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Psalm 1 - A comparison of two views of two paths in life

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1 Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, *

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

2 Their delight is in the law of Yahweh, *

and they meditate on his law day and night.

3 They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; *

everything they do shall prosper.

4 It is not so with the wicked; *

they are like chaff which the wind blows away.

5 Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes, *

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

6 For Yahweh knows the way of the righteous, *

but the way of the wicked is doomed.


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This is the Psalm that will be read aloud in unison or sung by a cantor on the sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. This follows the Old Testament reading from Jeremiah, which begins with Yahweh saying, “Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from Yahweh.” This pair will be followed by the Epistle reading from First Corinthians, where Paul wrote: “How can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.” All will accompany the Gospel reading from Luke, where it is written: “Jesus came down with the twelve apostles and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.”


Psalm 1 is a song that is read on six occasions in the lectionary cycle, with is connected to the Jeremiah reading for the sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, as well as when the pair will be read on the rare Proper 1 Sundays in Year C. In the Jeremiah reading, we see the prophet saying, “Thus said Yahweh,” with the selected verses then spoken by Yahweh a close parallel to these words spoken by David. The two are so similar, it is easy to see Yahweh spoke through David also; so, this message equally applies to everyone, at all times. One is either a prophet whose soul is married to Yahweh, through which He speaks; or, one is the wicked sinners to whom Yahweh speaks through His prophets.


I wrote my views on this song of David when it was a reading selection for the seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 20, Year B). At that time Psalm 1 was one of five possible readings, from which two would be chosen. That makes this song be applicable to a wide range of lessons; and, part of that is the “two paths” this song points out: wicked or righteous. When it holds more of a ‘stand-alone’ position, it can be read for its own merits. My commentary posted in August 2021 can be read by clicking on this link. The same values still apply, at all times. So, I welcome all to read those views now. However, with this paired with the Jeremiah 17 reading, when Yahweh spoke through the prophet, I want to do a comparison of these two readings now.


The literal translation of verse one begins by saying either “blessed” or “happy,” as a form of the Hebrew word “esher” is written [“’aš·rê-”]. This word is hyphenated, as this state of being cannot stand alone. It needs to connect to “the man” [from “hā·’îš”]. Thus the combination word written – “’aš·rê-hā·’îš” – is the focus of this song, because that leads to a comma that separates this state of being from that written that follows. Thus, “the man who is blessed” is “the man who finds happiness,” with that “delight” explained in verse two as coming from Yahweh.


The remainder of verse one then literally says, “who not does walk in the counsel of the criminal and in the manner of the sinful not does stand ; and in the seat of the mocker not sits .” The repeating of the word “not” three times then makes this first verse be what being “blessed” and “happy” is measured by. The use of “not” says being “blessed” and being “happy” is a state of self that is “not criminal, not sinful, and not a mockery” of the purpose of Judaic religious “Law.”


Now, in verse five of the Jeremiah 17 reading, the literal translation of the Hebrew says this: “thus says Yahweh cursed the man who puts trust in mankind , and makes flesh his strength , and from Yahweh turns aside whose heart .” This verse finds the word “not” absent, thus making this reflect the opposite that Yahweh spoke through David, where being “happy” and “blessed” can now be seen to “not” be “cursed.” To be “cursed” means to be “criminal,” relative to the Law of Moses, to willingly break the laws [be “sinful”] and “mock” those who try to maintain their Agreement with Yahweh. To “not” be “happy” and “blessed” means to put one’s “trust in mankind,” where the “strength” of a “man” of wealth, position and influence is seen as greater than faith in Yahweh. Here, the prosperity of Israel under David was much closer to “happiness” and “blessedness” than was any of the lands that had later split in two, following a series of leaders who led their peoples to ruin.


