The very first word we read in the book of Psalms is blessed. The Hebrew here is ’ešer (H835), a masculine noun meaning a person’s state of bliss. It’s never used of God, rather always of people, and is exclamatory in emphasis, as in “O the bliss of . . .” Most of its forty-four appearances are appropriately in the poetry of Psalms and Proverbs.
It is extremely significant that the Septuagint translates ’ešer using the Greek makarios, which our Lord used nine times in the Beatitudes (Mat_5:3-11). Many Bible teachers say this word just means “happy,” which is always circumstantial. It actually speaks of the far deeper idea of an inward contentedness not affected by circumstances (Php_4:11-13).
Of the many occurrences of ’ešer, one that immediately strikes us is Psa_1:1 : “Blessed is the man,” where the unknown psalmist distinguishes two lifestyles (February 23), one that is blessed and one that is not. We find in Psa_1:1-3 three realities that produce genuine bliss and contentment:
First, a path that is holy. In three distinct statements, the psalmist outlines holiness. The holy person first does not stroll with the “ungodly” (rāšā‘, H7563) people. He doesn’t associate with, listen to, or join those who are guilty before God and transgressors of His Law. Second, the holy person does not stand with sinners. Way is derek (February 23), a marked-out pattern of life, and “standeth” is ‘āmaḏ (H5975), which figuratively indicates living somewhere, standing, remaining there (e.g., Exo_8:22, dwell). The holy life, then, is one that does not remain in sin (1Jn_3:9, where “commit” is present tense, to “continually habitually commit sin”). Third, the holy person does not sit with the “scornful” (liys, H3887) person, that is, one who boasts, scoffs, mocks, and derides, as in showing or expressing utter contempt, in this case for the things of God.
Second, blessedness comes from a passion for Scripture. The blissful and contented person is one who takes delight (February 29) in God’s Word and his meditation (January 6) on it is the rule of life and his daily priority.
Third, blessedness comes from a prosperity dependent upon God. The image of sitting by a river is a graphic one, picturing nourishment, growth, fruitfulness, and much more. While “prosperity teachers” promise monetary riches, true prosperity is found in the spiritual riches we have in Christ (Eph_1:3-23).
Scriptures for Study: Read the following verses, noting what else brings bliss and true contentedness: Psa_2:12; Psa_32:1-2; Psa_112:1; Psa_119:1-2; Psa_127:4-5; Pro_3:13 (“happy”); Pro_8:32.
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