“For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous.” Ps. 1:6
The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous—how wonderful is this knowledge of the Lord! What heights and depths of peace and comfort are experienced by the child of God because of this scriptural and wonderful truth! Psalm 1 is the keynote psalm, revealing to us the mystery of all these wonderful psalms which the church has received by divine inspiration, even as Gen. 3:15 is a key that opens to us all of Holy Writ. And of this first psalm, the heart is expressed in this scripture: “The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous.”
Indeed, how wonderful! However, how terrible is that other half of the text: “But the way of the ungodly shall perish.” That this is such a wonderful knowledge for the child of God is because it concerns the way of the righteous. One feels instinctively that there is a connection between this way of the righteous and the righteous. The way of the righteous is a narrow way, a way of affliction and trouble and distress, exactly because of the righteous who walk in it. It is exactly because the children of the Lord are righteous that their way is as narrow as it is. And, how wonderful it is that, in spite of every appearance to the contrary, the Lord knows that way and also the righteous who walk upon it. If ever we should doubt this, if ever the fear creeps in upon our soul that the Lord has forgotten us, His own, let us look upon Him Who died that we might live. If ever it appeared that the Lord had forgotten or forsaken them who put their trust in Him, it was surely at the cross of Calvary. None trusted the Lord more perfectly; none was forsaken more utterly; yet, none was vindicated more gloriously.
The word way is a very familiar expression in the Word of God. Three things are implied in this expression. It implies, in the first place, that we are all travelers because we are all creatures of time. Time is an awesome reality. Time never pauses. It always marches on, drives us forward irresistibly, and never retraces its steps. The past is past forever; it never returns, except in the day of judgment, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly, we are creatures of time in the sense that we are always moving forward in a spiritual direction. This is due to the fact that, besides being creatures of time, we are also moral-rational creatures. We were created in the image of God, are essentially image bearers of the Lord. Hence, all our activity is a spiritual activity; we always either love God or hate Him. One can never be neutral. And, thirdly, as such moral-rational creatures of time, we are constantly moving toward an everlasting destiny. Our journey will not go on and on and on. It will come to an end. And that end is either heaven or hell, unspeakable glory or unspeakable woe, perfect salvation in heavenly immortality or a terrible and complete ruin in endless despair and desolation.
Now the Word of God speaks of righteousness from a two-fold point of view. We are righteous either legally or spiritually. The word has both connotations in the Word of God. To be righteous legally means that, before the face of God, the Judge of all the earth, we are declared righteous as according to His law and standard—we are declared free from all guilt and punishment. To be righteous also means, however, that the Judge of all the earth declares us heirs of eternal life and glory. And the wonder of this, even apart from the fact that it is in conflict with the appearance of things, is that this verdict of God can never be changed, because God is God alone and there is no court of appeal. This legal-righteousness we receive through faith, and it is only through faith that we can receive it. This is not because faith is something we must do as a condition before God can give it. This righteousness is strictly unconditional as far as we are concerned. Faith, however, is the only way God can give us this blessed justification and give it to us as the living God. And, finally, this legal righteousness we shall receive in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. In that day we shall appear publicly as a people who have been justified only in and because of the blood of the Lamb of God and of Calvary. That day will be the public manifestation of the truth that we have been saved by grace, and by grace alone.
Scripture, however, also speaks of righteousness in a spiritual sense. The word righteousness means “a straight line.” Viewed spiritually, this righteousness is akin to sanctification. This means that we are spiritually in a straight line with God, in harmony with his will and statutes.
It is obvious that we must interpret the word righteousin this text in the ethical, spiritual sense. We read here of the “way of the righteous,” and this refers to their walk and conduct in the midst of the world.
