Thoughts on Psalm 1
By Jonathan Mitchell

1. Happy [is] the adult male who does not journey within counsel from profane and irreverent folks who lack awe and respect for God, and does not stand in a road having the character and qualities of folks who miss the target, and further does not sit upon a seat belonging to troublemakers (or: Blessed [is] the man who has not traveled from one place to another in union with [the] deliberated purpose, design or determination of folks who lack a relationship with God, and did not take a stand in union with [the] way pertaining to those in failure or error, nor make [his] place within the midst of a path of people who deviate, as well as did not take a seat on a chair having the character and qualities of folks who are pests).

2. But to the contrary, his will, intent and purpose is in union with the Law of [the] Lord (or: resides within the custom belonging to [Yahweh]; is within the midst of the law which is [Yahweh]), and within His Law (or: dispensed and established principle) will he habitually meditate and give careful thought, day and night.

3. And thus, he will continue existing, being like the tree [that] has been planted beside the divided-out paths of the waters (or: outlets of water through [the orchard]; or: rivulets of the waters that pass through), which will give (yield; = produce) its fruit in its season (or: fitting situation) and whose leaf (or: foliage) will not proceed to fall off. And so, everything that he should continue doing (or: all things - however much he can make or produce) will proceed to be thoroughly prospered (continuously led down an easy path, or along a good road)!

4. Not thus [for] the profane and irreverent folks who lack awe and respect for God - no, not thus [is their] way! Rather, in contrast, [they are] like the dust or fine down which the wind habitually tosses out and scatters away from the face (= surface) of the ground (or: land; earth).

5. Through this (or: Therefore) the profane and irreverent people will not continue standing up (or: proceed to take a stand again; or: repeatedly arise) in the midst of an evaluation (a sifting and separating for a decision; a judging), nor yet folks who normally fall short of the goal (miss the target; fail; err) within a counsel (or: determination) of folks who are just, equitable and in accord with the way pointed out.

6. Because [the] Lord (= Yahweh), by intimate experience and insight, constantly knows the path (way; road) of the just, equitable and rightwised folks who live in the way pointed out. And yet, the path (way; road) of the profane and irreverent people will progressively lose and destroy itself (of itself repeatedly come to ruin). (LXX, JM)

This was always my favorite psalm, because of verse 3. I love the thought of just being like a tree: no demands upon me. All I do is receive the sunlight, and drink up the water - in other words: all I do is simply exist. The fruit comes naturally, without work or struggle. As I grew up, this became my view of life in Christ - kingdom living. Just receive from the Light of Christ, and drink in the water of the Spirit of Life. Now I still hold this view. The water of the Spirit becomes the sap in the tree, and is drawn up into the branches by the pull of transpiration (or: trans-Spirit-ation!) and this movement of the Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit. I am a tree of life.

Now as inviting as this metaphor seems to me, it is stuck in the middle of OT wisdom literature (vss. 1-2 and 4-6). These verses are praise and good news for the person who lives in accord with the Law, and yet are doom for the "unrighteous." It's still an "us and them" psalm. An "if... then" situation. Furthermore, life does not always work out to be such a clear-cut dichotomy. Sometimes people have experiences like Job, while folks living worthless lives often seem to be on the top of the pile. And Jesus did not predict that His apprentices would have lives like vs. 3, above.

In life within God's reign, verse 2 only happens by the gift of His grace (joy-producing favor) and the power of His Spirit living the Christ-life within us. When we abide in the Vine (Jn. 15:1ff) we are able to live like vs. 3, for it is God working in us both to will and to do His pleasure (Phil. 2:13).

God does repeatedly bring vss. 4-6 to bear upon folks as He sifts and evaluates irreverent people (we saw this with Israel's history; this is nothing new). But guess what! He regularly does this to us as well, for everyone needs His transforming actions, as Paul affirms in Rom. 14:10b,

"For you see, we will all continue standing in attendance alongside on God's elevated place (platform or stage which is ascended by steps, from which one speaks in a public assembly; or: we will all repeatedly present ourselves at the seat, dais or throne which is God [some MSS: Christ]),'

And Paul follows in 14:12, with,

"each one of us will continue giving a word (presenting a message; rendering an account) about himself to God (or: for God; by God; in God)." Humanity always "stands before, and in the presence of, God." He continually adjusts and transforms us,"until we - the whole of mankind (all people) - can (or: would) come down to the goal (or: attain; arrive at; meet accordingly; meet down face-to-face): into the state of oneness from, and which is, The Faithfulness (or: the unity of, that belongs to and which characterizes that which is faith; or: the lack of division which has its source in trust, confidence and reliability, has the character of and is in reference to the loyalty and fidelity), even which is the full, experiential and intimate knowledge (or: and from recognition; and of discovery; as well as pertaining to insight) which is (or: of; from; in reference to) the Son of God, [growing] into [the] purposed and destined adult man (complete, finished, full-grown, perfect, goal-attained, mature manhood) - into (or: unto) [the] measure of [the] stature (full age; prime of life) of the entire content which comprises the Anointed One." (Eph. 4:13)

Verse 6b is the broad way that Jesus described (Mat. 7:13); this was the wide road of the religiously white-washed Jewish leadership that Jesus confronted, and it was also that broad path that led to Jerusalem's destruction in AD 70. But note this LXX rendering, above, that it is the PATH of the profane and irreverent that will of ITSELF come to ruin (or: will progressively destroy itself). The path of the new life in Christ involves following Jesus and participating in His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3ff). If we read Ps. 1:1-2 in light of the new arrangement of having been placed "in Christ," then what was OT wisdom literature can be transformed from the old perspective of "do this, and live," to the new understanding of Phil. 2:13 or Rom. 6:3ff.

In His grace, and by His power, may we all become trees of life, or branches of the Vine, continuously producing the fruit of His Spirit, of which all can partake.


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