Psalm 1

Joy, please allow Luther's wisdom to give a fruitful increase and benefit to your desire to read the Psalms. The Psalms are a blessing beyond measure. I set out years ago to memorize them and fell short, which I regret very much. You would do well to follow Luther's thoughts and learn to use his words to describe the salvation experience. I have edited much of what Luther has said; I hope not too much. Study. Pray. Trust Luther.

"Every prophecy and every prophet must be understood as referring to Christ the Lord, except where it is clear from plain words that someone else is spoken of. For thus He Himself says: 'Search the Scriptures… and it is they that bear witness to Me" (John 5:39). When I have a text that is a nut with a hard shell, I immediately dash it against the Rock and find the sweetest kernel." Luther

"I confess frankly that even to the present day I do not understand many psalms and, unless the Lord enlightens me through your help, as I trust He will, I shall not be able to interpret them." Luther

Verse 1

Blessed is the man. Christ is the only blessed One and the only Man from whose fullness they have all received (John 1:16) that they might be blessed and man and everything that follows in this psalm.

Who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly. In whatever kind of sins one sins, one departs from God into the counsel of the ungodly. Ungodliness is against God and also against His worship, which is godliness. The addition of the word "counsel" denotes the vice of the will, because such people do evil on purpose and willingly, deliberately and advisedly, not out of ignorance. Some indeed act in an ungodly manner advisedly, from an evil will, while others depart into this their counsel by consenting to it ignorantly and because they are led astray.

Nor has stood in the way of sinners. The was of sinners is the very life of the ungodly, which has already been mentioned, a way upon which those who become ungodly enter. But this second stage is worse. It commits the first sin twofold, and now they are not simply ungodly, but what is more, they are sinners. The word "sin" is quite frequently used in Scripture for idolatry. But this is a double sin, to stand, to defend, to withstand one who tries to correct and recall, to refuse to agree, like Saul, in 1 Sam. 16:15, to turn the heart to words of evil for the purpose of excusing the excuses for sins, to justify oneself after he has sinned, and thus to confirm his iniquity against God and His righteousness, that is, to repudiate God and fashion an idol for oneself, the work of his hands, to refuse confession and glory to God. This is what the Jews did against Christ and are still doing. Jeremiah says (Lam. 1:8): "Jerusalem sinned grievously, therefore she became unstable." He says she "sinned a sin," that is, she doubled a simple sin.

Amos uses the phrase, "For three transgressions of Israel and for four I will not convert him." The "three transgressions" are all sins, namely, sins of weakness against the Father, sins of ignorance against the Son, and sins of evil or concupiscence against the Holy Spirit. But the "four transgressions" means to add to the sins already mentioned excuses with regard to them and to refuse to confess.

(Joy, let me give you a modern-day example: A pastor it to do all within his power to discern whether or people are truly "hungry" for the Lord's Supper. This means investigating whether they agree with the confessions of the church and whether they confess their sin and sins and are sorry for their sins. If a pastor says (as some have), "It is not my responsibility to play the role of Holy Spirit with my people," he has moved from a simple sinner (one who is ignorant of God's requirement or simply weak in fulfilling God's Law), to a sin of an evil will. He is found to be fighting against God and making God a liar. He seeks to excuse himself before God. He is {dangerously close to}committing the sin against the Holy Spirit, which is the unpardonable sin.)

Nor has sat in the chair of pestilence. Ungodliness did not have a place to go to within itself, except to set itself up as righteousness. Therefore, behold, it had to go beyond itself now and proceed also to others. So the apostle says, 2 Tim. 3:13: "Evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived." This is therefore truly a spiritual pestilence which kills souls by a continuous slaughter. But the force of this sickness is hidden. And this is what they prophesied about themselves when they said, "And the last fraud will be worse than the first" (Matt. 27:64). For to deny that it is a sin to have crucified the Lord is worse than to have perpetrated the sin itself, that is, to do the crucifying. Therefore the last error and the last sin are unforgivable. Oh, what a horrible example that wrath is for us! Cursed by every pride that imitates that error to the present day!