This “way of the righteous” clearly emphasizes two important truths. On the one hand, they reveal themselves as righteous in the midst of the world. Of course, this is true only in principle. Even so, however, they are the people of God here below, hating and confessing their sin, separating themselves from the world; they are of the party of the living God, and they also reveal themselves antithetically as lights in the midst of the darkness of this world. On the other hand, because they are righteous, they are treated as such by the world, and their pathway is therefore a way of affliction and persecution—they are hated as also Christ was hated—a servant is never greater than his master.
The way of the ungodly shall perish—what a terrible thought! This means, of course, that the end of their way is eternal ruin, Who is able to describe hell? Who can define and describe it in all its unspeakable and unutterable hopelessness and despair and misery? Besides, this expression also means that their present pathway leads to hell; the inevitable result of the way of the ungodly is everlasting ruin.
Yet, this expression means much more. Mind you, the way of the ungodly shall perish. It must not escape our attention that the inspired psalmist speaks here of theirway. This means that this way itself leads to hell, that it is a perishing way; it is a way that works eternal destruction. The way, every inch of it, shall perish. There are those who say that God will hate the wicked in hell, but that He loves them now. They teach that the wicked receive in this life many tokens of God’s love and favor, but in hell all these gifts and tokens of divine grace will be taken from them. This, however, is surely not true, The way of the ungodly, every part of it, is a perishing way, always; the favor of the Lord never rests upon it; the ungodly can never pause in their way and say, the Lord loves us now. Constantly the hatred of the Lord is pursuing them, relentlessly, is causing all things to work together for their ruin. The Lord is never blessing them. Indeed, the curse of the Lord is not only upon the wicked, but it is also in the house of the wicked; they are ever upon slippery places; the eye of Jehovah is never upon them. This is surely the testimony throughout the Word of God, And it is emphasized in this concluding verse of Psalm 1. Besides, do we not also read that the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous? And this surely implies that He does not know the way of the ungodly.
The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous. How important and how wonderful is this word knoweth! We must not confuse this knowledge with a merely intellectual knowledge. The Dutch distinguishes between kennen and weten. Here we have kennen. That the Lord knows the way of the righteous does not merely mean that He knows about that way, that He is familiar with it. In this sense the Lord also knows the way of the ungodly. This knowledge is a knowledge of love. We feel this instinctively when we are reminded of John 17:3: “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent.” And this is also true of Romans 8:29-30.
The Lord knows the way of the righteous. His love is upon that way. It is never upon the way of the ungodly. Always the love of God accompanies the righteous. He has loved them eternally and He also loves them in time. Indeed, it may appear otherwise, when we must suffer for righteousness’ sake. The psalmist, Asaph, in Ps. 73, complains because of the prosperity of the wicked and his own terrible affliction. And the demoralizing thought will enter into the souls of the people of God: “How doth God know?” and, “Is there knowledge in the Most High?” All this was changed for Asaph when he entered into the sanctuary of God and saw the end of the ungodly—and their present prosperity in the light of that end. Then he saw the folly of his complaint and he confessed his sin before the living God Who is always the God of our salvation.
Indeed, the Lord knows the way of His own. He knows that way in love, and He knows every step of it. Of course He knows that way! He has willed it in infinite love and wisdom. And having willed it, He causes all things to work together for our good; everything is adapted to our eternal and heavenly glory and immortality.
Besides, our God is the Lord, Jehovah. The Lord, Jehovah, knoweth the way of the righteous. And Jehovah is the Rock, the I AM, the Unchangeable, the Almighty, the All-Wise; it is He Who leads to everlasting glory. He loves us unchangeably; He is almighty and therefore able to lead and save us; and He is the Omniscient One, Who leads and saves us through the best means.
Believe this, ye righteous. Believe this, ye people of God, also when grief and sorrow threaten to overwhelm your soul with despair. The way of the ungodly shall perish—is always perishing; they never know the love of God.
But ye are righteous. Ye love God because God loved you first. Indeed, Jehovah speaks here: “I know the way of the righteous, every inch of it.” And He will never leave or forsake us.