The first sound of the harp of the sweet singer of Israel might well be thought strange in a world lying in wickedness. It celebrates the present happiness of that man who has fellowship with God, and no fellowship with the ungodly. Behold he man! His eye arrested, not by the things of the earth but by what has been sent down from heaven - "the law of the Lord."
He has found the "river of living water" he is like a tree - like some palm or pomegranate tree - laden with fruit of like that tree of life in Rev 22:2 which yields its fruit every month, and yield fruit of all variety. "Every bud of it grows into a grain", says the Targum on the words "all that he does shall prosper," as in Genesis 7:11,12 "He is the very contrast of the barren fig-tree, withered by the curse" says a modern interpreter.
Perhaps this comparison to the tree and the streams should carry us back to Eden, and suggest the state of man holy and happy there. Redeemed man rises up again to Eden-blessedness. Is it the fact of its occurrence in this Psalm, or is it simply the expressiveness of the similitude, that has led to its repetition...
"He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.” - Jer 17:8
But, besides, we are carried back to Joshua by the language used regarding the man's prosperity. Joshua's career was one of uninterrupted prosperity, except in one single case, when he forgot to consult the Lord; and the Lord's words to him where there:
"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth,
But you shall meditate on them day and night.
That you may observe to do according to all that is written in them,
For then you shall make your way prosperous.,
And then you shall have good success" - Joshua 1:8
Perhaps this reference to the days of Joshua made this Psalm more appropriate as an introduction to the whole book. It connects these ancient days with other generations. It sang of the same Lord, acting toward all men on the same principles. It sang of a race who had come to possess the land of Canaan, who acted on the holy maxims that guided Joshua when he took possession - a race of men guided by the revealed will of Jehovah.
The ungodly are not so prosperous - they are not as "trees by the river side." They are as "chaff" ready to be driven away in the day of wrath, and unable to resist the slightest breath of Jehovah's displeasure (Dan 2:35, Matt 3:12, the "day of decision") Hence they cannot "stand." Even as in Rev 6:17, the cry of the affrighted world - kings, captains, rich men, mighty men, bond, free - is "The great day of his wrath has come, and who shall be able to stand?" For the "Lord knows the way of the righteous" Our Lord may have refered to this passage in his memorable expression so often used (Matt 7:23, Matt 25:12, Luke 13:27) "I never knew you - I know you not"
O, the happiness, then, of the godly!" Happy now, and still happier in that day which now hastens, when the husbandman shall separate "the chaff" from the wheat, and the kingdoms of earth be broken in pieces "like the chaff of the summer threshing floor" and "the wind shall carry them away" O the folly of those who "sit in the seat of the scorners" and ask in these last days (2 Pet 3:3) "where is the promise of his coming?"
We have noticed that our Lord seems to quote one of the expressions of this Psalm; and let us see how we may suppose it all read by him in the days of his flesh. We know He read it; his delight was in the law of the Lord; and often he quoted the book of Psalms. As he read, it would be natural to his human soul to appropriate the blessedness pronounced on godly; for he knew and felt himself to be indeed The Godly, who "had not walked in the counsels of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful"
He felt himself able to say at all times "your law is within my heart!" Was He not the true palm tree? Was He not the true pomegranate tree? Can we help thinking on Him as alone realising the description of this Psalm? The members of his mystical Body, in their measure, aim at this holy walk; but it is only in him that they see it perfectly exemplified.
"His leaf never withered'" "he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (1 Peter 2:22); "he yielded his fruit in its season" obeying his mother Mary, and being found about his Father's business; going up to the feast "when his hour had come" and suffering, when the appointed time came; everything "in season" And "all he did prospered;" he finished the work given to him (John 17:4) and because of his completed work, "therefore God has highly exalted him" (Phil 2:8,9).
We who are his members seek to realise all this in our measure. We seek that everything in us should be to the glory of God - heart, words, actions - all that may adorn the gospel, as well as all that is directly holy. Having the imputed righteousness of this Saviour, we earnestly long to have his holiness imparted too; though conscious that He alone comes up to the picture drawn here so beautifully. In either view, we may inscribe as the title of this Psalm, the blessed path of the righteous one.