5 Jul 2006

Life in Slow Lane: Quiet & Meditation vs Activity & Busyness, Psalm 1

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Exegesis, Hebrew Bible, Hermeneutics, Prayer, Preaching, Psalms

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he
meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit
in season and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor
sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish

Life in the Slow Lane

The first psalm, which serves as sort of a “gateway” into the world of the Psalms, contemplates a life whose worldview is controlled and blessed by the reign of Yahweh. Our “troubadour” invites us into an alternative world, one that is God directed, one in which there is order and stability. On his verbal canvas the “righteous” and the “wicked” are starkly contrasted in terms of “business.” Hustle and bustle are spiritually debilitating and are contrary to the rhythm of grace that our minstrel sings.

The singer bellows “Blessed (happy!) is the person who does not walk in the council of the wicked . . . but his/her delight is in the torah of the Lord, and on his torah he/she meditates day and night.” So far our singer has simply told us what the righteous person does not do. He/she has nothing to do with the wickedness. Instead of the “way of the wicked” the Lord “watches” over the way of the righteous (v.6a). So far a key to happiness, according to our singer, is a cessation of activity. The “Sabbath” principle is operating here. The blessed person has cultivated a core worship principle: plugging into God’s rhythm of grace . . . being still and letting the goodness of God fill his/her being.

By contrast it is the “fool” who is constantly on the “go.” The fool, the unblessed, never stops to smell the roses and it is precisely for this reason that she misses out on God! “Be still and know that I am God . . .”

The only activity (if it can be called an “action”) attributed to this blessed person is the worship discipline of “meditating.” He/she loves to reflect upon the splendor of God’s mighty deeds displayed in the Exodus. The story of God’s generosity to a rebellious people in the wilderness is a favorite. For God’s People today we relish the story of Jesus. We see him walking among the lepers and dining with the prostitutes. We delight in his teachings. We hold six hours one Friday above all else! The blessed lives on the word of God as if it were a delicious meal. . . it is savored not rushed. God’s word, because it reveals the glory of Yahweh and his amazing grace, is handled like expensive wine. We plumb the depths of something beyond our ability to grasp . . . we sit in wonder of it all. Through our meditation we come to the conclusion that Robert Richardson did years ago, “How truly incomprehensible and beyond comparison is the love of God for man” (Communings in the Sanctuary, p. 21).

Simply basking in the light of that love is what a Christian does! Nothing matters since God takes care of me and my needs, first at the Cross and then every day of life. What a comforting and peaceful thought . . . indeed how “happy” this worship discipline is for the righteous child of God.

The troubadour moves to his central metaphor of righteousness. Those who are caught up in God’s rhythm of grace . . . his order and tempo for our lives are like a mighty tree planted by a stream in an oasis. The world may be cruel and inhospitable over the hot and dusty sand dunes but in this oasis of God’s torah . . . life is secure in the One who blesses. Nourishment is always in plentiful supply, so the tree can be healthy and produce a great crop . . . in spite of the desert just beyond the hill. In this oasis, where the worship discipline of peaceful reliance upon God reigns, no droughts come, for the Lord takes care in the end. We might compare this image with that of

Jeremiah who also sang,

But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water that
sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are
always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought and
never fails to bear fruit
. (17.7-8)

Note that neither Jeremiah, nor our Singer, say that there will never be a drought. We know from life that there will be. But the person oriented to God not only “survives” such an ordeal but even finds the strength from the rhythm of grace to thrive!

How? Because she is “planted” by God in the oasis, he receives freely and gratefully what the Gracious One has done. As Jeremiah says even a year of drought the tree does not fear for its life, because the life giving water flows from God to nourish. It flows from the very source of the righteous meditation . . . God’s loving torah. No wonder our troubadour exhorts us to find quite and rest . . . stillness . . . without it we miss the river of the Spirit that flows from God and gives us life sustaining water.

Life in the Fast Lane

By contrast to the righteous blessed disciple of shalom is the one who lives in the fast lane . . . the wicked. This individual does not even warrant an entire complete sentence in the singer’s song in the Hebrew . . . that is how “insignificant” he really is. “Not so the wicked!” The wicked could never dream of having the stable and productive life of the righteous . . . she could never be a Tree. Life is to filled with activity!

