Happiness is something we look for in life. But how can we find it? For happiness is elusive. One moment we can feel happy, blessed by God, but the next moment the feeling has gone. Like moonlight it has slipped through our fingers.
Some consider that having a good marriage and family, being successful and having all they want will make them happy. But the best of families can experience pain or hurt; others will be more successful; and no one is ever fully satisfied.
Psalm 1 helps us. Blessed, or happy is the one… it begins. And as it develops it lays the foundation for The Book of Psalms by setting out in poetic form, first where true happiness is to be found and secondly, what a truly happy person is like.
The opening lines read: Happy is the one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.
We learn where happiness or blessing is not to be found – by following the counsel of the wicked. Consider how the poetry of the psalm expresses this. Three words – walk, stand, and sit – capture three facets of our life. Another three words draw our attention to those whose ways will not help us – the wicked, sinners, and the scoffers.
With these opening lines we feel the emotional impact of the poetry. We will not find true happiness if we march in step with the crowds who behave as though there are no absolutes, no rules and no God. It’s the same story if we join the cynics, or even sit on the sidelines as part of the silent majority – sitting in the seat of scoffers.
What then is the way to real happiness? Verse 2 tells us: Whose delight is in the law of the Lord; and who meditates on his law day and night. The actions of verse 1 move to stillness in verse 2 where the law of the Lord stands as the key to true happiness and humanity.
The law of the Lord is not limited to the Law of Moses but rather includes all God’s teaching and instruction for living. Significantly the heart and mind’s delight rises to a new note of joy through the daily meditation of God’s life-giving Word.
Meditation is not something carried out by people who zone out of life. The words here echo God’s command to Joshua who, though he was a man of action, needed to think hard about his choice in life (Joshua 24:14,15).
Real happiness is found in the deliberate resolution to be instructed by God himself. This doesn’t just happen. It will mean being prepared to look inside ourselves and let the weight of God’s Word press upon our thoughts, our speech, and our life-style.
So, what is a truly happy person like? The poetry of verse 3 tells us in imagery that carries with it the vitality of life: That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields it fruit in its season, and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do they prosper.
Out of the riches of knowing God and trusting in his ways our lives grow and bear fruit – with branches stretching out and leaves that do not wither, even in tough times.
The contrast with those who do not know God but mock him and his ways could not be clearer. In one sentence in verse 4 we read: The wicked are not so, but are like the chaff that the wind drives away. In contrast with the vitality of those whose life is like a tree, the wicked are blown away like chaff. Their excitement, their planning and their plotting are only temporary – for the day will come when, like dust, they will vanish.
And the psalm-writer pulls no punches as he sums up their final destination: Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous (1:6).
Two paths. Psalm 1 introduces a theme that permeates the Book of Psalms: namely the way, or the path. We have a choice in life – to walk in the way of the wicked or to tread the path of life with God. Psalm 1 concludes: For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
For life to make any sense at all there must be a final accounting. Psalm 1 tells us there will be such a day and that everyone who has ignored God or mocked him and his ways, will fall. They may be powerful and successful now, but the path they have chosen will end in nothing.
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com