Ascension Lutheran Church

Calgary, AB

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Psalm 1

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
    or take the path that sinners tread,
    or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water,
    which yield their fruit in its season,
    and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
    The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

Sometimes people are intimidated by the Psalms because they are described as poetry—and poetry can be unfairly characterized as difficult to understand and abstract. But the Psalms are very practical poetry. Often described as the “hymnbook” of Israel (because they were used in worship) Psalms are intended both to praise God as well as to instruct the congregation in what it meant to live as a child of God.

There is nothing abstract about Psalm 1, instead it is concrete, active and useful as it contrasts the life of the righteous (one who follows God) with the life of the unrighteous (one who disobeys God). Even when it talks about an intellectual exercise such as meditating on God’s law, the purpose is to show the way this influences how the righteous live i.e. their meditation on God’s law guides how they live their lives, the words they speak, the actions they take, the decisions they make.

The Psalm also describes the benefits of this way of life, but not in terms of a reward system, rather in terms of consequences. So it’s not a case of if you do enough right things God gives you a prize, but instead, if you walk the path God (who created you and knows you best) has set out for you there won’t be the issues caused by faulty choices.

Finally, the Psalm reminds us the Lord watches over the way of the righteous. Here watching isn’t passive, as if God is simply observing from a great distance. Rather, the Lord is active in the lives of the righteous, instructing, guiding and directing, enabling fragile, fallen humans to walk in the path God has set for them, that they may enjoy the blessings of a life ordered by Him.