Psalms: Introduction to Psalm 1

Last session we learned to consider the ebb and flow of our lives through three movements.


“Our life of faith consists in moving with God in terms of:

  1. Being securely oriented;
  2. Being painfully disoriented; and
  3. Being surprisingly reoriented.”

Praying the Psalms, Walter Brueggemann, page 2

Being securely oriented Being painfully disoriented Being surprisingly reoriented
Psalms of Praise Psalms of Protest Psalms of Thanksgiving
Psalm 145 Psalm 22 Psalm 103


Psalms 1 and 2 are the gateway into all of the Psalter.


Similarly to preparing for entrance into the Tabernacle of Moses one “prepares” to enter the Psalter.


Leviticus 16


“This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.


Exodus 28


Send for your brother Aaron and his sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. They are the ones I have chosen from Israel to serve as my priests. Make Aaron some beautiful clothes that are worthy of a high priest. Aaron is to be dedicated as my high priest, and his clothes must be made only by persons who possess skills that I have given them. Here are the items that need to be made: a breastpiece, a priestly vest, a robe, an embroidered shirt, a turban, and a sash. These sacred clothes are to be made for your brother Aaron and his sons who will be my priests. Only gold and fine linen, woven with blue, purple, and red wool, are to be used for making these clothes.


Bruce Waltke, noted Psalms scholar, teaches that Psalm 1 is preparation for “entrance into the Psalms.”  Additionally, he names Psalm 1 as the “Wicket Gate to the Psalter.”


In this perspective, Psalm 1 and 2 are the necessary preparation for entrance into the Psalter.

Book One

The Way of the Righteous and the Wicked

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

The Psalter addresses one of the most dominant themes of all God’s communication and relationship with humanity:  righteousness and wickedness.


In essence, the Judeo/Christian life is exceptionally simple.  There is only one decision required, “Will I chose the way of the righteous or the wicked?”  Psalm 1:6, 2:12, John 14:6


This simple choice flows harmoniously throughout God’s relationship with humanity.  From Genesis to Revelation the call is for righteousness.


We find righteousness in the ministry of Jesus, the writings of the Gospels, Peter and Paul.


  • Matthew 25:31-46
  • Luke 23:47
  • 1 Peter 4:18
  • Romans 3:21-26


What will follow Psalm 1 and 2 are the words of those the Psalter identifies as righteous.


But now in the canon of scripture these prayers have a common theological setting in the Psalter: they are the words of those the Psalter identifies as saddiq, “righteous,” setting them apart from those called “wicked.” These prayers of the righteous provide a window into the Psalter’s understanding of the righteous and their relationship with God. They allow the reader to gain a purchase on what it means to be righteous, how the saddiq speaks out of his or her need to God and how such a person imagines God to be and to act.  Jerome F. D. Creach. The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms (Kindle Locations 308-311). Kindle Edition.


Jerome Creach shows how numerically dominant the theme of righteousness and wickedness are in the Psalms.


The term “righteous” (saddiq; plural saddigam) and related words such as “upright” (yasar), “poor” “oppressed” (dal) and “needy” (‘ebyon) appear a combined 125 times in the Psalms, thus drawing frequent attention to the subject. Furthermore, the term “wicked” (rasa ; plural resa`im), which signifies those who oppress and persecute the righteous, appears so often (82 times in the Psalter) that the reader is constantly confronted with the concern for how life will turn out for the righteous. Jerome F. D. Creach. The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms (Kindle Locations 2319-2321). Kindle Edition.


Bruce Waltke forms the expansiveness of righteousness and wickedness into a simple and complex, easy to remember saying:


  • The righteous are those who disadvantage themselves for others.
  • The wicked disadvantage others for themselves.


Jerome Creach presents a summation of righteousness from the Psalter.


The righteous person’s relationship with God


  • The righteous depend on God for protection.
  • The righteous plead to God for forgiveness.
  • The righteous worship God in humility.


The righteous person’s relationship with others


  • The righteous love and serve their neighbors
  • The righteous person’s faith in God and obedience to him are inseparable.
  • The righteous have clean hands and a pure heart.


“…the destiny of the righteous is a central organizing subject that provides a fruitful entree into the Psalter as a whole.”  Jerome F. D. Creach. The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms (Kindle Locations 2316-2317). Kindle Edition.

As we pursue the life of faith that is “moving with God” in seasons of orientation, disorientation and reorientation, may what is said of Jesus be said of us.

“Surely this was a righteous man” (Lk. 23:47, NIV). Luke’s account of Jesus’ death includes this surprising statement from the Gentile centurion beneath the cross. What prompted the soldier’s assessment ofJesus, no one knows. One possible explanation is that Jesus immediately before death called out to God in prayer using the words of Psalm 31:5, “Father, into your hand I commit my spirit.” Whatever the reason for the centurion’s words, Jesus, at the moment of his death, does appear as one of the righteous, praying in the midst of suffering, just as the ones in the Psalms.  Jerome F. D. Creach. The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms (Kindle Locations 304-307). Kindle Edition.