Blessed is the one . . . Not so with the . . .

What does Psalm 1 say to us today?

Psalm 1

1 1 Blessed is the one
     who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
     or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
     and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
     which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither
     Whatever they do prospers.

4 Not so the wicked!
     They are like chaff
     that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
     nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
     but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Week 49 (December), Commentary on Psalm 1

Some time ago, I conducted Renzo Lagomarsino's funeral. Though he was not a member of our church in Florence, Italy, one of his brothers (who is a member) had asked me to have a graveside service.

This brother, Ado, rode with me out to the Florence city cemetery. On the way, Ado mentioned his hope that the Lord would use this brief service as a clear testimony to a troubled family. When we both lapsed into silence, I started thinking about the contrasts between these two brothers.

"Blessed is the man."

As a young man, Ado Lagomarsino was converted under the ministry of Rev. Alfredo Del Rosso, an Italian captivated by a vision.

At the time of his brother's death, Ado and his wife, Olga, were in their 70s. Their three children were grown and married. Two of them were active in the Florence congregation. The third was a pastor's wife in Naples.

"The ungodly are not so."

What a contrast Ado's life is to that of his brother, Renzo!

Renzo, too, heard the gospel message as a young man. But he had chosen not to make Jesus Lord of his life.

Now, after having gone through three unhappy marriages, Renzo Lagomarsino had died a lonely death in a mental hospital. Of his five children, most are divorced or in their second marriages. Even as brothers and sisters, they don't get along well. In fact, two of them -- who both live in Florence -- did not even come to their father's interment.

I don't think there could be a more graphic confirmation of Psalm 1 than the contrasting lives of these two Italian brothers.

"Like a tree planted by the rivers."

Because Ado Lagomarsino turned his life over to the Lord, he is -- in the Psalm 1 metaphor -- planted by the river.

This particular metaphor needs no explanation to those who live in dry climates. I remember discovering how to spot a stream or farm pond in western Oklahoma and Kansas. All you had to do was look for clumps of trees. Those trees flourish only where there is water.

Ado Lagomarsino's life has not been an easy one. But because he cast his lot with the Lord, it has been a full and fruitful one. At the end of his life, Ado has found bountiful fruit, whereas his brother ended up clutching handfuls of chaff.

Robert Frost is famous for his poems about rural life in New England. One of my favorites of his is "The Road Not Taken." It ends with these three lines:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

When Robert Frost wrote this poem, he wasn't trying to illustrate Psalm 1. But these last three lines almost sound like it, don't they?

We all face choices that will make a difference in our lives. Those differences often become increasingly pronounced as the years roll by.

What kind of harvest do you wish to reap at the end of your life? Do you want to be there with a tree heavy with ripe fruit or will you be content to find yourself clutching handfuls of chaff?

Discussion questions

  1. What might the author of Psalm 1 be trying to communicate with the phrase "planted by the river"?
  2. What role does the choice to turn one's life over to the Lord play in the message of Psalm 1?
  3. In what ways can the message of Psalm 1 be applied to our modern society and the challenges that we face today?
  4. How can the themes of Psalm 1 be helpful in guiding individuals facing important life choices and decisions?
  5. What is the significance of meditating on the law of the Lord day and night, as described in Psalm 1, and how can we practically incorporate this into our daily lives?

    -- Howard Culbertson

I wrote this devotional article while Barbara and I were serving as missionaries in Italy. It originally appeared in Standard, a weekly Faith Connections take-home curriculum piece for adult Sunday school classes published by The Foundry.

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Psalm 1 provides a foundational framework for understanding the importance of righteousness, meditation on God's law, and the contrasting outcomes for the righteous and the wicked. Here are some key insights we can derive from Psalm 1:


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