Psalm 1 contrasts for us two paths of life: the way of the righteous versus the way of the ungodly. This chapter describes the characteristics of both ways, and then concludes with the end for each course of life. The way of the righteous is known by the Lord; the righteous have intimate fellowship and communion with God when following God’s will in God’s way and flourish in fruitfulness. On the other hand, the final end of the way of the ungodly shall ultimately perish.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. We have to be purposeful to live in a righteous way. By nature, man is not righteous – “there is none righteous, no, not one”, none that seeks God or understands God either (Rom. 3:10-12). Our carnal natures will naturally lead us into the way of the ungodly, even for the born-again child of God. Therefore, we have to be very purposeful to forsake the ungodly manner of this world. This psalm begins by describing the blessed state of one who “does not” follow an ungodly path. Our natures will lead to that ungodly, sinful, scornful path, but we are blessed when we forsake that desire and instead follow God’s path of righteousness.
Sin can be enticing, and we can easily fall into sin. That’s why it is important to first of all not even “walk” in the counsel of the ungodly. It’s vitally important who you surround yourself with. This “counsel” describes who you closely fellowship with and listen to; who do you spend the most time around? Is the advice and counsel you heed the most given by the ungodly or the righteous? This verse tells us of the blessed state of those who forsake the fellowship and counsel of the ungodly. If we have those in our close circle of counsel that give advice that is contrary to the word of God, we must put away those ungodly influences from our counsel.
This also shows how important it is to not put ourselves in a position to get sucked into more sin. It’s easy to “get comfortable” in sin, and we see that progression in that verse. First, we might “walk” by the counsel of the ungodly. We’re walking by, trying it out, looking, but not really staying long and eventually moving on past. Then, instead of just walking by and leaving, we then begin to linger and “stand” in the way of sinners. Before long, we’re not just walking by or standing with them, but we are getting comfortable and “sitting” in the seat of the scornful. It’s easy to go from “walking” to “standing” to “sitting” in sin. We can easily become enticed by this world, so we must be sober, vigilant, and keep our spiritual head on a swivel, protected by the helmet of salvation. We are “blessed” when we forsake the counsel, way, and seat of the wicked and seek to “walk, stand, and sit” with the godly Christians who will influence us in a positive way.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. The first attribute of this blessed man walking in the righteous way was to forsake ungodly, sinful, and scornful influences that would hinder his faithful discipleship walk. The same blessed man that forsakes the counsel, way, and seat of the wicked, that man’s delight is also in the law of the Lord. Why is it that man doesn’t want to walk, stand, and sit with the wicked? It’s because he loves God’s word and they are living in direct disobedience to God’s word and God’s law. The blessed man doesn’t want to live in sin and transgression of God’s word. Instead, he wants to forsake the influences that would be in contradiction to God’s righteous way given to us in his word.
The righteous way is also identified by a delight in God’s word and meditation on God’s word. Does God’s word make you happy? Is it your delight? We should be so “delighted” in the word of God that we not only read it every day, but we are continually thinking on the word, even when we are not reading it. We naturally think about and talk about what makes us happy, what we delight in. If we delight in the word of God, we will want to think about it all the time. When we delight in God’s word, we will naturally desire to “meditate on the word day and night”. We desire to think about those things that are delightful in our minds. We want to consistently revolve the word of God over and over again in our mind, meditating on the word’s application and meaning for our lives.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The man that eschews walking, standing, and sitting in the counsel, way, and seat of the ungodly; the man that delights and meditates on the word of God day and night; that man will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth bountiful fruit. The reason why this “righteous man’s tree” is thriving is because he’s well-nourished. This blessed man is well-nourished by reading and meditating on the word of God day and night (v.2). He has cultivated a deep, strong, and stable root system from his well-watered nourishment from God’s word. Those strong roots will allow him to survive life’s strong storms and even drought. This blessed man’s tree is also strong because he has vigilantly forsaken bad influence that would hinder the growth of his tree of life (v.1).
A similar passage is given in Jeremiah 17:5-8: “5) Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. 6) For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. 7) Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. 8) For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” In Jeremiah 17, we see a similar contrast to Psalm 1. Those who trust in man instead of God; those who make flesh their confidence and arm; those whose heart departs from the Lord; they will not be a flourishing, prosperous tree by the water, but they shall be as a heath in the desert, that won’t see when good comes and shall inherit the parched places.
Then, we see again the prosperous tree of the righteous. What is the identifying attribute of this flourishing tree? “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” Those who trust in man shall be as a heath in a dry, lonely desert. But those who trust and hope in the Lord shall be as a tree planted by the waters, that spreads out her roots by the river, shall not see when the heart cometh, her leaf shall be green, shall not be careful in the year of drought, and shall not cease from yielding fruit. Which tree seems healthier to you? A dry, shriveled up heath in the lonely desert, or a prosperous, strong-rooted, fruitful tree by the river. I know we desire to be the strong, flourishing, fruitful tree. We develop that strength through “living by faith”, through trusting and hoping in God, not in man.
God promises that the tree that is being nourished by his river of life, that “whatsoever he doeth shall prosper”. That does not mean that he will make millions of dollars in business, but that he will be prosperous in his spiritual walk. He will perpetually bring forth fruit to the glory of God. The Apostle John desired that his dear friend, Gaius, would “prosper and be in good health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John 2). This righteous man may not prosper in business or in his secular career, but his soul shall prosper in all things because of his devotion to God’s righteous way.
This righteous man’s tree is strong and fruitful because he has chosen the right location to abide. He’s not abiding in the desert of the counsel, way, and seat of the ungodly; instead, this blessed man has chosen to abide by the rivers of water, to be nourished and strengthened by godly fellowship and counsel, and by perpetual mediation upon the word of God.
The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. The ungodly are not so; they are not a strong, well-nourished tree by the river; they are a dry, dying heath in the lonely desert. Those who live in an ungodly way are not nourished by the godly fellowship of the saints; they are not strengthened by a perpetual delight and meditation on the word of God. Instead of being stabilized and strong with deep roots by a river, the ungodly are like the chaff that the wind just blows away. The winds of popular opinion of “the world” can change as quickly and drastically as the wind. The ungodly are blown in another direction like the chaff as soon as the world’s winds turn, instead of being stable and strong like this tree by the riverside of the Lord.
For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish. This closing verse concludes the message of this whole chapter – which way will we take in our lives? The way of the righteous or the way of the ungodly? The Lord “knows” the way of the righteous. Why is God so intimately acquainted with the way of the righteous? Because it’s “his way”, it’s God’s way! God knows the path of the righteous, and now we can know that way as well. What are the primary characteristics of the way of the righteous? 1) Forsake evil influences, forsake the way of the ungodly (Ps. 1:1); 2) Delight and meditate in the word of God (Ps. 1:2); 3) Live by faith, trusting in the Lord and not in man (Jer. 17:7-8). If we do these things, we shall experience fellowship with God in the way of the righteous because he “knows” this way. We shall bring forth fruit to God’s glory planted by the river of life.
Notice the contrasting destinations for these two paths: “13) Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14) Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14) The blessed man that presses into the strait gate and narrow way of discipleship will find life, communion with God, and nourishment by God’s river of life. But the ungodly man that forsakes God’s law “shall perish”; the end of the ungodly way is “destruction” and perishing and dying shriveled up in drought in the desert. For the blessed child of God that pursues the way of the righteous, we shall abide with the Lord, be as a strong and flourishing tree by the Lord’s river, perpetually bring forth fruit to the Lord, and our souls prospering in the Lord. Let us pursue God’s way of the righteous.