Psalm 1: Comfort in the Way of the Righteous

Tony Arsenal

We live in an age of turmoil. Everywhere we look, we see wickedness and corruption. It seems, at times as though it may overwhelm us. We often feel like a rudderless ship being tossed about on the waves of death and destruction that our world seems to pummel us with every minute of every day.

Where is the Christian to turn for comfort and direction in such a time as this?

Throughout the history of the Church, the book of Psalms has been a balm to the broken hearts of the saints. From the highest heights of the repeated refrain that the steadfast love of Yahweh endures forever (Ps. 136), to the lowest lows of honest despair when we cry out that at times it seems as though darkness is all that is left for us (Ps. 88), the Psalms truly are “an anatomy of all parts of the soul.”[1]

This reality, that God has given us the Psalms as an expression of the full range of human experience, should drive us to seek refuge in them when we need comfort from the Lord. Today, I would like to look at Psalm 1 with you, which serves as a preface to the whole Psalter.

The Way of Blessedness

There is an eternally contemporary quality to the first Psalm. It gives us no hint regarding the provenance of its writing. It does not refer to any specific historical facts. Instead, the author of this Psalm intends for all of God’s people to understand that there are two kinds of people in the world, either the blessed righteous man or the wicked man who will perish. To drive us to this conclusion he describes for us what it is to be holy and righteous amidst the corruption of the world and exhorts us to live holy lives dependent on his Law.

Beginning with a series of parallel admonitions, each with increasing intensity, he calls us to abstract ourselves from the society of wicked men and their wicked ways. God’s people are not to align themselves with the wicked, but instead are to seek comfort and security from God alone. Where the world has set itself in opposition to the Lord, we are to set ourselves in submission to his Son. This, our author continues, is accomplished by obedience to the revealed moral law of God.

However, rather than simple outward conformity, our striving after God is to be motivated by a sincere love and delight in his precepts. It is not enough to conform our behavior to God’s standard, but that this conformity must be a delight to us. We must be so delighted by God that his Law is a delight to us.

The Experience of Blessedness

Our author proceeds next to tell us what this delight looks like. He contrasts two agricultural realities for us in explaining this. The man who delights in the Law and meditates on it is like a fruitful tree, which is well nourished by living springs of water. No matter what season of life comes, his leaf does not wither. This connection to the source of life means that even in hard times, when darkness seems like all there is, it is all prosperity. Even the hard providences we face are sweet medicine from the Lord.

Contrasted to that is the wicked man, who are spiritually dry and destitute. Like grass that springs up and seems alive at one moment, they wither and are no more in the next. Though they appear vibrant, the wickedness of their deeds has rendered them useless.

The Ultimate Hope of the Blessed

Finally, we are propelled forward to the final day. It is true that not all wrongs will be righted in this world. But we know that in the world to come that God is just. Those who are wicked will be crushed by God’s judgment. Those who are unrighteous will have no place among God’s people. Not only will sinners perish, but their very way of life will go with them. At the same time, by way of contrast, we are reminded that even when it seems as though God has forgotten the righteous… he knows their way. He has not forgotten you.

This Psalm, as the preface to the whole Psalter, closes with the assuring thought: There will be a world with no more sin and death. The way of life that is opposed to Yahweh will perish, and only the congregation of the righteous will remain.

Tony Arsenal Tony Arsenal is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary where he obtained Master of Arts degrees in Church History and Systematic Theology. Tony is the co-host of the Reformed Brotherhood Podcast and one of the founders of the Society of Reformed Podcasters. He worships at New Hope Community Church in rural New Hampshire where he serves as Deacon and occasional pulpit supply. He is also the treasurer of the Northeast Region of the Evangelical Theological Society where he has presented multiple papers on the topics of Theology Proper, Christology, and Patristic Theology.  

[1] Commentaries on the Psalms, John Calvin


Tony Arsenal