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Whatever He Does Shall Prosper

A Study of Psalms 1

Blessed is the man

by Dennis Pollock

In the Psalms we find a wonderful collection of inspired Hebrew poetry. Many of them were written by David, but not all. Asaph wrote a few, and others are attributed to the “sons of Korah.” Even Moses is credited with a psalm. Several of them have become quite famous, the number one psalm being Psalm 23, of course. Psalm 90 is the protection psalm, and most Christians who read the Bible frequently know it well. Psalm 139 is a beautiful, moving psalm which magnifies God as the sovereign Creator, who knows everything about us before we ever come into this world.

In this study we will look at another of the more famous psalms, the very first one. It is well-loved for the benefits it promises to all those who fulfill certain conditions. Indeed, if the promises made here were truly believed and embraced, it would totally transform the lives and lifestyles of nearly everyone. Sadly, many seem to put it into the category of “It’s too good to be true, and therefore we must not take this too seriously or literally.”

Psalm One begins with a trio of don’ts. The man whom God will abundantly bless will do certain things, but he will also refrain from some things, and the don’ts are listed first. David begins his psalm with the words:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly..

Steer Clear of Ungodly Advice!

The man or woman who qualifies for God’s incredible blessings does not follow the counsel, advice, and ways of ungodly people. It was true then and it is true today, that our world has no shortage of ungodly men and women. In truth they are everywhere. These folks have little use for God or His ways. They live as they please, speak as coarsely as they like, and make no effort to live a self-controlled, upright, moderate, God-fearing life. And often these very folks, who should be the last ones attempting to give anyone advice or counsel, are in fact the first ones to express their opinions, and spout their unrighteous counsel.

If you happen to work with them or are otherwise forced to spend time with them, they will soon let you know how foolish they think you are to hold to Biblical values, values they consider hopelessly outdated and primitive. Are you engaged to a woman, but still don’t sleep with her? How foolish and naïve you must be! How can you make a purchase without first trying it out! Are you attempting to submit to the leadership of your husband? What a hopeless, backward, foolish woman you must be! Are you so behind the times that you think we should live the way they did in the 1950’s? Do you give a tenth of your income to the church? How incredibly stupid! How do you ever expect to get ahead, when you are giving a major portion of your income away – and to a church that is filled with hypocrites, no less!

Anyone determined to live for Jesus will sooner or later find just such an “adviser” who will tell them that their approach to life is backward, outdated, foolish, and absurd. Their scorn for your Scripturally-based lifestyle will pour forth from their lips, sometimes in tiny snippets, and other times in lengthy diatribes. At such times there is a tremendous temptation and psychological pressure to wilt and agree with your would-be counselor: “Yes, of course I have been a bit foolish. I can see your point and I’m going to be reevaluating some things and making some changes.” But David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit declares that you are blessed when you refuse this kind of counsel – the “counsel of the ungodly.” Of course ungodly people are not going to be able to understand or appreciate our values and our lifestyle! How could they? Paul writes, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). To expect an unregenerate man or woman to wisely evaluate the moral and spiritual choices we make would be like asking a four-year-old to comment on a lecture about quantum physics.

David goes on to give another behavior from which the blessed man or woman refrains: “…Nor stands in the path of sinners.” Not only does the blessed man refuse the counsel of the ungodly, he also resists the example of the ungodly. Sometimes upright men and women are tripped up, not by direct advice to forsake the ways of God, but rather by simply observing the paths, the choices, habits, decisions, language, and attitudes of those who have never tasted the grace of Jesus Christ. This would not be much of a temptation if every sinner and godless person failed miserably in all that they do. But such is not the case. There are men and women who care nothing for God and yet seem to be doing better than we are. They getting promotions at work while we are left behind. They drive better cars, live in better houses, are married to prettier wives, have more friends… Surely they must know something that we don’t. And so a subtle temptation arises to “stand in the path of sinners,” to do what they do and hope for the same results. But David declares that blessed is the man who refuses to do this.

Don’t Sit in the Mocker’s Seat!

David’s third “don’t” is: “…Nor sits in the seat of the scornful.” Scorn is a particularly ugly word. It speaks of the joy some people receive in mocking others – in this case the mocking of the godly by the ungodly. No doubt this heaping up of scorn has its origins in the ultimate mocker and scorner – Satan himself. While some ungodly men are content to ignore believers, others are not so generous. They take a perverse pleasure in ridiculing the poor, benighted, primitive, bigoted, backward evangelical Christians who still believe that sex before marriage is sinful, that homosexuality is immoral, and that no woman should have the right to “choose” to murder her unborn baby. They see no value in living responsibly and conservatively, refusing to take moral shortcuts, submitting to those in authority over us, and walking in meekness and humility, trusting that Jesus will exalt us in His heavenly kingdom, and not finding the need to exalt ourselves here in this life. In the minds of the mockers and scorners, these values are the ultimate folly and only those who are either stupid or mentally ill could believe and live this way.

