The Fruit of Meditation
: Psalm 1 :
By Lee Jones
The Bible is full of plenty of examples of righteous people, wicked people, and solid comparisons of both. This psalm is no different, but it offers a clear distinction between them.
Verses 1 and 2 give a simple definition of the righteous, what he does and does not do. He doesn’t waste time and energy engaging in sin with his fellow sinners, but rather takes his delight in YHWH and his Law.
Laid before us here in this psalm is a beautiful spoiler of what our relationship with our God leads to: joy, a fruitful life, a shining witness, and eternity with our sinner-justifying God.
An important word here is “meditates.” This isn’t emptying the mind and becoming one with the universe like so many people practice today. It also isn’t a neurotic attempt to not only memorize the Law and perfectly obey it entirely as a way to justify yourself. Meditation on scripture implies not merely study, although that’s certainly part of it, but also deep consideration. One who meditates not only reads but ponders God’s Word, its meanings and uses, not only the commands but also the promises and the covenants.
He even ponders God’s revelation in the night; there is no timeclock he’s punching. YHWH is important enough to think about, learn about, and worship at any hour.
In the rest of Psalm 1 we see how the richness of this worship affects him, and even his neighbors. Verse 3 gives a great simile; he’s like a well-watered tree that not only produces leaves (a tall order for most of the year in Israel) but even bears good fruit in season. He prospers, not in a name-it-claim-it way, but that he is at peace with God and is blessed (as Verse 1 says).
We are graced with the negative side next. The wicked, who don’t care about YHWH and his Law, is the furthest thing from a fruitful crop. He is the dry leavings of the harvest, called chaff, which the wind blows away and is forgotten. John the Baptist uses a tree metaphor in Matthew 3:10, telling the scribes and Pharisees that bad, fruitless trees will be “cut down and thrown into the fire, and speaks of chaff similarly in 3:12.
The psalmist brings it back from the metaphor by talking of YHWH’s justice. The wicked cannot stand before the judgment, not even in the congregation of the righteous. YHWH does not know him in the saving way he knows those to whom he’s granted righteousness. The LORD establishes his steps(Prov. 16:9), but the wicked perishes.
The impermanence of sin and its devotees should concern and comfort us. We should keep watch over ourselves, zealous to bear fruit in keeping with repentance, and be concerned for the lost. At the same time it is truly a comfort to know that we believers are being sanctified, having been grafted into the olive tree, and we are kept in covenant relationship with God by the blood of Jesus. He promises in John 6:39 that, of all of those that his Father gives him, “I lose nothing but raise it up on the last day.” He holds his church close and does not let them go. “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in him will have eternal life, and I myself will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40)
Back to the matter of meditation. Psalm 1 draws a clear line: the one who delights in YHWH and meditates on his Word thrives, all others perish. That is sobering. Not many of us can truly tout the richness and joy of our study and prayer times, but our Heavenly Father uses the Bible to push us forward into deeper obedience with grace, not guilt. Laid before us here in this psalm is a beautiful spoiler of what our relationship with our God leads to: joy, a fruitful life, a shining witness, and eternity with our sinner-justifying God. Take a minute, or ten, to thank God from your heart for giving us his Law, his Gospel, and the distinction between the two. That is to say, thank him for giving us life and the gift of meditation in the Word.
Glory to God alone.