Psalms 5: The stick (Psalm 1:4-6)

Psalm 1 provides both positive and negative motivation for delighting in the law of YHWH.  After describing the carrot (prosperity) that comes to the torah-obsessed person in verse 3, in the next three verses the psalmist describes the stick.

While the psalm doesn’t go into great detail about “the wicked”, from verse one we learn that they give advice that moves one away from blessedness and that they are associated with “sinners” and “scoffers” (following the parallelism of the verse).  After describing the blessings of the prosperous righteous (OCD, in the best possible sense, about the word of God), the fourth verse informs the reader that “the wicked are not so.”  So, unlike the fruity trees of verse 3, they are like chaff, driven away in the wind.  Chaff, for those of us less familiar with agricultural terminology, are the outer husks of the grain, inedible and therefore useless.  You don’t want to be chaff

If you weren’t sure that being chaff was bad, the next verse spells it out in more detail.  The wicked don’t survive the judgment.  Now again, we’re not exactly sure what that means, but it’s clearly not good, and it’s contrasted to the way of the righteous because YHWH is going to “watch over” (NRSV) them (Psa. 1:6).

I’ve always been more motivated by the stick than the carrot (although I love carrots, and my dog Tiglath does tricks for carrots).  What do you think it means to be “chaff”?  How is that connected to not delighting in the law of YHWH?

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