Life is super fast, this person does not have “time” to be a tree. This person’s life is so helter skelter that they are like “chaff that blows away in the wind.” Their lives are spinning out of control, always behind, always more to do, always meeting a deadline from yesterday. They never realize their lives are spent until it is to late: when they find themselves in divorce court, when they find themselves in juvenile court, when they wake up one morning and don’t recognize their son or daughter. Suddenly it becomes very clear . . . the fast lane exacts a heavy toll. We wake up and realize I am existing but not living . . . what a sad day. But also a day with
potential hope.

Our singer calls these folk “chaff.” They are less than useless. Chaff is a “waste” product. Their lives have become a land fill for others refuse, they are slaves and never realize it. This person is a fool, not because God loves them less and their lives are wasted not because of a lack of gifts. They are fools and full of waste precisely because they refuse to let God’s rule, his reign, govern their schedule. They are not functioning as God designed them to.

They are “busy!” So busy they never see the blessed state of peace in the time of quiet, in the time of Sabbath meditation. They are fools because they believe they have endless sources of energy . . . but even a nuclear reactor runs out of fuel.

But the ultimate contrast between the slow lane and the fast lane is that God has an intimate relationship through his Son with us. “Not so the wicked!” The Lord watches over the way of those who slow down to relish his creation. God made it to display his glory but we often fail to see it because we are moving at warp speed.

Closing Reflections

Our singer makes a good case for focusing on the gracious words of the Lord. He makes a plea for us to slow down to the rhythm of grace for it is here that what we are pursuing in the “fast lane” are given to us as gifts of grace: blessedness, shalom, meaning. We can never be happy, secure or “satisfied” by trusting in our works and busy schedules. We must surrender to the gardening of God, he will plant you like a tree firmly rooted in the rhythm of grace and the river of the Spirit.

Hesed & Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

16 Responses to “Life in Slow Lane: Quiet & Meditation vs Activity & Busyness, Psalm 1”

  1. CFOURMAY Says:

    So very true. It is easy to get caught up in the fast lane. I always have a fear that I get caught up in what I want to accomplish. And that that leads to a fast lane lifestyle. I just hope that I am making decisions that God wants me to make and that He is my guide to life instead of living my life at a speed in which God just gets a small portion of time.

  2. Bill Says:


    This is a very insightful piece, which seems to capture the essence of this Psalm. Clarity in understanding is often gained by setting things in contrast. You’ve done just that with your observations regarding this psalm. What a great way to start my day!

    Grace and peace to you!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Nice job, Bobby. This Psalm use to bring the fear of not being good enough or seperating myself from all that false teaching. A sense of condemnation.

    2 weeks ago I was meditating on it in the way you have prescribed. Especially on the second verse. I enjoyed a tremondous amount of peace and joy when in mediation God spoke and said, “I Am (Jesus)the Word of the Law.”

    At the same time I revisited Dwight Roberts, “A Pharisees Guide to Holiness.” A deep reverence for our Lord’s Living Law has touched my heart.

    That our battle is real and one in which our enemy seeks to keep us isolated and empty. Even with ministry, getting caught up in serving God but with hearts that are far from Him. Almost a form of idolatry.

    I’m finding that true mysticism is putting our faith into the things of this world vs. the guidance and love recieved through the Holy Spirit. Wow, imagine what we, His disciples would look like. We’d become reflections of His Glory! As creation waits in eager anticipation…….Lord Jesus, hear this prayer.


  4. Steve Puckett Says:

    My time at Fuller Theological Seminary help me to learn about connecting with my contemplative, reflective side. Busyness has always been my motto, but reading some of the contemplatives really showed me the great value of meditating on the word of God. I often return to Space for God by Dan Postema to reminisce.


  5. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Steve, you (no doubt) are familiar with Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor. One of my favorite lines in that work is “Busyness is to pastor what adulterous is to wife!” 🙂 🙂

    Bobby Valentine

  6. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    I believe that our Abba will guide you if you seek the “rhythm of grace” for your life. The Sabbath is more than Saturday. I pray all is well for you as you begin your graduate student career.


    Delighted to have you come by and read my musings . . . as poor as they are. I do hope your day will be a great one.


    I am always so blessed to hear from you. You ought to stop by and visit once in a while. When you brought your group over from you congregation that was such a blessing. We should do that again.

    I am delighted to learn you are using lectio divina and that God is enriching your life with it. Keep it up.

