Book I

Psalm 1

The editor who placed this jewel at the beginning of The Psalms did a wise thing, for it points the way to blessing and warns about divine judgment. These are frequent themes in The Psalms. The images in this psalm would remind the reader of earlier teachings in the Old Testament. In Genesis, you find people walking with God (__GEN__5:21, 24; 6:9; 17:1), the life-giving river (__GEN__2:10-14), and trees and fruit (__GEN__2:8-10). The law of the Lord connects the psalm with Exodus through Deuteronomy. Finding success by meditating on that law and obeying it reminds us of Joshua 1:8. The psalm presents two ways—the way of blessing and the way of judgment—which was the choice Israel had to make (Deut. 30:15, 19). Jesus used a similar image (Matt. 7:13-14). Bible history seems to be built around the concept of "two men": the "first Adam" and the "last Adam" (Rom. 5; 1 Cor. 15:45)—Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, David and Saul—and Bible history culminates in Christ and Antichrist. Two men, two ways, two destinies.

Psalm 1 is a wisdom psalm and focuses on God's Word, God's blessing on those who obey it and meditate on it, and God's ultimate judgment on those who rebel. Wisdom psalms also wrestle with the problem of evil in the world and why God permits the prosperity of the wicked who reject His law. Other wisdom psalms include Pss. 10, 12, 15, 19, 32, 34, 37, 49, 50, 52, 53, 73, 78, 82, 91, 92, 94, 111, 112, 119, 127, 128, 133, and 139. While this psalm depicts two ways, it actually describes three different persons and how they relate to the blessing of the Lord.

The Person Who Receives a Blessing from God (vv. 1-2)

God's covenant with Israel made it clear that He would bless their obedience and judge their disobedience (Lev. 26; Deut. 28). The word "blessed" is asher, the name of one of Jacob's sons (Gen. 30:12). It's plural: "O the happinesses! O the blessednesses!" The person described here met the conditions and therefore God blessed him.[1] The word "man" is generic and includes both men and women. If we want God's blessing, we, too, must meet the conditions.

We must be directed by the Word (v. 1). Israel was a unique and separate people; they were among the other nations but not to be contaminated by them (Num. 23:9; Ex. 19:5-6; Deut. 32:8-10; 33:28). So it is with God's people today: we are in the world but not of the world (John 17:11-17). We must beware of friendship with the world (James 4:4) that leads to being spotted by the world (James 1:27) and even loving the world (1 John 2:15-17). The result will be conforming to the world (Rom. 12:1-2) and, if we don't repent, being condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:32). Lot looked toward Sodom, pitched his tent toward Sodom, and soon moved into Sodom (Gen. 13:10-12; 14:12). Though he was a saved man (2 Peter 2:7-8), Lot lost86 all that he had when the Lord destroyed the cities of the plain (Gen. 18-19; 1 Cor. 3:11-23). We move into sin and disobedience gradually (see Prov. 4:14-15 and 7:6ff). If you follow the wrong counsel, then you will stand with the wrong companions and finally sit with the wrong crowd. When Jesus was arrested, Peter didn't follow Christ's counsel and flee from the garden (Matt. 26:31; John 16:32; 18:8), but followed and entered the high priest's courtyard. There he stood with the enemy (John 18:15-18) and ultimately sat with them (Luke 22:55). The result was denying Christ three times. The "ungodly" are people who are willfully and persistently evil; "sinners" are those who miss the mark of God's standards but who don't care; the "scornful" make light of God's laws and ridicule that which is sacred (see Prov. 1:22; 3:24; 21:24).[2] The Hebrew word letz means "to mock, to scorn." In modern Hebrew, letzen means "a clown. " When laughing at holy things and disobeying holy laws become entertainment, then people have reached a low level indeed.