With that said, David’s second verse then literally translates to say, “that if in the direction of Yahweh his pleasure and in his law he speaks , day and night .” This then is David explaining the source of the “blessing” and the “happiness” that keeps one [“not”] from being “cursed” [as Yahweh stated through Jeremiah]. In this verse the same root word is repeated: “torah.” The transliterations “bə·ṯō·w·raṯ” [“in the direction of”] and “ū·ḇə·ṯō·w·rā·ṯōw” [“and in his law”] takes the same root word and applies equal meaning, from different perspectives. First, the Law is an agreement, which “directs” one’s way of living, so to be a wife of Yahweh. The Covenant is a vow of marriage, where a soul in flesh submits itself to Yahweh as His bride, His wife in holy matrimony. This is not a forced enslavement, but a mutual promise to go in the “direction” the Husband leads. Then, the second focus on the Law is as statement of “love,” where it is a “pleasure” to be “directed” in how to act, which includes how to “speak.” The focus then placed on “day and night” says the Law gives “light” that leads one,” especially when “darkness” comes. The “night” (as always) is metaphor for “death,” so the “light” will continue beyond one’s end of human flesh.


From that, verse seven in Jeremiah’s song of Yahweh sings [literally]: “has knelt the man who trusts Yahweh ; and becomes Yahweh as one’s hope .” This has the Hebrew word “bā·rūḵ,” where the root word “barak” can equally mean “to kneel” or “to bless,” used as a statement of marriage, when one submits to Yahweh while “kneeling” at the altar of marriage. That submission does not come from defeat, as a forced commitment, but as a willing sacrifice of self to a higher power, out of true love and devotion. It is that “trust” that becomes the faith of person experience of Yahweh within that becomes the “hope” and “confidence” [from “miḇ·ṭa·ḥōw”] that is a parallel to David’s use of “day and night.” It is “trust” in the “direction” the Law provides – leading one to be righteous – that is the “pleasure” of “hope.”


In David’s third verse, the literal translation says: “and he shall be , like a tree planted by rivers of water where its fruit brings forth in its season , and whose leaf not shall wither ; and all that he does shall prosper .” The first and last segment of verse three connect to say, “and he shall be … and all that he does shall prosper.” This is a statement of those souls in human flesh who submit to Yahweh in marriage and experience the “pleasure” of His Law and the promise of salvation. In between is the same metaphor of this wife of Yahweh [souls coming in both male and female bodies of flesh], who is “like a tree planted by rivers of water,” which is the “living waters” Jesus spoke of, to the Samaritan woman at the well. It is that eternal presence of Yahweh merged with one’s soul that “brings forth fruit,” which is ministry, in willing service to Yahweh. When David said “whose leaf shall not whither,” the meaning is a soul married to Yahweh’s Spirit is never going to be uprooted from that marriage.


This has to clearly be seen repeated in Jeremiah’s eighth verse, which literally translates to say: “for he shall be like a tree planted by the waters , and by the stream that spreads forth its roots , and not will fear when comes heat , but will be its leaf green ; and in the time of drought not will be fearful , nor will cease from yielding fruit .” This says basically the same thing as David. That does not prove Jeremiah had memorized Psalm 1 and forgot where he heard the words. Jeremiah wrote, thus said Yahweh, which is the truth; so, that says Yahweh spoke through David, saying the same about His wives-servants-prophets.


In David’s fourth verse, where he returns focus to the “criminal, wicked” [from “hā·rə·šā·‘îm”], he again uses the negative “not” [combined as “not so” – “lō-kên”], pointing out the difference between the Law-breakers and Yahweh’s devoted wives-saints-prophets. Here they are said to be like the “chaff” [“kam·mōṣ”], which when compared to “fruit” is that living only to protect the inner fruit that is edible. Once picked, the “chaff” is separated from grain, becoming like a dead branch that has no leaves, thus no fruit. When David sang the “chaff” is blow away in the wind, the deeper meaning sees the transliteration “rū·aḥ” as the “breath” of life. Thus, those who are like “chaff” are souls [“ruach”] that are headed towards the reincarnation of death, “not” eternal life.