(The Baptists set their positions up as righteousness and fight against true godliness and truth. This is most perilous. But it is equally perilous when people who confess the truth also support error by their leniency against heresy and corruption.)

Verse 2

But his will is in the law of the Lord. That is, not only does the hand do the law of the Lord, either compelled by the necessity of the fear of punishment or attracted by the hope of earthly gain, without any desire, but he does it with a cheerful free will. This does not apply to those who are under the Law in a spirit of bondage in fear, but to those who are in grace and a spirit of freedom. Thence Christians are called free, spontaneous and willing, because of their Christ, who is the first of this kind. For although the Law could restrain the hand through the fear of punishment and provoke to works through the hope of good things, it could nevertheless neither loose nor bind the will inwardly; it could not, I say, loose toward freedom, nor bind its desires. For this happens only by the bonds of love, which is not the Law but Christ has given in His own spirit. Thus He Himself says in Ps. 40:8: "I delight to do Thy will, O My God; Thy law is within My heart." I delight," He says, that is, "it is My desire, and not the compulsion of fear of the hope of gain. And therefore Thy law is not in the outer edges and skin of My heart, but in the inside, in innermost and complete dedication."

(Joy, you are the type person, as myself, who thrives on what the natural mind can understand, that is, there must be an order and consequences for the violation of an order. You are also in a very "orderly" environment. There is nothing humanly wrong with your military environment, but you must remember that obeying and enforcing all the rules in the world will not make one a Christian. Yes, if one is a Christian, he will obey rules-mostly. But you must never find yourself inwardly satisfied with your obedience. Christ is your obedience. Your obedience to the Navy should terrify you lest you begin to trust in it as your righteousness rather than Christ. Remember, only Christ belongs in the conscience! A wrong trust and emphasis on what you DO will, eventually, lead you to despair and hopelessness—emptiness. It is just a matter of time. Your uncle Bruce said one time, "Maybe this legalism isn't all it's cracked up to be." We can only pray he continues to grow in what it truly means to be saved by GRACE ALONE.)

It must be noted, however, that the freedom and will of the Christians is not such that they are without fear (even of punishments) in the law of the Lord, since this would be false. For he who fears the future punishment and for that reason observes the Law is doing it by faith in any case, since he would not fear unless he believed. And therefore he is not far from the kingdom of God (Mark 12:34). In fact, such a fear is clean and holy, because it sanctifies not only the hands but also the soul. For with that kind of fear he guards not only the work, but certainly also the will from sin. But fear induced by the Law is not like this, because there bodily punishment, both present and temporal, was feared. This is so because the Law ordered them to be killed, stoned, etc. And therefore they did not fear the future punishment by faith, but the present punishment by experience.

Therefore the first root of all good is to have delight in the law of the Lord. For nothing forced is permanent, and what is held without love and delight is not held for long, because the grain that fell on rocky ground does not have root (Mat. 13:20-21). Therefore Christ does not want His rule to rest on force or violence, because then it would not stand firm, but He wants to be served willingly and with the heart and the affections.

Therefore let everyone beware most diligently, lest he ever discuss or pass judgment on the order of his superior before he carries it out! Let him not say, "Why did God command me not to eat of this tree?" It is a most certain sign of the serpent, whenever you begin to ask internally and to say with regard to a command of the superior, "Why? Why is this command given to me? This does not seem right, this is not useful, this would be better so or so, this is completely in vain, this contributes to my irritation."

Therefore this very "why" must promptly be checked at the beginning, and one must consider, not why, but how and how quickly a thing is to be done. I call attention to this because, as with Adam in Paradise, God, through the superior, does not always command what is useful or necessary, or great, but often a single sign is given so that the thoughts of the hearts might be revealed, and no other fruit than obedience alone is sought. For just as in the case of Adam, where only one command was given him as a sign by which his obedience might be tested, so now a mean command and a lowly sign is sometimes given. But a great obedience is there neglected when it is changed into a sign that is spoken against, and then their thoughts are revealed, because they are proud and arrogate judgment to themselves. Thus it becomes a sign of destruction to the, and a sword of grief and affliction pierces the soul of the superior who is the mother of that convent.

