PSALMS: Psalm 1 — The “Law” Which Gives Life (a meditation), from the Taizé Community

Psalm 1 — The “Law” Which Gives Life (a meditation), from the Taizé Community

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of three to ten people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

Psalm 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,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
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.
Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

The first psalm opens with a word that announces something we all long for: “blessed” or “happy” refers to a life that is truly alive, truly authentic; it refers to the joy of someone who is really all that they ought to be. This fullness of life is expressed by the image of a tree, which beautifully combines the ideas of stability (a tree is very hard to uproot), of freshness (it bears plenty of green leaves), and of fruitfulness. It is at the opposite extreme from “chaff,” the dry, empty little husks that are separated out from the real grain by winnowing in the wind.Is there a secret to this authentic life? Is there a way to it? The psalm points towards such a way, and is at the same time a kind of celebration of it. It first mentions, in contrast, the way of “the wicked” or “sinners” or “mockers,” which is perhaps the easy option of just following the ways of society or one’s own immediate desires, without reflecting any further. The happiness of true life in fullness comes about quite differently: it is the consequence of an inner attitude, the attitude of “delighting in the law of the Lord” and of “meditating” on it.

At first sight, this may seem paradoxical: “law” and “delight” are not words that we spontaneously link together. But this is because when we hear the word “law,” what usually comes to mind is a set of rules and regulations. The “law” of God, however, is something quite different. What the Bible calls God’s “law” is not essentially a question of rules and regulations; rather, it is God’s whole aim for human life, a project of love, joy, trust, and peace. The psalm does not call “blessed” someone who blindly follows all the rules, as if God were interested in a kind of surface conformity. What is important is not rules, but to realize that God’s intention for us is beautiful, joyful, and life-giving. God’s “law” is the expression of his will for us, grasped through the teaching of the scriptures and through the whole story of his relationship to humanity. And God’s will for us is nothing other than his love. If we take time to reflect or “meditate” on the parts of this project that we have begun to understand and that most touch us – that are “delightful” to us – this can become a way to allow full and authentic life to begin to grow within us.

  • In what parts of my life do I see a connection with the images of a flourishing tree, on the one hand, and of chaff, on the other?
  • Where in the Bible – in the teachings or acts of Christ, for example – do I find something in which I can, even just a little, find “delight”?
  • What could it mean for me to “mediate” on this?

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