Psalm 1:1-3 says:
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in it season, whose leaf also shall not wither. And whatever he does shall prosper.”
I’d like to point out that the proper pronunciation of the first word of this passage is “bless-ed,” not “blessed.” The Bible uses one Hebrew word to refer to “bless-ed” and another to refer to “blessed.” The Hebrew word for “blessed” is barak. It is used in passages such as Genesis 1:28, which says of Adam and Eve, “And God blessed them.”
But the Hebrew word that is used here in Psalm 1:1 is esher. This word carries with it various shades of meaning. It can mean happy, fortunate, enviable, or prosperous.
Actually, esher is plural. That’s why it’s been suggested that it could accurately be translated as “blessednesses.” You see, this is not just one blessing that is being described. This is talking about abiding in a continual state of experiencing blessing after blessing after blessing. There is a multiplicity of blessings that rest upon the bless-ed person. I’d rather be “bless-ed” than just “blessed.”
Now, this passage gives us three main thoughts about the blessed. Let’s walk through these together. There is some awesome spiritual stuff here.
First, in verse 1 we are given a clear word about the blessed person in relation to separation. Blessed people are marked by things they do not do. You see, the book of Psalms opens by dispelling the notion that the sinful life is the good life.
Three negatives are mentioned. Negative #1 is: Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. Who do you look to for advice? Is that person a godly person? Is that person living under the lordship of Jesus Christ? Is that person highly knowledgeable of what the Bible teaches? Is that person wise in applying the Bible to everyday life? Is that person really in tune with the Lord?
Negative #2 is: Blessed is the man who does not stand in the path of sinners. There is a path of sin in which the ungodly stand. The fact that they stand in this path shows that their sinfulness isn’t just a one-time slip up. These people are engaged in a daily, continual lifestyle of sin. They aren’t trying to get off the path of sinners. To the contrary, they continually stand in it.
Negative #3 is: Blessed is the man who does not sit in the seat of the scornful. The Hebrew word that is translated as “scornful” is luwts. It can also be translated as “mockers” or “scoffers.” These scorners are people who have contempt for God, His ways, and His standards. The verse talks about the seat of the scornful because these people are settled and fixed in their disgust towards God.
The passage’s second main thought concerns the blessed person in relation to scripture. Verse 2 says of the blessed man: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” The phrase “the law of the Lord” refers to the law that God gave the Israelites through Moses. That law was written down. We might say it was the “Bible” by which the Israelites lived. These words actually apply to us all the more then because we have so much more of the holy scriptures than the Israelites did. If you would be blessed, love the scriptures and learn the scriptures.
And then the text’s third main thought deals with the blessed person in relation to success. Verse 3 says: “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.”
The blessed person is compared to a beautiful, bountiful tree. This tree is not withering away from a lack of water because it is planted by rivers of water. That ensures that it will continuingly thrive. Not surprisingly, this tree is not barren. It brings forth its fruit in season just when it should. Its leaf does not wither away either. The tree is strong and healthy. All of this is a beautiful description of the blessed person.
Then the description gets even better. The end of the verse says that whatever the blessed person does shall prosper. Of course, some people run off way too far with this idea. The “health and wealth” preachers that dominate religious television use verses like this to promote a wrong doctrine that can be summed up as “name it and claim it.” Just take your wish list to God, have the necessary amount of faith, and God will give you all the things that are on your wish list. But the truth is, God’s idea of prospering isn’t so simplistic.
I can best explain “whatever he does shall prosper” by pointing us to Joseph. Did you know that even when Joseph was wrongly sold into slavery God called him a prosperous man and caused whatever he did to prosper? Genesis 39:2-3 says:
“The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority.”
The Hebrew word that is used there to describe the prosperity that God gave to Joseph is the exact same Hebrew word that is used in verse 3 of our text. So, when you understand what God did for Joseph, even as Joseph was a servant in the house of Potiphar, you will understand the kind of prosperity that God bestows upon the blessed person.
When Joseph was a servant in Potiphar’s house, did he have a lot of money in his bank account? Absolutely not! Did he have a wife and children? No. Was he a man of prestige and standing in the community? No way. Nevertheless, God described him as a prosperous man.
Ultimately, Joseph did become rich beyond his wildest dreams as God made him the second most powerful man in all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. Also, God gave him a wife and two fine sons. But the fact is that Joseph was blessed and prosperous even before the power, wealth, and beautiful family. So it is with any person who truly lives out the requirements of Psalm 1:1-3.