The Psalm for Easter 7 is Psalm 1. Remembering the earlier idea that the Psalter is organized in a “relationship” pattern with Psalms of orientation, disorientation, and re/new orientation, we would consider Psalm 1 to be a Psalm of orientation. Psalm 1 is called a Torah (תוֹרָה) Psalm and Torah Psalms fall into the orientation category. This Psalm identifies who the people of the Covenant are, and who they are not, and orientates them in relationship to the LORD God. “A child of the Covenant walks, stands, and sits thusly.” This is who they are, whose they are, how they live, and where they hang out. Note that the orientating feature of their life is the Torah! This is very similar to the language of Deuteronomy 6 which also describes what a child of the Covenant looks like and how they live. It is all about identity and that identity is found in their relationship with the LORD.
As we read this Psalm it is of absolute importance to properly translate or understand what “Torah” refers to. Too many modern English translations take the easy way out and simply translate it as “Law.” This can cause great confusion in the preacher’s congregation, and can even cause theological dissonance. There are three basic meanings for “Torah” in the Old Testament. In order of frequency:
- Word; Teachings; Revelation
- The Five Books of Moses
Note how the least used is “law” and yet it is the most often chosen by translators. Of course, when the people in the pew hear the word “law” they will immediately think of Law verses Gospel and this can cause difficulties with the theology of the text. In this Psalm, Torah is referring to the word; teachings; revelation of the LORD. In this meaning and in the context in Psalm 1 it is referring to the entire counsel of God’s Word, both Law and Gospel. This translation immediately removes any possible “works righteousness” on the part of man.
Returning to the orientation, disorientation, and re/new orientation pattern, note that the entire Psalter begins with this beautiful orientation psalm and ends with a beautiful psalm of re-orientation (Psalm 150). This does not appear to be accidental as we see this pattern, perhaps cycle, repeat again and again in the psalms and even in all of Scripture.
In this meaning and in the context in Psalm 1 [‘the Law’] is referring to the entire counsel of God’s Word, both Law and Gospel.
1:1 אַשְׁרֵי (Ash-rei) “happy; fortunate; blessed is he who; blessed is the man” This could be termed “identification language.”
בַּעֲצַת (ba-a-Tzat) from: עֵצָה (ay-tsaw) “advise; counsel”
רְשָׁעִים (re-Sha-Im) “wicked; ungodly”
טָּאִים (Chat-ta-im) “sinners”
וּבְמוֹשַׁב (u-ve-mo-Shav) from: מוֹשָׁב (mo-shawb) “assembly; congregation; seat”
לֵצִים (le-Tzim) from: לֵץ (loots) “scoffer; chatterer” We generally see this word used in the Proverbs.
1:2 כִּי אִם (ki im) “but rather; but instead” These words indicate there are only two choices.
בְּתוֹרַת יְהוָה (be-to-Rat Yah-weh) “in the word/teaching of the LORD”
חֶפְצוֹ (chef-Tzo) With the pronominal suffix: “his delight; his joy”
יֶהְגֶּה (yeh-Geh) root: הגה (daw-gaw) Qal: “meditate; muse”
יוֹמָם (yo-Mam) “by day; in the daytime”
1:3 שָׁתוּל (sha-Tul) Qal: “to plant; to transplant” Obviously, trees do not plant or transplant themselves. This is an action accomplished on their behalf.
פַּלְגֵי (pal-Gei) “stream; channel”
וְעָלֵהוּ (ve-a-Le-hu) “leaf; foliage; greenery”
יִבּוֹל (yib-Bol) root: נבל (naw-bale) Qal: “to decay; wither; fade”
יַצְלִיחַ (yatz-Li-ach) root: צלח (tsaw-lakh) Hiphil: “to prosper; be successful” The causative sense of the Hiphil fits well with the tree that cannot plant itself; “he is caused to prosper.” Saleska translates this as an intransitive verb.
1:4 כַּמֹּץ (kam-Motz) from: מֹץ (motes) “chaff” The separation of the wheat and chaff (winnowing) is frequently used as an object lesson pointing to the judgement.
תִּדְּפֶנּוּ (tid-de-Fen-nu) root: נדף (naw-daf) Qal: “to scatter; destroy; drive out/away”
1:5 לֹא־יָקּמוּ (lo ya-Ku-mu) Literally: “they will not arise”
1:6 יוֹדֵעַ יְהוָה (yo-De-a Yah-weh) “the LORD knows” The use of ידע (yaw-dah) indicates the personal, intimate knowledge, the relationship between God and man often describe as Bridegroom and bride.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Psalm 1.
Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Psalm 1.