In “preaching study” posts, I share study & reflection as I prepare the Sunday message . I welcome interaction in this process, so feel free to share your thoughts. All Scripture quotes are from the NRSV unless otherwise noted. Thanks!
This week, I resume a short series of sermons from the Psalms (Psalm 23 a couple of weeks ago, Ps. 1 this week, then Ps 84 the following week).
Here’s where I am so far on Psalm 1:
Initial thoughts on the psalm’s structure (haven’t gotten to commentaries yet):
vv1-2 – The righteous person
vv3-4 – Contrasting the righteous and the wicked person
vv5-6 – The wicked person
Or, we could simply divide it in half:
vv1-3 – The righteous person
vv4-6 – The wicked person
Obviously, this psalm is a contrast between the righteous person who follows God and the wicked person who does not. Perhaps the reason it stands at the beginning of the book of psalms is because it presents this contrast in such a vivid and succinct manner. As an introduction to the book of psalms, it seems to say: “Righteousness is vastly better than wickedness, so choose righteousness.” We might think of the rest of the psalms as being read in light of this particular point, with the images of vibrant tree and nasty chaff from vv3-4 held at the front of our minds as well.
Speaking of which, I find the fact that there’s more to talk about and describe about the tree than the chaff a compelling, though implicit, way of saying there’s just much more to folks who choose God than those who don’t. The tree is (1) planted by streams of water, (2) yields fruit in season, (3) leaves don’t wither. Furthermore, this person prospers in everything they do (this will be an issue to consider in dialogue with the rest of Scripture). But the chaff is simply driven away by the wind. Not much more to say on that comparison really.
Noteworthy as well is that in v1 the psalmist seems to present the “advice,” “path,” and “seat” of the wicked as something that may be chosen. He points this out in order to warn us not to choose that way. But the opposite seems to be the case for the wicked in v5. They are not able to choose standing “at the judgment” or “in the congregation of the righteous” (we presume the psalmist means something like being in “good standing” or “standing well”). That option is closed to them. This seems to suggest that a change is needed in order to attain this good status, namely to abandon one’s wickedness and instead delight “in the law of the Lord” (v2).