11/8/23 Devotional from Ed
November 8, 2023
Text: Psalm 1
1 Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but their delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
We want to make good, honorable decisions, and we want those around us to do the same. As we know, however, that’s not always the case, as humanity often gets caught up in power, wealth, titles, and consumption. How can we be different?
One of the psalms for November 8 in the Revised Common Lectionary is Psalm 1, which can be viewed as a moral compass. Because of its moral guidance, it’s appropriate that it’s the first psalm, and it’s even more so fitting that the first word of the first psalm is “happy.” We want to be happy, right?
If we’re looking for a roadmap to happiness, Psalm 1 is a good choice. Because biblical Hebrew, the ancient language of the Old Testament, cannot be literally translated into English, we find different translations. In The Book of Psalms, Robert Alter offers the following translation of the first two verses, closely taking the ancient Hebrew in its context and translating them in a way to remind us of the psalm’s poetry:
“Happy the man who has not walked in the wicked’s counsel, nor in the way of offenders has stood, nor in the session of scoffers sat. But the Lord’s teaching is his desire, and his teaching he murmurs day and night.”
Why am I lifting up these two verses? “Walking” is something we understand. However, the psalmist is using a phrase/word to hint at something larger. Alter writes, “Walking on a way is a traditional metaphor for pursuing a set of moral choices in life.” In addition, I was drawn to Alter’s translation of the next verse. The Lord’s teaching is the Lord’s desire; the Lord murmurs it day and night. This one sentence reminds us that God is not a distant ruler. God’s presence is ongoing, along with God’s teaching. We can always learn from God. It’s not too late.
Prayer: Holy God, we give you thanks that you are always with us. Fill us with your Spirit this day and beyond, O Lord, so we can pursue you on the path that you continue to lay before us. Amen.
Work Cited: Alter, Robert. The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary. (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2007), 1.