We must be delighted with the Word (v. 2). We move from the negative in verse 1 to the positive. Delighting in the Word and meditating on the Word must go together (119:15-16, 23-24, 47-48, 77-78), for whatever we enjoy, we think about and pursue. "Meditate" in the Hebrew means "to mutter, to read in an undertone," for orthodox Jews speak as they read the Scriptures, meditate and pray. God's Word is in their mouth (Josh. 1:8). If we speak to the Lord about the Word, the Word will speak to us about the Lord. This is what is meant by "abiding in the Word" (1 John 2:14, 24). As God's people, we should prefer God's Word to food (119:103; Job 23:12; Jer. 15:17; Matt. 4:4; 1 Peter 2:2), sleep (119:55, 62, 147-148, 164), wealth (119:14, 72, 127, 162), and friends (119:23, 51, 95, 119). The way we treat the Bible is the way we treat Jesus Christ, for the Bible is His Word to us. The verbs in verse 1 are in the perfect tense and speak of a settled way of life, while in verse 2, "meditate" is the imperfect tense and speaks of constant practice. "He keeps meditating."[3] V. 1 can be translated "has not walked... has not stood... has not sat." The only person who ever lived that way on earth was Jesus Christ, and in Him, we have the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).

The Person Who Is a Blessing (v. 3)

God blesses us that we might be a blessing to others (Gen. 12:2). If the blessing stays with us, then the gifts become more important than the Giver, and this is idolatry. We are to become channels of God's blessing to others. It's a joy to receive a blessing but an even greater joy to be a blessing. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

The tree is a familiar image in Scripture, symbolizing both a kingdom (Ezek. 17:24; Dan. 4; Matt. 13:32) and an individual (52:8; 92:12-14; Prov. 11:30; Isa. 44:4 and 58:11; Jer. 17:5-8; Matt. 7:15-23). Balaam saw the people of Israel as a "garden by a river" with trees in abundance (Num. 24:6). Like a tree, the godly person is alive, beautiful, fruitful, useful, and enduring. The most important part of a tree is the hidden root system that draws up water and nourishment, and the most important part of the believer's life is the "spiritual root system" that draws on the hidden resources we have in Christ (Eph. 3:17; Col. 2:7). This is known as "abiding in Christ" (John 15:1-9).

In Scripture, water for drinking is a picture of the Spirit of God (John 7:37-39; 1 Cor. 10:4), while water for washing pictures the Word of God (Ps. 119:9; John 15:3; Eph. 5:26). Thirst for water is an image of thirst for God (42:1; 63:1; 143:6; Matt. 5:6; Rev. 22:17), and the river is often a picture of God's provision of spiritual blessing and help for His people (36:8; 46:4; 78:16; 105:41; Ex. 17:5-6; Num. 20:9-11; Ezek. 47; and Rev. 22:1-2). We can't nourish and support ourselves; we need to be rooted87 in Christ and drawing upon His spiritual power. To meditate on the Word (v. 2) is one source of spiritual energy, as are prayer and fellowship with God's people. "Religion lacks depth and volume because it is not fed by hidden springs," wrote Alexander Maclaren.

Trees may wither and die, but the believer who abides in Christ stays fresh, green, and fruitful (see 92:12-14). "Fruit" speaks of many different blessings: winning people to Christ (Rom. 1:13), godly character (Rom. 6:22, Gal. 5:22-23), money given to the Lord's work (Rom. 15:28), service and good works (Col. 1:10), and praise to the Lord (Heb. 13:15). It's a tragedy when a believer ignores the "root system" and begins to wither. We must remember that the tree doesn't eat the fruit; others eat it. We must also remember that fruit isn't the same as "results," because fruit has in it the seed for more fruit. Fruit comes from life, the life of God flowing in and through us.

The godly person described in verses 1-3 is surely a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to John 14:6 is the way (v. 1), the truth (v. 2), and the life (v. 3).

The Person Who Needs a Blessing (vv. 4-6)

The first half of the psalm describes the godly person, while the last half focuses on the ungodly, the people the godly must seek to reach with the gospel. How desperately these people need to know God and receive His blessings in Christ! The wicked are pictured in many ways in Scripture, but the image here is chaff. In contrast to the righteous, who are like trees, the ungodly are dead, rootless, blown about, and destined for the fire. Chaff is worth nothing. When the grain is winnowed, the wind blows the chaff away, and what chaff remains is thrown into the fire. John the Baptist used these same images of the tree, fruit, and chaff to warn sinners to repent (Matt. 3:7-12). The wicked of this world seem rich and substantial, but from God's point of view, they are cheap, unsubstantial, and destined for judgment. (See Ps. 73.) No wonder Jesus used the garbage dump outside Jerusalem (gehenna) as a picture of hell, because that's where the cheap waste ends up in the fire (Mark 9:43-48). The chaff is so near the grain, but in the end, the two are separated, and the chaff is blown away or burned. But until that happens, we have the opportunity to witness to them and seek to bring them to Christ.

