As we noted in our previous installment, Psalm 1 is a psalm appropriate for any season of life. Why? Because you, Christian, live in a world where sin seems normal, and holiness seems weird. What your grandparents may have considered warped and demented, this world celebrates. You, according to the world, ought to be mocked (and maybe worse) for daring to question the prevailing wisdom. We need Psalm 1 for the living of these days—to recalibrate our sense of what is right, to bolster and strengthen our sometimes weak resolve, and to point us to the Savior who does all things well and who “knows the way of the righteous” (v.6), and shepherds and guards well the way of his people.
Psalm 1 tells us a lot about the nature of blessing and how the shape that it takes in the lives of God’s saints is often counterintuitive—not at all what the world might expect when it envisions “the blessed life.”
In our previous installment, we considered what Psalm 1 teaches us about What Blessing Is, and in today’s Saturday Psalm edition, we shall briefly consider What Blessing Yields.
What Blessing Yields (verses 3–4)
The psalmist gives us two analogies of that blessedness he just asserted in verse 2.
What is it like to be that blessed man who is so utterly consumed with the Word of God? Verse 3 tells us he will be “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in its season.”
Firm. It conjures up images of something like a behemoth cedar or redwood, with roots dug down deep.
When my wife and I lived in Mississippi, we were met with the realities of hurricane season, particularly as it affected the Gulf Coast. While we were safely ensconced in central Mississippi, some three hours to the north, the realities of these torrential storms nevertheless made local headlines.
During hurricane season, we would see footage of the storm hitting the Gulf Coast—shingles flying, small livestock animals and tractor-trailers being blown about in the wind, and Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel (always Jim Cantore!) standing there being pummeled by the storm. And behind him you could see massive palm trees, being positively abused by the wind, bent so far over that they looked on the verge of snapping—yet they did not.
A few days later, the news team would return to the Gulf, showing the aftermath: houses leveled, debris everywhere, utter catastrophe. But in the background behind the news reporter’s head, those trees remained—palm branches billowing in the breeze once again—deceptively tranquil, almost as if no violence had recently taken place.
Deep-rooted, firm, and secure were these trees. The storm had done its best to brutally shake and uproot them, but they stood fast.
Verse 3 is an Old Testament picture of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints: long faithfulness over a lifetime.
I love watching older saints in the “final quarter of life” as one of my aged former church members put it. I love observing people who have walked long with the Lord. And even when all hell seems unleashed against them, they press on, enduring every trial and misery. They plod on, still trusting, still praising God.
You probably have such folks in your own congregation—aged saints who have gone through all kinds of hellish misery and sore trial. So many times, when you talk to these folks and ask them how they keep enduring, their answers are amazing.
I will never forget the response of one such saint a few years ago. This was a man who, in his eighties, in the span of about a year had to bury an adult son, and then a grandson, and then his other adult son, and then finally his wife of some sixty years. I asked, “How do you keep going?” He replied, “Well, it’s true, this week’s a little rough. But I’ve had worse. But that’s OK. God is Good. I’ve been blessed. And Christ is near. We’ll see Him (and them) soon.”
That is the effect that the Word of God has on the soul of a believer. Firmly rooted. God’s saints cannot be shaken, for they are rooted in Him.
In Psalm 1, this tree is hyper-secure, so much so that it is not only sturdy and durable, but it is positively fruitful. The psalmist says that these saints dug down deep in the Word of God, and trusting in the God of that Word were spiritually fruitful.
Do you know spiritually fruitful people? I love what John Piper says here:
O for more fruitful people! You know them. They are refreshing and nourishing to be around. You go away from them fed. You go away strengthened. You go away with your taste for spiritual things awakened. Their mouth is a fountain of life. Their words are healing and convicting and encouraging and deepening and enlightening. Being around them is like a meal. This is the effect of delighting in the Word of God.1
So, the first image analogy is a fruitful, firmly rooted tree. There is a second image that the psalmist gives us, conveying much the same analogy from related arboreal imagery.
