Contrasts In Psalm 1

Contrasts are one of the methods authors use in order to instruct, motivate, or influence readers.  A contrast in simply a comparison that reveals striking differences.  Inspired authors of both the Old Testament and the New Testament used contrasts this way.  Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan is a good example of contrasts.  The Samaritan who showed mercy to the injured traveler was considerably different from the priest and the Levite who passed by the half dead man and did nothing.  Jesus’ teaching was clear — be like the Samaritan (Luke 10:37).

Psalm 1 is a study of contrasts.  The righteous man and the wicked man are different in many ways.  The Psalmist highlights these differences in order to instruct, motivate, and influence his audience.  These striking differences should instruct, motivate, and influence us as well.

The righteous and the wicked are different in the counsel they receive.  The righteous man receives his counsel from the law of the Lord.  He delights in the law of the Lord and he meditates on it constantly.  He takes proactive steps in order to avoid the counsel of the wicked and the way of sinners.  The wicked man is also the subject of Psalm 1.  He does not make his appearance until verse 4, but his presence is implied in verses 1-2.  The wicked man does not receive his counsel from the law of the Lord.  He is content to have his mind shaped by his own counsel or the counsel of others.  Students of Psalm 1 are forced to consider where they receive their counsel from because of the contrast between the righteous and the wicked in verses 1-2.

The righteous and the wicked are also different in what they are like.  The righteous man is like a tree planted by streams off water.  It is not hard to imagine what that tree is like.  The Psalmist informs us that the tree yields fruit and its leaf does not wither.  The righteous man is viewed as one who is fruitful and stable.  The wicked man, however, is not like the righteous.  He is like the chaff that the wind drives away.  The contrast is striking.  The righteous man is like the fruitful, stable tree.  The wicked man has no stability or fruitfulness.  He is simply wind-driven chaff.  The contrast in verses 3-4 should motivate us to consider the question of roots – do we have any?

The righteous and the wicked have different futures.  The Lord knows the way of the righteous.  He accepts, approves, and rewards that way of life.  The righteous man’s future is bright.  There is no acceptance, approval, or reward for the wicked.  His way will perish.  This final contrast teaches us to think about the way we are living now because our current manner of life will determine our future.

Where do I received counsel from?  Do I have any roots?  What will my future be like?  The contrasts between the righteous and the wicked in Psalm 1 should force us to ask and answer these questions.  What are your answers to these questions?  –  Jay Taylor   January 18, 2015