Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates [ponders by talking to himself] day and night.
– Psalm 1:1-2
How do we stay happy in the world today? It seems like every which way we turn, we’re surrounded and buffeted by bad news, negativity, and complaints.
God has provided the answer – right in the heart of the Bible, in the well-loved book of Psalms, in the very first lines of the first psalm.
Blessed – or happy – is the person who doesn’t follow the advice of the ungodly, i.e. those who are not of God, who is not found in the way of those who are condemned, nor dwells in the company of those who love to judge and mock as if they know better.
In other words, the key to staying happy in the world today begins with what we don’t engage in, namely:
- Not taking advice from news, magazines, and Dr. Google, which are largely the paramount sources of all information and instruction that the world follows and adheres to;
- Not reckoning ourselves like those who are guilty and condemned before God and behaving full of fear and worry as though we are unprotected and have something to fear before God; and
- Not joining the couch commentators in passing judgement and criticism on what we see or getting into coffee-shop talk in gossiping and complaining about how things are nowadays.
Interestingly, the verbs in the Hebrew for “walks”, “stands”, and “sits” are all in the perfect tense, which means an action done once and its effect considered as already completed.
The one action that covers all these is when we accept Jesus into our life as our Lord and Saviour, because that is when we decide to let God’s counsel govern our life, when God makes us permanently righteous in Christ, and we submit to a higher authority in humility. So God has called all Christians blessed and happy people!
The discovery and enjoyment of this happiness we’ve been given, however, is found in the second verse on what we do engage in: that our delight and desire is in meditating and pondering and speaking to ourselves the law of the Lord, which is God’s Word.
The “law of the Lord” refers to the entirety of God’s Word and not specifically the commandments or the law, because in Joshua 1:8 where the Hebrew word for “meditate” (hagah) is first mentioned, it refers to “this book of the law”, which was all of the Bible i.e. the Old Testament that they had at the time.
The Message Bible shows up the meaning of Psalm 1:2 more clearly: “…you thrill to God’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night.”
Meditation in the Bible sense is quite different from what the world normally calls “meditation”, which is usually associated with emptying your mind of all thought and staying calm and quiet in a tranquil place.
Instead, meditation or hagah in the Bible sense means muttering and speaking out God’s Scripture e.g. under your breath, pondering it and turning it around in your mind as you speak it. Literally, to chew on the verse and crunch it word by word.
It’s a handy way to get God’s Word into us, because it’s easy with just a verse or two. We don’t need to sit down with the Bible (as we may not always have time to), and we can do it while still going about our daily tasks or during periods of waiting such as standing in a queue or walking from one place to another.
Even though it may just be a verse, we are hearing God’s Word as we speak it out to ourselves, and the latent power that is in His Word will cause our understanding to open and our faith to rise as we keep doing it.
And as we meditate, He promises that we shall be like stalwart trees firmly planted and established in the rivers of the water of His Word, full of life and vibrant in health and youthfulness, and consistently bearing fruit and having good success in whatever we do (Psalm 1:3)!
His Word never fails. Because His Word is Jesus (John 1:1, 14, Revelation 19:13).
And when we encounter Jesus, we encounter grace.