Interpretation of the First Psalm of David

Author: Alexander Belyakov

Blessed is the man who does not enter the assembly of the wicked, does not stop in the way of sinners and does not sit in the assembly of the reprobate,

but his will is in the law of the Lord,

and meditates on his law day and night!

Although small in volume, this psalm plays a unique role in St. Writing. Being the first in the prayer book, the psalm itself is not a prayer in the proper sense of the word: the prayers in the Psalter begin with the second psalm. In Acts 13:33, a quotation from the second psalm is quoted with the instruction – “as it is written in the second psalm”. However, in a 5th century New Testament manuscript, and also in Origen, it is assumed that in this passage the psalm is called first and not second, in any case we can still safely consider Psalm 1 as not belonging to the prayer book and of praises (i.e. the Psalter), and as an introduction to it. In this introduction, the way in which a person will be able to enter a state in which, according to the psalmist, prayers and praises to the Lord God can be performed. In modern language, the psalm should be seen as an exposition of the methodology of correct prayer. We, as if we did not find another place in the Scripture of S. A where prayer itself is not given, but the approach to it (cf. New Testament teaching and testimony on prayer in Mt 6-5). He who is interested not only in the show on the formal side, but also in the experiences during prayer, communion with God and the forces of the soul that move the prayer, must listen to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures about it.

To clarify the psalmist’s system of understandings and ideas, we must delve into the specificities of his language and style, the associations and metaphors that arise in him. Only then will we have a sense of his way of thinking and of his inner intentions when we write the first psalm.

The Hebrew text of the psalm differs slightly from the Greek translation, but it is clearly preferable to work with the original Hebrew biblical text because the translator was from a different era. The original Hebrew does not indicate that the psalm belongs to David, all the more so, considering that the psalm inscriptions were composed later than the psalms themselves in view of their liturgical use in Solomon’s temple worship. We will therefore call the author of this psalm a “psalmist”.

Nobody needs to clarify that good is good and evil is bad for man. The phrase “blessed man” in the psalm sounds like an invitation to accept bliss or a call to seek bliss. The psalm is a means that indicates the way of bliss. The feeling of bliss will accompany the person and will testify to him that he is walking on the right path and not “following the advice of the dishonest”, which “is not in the assembly of corrupters”. Of all the variety of directions in life, he, the righteous one, will prefer the bliss of approaching God and of all the variety of goals in this world: the achievement of mutual communication with Him. Bliss is an approach to the life of God, thanks to communication with Him, and gives man the wisdom to see the way of the wicked, which leads to distance from God and union with evil spirits opposed to the Lord of the world of dark and evil forces. The wicked turns to man with a word of advice, which carries sin within itself and leads away from the truth. If a person accepts the advice, he himself commits the same crime as the evil counselor (the devil in the New Testament is called the “father of the lie and the murderer” because he gave deceitful advice to Eve and thus caused the entire human race to fall into Sin). And if a person falls under the influence of such counsel on the path of sinners, he follows it and already sins independently and becomes guilty before the Lord. Why should a piece of advice be so terrible to the lot of man? Because a man is not an immutable essence, but on the contrary, if a piece of advice changes the constitution of his soul, the mood of his soul becomes the way of his life or acquires the character of sinners and finally begins to spread his soul. influence – seduction into sin and vice and the neighbor around him.

In the first verse, the wrong path is described as a succession of evil actions that are performed on that path, not even as a description of the development during the vicious state, seen as a malignant disease with its characteristic symptoms. Here the light of truth illuminates this disease from within, allowing us to see the causes that drive the progression of the disease, the deterioration of the sufferer, the forces of the process that transform a person into an evil person, through a sinner for a depraved (the worst form of the fall). Therefore, the law of the Lord, the Word of God, a person must place in his whole being, to realize his whole psychophysical being, and only he will be able to remain in agreement with God, in adequate communion with Him.

The path that leads to true bliss passes through the change of a person in the direction of a final decision to live with God according to his will. At the same time, the active direction of a person tries to be in harmony with the direction indicated by the Lord himself. A person welcomes the Word of God with care and awareness, transforms his nature according to it. In the Sacrament of Communion today in the Orthodox Church we have a true communication with God. The first psalm reveals to us that the singing of the psalms is part of communion with God. As the heart of man is open to the Word of God, so is the ear of God. God is open to man’s prayer when it is offered sincerely and adequately.

The way of life described in the second verse is presented as a phase of perception of the Word of God. In the third verse, the character acquired by man is compared to the growth of the tree, which not only grows, but is cultivated in a garden: it is specially planted, its irrigation regulated, and thus guarantees the vivifying humidity without which it would perish. If in the first verse the character of man is presented against the background of his conflict with God (cf. “sinners”), in the third verse man is the tree that the gardener takes care of, that is, he does not remain without God and is nourished by Him. As moisture flows in the fabric of a tree, so too a person takes the Word of God and keeps it in his living soul, precisely because it animates him. As water gives life and turns into fruit, so the Word of God does not leave man empty, but realizes in him what the Lord has always taught him to do: “Be holy, as your Lord is holy. God”. In this place, the psalmist amazes us with the power of his speech, describing the life processes of the tree, he does not seem to contemplate a tree, but experiences this beneficial process in himself. There follows a slight passage from the description of the tree to the direct description of the man: and in everything he does he will succeed. Man shares in eternal life if he keeps his life and that of others from the mortal bite of sin.

Unlike the tree that bears fruit, there are also plants that wither: the chaff is a residue of the grain (fruit), useless to anyone, devoid of life. And if the corrupters sit calmly in their place and from them create the perversion of truth, then this situation is only in this world, until the moment when the wind of God’s breath appears, and since there is no justice and truth in them, they will not resist the current of this wind and will be scattered, so that only the purified fruit will remain: the righteous. The inner power will become external and will manifest itself to all at the coming of the Lord. Then the life-giving God will reveal the difference between the corrupt nature of the wicked and the kind nature of those who will receive bliss. Only then will it become clear to everyone that the life of sinners is originally foreign to the Lord. On God’s Day of Judgment, God’s Spirit will reap the good fruits – the righteous, and disperse the wicked (“ruach”, in the ancient Hebrew language “spirit”, can also be translated as wind) as the wind of purification.

The path of the righteous in the phase of natural change is seen as achieving union with God. This union came about thanks to the collaboration of the two wills: the will of the farmer, who planted the tree and watered it with the water of life, and the will of the tree, which craved moisture and received it with the awareness of bearing fruit to the gardener. This unity is expressed in the fact that the righteous do not flee from the face of God, from the presence of God, they suffer the terrible judgment of God, which is humiliation for the wicked, but fruitful for the followers of God’s will. Those who walk on the upright away they live by the laws of likeness to God, the righteous have the true knowledge of God and the knowledge of God and the pursuit of perfection are the driving forces for Christians.

Source: “First Psalm” magazine, “Orthodox Way”, 1990 (in Russian).

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