And on His law he meditates day and night. The ability to meditate belongs to reason. To meditate is to think carefully, deeply, and diligently, and properly it means to muse in the heart. Hence to meditate is, as it were, to stir up in the inside, or to be moved in the innermost self. Therefore one who thinks inwardly and diligently asks, discusses, etc. Such a person meditates. But one does not meditate on the law of the Lord unless his delight was first fixed in it. For what we want and love, on that we reflect inwardly and diligently. But what we hate or despise we pass over lightly and do not desire deeply, diligently, or for long. Therefore let delight be first sent into the heart as the root, and then meditation will come of its own accord. It is for this reason that the ungodly do not meditate on the law of the Lord, since as false plants they did not take root. Yet they meditate on other things, namely, on things in which their delight is rooted, things they themselves desire and love, such as gold, honor, flesh {and knowledge for the sake of knowledge}.

There are some perverted people who twist and pervert this word of the Holy Spirit. Their meditation is not on the law of the Lord, but rather, to the contrary, the law of the Lord is in their meditation (which is a horrible situation). They are the ones who twist the Scriptures to their own understanding and by their own fixed meditation compel the Scriptures to enter it and agree with it, when it ought to be the other way around.

The best reader is the one who looks for the understanding of the words from the words themselves, rather than imposing his own understanding, and takes something out, rather than bringing something in, and does not force the words to seem to contain what he had assumed must be understood before reading. Therefore we must take the utmost care that we do not quickly believe our own idea and that we must expound Scripture in all humility and reverence, because Scripture is the stone of offense and rock of scandal for those who are in a hurry. But Scripture turns that rock into pools of water for those who meditate on the law of the Lord. Therefore the Lord also reproves those who seek Him thus, but Is. 65:1 tells us that those who did not seek Him in that way find Him.

Finally there are some who meditate and take delight in the Law, but not in the law of the Lord. These are the jurists, whose delight is in various doctrines of men and traditions of the elders, and on these things they meditate day and night. Men are now intensively occupied with these laws and have in them a limitless arena for questions, disputes, fights, words, glosses, and there is no fruit at all, except only that of gain and honor.

Verse 3

He is like a tree planted beside the running waters, that will yield fruit in its season. Therefore he who said earlier, "but his delight is in the law of the Lord," now rightly continues, "he is like a tree or wood planted," that is, living wood, whose root is delight in the law of the Lord, and therefore firmly planted. But what there is in the Law out of fear is wood that has been forcibly driven in and not planted. It is willingness and not force that produces a firm purpose. Furthermore, having said earlier, "who meditates on His law," he now correctly continues, "beside the running waters." For to those who meditate on the Law the very rock of Scripture gushes forth abundant streams and flowing waters of knowledge and wisdom, and grace and sweetness besides. This is the promise: "Seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Matt. 7:7). Therefore to meditate means like Moses to strike the rock, and the waters funning down means to have many meanings and an abundance of understanding burst forth. Therefore he who meditates on the law of the Lord is at the same time necessarily established alongside the running waters and full streams. But he speaks of "running" as of something running down from above. Since Holy Scripture is above us and deals with higher matters, it is water to which we do not go down (unless when we descend to it from pride). But neither can we go up to it. Since it has been fortified, we cannot go to it. Therefore it is a descent. It comes down to us and over us. So Joel 2:23 says: "He has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain."

The experienced person knows that one who meditates on the law of the Lord is taught many things in a short time and suddenly, and a deluge of insights rushes in with the "voice of His cataracts" (Ps. 42:7), so that it is truly a flow, where human endeavor finds it difficult to crawl and move haltingly to the same abundance of truth. Therefore, whoever desires to be richly educated and, as it were, be flooded with the flowing waters of knowledge, let him surrender himself to meditation on the law of the Lord day and night, and he will learn by experience that what the prophet says in this verse is true.

