Delight in the Lord's Instruction
In the first psalm, the psalmist paints a beautiful picture of the man who is blessed because of his refusal to live in wickedness and maintain the way of righteousness that the Lord knows. Examining this psalm provides many wonderful lessons for us to consider.
The Character of the Blessed Man
The Psalmist begins by telling us that the blessed man does not delight in wickedness. It is interesting that “blessed” is actually plural and would more accurately be translated as “blessednesses.” This plural construct is used to emphasize how much this person is blessed because of his refusal to take part in wickedness. The one characterized by this rich blessedness is the one “who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” The point being made is that the blessed person does none of these things; however, it has been noted that there is a progression to these actions. Walking moves to standing which moves to sitting; counsel moves to way which moves to seat; wicked moves to sinner which moves to scoffer. Notice that with each step, the person’s place becomes more and more permanent until he is defined as not only one who acts against God, but as one who outright scoffs against God’s way. One writer describes this progression as: “Thinking, Behaving, Belonging.” The blessed man does none of these things. He does not think like the wicked, behave like sinners, or belong among scoffers.
Rather, the blessed man delights in God: “but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” To delight in something is to take pleasure in it and desire it. The blessed man takes pleasure in God’s instruction and direction. He refuses to have his thoughts and actions directed by ungodliness and sets his mind on God’s law day and night. This is significant and not to be missed! This blessed person does not fleeting think on the things of God and divide his mind between God and his “other” delights. No, God is his delight! True blessedness comes from a constant focus and delight on God and his instruction.
The State of the Blessed Man
The Psalmist describes this man as being “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.” This placement was not achieved by accident, or chance; this tree is carefully cared for and cultivated. Because it has been properly cared for, this tree will bear fruit and life will continue to flow through it to such a degree that the Psalmist goes on to say “In all that he does, he prospers.” When our character is that of the blessed man, i.e. a character that shuns wickedness and delights in God, we will prosper spiritually. When God’s seed is planted, watered, and cared for, God gives the growth.
The State of the Wicked Man
As the Psalmist draws a contrast, he notes that “the wicked are not so.” They are not like the blessed man in both character and state. They are characterized by a delight in wickedness and a state of being “like chaff that the wind drives away.” They are not a mighty tree, firmly rooted with life flowing through it; they are like chaff, the worthless part of the grain that was stripped away and tossed into the wind; such is only useful for fire (cf. Matthew 3:12).
This being the case, the Psalmist says, “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” This is not to say that the wicked will not be present at the judgment because all will be judged (cf. Matthew 16:27; 25:33, 41). It is to say that since the wicked are defined by being like chaff, they will have no acquittal, no life in the judgement; there will only be condemnation. We sometimes use a similar phrase to say “they won’t have a leg to stand on.” Again, this also does not mean that sinners could not be physically found in the presence of the righteous. Rather, the wicked will not be counted among the righteous, whether or not they are surrounded by the righteous. And on the Judgement Day in the ultimate separation, there will be none defined by wickedness among the congregation of God’s people (cf. Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 21:27)
For This Reason
There is a reason that God can declare this to be: “for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” God is not going to make a mistake when he declares one to be walking in righteousness or in wickedness. He knows the way of the righteous because he is the one who has revealed the way of righteousness (cf. Romans 1:17). Remember, the blessed man is to one who delights in God’s law! God knows those who are his (cf. John 10:14).
Those who decide not to walk in this way will not have life; they will perish. Those who only attend to the outer man and neglect the inner man will waste away day by day until this physical life ebbs away (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16). Ultimately, they are chaff thrown into the fire because they decided not to be a tree planted by many waters who delights in God’s instruction day and night.
The Psalmist paints a beautiful picture of the blessed man and gives us every reason to want to be him and follow in his footsteps. In doing so, he also shows us the footsteps we must stay far away from. However, the choice is up to us. Will we be the tree or the chaff?