“Psalm 1

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” (Psalm 1, NIV)

Do you ever start reading a book by skipping to the end to see what happens? If we skip to the end of the Book of Psalms, we find a glorious exhortation to praise the Lord. But, as we skip to the beginning and look at Psalm 1, we find a beatitude to exhort us to choose the right path. Psalm 1 serves as an introduction to the whole collection of psalms, hymns, stories and prayers that follow.

The first two verses are a beatitude, of sorts. Verse one begins like any other beatitude; “blessed is the one”, whoever the one may be, and whatever sort one might be. One sort of person walks in step with the wicked, stands in the way that sinners take and sits in the company of mockers. Another sort of person delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on His law day and night.

The person who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on His law day and night is not like the person who walks in step with the wicked, stands in the way that sinners take or sits in the company of mockers. Thus, Psalm 1 introduces us to the two essential elements of humanity; and the dividing line is not between Jew and Gentile, male and female, rich and poor or slave and free. The two essential divisions between humans are, those who delight in God as He is revealed in His Word and those who delight in the world, the flesh and the devil.

“We can say these speak of thinking, behaving, and belonging. The righteous man and the ungodly man are different in how they think, how they behave, and to whom they belong.” [David Guzik}

The people who walk in step with the wicked are the people who take advice and counsel from the ways of the world. They are guilty of sin, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. They are by nature hostile to God and their nature is displayed in their actions toward others and God.

The ones who stand in the way sinners take are the ones who stubbornly remain unmoved by appeals to believe the Gospel and repent; desiring to satisfy their fleshly passions rather than finding satisfaction in the Passion of Christ for our sins. They would rather stand for what’s popular, on the broad way that leads to destruction, than to follow the Way and the Truth and the Life along the narrow road less travelled.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” (Matthew 7:13)

The blessing of Psalm 1:1-2 is for those who find their ultimate delight in the ways of the Lord as described in the Word of God. They are the ones who not only read the Bible intellectually, they meditate upon the Word with minds open to the Spirit of God and hearts set on following Christ. The first two verses draw a distinct contrast between the blessed and the wicked. The next three verses show us the consequences of walking, standing and sitting with the wicked, or delighting in and meditating upon the way of the God.

The blessed one is perpetually refreshed, fruitful and ultimately prosperous; like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”

“A tree by a river has a continual source of water. …The life of the righteous man is marked by strength and stability.” [David Guzik]

The life of the blessed ones in this Psalm is also marked by fruitfulness, everlasting vitality and growth. But, in contrast, the psalmist states; “Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.”

Therefore, “the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.” The life of the wicked, which is more of a zombie apocalypse than real life, is marked by waste, weakness and withdrawal of grace.  A fruitful tree in full-leaf is contrasted to chaff, which blows away in the wind at harvest time. The ultimate prosperity of the righteous, blessed by grace in Christ our Savior, is contrasted with the inability of the wicked to stand when judgement comes. The wicked will not be found in the new heavens and new earth.

This psalm reminds us of Paul’s words to the Galatians in chapter 5:16-25; “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Psalm 1 and Galatians 5 are key passages for us to delight in and meditate upon. They also warn of us the consequences if we delight in and dwell upon the ways and means of the world, the flesh and the devil. When we read passages like these, we should take them very seriously. We should search our hearts to see what we truly delight in.

As complex as life is, all of life boils down to two choices. We can choose to delight in the law of the LORD and meditate on his law day and night. Or we can choose to gratify the desires of the flesh. We can walk by the Spirit, through the narrow gate that leads to life, or we can stand in the market place of the world, with all its sinful temptations. We can walk in step with the wicked or, keep in step with the Spirit.

The rest of the book of Psalms echoes Psalm 1 and the choices we are presented with.

“Kiss his son, or he will be angry, and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” [Ps. 2:12] Blessing!

“But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So, I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” [Ps. 81 11-12] Consequences.

“My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the LORD.” [Ps. 26:12] Blessing!

“The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” [Ps. 146:9] Blessing and Grace!

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” [John 14:6] Ultimate blessing and grace.