These then are David’s three disqualifiers for the amazing blessings of which he will soon speak. Those who would live in God’s favor and see His blessings overflowing in their lives cannot and must not 1) walk in the counsel of the ungodly, or 2) stand in the path of sinners, or 3) sit in the seat of the scornful. This is what they must not do. But what should they do?

Where to Delight

Reading the LawDavid quickly turns to the positive side, declaring: “But his delight is in the law of the LORD…” This man who so sharply deviates from the ways of the ungodly, delights in the law of God. He doesn’t merely read a few verses now and then out of curiosity. He does not read a chapter or two every morning because he knows it is his Christian duty. He absolutely loves and delights in the ways, the laws, the words, and the values of his God. David goes on to say, “And in his law he meditates day and night.” This sounds as though David had been reading the first chapter of Joshua, where God tells His servant:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Joshua 1:8).

David likewise recommends that meditation on God’s word should become a “day and night” practice for those who would inherit God’s richest blessings. David does not merely say we are to read the Scriptures – he tells us we are to meditate on them, and this meditation is not to be a “five minutes in the morning” experience, but something which becomes a normal part of our days and our lives. But what does it mean to meditate on the Scriptures? Certainly this is not the new age kind of meditation where one crosses his legs, touches his thumb and forefinger together, chants a solitary note, and tries (impossibly) to clear his mind. No, the meditation recommended by the Holy Spirit is deep, concentrated thought on the truths of the Scriptures. The Hebrew word which is translated meditates contains the idea of speaking the words aloud. (I can’t help but put in a plug here for a practice I first began around forty years ago, which was to read the Bible aloud. I have found that this is a wonderful way to focus on the Word of God, and it seems to release the anointing of the Holy Spirit in a way that silent reading cannot quite match.)

Like a Tree…

For such a man or woman – one who refuses to live like the ungodly, but rather loves and delights in God’s word and thinks about it constantly, David promises an incredible blessing:

He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

In short, David is declaring that when we fulfill the previously stated conditions, we will experience a constant and continual flow of divine life, we will have no dry seasons, and we will succeed in all our efforts. Wow! Anyone who could bottle and sell such a blessing would be fabulously wealthy in a very short time. But David says the cost is not a matter of dollars, it is simply a life spent honoring God and delighting in His words. Again, this is very close to what the Lord promised Joshua – that if he would meditate on God's word day and night, the Lord would “make his way prosperous and he would have good success.” For people who like to succeed (and who doesn’t?) here then is the divine formula.

Abiding in the Vine

There is a New Testament parallel to this blessing which we must understand. It is found in John 15, where Jesus tells us to abide in Him and declares that if we do, we shall bear much fruit. Using the illustration of a grapevine and its branches, He declares that He is the vine and we are His branches. As we abide in Jesus, His life flows in us, and fruit is guaranteed. He even states that we can ask whatever we desire and it will be done for us. In essence, Jesus is promising the exact same blessing as David describes in Psalm One – He is telling us that as we abide in Him we will prosper in what we do, divine life will flow in and through us, and we will be fruitful.

The major difference between the two promises has to do with the conditions necessary for the blessing. David declares it to be avoiding the ways and attitudes of the ungodly and meditating on the law and word of God. But Jesus says the blessing is dependent upon abiding in Him. So which is right? Or is there an Old Testament blessing for the Jews by delighting in the Scriptures and a New Testament blessing for the Christians through abiding in Jesus?

Actually the two promises are one and the same. They do not differ nor do they contradict each other. Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh. He tells the Jews, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). It is in the Word of God, in both Old and New Testaments, that we find Jesus and learn of Him. Whether reading about the Tabernacle in the wilderness, or the burnt sacrifices, or the prophets, or the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, in some way and in some form all the Old Testament Scriptures are a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ – His life, His death, and His resurrection from the dead. And of course in the New Testament, we find Him clearly revealed.

It is as we read these inspired words of God, and feed sweetly upon Jesus, who is our True Vine, our Bread of Life, our Fountain of Living Waters, our Manna, that we draw constantly on the life of God. Here is where the blessings flow; here is where divine life stirs in our hearts and equips us to do Christ’s work in the power of the Holy Spirit. And in this place of dependence and faith in Jesus, we find that we will indeed prosper in what we do, and we shall never wither. Jesus is a vine of incredible richness, and those who meditate in His word and feed on Him shall surely be blessed!


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