There is a coming day of judgment, and the Lord, the Righteous Judge, will separate the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the goats, and the trees from the chaff, and no unbeliever will be able to stand in the assembly of the righteous. The verb knows in verse 6 doesn't mean that God is aware of them intellectually and has the godly in his mind. Rather, it means that God has chosen them and providentially watched over them and brought them finally to His glory. The word know is used, as in Amos 3:2, to mean "to choose, to enter into covenant relationship with, to be personally acquainted with."[4] See Gen. 18:19, Ex. 33:12, 2 Sam. 7:20 and 2 Tim. 2:19 for other examples of this meaning of the word "know. " The Jewish Publication Society translation of Amos 3:2 is: "You alone have I singled out of all the families of the earth." That same translation gives __PSALM 1__ verse 6 as "For the Lord cherishes the way of the righteous... ."At the last judgment, Jesus says to the wicked, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (Matt. 7:23, nkjv).

This psalm begins with "blessed" and ends with "perish." True believers are blessed in Christ (Eph. 1:3ff). They have received God's blessing, and they ought to be a blessing to others, especially to the chaff that will one day be thrown into the88 fire. Let's seek to win as many of them as we can.

Psalm 2

Psalm 1 emphasizes God's law while Psalm 2 focuses on prophecy. The people in Psalm 1 delight in the law, but the people in Psalm 2 defy the law. Psalm 1 begins with a beatitude and Psalm 2 ends with a beatitude. Psalm 1 is never quoted in the New Testament, while Psalm 2 is quoted or alluded to at least eighteen times, more than any single psalm. (See Matt. 3:17; 7:23; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35; John 1:49; Acts 4:25-26; 13:33; Phil. 2:12; Heb. 1:2, 5; 5:5; Rev. 2:26-27; 11:18; 12:5; 19:15). It is a Messianic psalm, along with Pss. 8, 16, 22, 23, 40, 41, 45, 68, 69, 102, 110, and 118. The test of a Messianic psalm is that it is quoted in the New Testament as referring to Jesus (Luke 24:27, 44). But this is also a royal psalm, referring to the coronation of a Jewish king and the rebellion of some vassal nations that hoped to gain their freedom. Other royal psalms are 18, 20, 21, 45 (a royal wedding), 72, 89, 101, 110 and 144. According to Acts 4:25, David wrote this psalm, so it may have grown out of the events described in 2 Samuel 5:17-25, 8:1-14, and 10:1-19.

Israel was ruled directly by the Lord through His prophets and judges until the nation asked for a king (1 Sam. 8). The Lord knew this would happen (Gen. 17:6, 16; 35:11; Num. 24:7, 17) and made arrangements for it (Deut. 17:12-14). Saul was not appointed to establish a dynasty, because the king had to come from Judah (Gen. 49:10), and Saul was from Benjamin. David was God's choice to establish the dynasty that would eventually bring the Messiah into the world (2 Sam. 7). However, both Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7 go far beyond David and his successors, for both the covenant and the psalm speak about a universal kingdom and a throne established forever. This can be fulfilled only in Jesus Christ, the Son of David (Matt. 1:1).

Some psalms you see (Pss. 114, 130, 133), some psalms you feel (Pss. 22, 129, 137, 142), but this one you hear, because it is a record of four voices.

Conspiracy—The Voice of the Nations (vv. 1-3)

David didn't expect a reply when he asked this question, because there really is no reply. It was an expression of astonishment: "When you consider all that the Lord has done for the nations, how can they rebel against Him!" God has provided for their basic needs (Acts 14:15-17), guided them, kept them alive, and sent a Savior to bring forgiveness and eternal life (Acts 17:24-31; see Dan. 4:32). Yet, from the tower of Babel (Gen. 11) to the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 4:21-31) to the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19:llff), the Bible records humanity's foolish and futile rebellions against the will of the Creator. The kings and minor rulers form a conspiracy to break the bonds that the Lord has established for their own good. The picture is that of a stubborn and raging animal, trying to break the cords that bind the yoke to its body (Jer. 5:5; 27:2). But the attempt is futile (vain) because the only true freedom comes from submitting to God and doing His will. Freedom without authority is anarchy, and anarchy destroys. I once saw a bit of graffiti that said, "All authority destroys creativity." What folly! Authority is what releases and develops creativity, whether it's a musician, an athlete, or a surgeon. Apart from submitting to the authority of truth and law, there can be no true creativity.89 The British theologian P. T. Forsythe wrote, "The first duty of every soul is to find not its freedom but its Master."

