“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 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 that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1:1-6)
Psalms is an ancient hymnal. It is a collection of poetic heart cries to God. As the first of 150 psalms, the first chapter is interesting in that it seems to set the tone for the entire book while simultaneously laying the foundation of the psalmists’ worldview, namely, that the righteous will be blessed and the wicked will perish. Many of the psalms arise out of a dissonance of life with that view, or out of a conviction and expectation that, indeed, God is just and will act justly. This means that, as Psalm 1 illustrates, the person who listens to the Lord will be blessed.
We will be blessed as we shun evil and seek God.
The psalmist makes this clear by means of progression, parallel, simile, and contrast. First, there is a progression from “walks” to “stands” to “sits.” A person will be blessed who “walks not in the counsel of the wicked.” This person does not listen to the advice and direction of ungodly people, nor is she distracted by it. She does not stand in the way of sinners, which suggests someone who has not only listened to wicked people but is living like them. Neither does she sit in the seat of scoffers, identifying so much with the wicked that she mocks those who are not. Second, the psalmist uses parallel to show what the person who will be blessed does. That is, she both delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it continually. Likewise, parallel lines show that the wicked will neither stand in judgment nor in the congregation of the righteous. Third, there are two metaphors used. The first metaphor paints the righteous as a thriving and fruitful tree. The second compares the wicked to fleeting chaff. Finally, there are a series of contrasts throughout the chapter. It contrasts those who will be blessed with those who will perish, the counsel of the wicked with the law of the Lord, the permanence of a tree with the passing nature of chaff, the righteous not standing in the way of sinners with the sinners not standing in the judgment, and the way of the righteous with the way of the wicked.
Again, taken together all this is pointing to the conclusion that the person who listens to the Lord will be blessed. Or put differently, we will be blessed as we shun evil and seek God. First, we must shun evil. We cannot listen to the advice and direction of ungodly people, nor be distracted by it. If we listen once, we are likely to listen again. And the snowball effect of sin will begin. Entertaining sinful thoughts leads to patterns of thinking, which, in turn, naturally play out in our actions. Before we know it, we could find ourselves identifying so much with the wicked that we mock those who are not. Given the stakes, we must rather seek God. This requires us to delight in and meditate on God’s law. When we delight in God’s law we not only take great pleasure in its precepts but the pleasure produces in us a longing for more, as a hungry man may crave food, or as an art collector may yearn to acquire a masterpiece. And so we carefully and constantly ponder God’s law, savoring it as a fine wine. And as we take in this spiritual drink it gives us life from the inside out. It has the opposite, positive effect of wicked counsel. Meditating on God’s thoughts leads to godly patterns of thinking, which, in turn, naturally play out in righteous living. Such a way of life yields the practical, positive benefits of personal well-being and blessing. In stark contrast, pleasure and prosperity is elusive to the wicked. Nothing they do will have any lasting impact or significance. In fact, they will be condemned by their actions when God judges them and they will not be counted among His people. In the end, they will perish.
And so we must examine our own lives. Who are we listening to: God’s Word, or those who disregard and mock it? There is a growing hostility in America toward people who have faith. Christians are by no means the only targets, but we are certainly under attack. “Faith” has become a euphemism for make-believe. And with that characterization many people feel the freedom and the justification to take any number of cheap shots at religion and Christian belief. For the sake of these people, we must live God’s law so that they will see our good works and replace their mocking with marvel. So often people mock God’s law, not by what they say, but by how they live. And so much sin is so subtle. It is easy to adjust our lifestyles to living at the morality level of those around us. But we need to be alert to the compromise in our lives. Are we standing in the way of sinners, leading lives no different than theirs? There are so many ideas flying around out there directly contradicting God’s law. Living in the culture that we do they may not be avoidable. But we can combat dangerous and ungodly ideas as we saturate our souls with the Word of God. Our lives will be blessed and we may just tempt others to seek the counsel of the righteous and of Scripture.