Verse 3

That yields its fruit (that is, fruitful work). This is a great and unique gift of God, to know, I say, when you ought to do any work, namely, that you do it in its own season and opportunely. This is the gift of consideration and the judgment which the honor of the king loves (Ps. 99:4). Prov. 25:11 reads: "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." On the other hand, Prov. 26:9 tells us: "As if a thorn should grow in the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools."

And his leaf will not fall off. Leaves are words. It is clear, however, in which way these words of Christ have not withered, since they are written most splendidly in the Gospels and in the hearts of the faithful. The words which He speaks are life and spirit ( John 6:63). Therefore they are worthy to be written not on stones and in dead books but in living hearts. Therefore "does not fall off" says less and means more: Heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will not pass away (Matt. 24:35). He is therefore the "tree of life" (Rev. 22:2), firmly "planted in the house of the Lord", producing His fruit in its season, the firstfruits of all the trees that imitate Him in these. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together, that is, they fabricated words of excuse for their sins in order to cover and excuse their shame. Therefore their leaves fell off. And this fig tree which bore such leaves was cursed by the Lord, and it dried up at once (Matt. 21:19). But perfect as the man is who makes no mistakes in a single leaf, more perfect is certainly he whose leaves are blooming and plentiful, but most perfect is he whose leaf does not fall off, who is worthy to have his thoughts and sayings deserve eternal remembrance and authority. Thus Ecclesiastes says in the last chapter: "The words of the wise are like goads and like nails firmly fixed, which by the counsel of masters are given by one Shepherd."

And all that he does will prosper. That is, all that Christ instituted and ordained to be done by the apostles and disciples, in sacraments and mysteries. Not only will the Doer Himself prosper, but also the things He does will prosper, make headway, move forward, and will not be hindered by any who try to stand in His way. For "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18), because the things He does will prosper. What things? New heavens, a new earth (Is. 66:22); yes, He who sits on the throne makes all things new (Rev. 21:5). This is the world to come, which God subjected not to angels, as the apostle says in Heb. 2:5, but to the Son, that "Blessed Man."

Verse 4

The ungodly are not so. Dust does not have roots, nor can it be planted, just as they do not have the root of their desire in the Law. But it is earth crumbled and reduced to nothing and parched by the searing of the sun. Therefore he applies the meanest term of all to them, since they have been crumbled and made the meanest of all. For what they teach today is proved to be false tomorrow, and everything they do will not prosper. But everything they arrange they arrange in vain. "Which the wind drives from the face of the earth." The wind is the force of God's wrath and the breath of His anger.

Verse 5

Therefore the ungodly will not rise in the judgment. He did not say "in the day of judgment" but "in the judgment." The judgment of the world is going on even now, although it has not yet been revealed what will happen on the day of judgment. Therefore the Lord is already judging the peoples in fairness, by His graces distinguishing the good from the bad, and He transfers them out of darkness into His marvelous light (I Peter 2:9), separating light from darkness. It is, however, a multiple judgment. It is a passive judgment, in which we are judged by the Lord, namely, by His separating us from the midst of the evil. This takes place according to the body through discipline and chastisement and according to the soul through grace. Thus the apostle says (I Cor. 11:32): "When we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world." It is a judgment by which we judge ourselves. This takes place when we accuse ourselves and confess our sin, and thereby we acknowledge that we are worthy punishment and death. When we acknowledge such things in ourselves and impose punishment on ourselves because of them, we are passing judgment on ourselves.

Verse 6

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous. For to the ungodly He says (Matt. 25:12): "Truly, I say to you, I do not know you." Therefore He knows the way of the righteous because He is pleased with them. But the "way of the ungodly will perish" at the same time, because the Lord will destroy them. He is blessed forever. Amen