“How Blest Are They”


“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (Ps. 1:1)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which pronounces God’s blessings on those who do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful is “How Blest Are They.”  The text, based on Psalm 1, is taken from the Psalter, 1912, and has been altered.  Several tunes have been used with the song, including one (St. Anne) attributed to William Croft and most often associated with Isaac Watts’s “O God, Our Help in Ages Past;” another one (Song 67) attributed to Orlando Gibbons, and still another (Epworth) composed by Charles Wesley Jr.  Yet another (St. Savior) which works quite well was composed by Frederick G. Baker (1840-1872).  It was apparently not published until 1876.  I have seen the tune used with Philip Doddridge’s “Hark, the glad sound!” and Tate and Brady’s version of Psalm 84 beginning “O God of hosts, the mighty Lord” both in the 1961 Trinity Hymnal of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church edited by Robert S. Marsden.

    The Psalter Hymnal Handbook says of this song, “Psalm 1, the first of the ‘wisdom’ psalms, directs all who enter the book of Psalms to the appropriate way to serve and worship God. In the tradition of the teachers of wisdom (also found in 34, 37, 49, 73, 112, and throughout Proverbs), this psalm sharply contrasts the results of righteousness with those of wickedness. Psalm 1 declares the blessedness of the righteous, who shun the counsel and company of the wicked (st. 1) and who meditatively review God’s law (st. 2). While the righteous are blessedly secure, fruitful, and prosperous in all they do (st. 3), the wicked are as wind-blown chaff, excluded from the LORD’s congregation and unable to stand in the place of judgment (st. 4). The LORD watches over the way chosen by the righteous, but the way of the wicked comes to nothing (st. 6). These two ‘ways’ lead to such contrasting conditions not by chance or some natural law but because God is active in human affairs to protect and bless the one and denounce the other. The versification is from the 1912 Psalter, slightly altered and cast in plural rather than singular pronouns.”  Its use includes “Many occasions in Christian worship, especially with the liturgical reading of the law, and before or after sermons devoted to Christian wisdom themes.”

     The hymn contrasts the lot of the righteous with the lot of the wicked.

I. Stanza 1 tells us that the righteous fear God

“How blest are they who, fearing God,

From sin restrain their feet,

Who will not with the wicked stand,

Who shun the scorner’s seat.”

 A. Those who fear God will restrain their feet from sin: Prov. 4:26

 B. They will not stand with the wicked because they will be cut off from the earth: Prov. 2:22

 C. And they will shun the scorner’s seat because the scorner is an abomination: Prov. 24:9

II. Stanza 2 tells us that the righteous delight in God’s law

“How blest are they who make God’s law

Their treasure and delight,

And meditate upon that word

With gladness day and night.”

 A. God has revealed His law for mankind in His written testimony: Ps. 19:7

 B. David understood the importance of treasuring God’s word: Ps. 119:11

 C. He also determined to meditate on it day and night: Ps. 119:97

III. Stanza 3 tells us that the righteous are nourished like a tree

“Their lives are nourished like a tree

Set by the river’s side.

Its leaf is green, its fruit is sure:

So all their works abide.”

 A. The tree is often used as a symbol of that which is flourishing: Jer. 17:8

 B. The river’s side represents the spiritual waters from God to nourish the tree: Ps. 23:2

 C. Thus, the leaf of the righteous is green to show spiritual prosperity: Ezek. 47:12

IV Stanza 4 tells us that the wicked are like the driven chaff

“The wicked, like the driven chaff,

Are blown across the land;

They shall not gather with the just,

Nor in the judgment stand.”

 A. Chaff is that part of the grain which is worthless and is driven away: Matt. 3:12

 B. This symbolizes the fact that the wicked shall not be gathered with the just: Matt. 13:37-43

 C. This will occur in the final judgment when the wicked and the righteous will be separated: Matt. 25:31-33

V. Stanza 5 tells us that the Lord guards the righteous but overthrows the wicked

“The Lord will guard the righteous well,

Their way to Him is known;

The way of sinners, far from God,

Shall surely be o’erthrown.”

 A. The Lord will guard the righteous well because He is a shield to them: Ps. 3:3

 B. Their way to Him is know because He cares for them: 1 Pet. 5:7

 C. However, the way of sinners is far from God and will be overthrown; Prov. 21:12

     CONCL.:  At one time, the Psalms were almost universally the only songs sung in English speaking churches which passed from the “Old Version” of Sternhold and Hopkins, through the “New Version” of Tate and Brady, to “The Psalms Imitated in the Language of David” by Isaac Watts.  The Scottish Psalters were constantly being revised and edited.  Eventually, with the development of hymns and gospel songs, use of the Psalms waned.  However, some interest has always continued and in fact has been revived in recent years with more updated and sometimes more poetic  metrical arrangements of the Psalms.  The very first Psalm reminds us that concerning the righteous who follow God’s way, “How Blest Are They.”


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