Psalm 1 is about quality life. But there is a very clear focus as to what makes it that way.

Written by Dr. Wayne Brouwer /
April 24, 2024

Blessed is the man . . .
—Psalm 1:1

There’s an ancient Chinese teaching riddle that tells the story of a man who’s running from a hungry bear. Suddenly he’s at the edge of a cliff. It’s either jump or be eaten, so he throws himself over. Fortunately, there’s a tiny sapling to grab as a lifesaver. Jerked to a halt, he sees a tiger beneath his feet, just waiting to devour him. And two gophers have chosen that moment to gnaw at the wood that suspends him between death above and death below!

What to do? What would you do? The story continues: all at once he spies a wild strawberry bush, an arm’s reach away. It’s loaded with ripe red berries. He plucks one, pops it in his mouth, and with a look of sheer contentment sighs, “Mmmmm! Delicious!”

Quality Life

That man is blessed, says the parable. He knows how to find joy and contentment in life, no matter what his circumstances. No one will take from him the quality of life that flows from his heart!

Psalm 1 is about quality life. But there is a very clear focus as to what makes it that way. For some people, contentment might come from a stable family life. It may result from financial success or achieving a degree. It may even begin with a good job. “Blessed is he who has found his work” says Thomas Carlyle, “let him ask no other blessedness.”

But Psalm 1 doesn’t suggest any of these. And you know why. Circumstances change. Happenings happen for a while, and then stop happening. We need to pin our goals and values on something deeper than shifting sands.

And that’s precisely the point. “His delight is in the law of the Lord!” shouts the psalmist. When you’re in tune with the Creator and the creation, temporary dissonance and discord are momentary ripples that soon will be smoothed into the larger patterns of life’s fabric.

Knowing that, you can savor the taste of a strawberry, even on a hospital bed.

Abide with Me

Henry Francis Lyte was only fifty-four, but several years of illness had kept him from functioning to full potential in his congregation in a small fishing village. His limitations seemed to have fostered problems in the church. At one time worship services were crowded, and over eight hundred children were taught by seventy teachers in the Sunday school program. At one time he knew the names of every boat in the harbor and every man who walked the docks. At one time his tireless care and enthusiasm drew even skeptics to Christ.

But now he was failing rapidly. His doctor told him to quit the ministry. His congregation was falling apart. And here he sat, on a bluff above the sea, wondering what message to bring for his last Sunday evening sermon.

The points and outline wouldn’t come. They were crowded out by the cares and troubles that surrounded him. But then a prayer began to form in his mind that softly caressed his vision back into focus. The prayer began to sing itself. And by the time his people gathered for worship, a new hymn called them into the presence of God.

Henry Lyte died a few months later. But he died a blessed man. And people in churches around the world know that, each time they open their hymnbooks to sing his prayer: “Abide with Me!”

I need your presence every passing hour; What but your grace can foil the tempter’s power? Who like yourself my guide and strength can be? Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me!

Excerpt from
Hear Me, O God: Meditations on the Psalms

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