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Useless. Irritating. Chaff. ~ Psalm 1

July 6, 2011

Tossing chaff as seen from my window

From the window of our bedroom, I looked out across the rice fields surrounding a distant mountain. During harvest, people covered their faces and arms, threshing stalks of rice and separating sharp hulls of no use. As farmers tossed the stalks into the air, chaff filled the sky and was caught by a hot wind; it blew in from the fields and irritated our lungs and eyes. Useless. Irritating. Chaff.


Psalm 1 leaves us wondering about who first wrote its words. We’ve looked at observations and considered some meaning, but how did the words of the 6 verses apply to the original audience? As God breathed these words, what did He know about the early worshipers that made this song so powerful?

  • Water – Since the Psalms were first given to Israel as a national hymnal, the audience would’ve been made up of people familiar with  life in arid places. Precious water was the life blood of prosperity, and distance from it was the difference between life and death. To bear fruit, a plant has to be planted or transplanted to a place where it can live.
  • Covenant – They also knew that prosperity and perishing were part of the covenant God had made with them as a people. This was not brand new information, but it gave voice to their song of commitment. (Exodus 19:3-9)
  • Farming – Most of those listening knew first hand the labors of the field and the process of moving from planting to fruit bearing. To those in agricultural Palestine, a tree intentionally planted to flourish by a life giving  stream was a familiar contrast to the useless chaff removed during threshing, leaving behind the valuable grain as it was blown away in the wind.
  • Kings – The people of God who first sang this Psalm knew that a king has the right to approve of or prefer a man who please him. Many had suffered in captivity and knew the anguish of a disapproving king. As God’s chosen people, He has the right to receive or reject those in His kingdom.

The blessed man bears fruit, but the wicked man bears useless chaff.

“Scoffers” refused to follow the covenant given by the King to His people. At that time, that mean following the first 5 books we have, the Torah. Walking it’s truths led to either bearing fruit for others or perishing without being a benefit (Useless. Irritating. Chaff.)

God repeated the priority when His people prepared to cross into the land He promised them. He challenged Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Josh. 1:8).

The people who first sang Psalm 1 knew that to be prosperous, they must constantly consider and practice God’s holy Word.  Every harvest season, as they tossed grain into the air and watched chaff blow away, they would remember and be warned.

The blessed man bears fruit, but the wicked man bears useless chaff.

So what about the non-farmers of the 21st century? Does Psalm 1 apply to us?

Come back with me to the life-giving Word tomorrow,  and let’s make it personal.

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