Psalm #1 – An Important Contrast

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! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1)

What a beautiful and important way to open the book of Psalms. To contrast the way of the righteous and the unrighteous, and the results of either choice. This first psalm is about two men: the blessed, righteous, godly man who is “in Christ”, and the wicked, scoffing, unrighteous man who is “in Adam”. Two men, two ways, two destinies.

What the Righteous Man Does Not Do
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!” (Psalm 1:1)
The word ‘blessed’ in Hebrew is ‘esher,’ and means “to be straight, or right”. The context talks about a man being right with God. The man who is right with God does not do certain things. First of all the righteous man knows how to stay away from bad counsel. I think especially in our world today this is very important. We get input from so many different sources, like colleagues, family, television, Internet, media, etc. How often do we really consider whether the counsel given is godly or ungodly? We often either agree or disagree, but do we really discern? This is also the case when counsel comes from one’s self. Our own conscience, mind or heart can give us ungodly counsel. How do we deal with this? We should discern that for godly counsel we should always go to God’s Word, the Bible, because it’s there where truth is found. One key to spiritual growth is turning to God and turning away from the kind of people who draw us into temptation. When it says that the righteous man does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, it also refers to walking in the spiritual sense. The apostle Paul implores us “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1), and “that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind” (Ephesians 4:17), but to “walk in love, just as Christ also loved you” (Ephesians 5:2), to “walk as children of Light” (Ephesians 5:8), and to “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). When we fail to study and apply God’s Word, we tend to drift through life or follow those who do not follow God. If we are not careful to guide our lives by God’s Word, we will be tossed around by every new fad or philosophy that comes our way.

Secondly, when it says to not stand in the path of sinners, it basically means that the righteous man chooses a different path, opposite of the unrighteous’ path. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). The righteous man walks a certain direction. He knows the direction sinners take and does not take the same way. He takes the road less traveled instead. Jesus said in Matthew 7:13 to “enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” The righteous man seeks God for the path to take. He says to God: “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11).

Thirdly, the righteous man does not sit in the seat of scoffers. Who are the scoffers? Those who reject God, the atheists who are in denial, those who only partly accept the truth (like acceping God, but not Jesus), those who willingly ignorant and blind towards intelligent design, which they ascribe to randomness. The scoffers love to sit and critize the people of God and the things of God. The righteous man should not join them. We have to remember that the righteous man sits in the seat of the scornful, and he should not switch sides. “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12), yet “who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35)

It’s interesting to see the progression here, from walking (towards them), standing (among them), and finally sitting (in their seats). Cut out the walking towards them, eliminates the fear of standing among them or sitting in their seats. What a challenge!

What the Righteous Man Does
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2)
I think this verse is very confronting, because it reveals the heart. To delight in something is to have a high or extreme degree of pleasure or enjoyment in something. What gives you extreme pleasure? What do you make sacrifices for? What do you worship? Is it the Word of God? Or is some false god that you idolize? I would also say that if you delight in something you just want to do it all the time. You make time for it. You hunger for it. And so the righteous man does not only delights in reading the Bible, he also wants to think about it, feel it in his heart, apply it. His mind wants to be filled with the Word of God, so he can meditate on it day and night, even when he is not reading the Bible. That way he always has the sword ready for any circumstance that may come his way. “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16)

The Blessing of the Righteous Man
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)
If I think of a tree by a river, I think of a tree that has been there a long time, with root reaching deep into the ground. A tree by a river always has what it needs: water. And because of that it’s strong and stable. This is exactly what the righteous man is, strong and stable. Because he has firmly planted himself in the Living Water, the Bible, God, his roots reach deep into the ground, and he bears much fruit because of it. Yes, leaves will fall, seasons come and go, but in the end he will prosper because his source is Living Water.

The Way of the Unrighteous
The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away” (Psalm 1:4)
The unrighteous basically is the opposite of the righteous. Whereas the tree is strong and stable, Charles H. Spurgeon says of chaff that it is “intrinsically worthless, dead, unserviceable, without substance, and easily carried away”. It may seem at times that the unrighteous has more than the righteous, but it only a temporal thing, it doesn’t carry any weight, and will not hold in judgment. The righteous man should always aim to bear much fruit. When he stops bearing fruit, it is because something happens to the roots (Matthew 11:13,14,20).

Conclusion
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5-6)
We don’t want to think about judgment, believer and unbeliever alike. Yet this does not changes the truth that there will be judgment nonetheless. For the believer in Christ, the righteous, blessed man there is no judgment of sin, for “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), but for the unbeliever, the unrighteous, ungodly, wicked scoffer, there is “a terrifying expectation of judgment” (Hebrews 10:27). It is said in Psalm 37:18 that “the Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their inheritance will be forever“. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me” (John 10:14), “but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him” (2 Corinthians 8:3). It is awesome to be known by God, and it should be our goal in life to live righteous, to not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers.

In closing, let’s heed the advice from the apostle Paul, “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?” (Galatians 4:9).