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The Blessed Man vs The Wicked Man
Psalms 1
Will we choose the fate of the righteous or the wicked?
Published April 7th, 2021; Updated September 17th, 2021
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Main point summary
Head, heart, hands
Main point summary
Fortunate is the man who rejects fellowship with the wicked in favor of fellowship with God through his word. This man is like a tree thriving in the desert even during drought because it is next to a irrigation channel: he will succeed in all that he does. The wicked, however, are like chaff that the wind blows away and thus will perish at the judgement because the Lord doesn’t have a relationship with them.
Psalms 1:1-6
Blessed is the man 1 who a walks not in b the counsel of the wicked,
Fortunate is the man who doesn’t adopt the ways of thinking of the wicked
nor stands in c the way of sinners,
and doesn’t hang out and join with the wicked
nor d sits in e the seat of f scoffers;
and doesn’t become one with those who mock God;
but his g delight is in the law 1 of the Lord ,
instead he takes pleasure in God’s word
and on his h law he meditates day and night.
and therefore is continually pondering it.
He is like i a tree planted
This blessed man is like a tree that was planted
by j streams of water
adjacent to an irrigation channel
that yields its fruit in its season,
and therefore bears fruit when it is time,
and its k leaf does not wither.
instead of withering due to drought.
l In all that he does, he prospers.
And just like a healthy a thriving tree, this man will succeed in all he does, resulting in blessing to others.
The wicked are not so,
On the other hand, the unrighteous are not at all like healthy tree.
but are like m chaff that the wind drives away.
but are fleeting like the husks and straw that are blown away by the wind during the threshing process.
Therefore the wicked n will not stand in the judgment,
Thus, the unrighteous will be blown away in the end-time judgment,
nor sinners in o the congregation of the righteous;
and sinners will not be part of the community of righteous people;
for the Lord p knows q the way of the righteous,
this is because while Yahweh has an intimate relationship relationship with the righteous and watches over them as they walk on the righteous path,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
but the path that the unrighteous walk on leads to destruction.
HT: Expositor’s Bible Commentary
Kidner (Tyndale OTC): “does not wither” refers to freedom from draught.
Fortunate is the man who rejects fellowship with the wicked in favor of fellowship with God through joyfully meditating on his word.
This man is like a tree thriving in the desert even during drought because it is next to a irrigation channel. This man will succeed in all that he does, blessing others.
The wicked are not like a thriving tree, but are like chaff that the wind blows away. Thus, the will be blown away at judgement because the Lord knows the righteous intimately, but not the wicked.
Psalms 1:1-6
The blessed man
What he doesn’t do
Blessed is the man
who walks not
Negative #1
in the counsel
of the wicked,
nor stands
Negative #2
in the way
of sinners,
nor sits
Negative #3
in the seat
of scoffers;
What he does do
but his delight is in the law
of the Lord,
on his law
and ... he meditates day
and night.
Comparison: like a tree
He is like a tree planted
by streams
of water
that yields its fruit
in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
Forever status
In all that he does,
he prospers.
The wicked man
Comparison: like chaff
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff
that the wind drives away.
Future status
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 ... will perish.
of the wicked
Fellowship with wickedness
Fellowship with God (through his word)
MPS: Blessed is the man who, hating wickedness and loving God’s law, continually meditates on his law. This man does well in whatever he does, like a tree planted near a stream. The wicked are the opposite and will not survive God’s end-time judgement.
Why does he use the word “planted” rather than “growing”? In other words, this word seems to imply that someone did the planting.
What does it mean that he prospers? Does it mean that if I mediate on God’s word day and night I will succeed in my work, my relationships, etc?
Does the psalmist mention the wicked to give comfort to the righteous man, who is persecuted by the wicked?
The writer gives the present status of the blessed man (he prospers) while it gives the future status of the wicked man (he is condemned).
This person reflects on God’s word in his walking and standing and sitting (Expositor’s Bible commentary).
