Where does happiness come from?

Sometimes English translations of Psalm 1:1-2 conceal the real point of the text. I have in mind the words that are commonly translated as “blessed” and “delight.” Take the NASB for example:

1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

The NASB has not mistranslated these two terms. It in fact tracks right along with many other major English versions (e.g., ESV, NIV, RSV). The problem is not translation, but tradition.

It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt. I would argue that it also breeds thoughtlessness. There are certain religious words that have become so ensconced in the Christian tradition that our familiarity with them distracts us from the fact that we have never really pondered what they mean. I think, for instance, that the word “glory” falls into this category. Ask your average pew-sitter what “glory” means in any given verse of the Bible, and see if they get it right.

The word “blessed” also falls into this category. The average reader knows that “bless” is a positive term, but do they know in what sense it is positive? In the English dictionary, the word “blessed” means something like “consecrated” or “divinely favored,” and I think many English readers instinctively interpret the term along those lines. But is that what the underlying term means in Psalm 1? Not quite.

The word “blessed” renders a Hebrew term that simply means “happy.” The verse is saying that the “happy” person is one who does not live a life of evil. Rather, “delight” or “joy” comes from knowing the word of God, believing the word of God, and obeying the word of God. Where does happiness come from? It comes from God. Where do we find God? In His word.

It is not an overstatement to say that happiness comes from the Bible—not the Bible as an end in itself, but the Bible as God’s written revelation and as our only means of knowing Him. Thus if we want to be happy, we have to shun evil (v. 1) and give ourselves to the study and application of scripture (v 2). Only those who meditate on and obey the Bible in this way will we be able to sing with the Psalmist, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

Only in the scripture will we find the remedy that God has provided for those who are without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). That remedy is the basis of all human happiness and flourishing. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and raised for sinners.

That’s where happiness comes from.

1 How happy is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his joy is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

Don’t be a stranger to joy. Open your Bible. Read it. Meditate on it. Believe it. See Christ in it. Obey it. Make it your daily bread. Be happy.

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