July 12, 2009

Psalm 1: The Way of the Righteous

1 Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
The Psalm begins with the phrase, “Blessed is the man” or “Happy is the man.” We all want happiness. But some look for it in all the wrong places and in all the wrong things.

Some look for it in jobs, money, new homes and cars, sex, alcohol, and drugs. These things are all temporary. The psalmist is writing about lasting happiness in spite of circumstances. How is it that some people who are in the worst of life’s circumstances still claim to be blessed, happy, and joyful?

In this passage the Psalmist describes the person God blesses or the happy person. But he also describes the person God judges. First lets look at the person God blesses.

The Person God Blesses (1-3)

1 Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
The psalmist says that a person is blessed if he does not do one kind of thing but instead does another. The person who wants to be blessed must not walk down the road of those who rebel against God, have no fear of God, and consider themselves above God’s law.

Instead, a person who wants to be blessed must live wisely in his relationship with God, delighting and meditating on God’s Word. He or she is a person who is separated from the world. Being separated from the values of the world, we do not take counsel from it about morals and other spiritual matters. We must not live our lives like the rest of the world.

The Hebrew word for wicked means to be loose or unstable and is associated with two ideas in verse 1. First, it has the idea of being loose morally or in one’s values. Second, it conveys the idea of being loose from God, or existing without God: without Him as an anchor or guide; one controlled by his or her own feelings, emotions, desires; one who is self-centered rather than God-centered. As people devoted to God, we are to avoid following them because they are not devoted to God.

The Bible has a lot to say on how we should walk.

Psalm 143:8: “....teach me the way in which I should walk; for to You I lift my soul.”

Psalm 86:11: “Teach me your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth.”

Paul advises the Ephesians (4:1-2): “…walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love…” …exactly the opposite of the way the wicked conduct themselves.

Paul also tells the Galatians (5:16): “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

A person who is separated from the world will not stand in the way of sinners. “Sin” in Hebrew originated as an archery term and meant “to fall short or miss the mark.” We are all sinners. We have all missed the mark. This is why Christ had to die for our sins so we might have His righteousness. The word “sinners” here refers to those who have deliberately chosen a way of life contrary to the will of God. The psalmist is telling us simply not to be like these people and their ideas of right and wrong.

How should we stand?

Psalm 33:8: “stand in awe of Him.”

1 Corinthians 16:13: stand firm in the faith

Philippians 1:27: stand together with one mind and spirit

A person who is separated from the world will not sit in the seat of the scornful. The word means to dwell, remain, or abide, and “scornful” (mockers) means to ridicule. It refers to one who is actively engaged in mocking or ridiculing the idea of God and His standards for us. One can be scornful either by what he or she says or simply by his or her way of life.

How do people mock God? By blatant ridicule or rejection and by ignoring His existence and His principles

And how does the Christian avoid the counsel of the wicked, the path of sinners, and the seat of the scornful? By delighting in the law of the Lord, by meditating on it day and night (verse 2). Note this is not something the Christian feels he or she has to do, but something he or she loves to do.

He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water (3) “Like a tree” is a metaphor, a picture to teach us. The Christian who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, do what sinners do and believe what sinners believe, and identify with mockers or the scornful is like a tree, with deep roots, a sturdy trunk, and able to withstand the storms.

Not only is the Christian like a tree, but he or she is like a tree planted beside the river, where there is a constant supply of water for optimum growing conditions. The Hebrew word means transplanted, taken out of a wild environment and placed or planted where the conditions are ideal to grow and mature. in this case, in the very best place to grow and mature. The tree “brings forth its fruit,” is a tree “whose leaf does not wither,” and, switching from the metaphor, “whatever he does shall prosper.”

The Person God Judges (4-5)

4 The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
The wicked are like chaff, compared to the godly who are solid, planted by the water to grow and mature. This metaphor refers to threshing grain. Farmers would beat the stalks to separate the grain from the stalks (the chaff) and then repeatedly toss the resulting grain-chaff mixture into the air, where the wind would blow away the chaff. Chaff is worthless, and the practice was to burn the chaff once it was separated from the grain.

This pictures the futile and empty life of the godless, as well as their future judgement.

In Matthew 3:12, John the Baptist was speaking about Jesus, the one who would come after him to baptize not with water, but with the Holy Spirit. He uses the same metaphor as the psalmist in describing the Messiah: “His winnowing fork is in His hand and He will clear His threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

The world says the things of God are foolishness—1 Corinthians 1:18: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it the power of God.” Unbelievers will face God’s judgment but will not be able to pass its test. They will face His judgment on their merits alone, while we can rely on Christ’s atonement for our sin. They will not be part of the judgment of Christ to determine the rewards for the saints.

Two Ways (6)

6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
This is the destiny of these two groups of people.

Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death.” That is the way of the wicked. The way of the righteous is the way of the Lord Jesus Christ, who described Himself as “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

God does not show favorites. He blesses some and judges others on the basis of the way in which they have chosen to walk…the way of the wicked or the way of the righteous. Psalm 1 tells us that the way of blessing is the way of righteousness, which involves the avoidance of worldly wisdom and worldly actions, and entails the pursuit of intimacy with God through His word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

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