One of the glories of the psalter is how it opens: “Blessed is the man… .” How?! How may I be blessed? The Hebrew word that stands behind the word “blessed,” asher, means “happy.” So, in essence, the first line of the psalter says to us, “Expect, herein, to discover how to be happy.” Stop to consider this for a moment. Be dazzled by this! Expect, in the psalms, to discover how to be happy!
Psalm 1 is, in essence, the thesis statement of the psalter as a whole. It is the orienting psalm, which encapsulates all the others. And, at the beginning of this, the lengthiest book in the Bible, is a call to listen and learn how to be happy. Is there a deeper need in the human heart? Is there a greater want in all the world? Is there anything for which people search more vigorously and unceasingly than happiness? And here we are told: Look. Listen. God himself will show you the way to be happy. What an inexpressible delight. The way of happiness, to be unpacked all throughout the psalter, is encapsulated in the first two verses: “Happy 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; but his delight is in the instruction of the LORD, and on his instruction he meditates day and night.”
Is this not almost exactly the opposite of the way most people pursue happiness? Happiness is not to be found in the various pursuits of sin, but in the instruction of the LORD, who says to us: Come listen. I will show you happiness as you have never known. Come drink from the river of my delights (Psa. 36:8).