Psalm 1 again: verses 1 through 3

Blessed is the man

ESV retains the traditional masculine singular because unlike pluralized rewordings it preserves the possibility of figural reading as referring to Jesus Christ as the ideal human who fits the description given. And I guess somehow “Blessed is the human” or “the person” doesn’t quite have the same poetic resonance. Some of us like old language in our psalms.

The good thing about “meditating” on a passage in the original sense of murmuring repeatedly, sotto voce, is that you can vary the repetitions.

Start with “the man” and read verses 1 through 3 imagining the ancient Israelite who first uttered these words. Think of David if you want. Say it again, thinking of Jesus. Again: thinking of a person for whose example you want to give thanks, or for whom you want to invoke God’s continuing blessing.

In the fourth century, in a letter of consolation to some monks whose longtime father and brother monk had died, Athanasius of Alexandria wrote, “Blessed is Theodore, who walked . . . .”—filling in a name, and writing in the past tense.

Why not? This is what the Psalms are for: for praying over and over again, through the days and months of the year. Not vain repetition, which is empty repetition. Filled repetition. Filled how? Filled in with all the people and circumstances that come to mind for you, or the name of people on your prayer list.

This is deliberate “actualization”: making the text, and the spirit animating the text, present by merging the present into the text and inviting the text, and the spirit in the text, to flow into the present, and the future.

What better way to pray for anyone than to pray them into the first three verses of this first psalm in book 1 of the prayers and praises of Israel?

Thank God for blessing them. Or ask God to bless them. Ask God to bless them by enabling them not to walk-stand-sit with the wicked-sinners-scoffers, but to meditate, to prosper, yield fruit in season, to stand in the judgment.

Bless them yourself, by calling them blessed (mentioning them to others?), or by doing something that will bless them (thanking them? telling them you prayed for them? something tangible? something they won’t know you did?)

Go ahead and switch to the plural. A group, or community, or family, or congregation that is blessed by their green leaves, by their sweet fruit. Or that needs to be blessed by God in a way that will cause them to flourish and bear fruit.

And when you’re repeating your murmurings, don’t forget yourself. If you’re a woman: “Blessed is the woman.” Use your own name. Ask God to guide your walking, standing, sitting, meditating, fruit-bearing. Day and night. Always.

Blessed is [are] _________,
who walks [walk, walked] not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands [stand, stood] in the way of sinners,
nor sits [sit, sat] in the seat of scoffers;
but his [her, their] delight is [was] in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he [she, they] meditates [meditate, meditated] day and night.

I don’t change the present tense in that first line to the past, because the Lord’s blessing is never past. It abides. It is eternally present.

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