Verse 3: “a leaf [that] does not wither, in all that he does, he prospers”—something that is durable.
You can imagine the context of the psalmist: the climate of the Middle East where the hot winds are blowing, the rain is not falling, and all the other trees that are not planted by streams are withering. In spite of all the heat and drought, there is a leaf that remains green. And, once again, he is talking about a believer.
The vitality, the delight, even the joy of this person is durable and deep. It does not depend on which way the wind is blowing or his changing circumstances.
Note the end of verse 3: “In all that he does, he prospers.” The wicked may be scoffing (verse 1), they may even be conspiring against him (you will see that theme again and again in the psalms), and yet this verse has the audacity to say that despite these circumstances, in all that he does, the believer prospers.
Now, does this mean nothing negative will befall the believer? No disease, or job loss, or wayward children, or strife in marriage? Not at all. Scripture is very realistic about the fact that sometimes in this life the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. And it discourages us to no end.
We see instances of this in real life, and Scripture confirms it elsewhere (cf. Hab 1:13; Ps 73:3–9; Jer 12:1; Ps 94:3; Eccl 7:15). We can all think of people we know, perhaps even in our own churches: how can a woman who is a righteous saint, now a struggling single mom, beaten and abandoned by her husband and the father of her children, be suffering like she is—and the man responsible just get off scot-free? It is entirely wrong. This is the reality of our fallen world.
This is why we so desperately need the Lord’s Day and uplifting texts like this one. We need the Lord to lift our drooping arms, like Moses, to raise our downcast faces and reset our gaze once again. We need God, by His Spirit and through the means of His Word, to pull us back from our narrow, myopic perspective and for Him to show us again the broader picture. We need the Lord to draw back the curtain, as it were, on our perceived reality and to recalibrate our vision, allowing us to see the fuller view of what is happening, particularly in light of eternity. That is part of what Psalm 1 does for us. It gives us that jolt of eternal perspective—especially in those moments where, frankly, doing the godly thing does not seem to be making much difference, and the wicked sure seem to be having a rather jolly time.
The psalmist is evaluating these two divergent ways—the blessed way and the way of the wicked—and he is evaluating them in light of eternity.
Because contrary to all outward evidence, ultimately the righteous one prospers because there is a treasure laid up in heaven for him that is irrevocable. No matter how much injustice he suffers in this life, eternally speaking, he prospers.
Note verse 4: “The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away.” Notice this is the complete reverse of the blessed man: not firmly planted; not deeply rooted; not secure. Quite the opposite—the wicked man is rootless, aimless, drifting, exposed, and vulnerable, blown about like the wind.
My wife and I were reading through Psalm 1 with our boys not too long ago and they asked, “What is chaff?” I explained that it is the stuff that gets left behind in the fields after harvest time (the blank stares indicated I ought to try another tactic as agricultural metaphors were clearly lost on their ears).
So, I explained, it is kind of the like the leaves in autumn after the peak colors. Once winter rolls in, pick up a leaf and how does it look? What happens? It is dead and brown and crumbles into papery bits at the lightest touch, blown about all by the winter wind. That is something like chaff. Scripture says the wicked are like that. It may not appear so in this life, but in light of eternity, the wicked are like that.
The believer, on the other hand, is like the mighty sequoia of the redwood forest: thick and deep and massive, large enough that one can drive a car through it. Hundreds of years old, it is still yielding green leaves; firm and unshakeable.
How we need the truths of Psalm 1 to work their way deep into our very bones, and for our souls to marinate in their life-giving, paradigm-shifting blessedness.
There is more for us to unearth in this splendid chapter of Scripture, and we shall do that when we return later to Part 3 in our Saturday Psalm Series.
©Sean Morris. All Rights Reserved.
- John Piper, “Meditate on the Word of the Lord Day and Night.” Desiring God, https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/meditate-on-the-word-of-the-lord-day-and-night.
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