    Bobby Valentine

  7. Velcro Says:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Velcro Says:

    Bobby ~ Great Post. I love the Old Testament, because it shows God’s progressive revelation of His redemptive work through the blood Christ ultimately shed in the NT.

    A favorite saying of mine is, “It’s not how talented the musician is, but whether he is in tune.”

    When focusing on our talents and our busy work it’s easy to get “out of tune” when we’re running around doing too much busy work and not spending time in worship to God.

    Joshua completely missed God just before Jericho, because he was so focused on the battle at hand. But when he realized, he fell on his face in worship.

    One of my definitions of spirtual maturity is balance… being able to distinguish time for work and time for worship.

  9. Tom Says:

    Nice blog. When I can figure out my tech problems on Blessings & Other Stuff (www.amplyblessed.net) I will put you on my Bless My Soul links!

    Glad you liked Cubtracker, too! Before the year started I chose the Brewers to go al the way. A good second half should put them in the playoffs!

  10. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Josh, I like your favorite saying. Perhaps something out of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure!!” One of the greats.


    Thanks for coming by and commenting on my blog. I am grateful for the link.

    As for the Brewers they are simply not consistent. We were five or six gaves above .500 and then last 9 or 10 straight. We have climbed back to about even out of that hole but just not enough consistency. Ben Sheets is paid a LOT of money to be as useless as he is to the team. Derek Turnbow has turned into a very good one though.

    Bobby Valentine

  11. Alan Says:

    I enjoyed this post very much. I think we are afraid to “slow down” in whatever form that might be. The fear being that if we remove the busyness we will become alone, no longer with the “things” that fill our time. I am a loner by personality (except when it comes to my family–espceially my two young grandchildren 🙂 ). I find peace when I have time to myself to think and truely see. In that state I find that God is there. He’s been trying to get my attention.

    Grace and Peace

  12. "Snapshot" Says:

    Wow. I ended up here through a posting on Elizabeth’s blog. We are studying “Peace” in my ladies class and we talked about the beauty of meditation just this past Sunday. I enjoyed your blog.

    I am in North Alabama!

  13. Josh Stump Says:

    Bobby, glad you found my blog so that I could find yours. I enjoyed reading that very much.

    Also, free of charge, here are my thoughts on Milwaukie sports:

    1. I will always root against the Brewers as long as they have any association with the worst commisioner in sports, Mr. Selig. that said, I do think the sausage races are pretty cool.

    2. I love the TJ Ford for Charlie Vilanueva trade for the Bucks. They never should have fired Terry Porter, but this trade will help. Ford is a good back up at best and Vilanueva is cheaper, has greater potential and fills a need for an additional scorer. Toronto got fleeced on this one and I’m a Ford fan.

    3. Favre should have hung it up 2 years ago. I’m a huge Niner fan and had to watch the later years of Rice’s career in horror. As an SF fan, I never was much of a Favre fan, but I hate to see the great ones hold on too long and with the team he has this year, I just don’t get why he’s coming back.

  14. preacherman Says:

    Excellent post.

  15. Candle (C & L) Says:

    Thank you for this insight and challenging commentary – challenging to someone who has always felt compelled to be “doing something” and when retired I no longer had my security blanket of work as the place were I could be busy “doing something” and I drifted into filling my time by being occupied with “mindless” activity and playing games (SODUKU, freecell, etc.) — I found I was especially drawn to those things when I tried to “be still and hear God” — I have recently gone through the “lectio divinio” (Sic?) on Romans that you suggested and found it helpful in breaking that “I can’t stop to do this” syndrome. I have now started my own series on the fruits of the spirit – reading about a given fruitand then praying for that fruit in my life —

    God Bless you

    p.s. I’m halfway through the “Kingdom come” book — very fansinating and its “rocking my world” since I was brought up in the “spirit is the word” world although I haven’t believed and taught that for several yeard because it wasn’t consistent with how I read the Bible and how I experiened glimmers of the spirit working in my life when I began to open up my heart and askk for the Spirit’s help.

  16. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    I think you have been on Stoned-Campbell before so welcome back. It is great to have back. It is also good to know that Lectio Divina is blessing your life. I believe God can do some amazing things through it.

    Let me thank you for being the fifth or sixth person to read our book, 🙂 I hope it has not been your cure for insomnia! Would love to have your take on it.

    Bobby Valentine

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