But the nations' rebellion isn't against "God" in some abstract way; they defy the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The one thing the nations can agree on is "We will not have this man to reign over us" (Luke 19:14). The word "Messiah" comes from the Hebrew word meaning "to anoint"; the Greek equivalent is "Christ." In the Old Testament, kings were anointed (1 Sam. 10:1; 2 Kings 11:12), as were prophets (1 Kings 9:16) and priests (Ex. 28:41). Jesus said that the world hated Him and would also hate those who followed Him (John 7:7, 15, 18-19, 24-25; Matt. 24:9; Luke 21:17). The phrase "set themselves" means "get ready for war." The consequences of this defiance against the Lord and His Christ are described in Romans 1:18ff, and it isn't a pretty picture.

Mockery—The Voice of God the Father (vv. 4-6)

The peaceful scene in heaven is quite a contrast to the noisy scene on earth, for God is neither worried nor afraid as puny man rages against Him. He merely laughs in derision (37:8-13; 59:1-9). After all, to God, the greatest rulers are but grass to be cut down, and the strongest nations are only drops in the bucket (Isa. 40:6-8, 12-17). Today, God is speaking to the nations in His grace and calling them to trust His Son, but the day will come when God will speak to them in His wrath and send terrible judgment to the world (Rev. 6-19). If people will not accept God's judgment of sin at the cross and trust Christ, they will have to accept God's judgment of themselves and their sins.

It was God who gave David his throne on Zion, and it was God who gave David victory after victory as he defeated the enemies of Israel. But this was only a picture of an even greater coronation: God declares that there is but one legitimate King, and that is His Son who is now seated on the throne of glory (Mark 16:19; 1 Cor. 15:25; Eph. 1:19-23). Jesus Christ is both King and Priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:5-6; 7:lff). Today, there is no king in Israel (Hos. 3:4), but there is a King enthroned in the heavenly Zion (Heb. 12:22-24). If we fail to see Jesus Christ in this psalm, we miss its message completely: His death (vv. 1-3, Acts 4:23-28), resurrection (v. 7, Acts 13:33), ascension and enthronement in glory (v. 6), and His return and righteous rule on earth (vv. 8-9, Rev. 2:9, 27; 12:5).

Victory—the Voice of God the Son (vv. 7-9)

The enthroned King now speaks and announces what the Father said to Him. "I will declare the decree" informs the rebels that God rules His creation on the basis of sovereign decrees. He doesn't ask for a consensus or take a vote. God's decrees are just (7:6), and He never makes a mistake. According to Acts 13:33, __PSALM 2__verse 7 refers to the resurrection of Christ, when He was "begotten" from the tomb and came forth in glory. (See Rom. 1:4 and Heb. 1:5 and 5:5.) In the ancient Near East, kings were considered to be sons of the gods, but Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God. (See 89:26-27; 2 Sam. 7:14.) At our Lord's baptism, the Father alluded to verse 7 and announced that Jesus was His beloved Son (Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).

The Father has promised the Son complete victory over the nations, which means that one day He will reign over all the kingdoms of the world. Satan offered Him this honor in return for His worship, but Jesus refused (Matt. 4:8-11). Christ's90 rule will be just but firm, and if they oppose Him, He will smash them like so many clay pots. The Hebrew word translated "break" can also mean "shepherd," which explains the King James Version translations of Revelation 2:27, 12:5, and 19:15. Before going to battle, ancient eastern kings participated in a ritual of breaking clay jars that symbolized the enemy army, and thus guaranteed the help of the gods to defeat them. Jesus needs no such folly; He smashes His enemies completely (Rev. 19:llff; Dan. 2:42-44). Jesus is God, Jesus is King, and Jesus is Conqueror.