Verse one of the first Psalm talks about the negative things, the things the righteous person doesn’t do. Futato says, “The negative description connotes moral decline that begins with taking the wrong advice (‘walk’), proceeds to act the wrong way (‘stand’), and results in becoming the wrong kind of person (‘sit’).”[1] Instead, according to Psalm 1:2, as far as the righteous person is concerned, “…his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” This is the picture of a sinless person. There are no sinless people in the world, and there have never been. We are all sinners and have all fallen short of this standard, but Jesus is that righteous person! We receive the deposit of his righteousness in our account when we believe in him. Then the Holy Spirit begins his miraculous transformation. We have Christ’s righteousness, and the Spirit begins his wonderful work of conforming us into His character. But it’s not by trying harder! It’s by faith alone. We are justified by believing in Jesus, and our change happens as that faith deepens and we mature as believers. Romans 8:29 tells us, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

The word for “law” in verse two is very familiar, Torah! We think of it as the dos and don’ts of the Bible. But the word is better understood as “teaching.” The Lord’s teaching, of course, is found in the scriptures, specifically in the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. There are five books in the Psalms as well, and most scholars believe that it is so to match the Pentateuch. There is no one-to-one correlation, but the similarity brings the reader of the Psalms into the realm of God’s teachings creatively. The instructions for right living contained in the first five books of the Bible set the stage for all the books to follow. They are foundational in too many ways to list here.

The change begins on the inside. The righteous person delights in the scriptures. Tesh says of the righteous person, “…the law of the Lord is not a burden to be borne, nor even an obligation to be met, but a delight to be enjoyed. It is a gift from the Creator of life providing instruction on how best to live in such a way as to find fullness of life and, consequently, happiness.”[2] That’s what the word “blessed” means! We have true happiness realizing that Jesus has fulfilled the standard for us ultimately, and we can find further happiness in life as the Holy Spirit conforms us to Jesus’ image. I think we misunderstand what it means to meditate. In the post 60’s revolution, meditation became what the Eastern Mystics said it was. It’s too empty the mind. It’s to relax the brain and think about nothing. But the Psalmist, as all the biblical writers, meant to exercise the brain with the teachings, Torah, of God’s word. Waltner says, “The psalm invites people to meditate (hāgāh), which implies murmuring and mumbling.”[3] While in Jerusalem several years ago, our group visited the Western Wall. We saw many traditional Jewish men come to the wall, and with the Torah open before them, they would rapidly bow in front of the wall and say things we could not understand or hear. I understand that this is what it means to “meditate.” Paul throws some new light on this for us in Colossians 3:16. He says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” The “word of Christ” inspires believers from the inside. The good news of Christ’s provision of perfect righteousness for us works its magic from the inside that works out in our life as right thinking, right behavior, and right attitudes.

[1] Futato, Mark D. 2009. “The Book of Psalms.” In Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs, 31–32. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

[2] Tesh, S. Edward, and Walter D. Zorn. 1999. Psalms. The College Press NIV Commentary. Joplin, MO: College Press.

[3] Waltner, James H. 2006. Psalms. Believers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale, PA; Waterloo, ON: Herald Press.