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
We have two categories of people defined here. On one hand we have those who are righteous – those that delight in, and meditate on the law of God. On the other hand, we have those who are unrighteous – they are described as being wicked, sinners, and unstable as windblown chaff.
At first pass, we might read this and thank God that we are like that first man. Yes, we are sinners, but surely we don’t always walk in the counsel of the wicked. We don’t make it a habit to stand in the way of sinners. We don’t stay in the seat of scoffers.
We can easily assure ourselves that we are pretty good people, especially since we’ve been a Christian. We read God’s word, we even delight in it.
And in that vein of thinking, we anticipate the obvious outcome:
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.
But reality, and life don’t line up with that.
“God, life is hard – I’m trying to follow you, but it seems so difficult.”
“God, why does it seem like the more I know of you, the closer I get to you, the harder life becomes – where is my prospering?”
Passages like this can trip us up, even discourage us if we read it as a formula. We often read passages like this as Prescriptive for our lives, instead of Descriptive. We read it as prescribing a formula for us in the way that a doctor might prescribe a formula to a patient.
But the Psalmist is describing a reality here. He is saying these things make a man blessed – avoiding evil, and delighting in God are a blessing, and so is the fruit that comes from it. He’s not saying “if you want to prosper, and be like a tree on the riverside, do these things” – rather he is saying “these things are true of the righteous person – they are blessed”
The difference seems subtle. Does it matter? What difference does it make?
It makes all the difference in the world when you consider the Source of the Righteousness.
Looking at this Psalm as three things to do to be blessed, and to prosper, we naturally start working towards it. We will try to muster up the ability and the righteousness to get those blessings and prosperity.
But if we look at this Psalm as a beautiful picture of Christ, we see a Saviour that:
never walked in the counsel of the wicked, but was killed by them.
did not stand in the way of sinners, but gave His life up for them.
avoided the seat of scoffers, even while they called for his crucifixion.
We see a Saviour that truly delighted in the Law of God, meditating on it, and communing with God day and night. (Luke 6:12).
HE became like a tree planted by the rivers that provides its fruit in its season, and whose leaves never whither. He has prospered (Isaiah 9:6-7).
He alone is righteous – he alone does all of these things described in Psalm 1 perfectly.
And then he gives that righteousness to us. He makes the worst trade deal in history.
We weren’t the well behaved, blessed people in Psalm 1. We were the wicked, who could have no place with the righteous. We couldn’t have fellowship with God. We were set to perish – like worthless windblown chaff. If we were going to have any delight in God and His law we would need an outside, external, alien righteousness.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.2 Corinthians 5:21
The righteous becomes sin, so that the sinners could become righteous.
So any blessing we get from avoiding sin, and meditating on God’s law is always, only, exclusively because of the work that Christ has already done.
Brothers and sisters, the encouragement from this Psalm is that Christ has done this perfectly – allowing us to experience the blessings, and the spiritual prosperity that comes from our union with Christ, and our fellowship with the Father.
Life will still be difficult – there will be sickness, pain, and sorrow. But in Christ, the trials and sorrow are working an even greater prosperity – not in health, or riches, but an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.2 Corinthians 4:16-18
May we delight in God’s law, and meditate on it, not to become righteous, or blessed, or prosperous, but because Jesus paid it all, all to HIM I owe.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.Numbers 6:24-26