Two Ways to Live (Psalm 1) I don't know what kind of books you like to read or movies you like to watch, but I enjoy biographies. Stories of people such as Winston Churchill and the mathematician John Nash and World War II hero Louis Zamperini. These stories tell of a turning point in the person's life in which they had to make a decision that would influence the course of the rest of their life. When faced with questions about the trustworthiness of scripture, Billy Graham had to decide whether he could trust the Bible enough to build his ministry on it. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had to determine if he would be a part of a plot to assassinate Hitler, a decision that got him killed. Today's passage presents us all with a huge decision that will affect the rest of our lives. And, even more, this decision will affect what our life is like for the rest of eternity. The decision we face in our passage, Psalm 1, is whether to live a godly lifestyle or a wicked, sinful lifestyle. Whether to submit to God’s word or to go own way. Let's read our passage: 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 L ORD , 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 L ORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. If you spend time looking at how the Book of Psalms is arranged, you can see a purpose to the arrangement. The 150 psalms are not randomly put together like a Pandora playlist but were arranged thematically by a curator. And not only is Psalm 1 the first psalm, but it also serves as a gateway to the rest of the psalms. This psalm has the goal of orienting how we approach God’s word, in particular the rest of the psalms. It presents us with two ways to orient our life: 1) orient our life around God’s word and 2) orient our life against God’s word; and it has the goal of convincing us to choose the first option. It wants us to persuade us to be people who meditate on God's word and have that habit and attitude as we read the rest of the psalms. Psalm 1 is a song organized in three stanzas, so to try to preserve this structure, let's examine each of the stanzas in turn. Stanza 1 tells us what this choice entails. What must we do to life a righteous life? Stanza 2 describes the result of this choice. What are the benefits of a righteous life? And Stanza 3 tells us about the eternal consequences of this choice. In other words, what happens if we reject the righteous life. Stanza 1: What the choice entails Let's start with Stanza 1, which begins by describing a blessed man. What does it mean for a man to be blessed? It means that this man is prosperous. He has a good life. And an interesting thing we see is that this psalm contrasts this blessed man with a wicked man. Usually, we would think that the opposite of wicked is good. But in this psalm, the opposite of wicked is blessed. So, we don’t have to choose between obeying God and being blessed by God. It can seem like if we focus on doing the right thing, we will miss out on the good things in life. But this psalm challenges this notion. It says that the way to a good life is to be a righteous person. So, we don’t have to sacrifice a good life to be righteous. In fact, Psalm 1 teaches the opposite. A righteous lifestyle is the key to God’s blessing. However, we don’t want to go as far as saying that if we life a righteous lifestyle then God will always give us what we want. Christians do go through suffering and persecution. But in the end, the righteous lifestyle is the one that leads to ultimate blessing. Next, the psalm tells us why this man is blessed. Specifically, it tells us what he doesn’t do and what he does do. Verse 1 tells us what he doesn’t do, namely that he doesn't fellowship with wickedness. He doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked, meaning that he doesn't take the advice of people who practice iniquity. He doesn't try to emulate them. And he doesn't stand in the way of sinners, meaning that he doesn't participate in sin. And he doesn't sit in the seat of scoffers, meaning that he doesn't become like people who mock God. So, a blessed man flees from sin. In today’s Christian culture, good works such as fighting human trafficking and racial justice are popular causes, while personal holiness is often not as popular. In his letter James says that both of these are critical, saying in 1:26-27 that "true religion that is undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world." Good works are a critical part of a lifestyle that receives God's blessing. But that is not enough. God wants us also to be holy. In Leviticus 19:2 God tells Israel, " You shall be holy, for I the L ORD your God am holy." In verse 2 we see what the blessed man does do. He isn't just about personal holiness and rules and keeping away from sin. Rather, he replaces delight for sin with delight in God. Instead of having fellowship with the wicked, he fellowships with God through his word, which he delights in. And his delight affects his actions and habits. If we delight in something, we can't help but do it. We do it any chance we get. Some of us used to delight in sins such as using pornography or alcohol. And this delight caused us to spend a lot of time doing these sins. And because the blessed man delights in God's word, his delight causes him to meditate on God's word. He has a continual habit of meditating on his word day and night. It is part of his lifestyle. The Hebrew word for meditate here carries the idea of a cow chewing its cud. The cow chews its cud slowly and savors it. It is like the exact opposite of eating a granola bar quickly while camping just to get some calories in energy. So, meditating on God’s word means that as we read it we are thinking about it. If we are reading a difficult passage, we might spend time thinking the meaning. Or if we are reading a command, we might think through how we can apply it to our life. Or if we are reading a promise, we might just think about how thankful we are that the promise is true. This is meditation. Reading the Bible at a faster pace is good because it helps us understand how the entire Bible fits together. But we should not neglect meditation. Meditation helps the information we are taking in to move from head knowledge to heart knowledge, which is key to a righteous lifestyle. Here is an easy way to get started with meditation. Just simply read a verse multiple times, emphasizing different words each time. So, doing this for verse 1, we would first read “ blessed is the man who walks…”. Then we would think through what the word blessed means in this verse. You might consider how much God has blessed you. Next, we would read “blessed is the man who walks…”, thinking through the word man and so on. Stanza 2: The result of this choice Stanza 2 then describes the results of the choice between righteousness and wickedness. In other words, what will happen if we live a righteous lifestyle? In verse 3 the psalmist uses a metaphor to describes how blessed this man is, comparing him to a healthy tree. To understand this metaphor, we need to realize that the audience of this psalm, the people of ancient Israel, lived in a desert climate