Updated: Nov 20, 2021
Rev. Michael Birbeck is the principal author of EnactedWord.com
He holds a B.S. in Biblical Studies from Cairn University and a M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and serves as the pastor of a rural church in North-Central Pennsylvania.
In the 1986 movie Short Circuit an experimental military robot struck by lightening develops self-awareness and escapes from his creators. He is constantly looking for more information and tells the young woman in whom he found sanctuary that he needs more input. His output is often determined by his input. When good goes in, good goes out. When garbage goes in, garbage goes out.
Psalm 1 exhorts us to be selective about our input. It describes the blessed life, which essentially means wholeness of heart and mind.
The psalmist first describes the blessed life in negative terms. The blessed person does not get caught up in godless vanity. The Psalmist says, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked… (Psalm 1:1). The people we spend the most time with and the content we are most exposed to have tremendous impact on our lives. If you always dwell in darkness, darkness will always surround you. This does not mean we must completely disassociate from wicked people. Jesus himself frequently ate with sinners. However, as with Jesus, so with us. Our righteousness ought to rub off on them, not the other way around.
The Psalmist then describes the blessed life in positive terms. “[Blessed is the one] who meditates on [the LORD’s] law day and night (Psalm 1:2).” The Hebrew word translated “law” here is torah. While the word has many definitions, its most basic meaning is instruction. In this instance, torah means all the Lord’s instruction that had been revealed at the time of the Psalmist in the Old Testament, as well as what has been revealed now in the New Testament. The Hebrew word we translate “meditate,” literally means to murmur. Before the invention of the printing press, few people owned personal copies of Scripture. People memorized large portions of Scripture, which allowed them to murmur it to themselves – thus meditate on it – throughout the day. We are to be so familiar with Holy Scripture that we think about it all day long.
The result of the blessed life compares to a verdant tree planted by a canal that provides a continuous supply of water (Psalm 1:3). In contrast, the wicked life compares to chaff, which is here for a moment but is then blown away (Psalm 1:4). While the Lord watches over the righteous, the wicked perish (Psalm 1:6).
None of us can live the blessed life without the endowment of Christ’s righteousness. Choose to cleave to Christ and be ever murmuring his Word.