The first word of the first verse of the first Psalm captures the theme of the entire book. Blessed. The whole book of Psalms, but especially Psalm 1 is what the blessed life is all about. "Blessed is the one..!" But what does "blessed" mean? It seems like an important word, but we zoom past it, often failing to heed the truth only one verse later: the blessed one meditates on the Word.
Let's meditate on "blessed." It's the Hebrew word ashar. In the Greek translation, it's makarios. As a side note, makarios is the word "blessed" in the beatitudes in Matthew 5. "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Lexicons define makarios as "blessed, happy, fortunate" and ashar as "happiness." So we might say, "O how happy is the one who follows God!"
And that partly works. And yet happy doesn’t quite cover the meaning because happiness is too superficial. Happiness is tied to circumstances and sounds only emotional. Blessedness is even deeper. Hebrew scholar Allen Ross defined blessed as the “joyful spiritual condition of those who are right with God and the pleasure and satisfaction that is derived from that” (Ross, Psalms, 185).
Perhaps the way I think of what this word blessed means is this: when we get the privilege of watching people get baptized at our church, that’s blessedness. They stand before us proclaiming that they were once ungodly people deserving the wrath of God but now because Jesus Christ they have a right relationship with him. All of life stops for a moment and we see what is most important, most happy. Perhaps my most emotional times at church have been listening to people tell how God has changed them. I have told my wife as I listen, not in a month could I ever have written something so beautiful as someone describing how God has saved them and changed their life. If I could capture that happiness and joy-- if I could put that in a bottle--that would be blessedness. "Blessedness" is that sense of joy and satisfaction, and sometimes-even jealousy in listening to that deep intimacy, comfort, joy, and love -that comes from knowing God.
Blessed is forgiveness of sins.
Blessed is peace with God.
Blessed is being called friend rather than enemy.
Blessed is confidence in prayer at the throne of grace.
Blessed is freedom from fear or shame or guilt.
Blessed is knowing every event in the life of believer is an act of love intended to brings fully into the joy of our salvation.
When I think of "blessed" in Psalm 1 my mind always jumps to Jimmy Needham's song "Stay." It's simple song rejoicing in the presence of God. As I listen to I think, "Yes, this is it. This is blessed."
You take my and and then we run away
To the place where my fears have no voice at all
The only sound in my ear, the whisper of your call,
This moment is frozen, I'm not going anywhere
I linger forever, if only I could stay here