prone to drought. So, the only way for a tree to be completely immune from drought was if its roots had a continual water source, which would be the case if the tree was near a stream. Such a fortunate tree would maintain its health even in a drought that caused all other trees, flowers, and plants to wilt. This tree could still survive when the rain had ceased since it still received water from its stream. And the tree in verse 3 doesn't just survive. Instead, it fulfills its purpose of bearing fruit. And like this tree, the blessed man can survive and bear fruit even when he faces droughts in his life. Even if he is persecuted, he still joyfully shares his faith. Even if he goes through all of the trials of Job, he doesn’t stop trusting God and doing good. A good example of this is Elisabeth Elliot, who after losing her husband Jim to murder by the Auca tribe in Ecuador, went and lived with the tribe and told them about Jesus. Next, in verse 4, the psalmist describes the opposite of the blessed man, the wicked man. If the blessed man is a picture of something forever rooted in the ground, then the wicked man is represents something fleeting and insignificant. The psalmist uses the imagery of chaff, which is the husk or outside part of a seed (for example, wheat or corn) that must be separated from the seed. The husk is useless and is thrown away during the winnowing process in which a farmer sifts the seed in his hand to separate the seed from the chaff. Once the chaff separates from the seed, it quickly blows away in the wind. Unlike the healthy tree that is the blessed man, the chaff has no rootedness whatsoever, and neither does a wicked man. The wicked man has no standing or ballast. He isn't resilient or secure in his wickedness. His life is fleeting. But it doesn't always seem that wicked people are fleeting, does it? Immoral or wicked people can often make a lot of money and live a long life and enjoy all the world's pleasures. Sometimes they face the consequences for their wickedness, and sometimes they don't. However, although it is true that some wicked people live a good life and appear to be blessed, in the end they will receive consequences for their lifestyle, which brings us to the final stanza. Stanza 3: The eternal consequences of the choice Stanza 3 tells us the eternal consequences of the choice between a righteous lifestyle and a wicked lifestyle. And the consequences for the wicked are dire. Although the wicked may sometimes appear to prosper, but because they are chaff and have no standing, they will not survive God's judgment. Rather, God will blow them away. In Matthew 3:12, John the Baptist also uses the imagery of chaff to describe the day of judgment, saying, "…he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire." On the last day, Jesus is going to separate the wheat, which represents his followers, from the chaff, which represents those who have rejected him. And the wicked will face punishment forever separated from God. Verse 6 tells us that the reason God will cast off the wicked is that he doesn't know them. He certainly knows who they are and knows many things about them, but he doesn't know them intimately. He doesn't have a relationship with them. In Matthew 7:23, Jesus says that in the judgment, he will say to the wicked, "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness." At the final judgment, it will be a terrifying thing not to be known by God. But verse 6 of Psalm 1 says that God "knows the way of the righteous." So, living a righteous life does not go unrewarded. God intimately knows us those who love him and live righteously. And we don't need to wait for the final judgment to receive this reward. In John 15:15 Jesus says, " No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." What a wonderful thing it is to have an intimate friendship with Jesus. So, if you are a follower of Jesus and have committed to model your life after the blessed man, in Psalm 1, if you have committed to not delight in wickedness and instead delight in God's word, take heart because God intimately knows you. In Psalm 139:1, David says, "O Lord, you have searched me and known me!" God knows all of the good works you have done. He knows how you long to be more obedient to his commands. He knows the sufferings that you have endured. And because God has an intimate relationship with you, he will protect you, now and for eternity. Conclusion So, this psalm presents each of us with a clear choice. Are you going to choose the way of the righteous man, forsaking sin and delighting in God's word? Or are you going to choose to receive God's blessing now and forever? Or are you going to choose to reject God and live for yourself? Are there any here that have been living an ungodly lifestyle? Have you been walking in the counsel of the wicked and standing in the way of sinners and sitting in the seat of scoffers? If so, I want you to know that there is still time to turn back and follow the way of the righteous man. But you might say that you have tried religion before, and it didn’t work. You have tried to clean yourself up and get on the straight path. No. None of us can life a righteous lifestyle by our own strength. The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 3:23 that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We all deserve to be like chaff instead of like the healthy tree. But there is good news. You see, the righteous man in Psalm 1 is a prototype of what all humans should be like. The only problem is that no mere human has ever lived up to this standard. However, there is someone who has lived up to this standard. During his time on earth, Jesus never joined in wickedness. He never sat in the seat of scoffers. Instead, he delighted in God's word more than anyone ever has. Some have estimated that about 10% of the words of Jesus recorded in the New Testament are quotations of Old Testament scripture. As Jesus was dying on the cross, he quoted Psalm 22. Jesus quoted scripture because he always had scripture on his mind, and he always had scripture on his mind because he probably meditated on scripture day and night like the man in Psalm 1. So, Jesus deserved to be like the tree planted by streams of water. He deserved to have a blessed life. But, instead of being like the tree in Psalm 1, Jesus was hung from a tree and killed, as Peter says in his sermon in Acts 5. How can this be? Why is it that Jesus, the righteous man, died a violent death? Isaiah 53 says that "all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” The Lord has laid on the Messiah, Jesus, all of our sin. So, Jesus's death is our bridge from the way of the wicked to the way of the righteous man. If you will admit your sin and repent from it, then Jesus's death rescues you from the way of the wicked and its eternal punishment. And more than that, he gives you the Holy Spirit, which enables you to walk in the way of the righteous man and delight in God’s word. In closing, Psalm 1 gives us all a choice. Walk in the way of the wicked, which leads to destruction, or trust in Jesus, which leads to a righteous life and blessedness. God help us all make a wise choice.
