Does God care about our happiness? Yes, and Psalm 1 proves it.
Psalm 1 –1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law, he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Psalm 1 is not only a suitable introduction to the Psalter, but to the rest of the biblical genre of wisdom literature as a whole (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job). This is because, packed within its potent 6 verses is a surprisingly balanced treatment of the life, the loves, and the fate of those who would walk according to the law of God. In summary, what this inaugural Psalm succinctly teaches us is that the way of God is the way, the only way, of true happiness and eternal life.
The Holman Christian Standard Bible is among the only translations willing to do what other translations are not. That is, translate the first word of this Psalm as “happy.” This word occurs a total of forty-five times in Hebrew Scripture and is elsewhere translated “happy” by the King James and others. Interestingly, the Greek equivalent of this word, which shows up up fifty times, behaves the same way. The best example is Christ’s “beatitudes” in Matthew 5. (you know… “Blessed are the poor in Spirit…”) And while the HCSB is not as quick to translate it as “happy” in Matthew 5, it does several times elsewhere. Truly Happy indeed are the poor in Spirit, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).
The point is that “happy” (along with words like “fortunate,” even “to be envied”) are firmly within the range-of-meaning for the word “blessed.” After all, according to the Psalmist, all that this blessed person puts their hands to succeeds (v.3). Why wouldn’t someone be happy whose every deed prospers? Isn’t that the kind of person you would describe as fortunate? But we’re not done yet.This only works when we allow God’s Word to define happy. Then we can freely say, “Yes, God cares about the happiness of those who love Him and will in fact prosper us beyond our greatest imagination. What we learn is that God has designed us in such a way that only when we live according His Law will we be truly happy. Therefore, happy is the man who has found his deepest delight in the Way of the Lord and who trusts that God’s instruction leads to best life He has to offer, in time and eternity.
The godly can be happy for two reasons then, according to Psalm 1. First, because they have been planted (v.3) by streams of living water (Jn. 4.14). I believe this is a picture of salvation by grace through faith. Their sins have been forgiven and they now have a different eternal fate than the wicked (vv.4-6). They have been“delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of his [Jesus]” (Col. 1.13). There are no native trees in the forest of the righteous. All have graciously been transplanted there. This change in heavenly position is seen in the stark difference between the godly and wicked. One has abundant life, while the other dies a self-destructive death. One is described as life-giving, while the other is simply waste. One will live forever, deeply rooted in the promise of God, while the other will vanish – easily blown away by the wind and then consumed by divine judgment. The blessed man has repented of his wicked ways and has trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. By faith, he has been grafted into Christ (Rom. 11.23). Now, a clean conscience before God and man is his peace (v.5) and he enjoys the glorious confidence of eternal life (v.6). This is true happiness!
Second, the godly are happy, because they “prosper” in all things (v.3). The Psalmist’s eye is also the natural state of the godly as they live in this world. While eternal life that lasts forever is our ultimate hope, those who know God, experience a taste of this abundant life in this life (Jn. 10.10; 17.3). Should it be any surprise that the godly live lives of fruitfulness, maturity, and faithfulness (v.3)? Aren’t the fruits of the Holy Spirit pleasurable to both the godly themselves and to all those near enough to be positively influenced by them? The wicked appear for a time to know how to live well in this life – to make the most of the short life we all live. Their worldly wisdom and self-help principles, their brand of friendships and fun, their jokes and irreverent levity (v.1) – it’s all attractive for a time, but is ultimately seen for what it is. Not only does wickedness amount to nothing in the end, but the wicked themselves are severely and justly punished (v.4). Sin always, ultimately leads to death (Js. 1:14-15). But, the godly are not so. There are circumstantial exceptions (see Psalm 10:5), however, in a proverbial sense, the conduct of the godly is of much greater benefit. The way of God is synonymous with the way of wisdom and it alone leads to true life - even in this life. The godly are not exempt from the difficulties of this world, even persecution. However, theirs is “the way” that God watches over (v.6), approves of, and protects . What a great reason to smile!
Here, the godly have two reasons to be supremely happy. First, because they have eternal life and second, because they have the best kind of life - even now. Now, notice the source of their happiness. In both cases, it is the Word of God – or more specifically, the Law of God. God has graciously and generously revealed Himself to us so that we would know that we are to be saved, how we are to be saved, and then how to live for His glory and for our own good. Does more necessary or meaningful content flow from any other source? In the great Psalm 119, God’s law is described as being “sweeter than honey” (v.103) and “a light to my path” (v.105). It is no wonder that our psalmist “delights” is in the instruction and revelation of God and prayerfully considered it day and night (v.2). C.H. Spurgeon writes, “Is your delight in the law of God? Do you study God’s Word? Do you make it the man of your right hand – your best companion and hourly guide? If not, this blessing does not belong to you.” This blessed happiness is a product of seeing God’s Law for what it is, the way of salvation, protection, fruitfulness, maturity, and prosperity.