PSALMS — A Tree In The Desert

It was Martin Luther, I think, who saw the Psalms as the prayers of Christ. That’s one way of looking at them. They are, at least, a nice collection of meditations on the condition of God’s people, on God’s promises, and where those two things meet.

I’ve not read the psalms as thoroughly as I should have. I am trying to correct that, and include some of my musings on the psalms, as I contemplate, here. (This may, or may not, be in any kind of order.)

So, Psalm 1.

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

If I am supposed to be that man, then clearly I am not blessed. Nor particularly happy, which is what this word — אָשַׁר — means. I don’t walk on the path (“stand in the way” could also mean blocking here, but the Hebrew speaks of going the same path that sinners do here) of sinners, nor sit at the seat of scoffers, but I suppose I might be called a one-man parade of wickedness, sin, and scoffing. I mean, I suppose it depends upon who you ask.

And I’m not sure I delight in the teaching of the Lord (בְּתוֹרַ֥ת יְהוָ֗ה) except maybe to see where it deviates from the actual story of scripture. I certainly don’t meditate on on it day and night.

I think this describes Jesus. He did not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or travel the paths of the sinners, or sit at the seat of the scoffers. He delighted in the teaching of the Lord, and he seem to think about that teaching a lot. Even when he wasn’t teaching himself.

And yet, Jesus did kind of walk in the counsel of the wicked, and the paths of sinners, and even sat in the seat of scoffers. I think of his arrest, his trial, his long walk to Golgotha. He walked the path of a sinner, as a sinner, but not a sinner. He walked in the counsel of the wicked, but not as one doing wickedness himself. And he sat in the seat of scoffers, but not to scoff. He was scoffed, berated, abused, and tortured. All the way to his death he was mocked and scoffed at — “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” (Mark 15:29-30)

And so yes, Jesus. Blessed.

3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

I love the desert. I love the patches of life that sprout up out of nowhere in a hot, dry, inhospitable land. In places where the rains aren’t regular, tall trees can only really grown where there is regular water, from a spring, or a river fed regularly by snowmelt or rain or springs somewhere else.

The man who avoids the ways of sinners, scoffers, and the wicked, who meditates on the teaching of God, is just such a tree. In a place of scarcity, that path and that teaching are abundance, the kind of abundance that guarantees regular blossoms — and not just the flowers that appear after a heavy downpour or a monsoon, and disappear just as soon as the water is gone — and much fruit. With predictable certainty.

This is Jesus, complete even with crucifixion imagery (thanks to Deuteronomy 21:22-23, in which the man put to death by hanging on a tree — עֵץ, the word in Hebrew is the same in both passages — is “cursed by God” and his death “defiles the land”), who becomes the cross, and in becoming that cross, bears abundant fruit of new life. This death is God’s bearing fruit, yielding abundantly, it is God’s prosperity for the world.

4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

The wicked, however, are temporary. There are here, and then gone. The waste from the harvest.

And, in fact, the wicked will not even stand (לֹא־יָקֻ֣מוּ) when the time of judgment comes. There are several images that come to my mind with this. First, the wicked will simply be blown away with the judgement comes (whatever that is). All that remain standing will be the righteous — those who do what the first two-thirds of this psalm suggest.

Second, if we speak of judgment in terms a very specific event (Daniel 12) with as resurrection, the use of the verb קוּם “to stand” may be a way to refer to the resurrection (it is in the Qur’an). Thus, the wicked are not resurrected on the judgment (מִּשְׁפָּ֑ט) but simply perish. They are ushered into non-existence.

But I think, again, of Christ. He stands at the judgment. He is the resurrection. The rest of us, like chaff, are blown away. We do not stand. We have nothing to stand upon. Our ways perish.

All we have is him who is righteous, who is happy and blessed contemplating the teaching of God. He is our path, he is our way, he is our seat in the company of those who sing praises. He is our abundance.

He is our righteousness. Our blessedness. And our life.

4 thoughts on “PSALMS — A Tree In The Desert

    • I’m not going to pretend to know anything. Just that I trust Jesus in the matter, when he says we have life eternal in and through him.

  1. Is this photo copyright protected? We would like to use on our new webiste, but wanted to be sure about copyright restrictions.

    New Salem Church
    Pittsboro, NC 27312

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