Head, heart, hands
1. Head How should I think differently about God/myself/others? (1) I should believe that it is profitable to forsake wickedness and devote myself to God’s word. It is not a waste of my life. There will be a reward. (2) I should also know that in order to be blessed I need to forsake wickedness. (3) I should believe that the Lord knows the righteous intimately; I have a relationship with him. (4) I should remember that even though the wicked may prosper in this life, they will ultimately face judgement. All will be made right at judgement. What doctrines are taught? What specific contributions to those doctrines does this passage make? This passage teaches that we are blessed when we love God’s word and meditate on it; the word of God is profitable. And, like in Proverbs, it teaches that living according to godly wisdom generally leads to prosperity. And At the same time, it teaches that the people of God should not engage in wickedness. This passage also teaches us about the judgment. It teaches that the wicked will ultimately be judged. Specifically, they will not survive the judgement because of their lack of relationship with God. On the other hand the righteous have an intimate relationship with God, which presumably will save them in the judgment. What other scripture texts add to the truths taught here? Are there texts that seem to contradict this truth? What is the deeper truth that both of these seemingly contrad ictory texts are founded upon? Regarding God’s word, God instructs Joshua to meditate on his word so that he can obey it and then prosper (Joshua 1:8). And Psalm 119 and Psalm 19 speak of how the author delights in God’s word. Proverbs speaks of how people who live by godly wisdom will prosper (e.g., Proverbs 1:33) and how people who live by wickedness will perish (e.g., Proverbs 1:19, 1:32). In contrast, the book of Ecclesiastes teaches that wisdom itself is not worth living for because both the wise and the foolish face the same fate (Ecclesiastes 2:12-17). But at the same time the book teaches that we should fear God (Eccl 5:1-7) and that those who fear God will do well (Eccl 8:1-10). So it seems that Ecclesiastes teaches the same thing as Psalm 1. Many passages in the Bible involve someone asking God why the wicked prosper (Psalm 73:4-12) while the righteous suffer (Ps 73:13-14). This is compatible with Psalm 1 which teaches that wicked will ultimately suffer (although they may prosper now). And this is the conclusion that the psalmist in Psalm 73 makes (Psalm 73:27). On the other hand, what about the fact that the righteous suffer? For example, Job suffers a lot. This seems to contradict the promise in Psalm 1 that the everything the righteous man does prospers. However, I think that Psalm 1 is a wisdom psalm that is in the same genre of the Proverbs. Thus, Psalm 1 makes a general promise that in general the righteous will prosper. But it is not a blanket promise that they will not suffer or have setbacks and failures. 2. Heart How shoul d I feel differently about God/myself/etc? I should feel comforted that I am on the right track when I am delighting in God’s word and meditating on it. I am blessed. I will prosper. What emotions are expressed in this passage? The righteous man is happy and blessed. He is at peace. There is fear about the wicked. We don’t want to end up as the wicked. What emotions does this passage lead/exhort me to feel? This passage should lead me to be happy and joyful that I am blessed. 3 . Hands What does this passage command me to do? What sins do I need to put off and repent of? What good works do I need to put on? I should not live the same lifestyle as the wicked or have close fellowship with them or join the wicked in mocking God. I should stop doing anything that involves wickedness. In my job as a professor I shouldn’t be like the world. In my role as homeowner I shouldn’t be like the world. Rather I should love God’s word and spend time reading it, studying it, and thinking about it. I should be putting it into practice in my life. How am I to obey? In what manner? I should obey joyfully. I should delight to meditate on God’s word. What motivations does this passage give for acting differently (negative or positive)? It motivates me to be righteous and meditate on God’s word so that I am blessed and so that I don’t end up like the wicked. What anchors does this passage offer that give me confidence in obeying these commands (truths about God, truths about man, gospel truths)? God knows the way of the righteous. That is why I will be blessed and not be judged like the wicked. If God knows me, then I will be protected and prosper. Because he is in control. His way is good and safe.
Brent Karding
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
Both the ESV and your paraphrase have 6 grounding only 5, not both 4 and 5, as your arc does.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.