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12. As we saw in our series on the Beatitudes, there are rewards attached to each statement, showing the way in which people were blessed. So, I think it is fair to say that the blessed man in Psalm 1 is someone who receives blessings (as we shall see). I also think it’s someone who has an inner feeling of blessedness–happiness as some translations render the word–that comes from the knowledge that, despite the way of the world around him, he is standing firm with the Lord and doing what he knows is pleasing to God.

The psalmist describes the attitude of the righteous man in two ways: first the negative, then the positive; in other words, he first describes what he doesn’t do, and then what he does do. Notice first the verbs used: walk, stand, and sit. Some have taken this to indicate a downward progression from bad to very bad to worse, first of going along with the council of the wicked, then of standing as one to be counted as a sinner, and then finally to rest oneself firmly in the place of one of the scoffers. Others simply see the use of the three verbs as encompassing the various ways one might ally oneself with the wicked of this world: walking with them, standing shoulder to shoulder with them, and sitting with them, sharing in their abuse of the righteous. I think there is certainly the idea of conforming to the thoughts and actions of these people. The last phrase in the Hebrew is literally, “who sits in the sitting of scoffers.”

There are also three different adjectives used to describe the people in verse 1: wicked, sinners, and scoffers. The first two are almost synonymous. The wicked refer to those who are actively criminal in their deeds, offending both God and man in their sin (Proverbs 28:15; 29:2; 10:3).

The adjective “sinner” has a root verb meaning to miss the mark. While the idea of one who offends God is still intended, there is a shade of meaning that can also include those who perhaps originally intended good—at least in their own eyes—but ended up doing wickedness. The net result is the same for both the wicked and sinners.  Proverbs 13:21 says: “Adversity pursues sinners, But the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity”—notice sinners are contrasted with the righteous.

What about the “scoffer”? Again, I think Proverbs helps shed some light on what’s intended here:

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you. (9:7-8)

A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. (13:1)

’Proud,’ ‘Haughty,’ ‘Scoffer,’ are his names, Who acts with insolent pride. (21:24)

So the righteous man does not walk with those who are intent upon harm and actively rebelling against God; he does not stand with those who are also in sin, whether by misplaced intentions, or by active rejection of God’s ways; and he does not sit with those who mock and scorn justice and wisdom which come from God.

We need to examine our lives daily, the things we say, the people we find ourselves communing with, and the things we do to be sure we are not falling in line with the ways of this world. It’s hard when we are surrounded by fallen humanity in a fallen world to live as salt and light. It’s much easier to allow ourselves to be sucked in and carried along. We need to pray for the grace to stand firm.

Next week we’ll look at what the psalmist says the righteous do. Have a great week!

P.S.: I want to give a shout out, and a big THANK YOU to Cesar Vigil-Ruiz, who mentioned me and this weekly devotional on his blog, Killing Sin, this past week. These devotionals are beneficial to me, which is one reason why I do them. But it is such an encouragement, and humbling, to know that others are benefiting from them too. Thanks, Cesar!

4 thoughts on “Sunday Devotional: Psalm 1:1

  1. Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

    Wow, thanks, Mr. Smith, for that shout out. I recently posted that because I kept looking for that particular post with your comments, and I kept forgetting under which passage you wrote that. Again, thanks for those helpful comments! I gave a devotional at our all-church retreat just yesterday, and I tried following your guidelines (though I asked a lot of questions to try and relate it to the passage for personal application).

    If I can be so bold and ask a few follow-up questions (6 months later :-D): how do you present the material you prepared for? Do you have a handwritten outline that you refer to (whether skeletal or detailed) when giving the devotional? Or do you try and remember what you studied? I have the tendency to try and stick to my notes (handwritten) so I avoid saying, “uhh” and “um” a lot, but it can come off like I’m just reading my notes. How you deliver it I guess is where I’m going with this.

    Also, how have you come to learn how to give devotionals? It seems like there is an unwritten way of doing this that I have yet to learn, and as a pastoral intern, I know it will be a responsibility waiting in the wings for me, and I do want to be more prepared in this. Any resources would be very useful.

    Lastly, when do you give these devotionals in particular? Do these studies come from your own personal Bible reading? Is it something you have as reference material that you refer back to at a later point?

    I would appreciate your responses, and look forward to more of these as time goes on. Thanks again! =)

    Reply
  2. cds Post author

    You are welcome, Cesar! I don’t often get the opportunity to present devotionals these days (most of my teaching at church is my Romans adult Sunday School class), but when I do, I like to make sure I really know the passage and the information I intend to share. This helps to cut down on the “ums” and “uhhs” (at least for me), and it also helps me be prepared in case anyone has questions. In other words, I tend to over-prepare. When it comes to delivery, my ideal would be to just read the passage and go without notes. But I usually have at least an index card with a list of points I want to make. If I’ve prepared well enough, a word or a phrase should be enough to trigger the thought.

    The purpose of the devotion should ultimately be to draw attention to Christ and exalt him, either through pointing out his character and attributes, or by exhorting us all to live and think in ways that honor him. Because of that, it’s really important that the devotion not be just an exercise in exegesis, or an opportunity to show off how much Greek or Hebrew I know. That may mean a lot of what I prepare never gets said. But that’s okay, since the preparation gives me confidence in my presentation.

    The devotionals on the blog are not drawn from devotionals I have delivered, but are certainly ones I *could* deliver if called upon to do so. (The series I’ve started from Psalm 1 is drawn from a message I delivered some years ago; for the purposes of the blog, I’m just utilizing the research and making devotional application.) These are just meditations on passages of Scripture that I find uplifting and/or beneficial, and that I want to share with my readers. I prepare each devotional as I would if I were presenting it in person; the only difference is that the format here is written, not spoken.

    As to where I learned this: years of being in church, and listening to and reading devotionals. There may be an art or technique to this that people have written about–I’m sorry, but I don’t really know of any such books to recommend. The best place to start, I think, is in your own study of Scripture, and your own quiet times before the Lord. If a passage really seems to speak to you, or bless you in a particular way, ask yourself why? And how would you communicate that to someone else?

    I hope these thoughts are helpful to you. May the Lord richly bless your studies! 🙂

    Reply
  3. killingsin

    Thanks, Mr. Smith. That gives me a lot of food for thought. I appreciate your time in answering this. It really means a lot. Looking forward to the next post! 🙂

    Reply
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