What is the background of Psalm 1?
The writer of this psalm, though not named, was doubtlessly a man with deep insight into life. Psalm 1 serves as the preface to the book of Psalms. C.H. Spurgeon comments that Psalm 1 forms the text “upon which the whole of the Psalms make up a divine sermon.”
1:1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
Verse 1 speaks of the style of the righteous man’s life.
Wicked (ungodly) is a general term used to refer to the person who is out of touch with God. The righteous man does not take the advice of evil men for his guide. Such action might lead him to stand where sinners stand in regard to spiritual, moral, and ethical issues. The righteous man knows that if he seeks advice from those who are out of touch with God he puts himself in danger of losing touch with God.
Sinners is a term used to describe habitual offenders or those who have developed the habit of missing the mark and veering from the straight and narrow. It is a term used to describe those who have become established as strays or men who are out of touch with God. The righteous man does not loiter with habitual moral failures (see 1 Corinthians 15:33). He exercises caution in his associations with the ungodly realizing that he does not have to drink their wine to be a witness. His desire is to influence the ungodly rather than to be influenced by the ungodly.
Scoffers refers to those whose habit it is to treat with ridicule that which is holy and good and sacred. Scoffers criticize many things, but in particular, God’s people, God’s book, and God’s ways. Scoffers speak out of that which fills their heart (see Matthew 12:34). They are the most scandalous of sinners and, perhaps, the farthest from repentance.
The three complete phrases in verse 1 illustrate three degrees of departure from God by portraying conformity to this world at three different levels. First, accepting the advice of the world. Second, being a party to the ways of the world. Third, adopting the most fatal of the world’s attitudes. Notice also the progression: “walk. . .stand. . .sit” Evil grows. Sin may begin quite simply, but it always becomes more serious.
Practical Consideration: We should be careful about the company we keep.
Parents often warn their children to be careful about the company they keep. Parents do not want for their children to be influenced to do wrong by the wrong crowd. Children do not always heed the advice of their parents and consequently prove how right the advice of their parents was. God, too, warns us to exercise caution regarding the company we keep. He knows that we can be influenced to do wrong by the wrong crowd. Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals'” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
1:2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
Verse 2 speaks of the staple of the righteous man’s life.
The law of the Lord is the righteous man’s diet. Law (torah) basically means direction or instruction. It can be confined to a single command, or can extend, as here, to Scripture as a whole. The law of the Lord stands opposed to the “counsel of the wicked” to which it is ultimately the only answer. The righteous man does not need the “counsel of the wicked” because he has something infinitely superior available to him, the law of the Lord. The righteous man does not loiter with the wicked because law of the Lord warns him of the danger in doing so. He does not adopt the attitude of the scoffers because God’s Word tells him how truly wonderful God is (see Psalm 119:38). The thing that makes the righteous different and distinctive from the wicked is his attitude toward God’s Word. The law of the Lord is a diet in which the righteous man delights. He enjoys it. It is also a diet on which he depends. He cannot live without it. He must meditate on it both day and night.
Practical Consideration: We should be diligent students of the Word of God.
The righteous man loves the law of the Lord (Psalm 119:97) and meditates on it both day and night (Psalm 1:2). He hides God’s Word in his heart (Psalm 119:11) and orders his life according to its teachings (Psalm 119:9). We must not be lazy or undisciplined in regard to the matter of Bible study. We should study, memorize, and meditate on God’s Word every day. Our daily lives will reflect the results of our study and understanding of God’s Word.
1:3 And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season,
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Verse 3 speaks of the stability of the righteous man’s life.
The righteous man’s life is likened to a tree planted in close proximity to life-giving streams of water. His life is stable because he lives in close communion with the Lord. He is able to survive the difficulties of life because of his closeness to the Lord. The righteous man’s life is also productive and pleasant … it yields its fruit in its season, And its leaf does not wither.
Practical Consideration: We can go far if we stay close to the Lord.
The righteous man is like a tree firmly planted by streams of water. The righteous man is able to survive life’s scorching difficulties because of his closeness to the Lord. He can continue to be productive and pleasant through the kind of pains, problems, and pressures that immobilize and devastate others. His life and career is not cut short by life’s difficulties. The person who stays close to the Lord will go far.
1:4 The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Verse 4 speaks of the description of the wicked man’s life.
The wicked are those who are out of touch with God or who do not have a relationship with God. The phrase “are not so” declares that the wicked are not like the righteous. The difference between the wicked and the righteous is accentuated by the conjunction but. The wicked are likened to chaff, which is at the mercy of the wind. Chaff, unlike a tree firmly planted, is rootless and fruitless. Chaff is always at the mercy of the wind. It is unanchored. The life of the wicked is misspent. Because man was created to have fellowship with God and enjoy him forever, a life of anything less is a misspent life.
1:5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
Verse 5 speaks of the defenselessness of the wicked man’s life.
The wicked will have no defense before God in the day of judgment. Because the wicked choose to leave God out of their lives, they have absolutely no stability and will suffer collapse in the end. Sometimes the righteous are confused by the seemingly trouble-free life of the wicked. The psalmist was no exception. The writer of Psalm 73 wrote, “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end” (Ps. 73:16-17). The wicked may appear to be successful in life without God, but they will ultimately fail and fall.
Practical Consideration: We should stand with God or we will fall in the judgment.
The wicked are those who take a stand apart from God. They choose to leave God out of their lives. They live their lives without regard to God and His laws. They live their lives independent from God. They do not yield to the influence or guidance of God. In the day of judgment, however, they will have no defense. They will be unable to stand.
1:6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.
Verse 6 speaks of the destiny of the wicked man.
A man’s path determines his destiny. The wicked have chosen a course of life that ignores God and the things of God. The wicked man has chosen the broad way that leads to destruction (see Matthew 7:13). The word perish refers to a course that comes to nothing but ruin. Proverbs 14:12 warns, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” C.H. Spurgeon comments, “The righteous carves his name upon the rock, but the wicked writes his remembrance in the sand.”