This vision of David is then parallel to that spoken by Yahweh through Jeremiah, in his sixth verse, where those souls that will not be like “trees planted by waters,” as they will be [literally translated]: “for it shall become like a shrub in the desert , and not shall see when comes good , but shall dwell in parched places in the mouth , land barren and not inhabited .” In this, the Hebrew word “midbar” is often translated as “wilderness,” when the reality is it means “mouth.” While being a “parched mouth” says Yahweh was referring to those souls who would not speak well of the Law, it says their inability to speak the truth of Scripture has also left their souls wandering aimlessly in “barren land” that cannot support plant life that bears good fruit. This makes one who claims to be a child of Yahweh, as a member of the Twelve Tribes of Israel the equivalent of a Gentile, none of who know Yahweh through a marriage Agreement.


This is where David sang of judgment in verse five. That verse literally says, “above thus not shall arise the criminal” [or “wicked”] in the judgment ; not the sinners in the congregation of the righteous .” The use of “qum” [as “yā·qu·mū”] is commonly translated as “to stand,” but when “judgment” is understood to be of a spiritual [soul] nature, not physical, the meaning should be read as “arise,” which means an elevated soul that receives the ‘Promised Land’ that is heaven or eternal life away from reincarnation. Those who have not committed to the Law, never marrying their souls to Yahweh’s Spirit, will be “judged” as “criminals,” thus “wicked.” Because those souls will “not” be part of the “congregation of the righteous,” deemed “sinners,” those souls will be turned away from eternal life, forced [by their own actions and inactions] to reap the emptiness that they have sown. This says marriage to Yahweh is a soul’s only course towards “righteous” living.


This correlates to Jeremiah writing, in verse six, that Yahweh said those souls who would “not see when comes good” are blind to the presence of Yahweh. Jesus told the young, rich ruler that only “God is good,” which now can be see as Yahweh speaking of Himself as that unseen that is the presence of “goodness,” which is “righteousness.” By one “not seeing good,” one is a “sinner” and thereby one that will be “judged” as “chaff.” The “land of salt [or barrenness] that is uninhabited” is the realm of death, which is where judgment sends a “criminal” soul.


In David’s last verse [verse six], he literally stated: “that knows Yahweh the way of the righteous ; but the way of the criminal shall perish .” This might seem to be a statement about what Yahweh “know,” but Yahweh is omniscient, so He knows all. The aspect of knowledge is what a soul in the flesh has welcomed within. When it has married Yahweh, then is “knows Yahweh” and is led by that knowledge to a “path of righteousness.” On the other hand, those who take a “path” that is away from the commitment of the Covenant [marriage to Yahweh], those “criminals” will lead themselves to an end [“to perish”] that lacks the inner insight of divine wisdom. Thus, those souls will be lost and count on grasping straws to save them from judgment; but those efforts will not help.


This also relates to Jeremiah’s last statement by Yahweh, which said the “wicked” will find a “land barren,” which is metaphor for a “soul in a body of flesh without Yahweh.” Being “barren,” with a “parched mouth,” says one’s soul has no knowledge to speak of. By leading oneself to a place that is uninhabited, this is the departure of a soul from a body of flesh at death. When death means judgment, “to perish” means condemnation” of a soul. Therefore, the only way to be saved from such a self-induced fate is to marry one’s soul to Yahweh and let His Law lead one to a life of righteousness and eternal salvation.


As a song of David that is connected to the Jeremiah reading on both the sixth Sunday after the Epiphany and Proper 1, Year C, the reason must be seen as making it clear that there are only two paths to take in life. One path comes from a soul that chooses to marry itself with Yahweh, by doing everything humanly possible to show Yahweh one sincerely loves Him. This can be a life that devotes itself to learning the Law and studying Scripture. Such actions will become a profession of love and elicit a proposal of divine marriage; at which time divine insight will begin to flow, making one’s love grow stronger. A life in service to Yahweh makes one turn away from all the bells and whistles that life throws around as distraction. On the other hand, those souls who do not act to show Yahweh one’s love for Him, they will be distracted and live lives of sin. Over time, when the guilt of one’s “criminal” behavior seem insurmountable, one’s soul will either collapse in guilt and beg Yahweh for forgiveness, which can bring redemption and the promise of salvation. However, many souls will refuse to beg for forgiveness, leading them to further acts as sinners; and, those souls shall perish.

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