Rev. Marcus is pastor of the First Protestant Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
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. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 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 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. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Psalm 1 reminds us of the great antithesis between the righteous and the ungodly, something we are prone to forget. Between these groups there is no middle ground; we are either one or the other. The Psalm reminds us of the antithesis by describing the man who is truly blessed and contrasting him with the wicked.
The man who is truly blessed is not like the wicked. “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” (Ps. 1:1). Notice the progression described in this verse: he begins by walking with the wicked, then stands in the way with them, and finally ends up sitting with them. He begins by passively listening to wicked counsel and ends up scorning God and His Word. At each step the man becomes more and more familiar with the wicked and their lifestyle.
The blessed man, and the blessed woman too, do not want to walk in the counsel of the ungodly. The ungodly are those who live contrary to God and His laws. In line with their hatred of God, the ungodly give evil counsel. They tell us that vice is virtue. They say sin is just “a little fun” that won’t hurt anybody, and so on.
The blessed man therefore will say with Job, “the counsel of the wicked is far from me” (Job 21:16). He doesn’t want to be exposed to ungodly counsel in any way, shape, or form. Therefore he will not go anywhere with the ungodly to fellowship with them. He will avoid ungodly music, ungodly movies, ungodly literature, and every other source of ungodly counsel.
The blessed man will avoid evil counsel because he knows it leads to the next step: standing in the way of sinners. The way of sinners is their sinful lifestyle. If we allow ourselves to be constantly bombarded with wicked messages from all sorts of media and so-called friends, the next step is that we begin to indulge in the lifestyle of the wicked. We begin to believe the lie of the devil that life is about serving ourselves (and really then serving the devil) instead of serving God.
From standing in the way of sinners, it’s only one more step to sitting in the seat of the scorner. Scorners mock all that is holy and will not bear to be corrected. Indeed, they boast in their wickedness. They make an open profession of godlessness, saying in their heart, “There is no God,” even though they know deep down that the truth is otherwise.
The man who is truly blessed will want to avoid, as one avoids the plague, this downward spiral into sin.
At the same time, he will also apply himself to a life of piety.
“His delight is in the law of the Lord” (Ps. 1:2). The law of the Lord includes all of God’s instruction to us, including His commandments. Instead of downward, the law of the Lord leads the godly man upward in godliness. This upward progression begins with delight in the heart. The child of God rejoices in God’s law because it reveals all we need to know for our salvation.
It stands to reason that such a delight in God’s law will cause the blessed man to meditate upon that law day and night. He mulls it over in his mind and talks to himself about God’s law. He praises God for His wonderful works. He doesn’t just do that once a week when he goes to church. Rather, he meditates upon that law day and night. He reads it diligently and considers it seriously.
The result of delighting and meditating upon God’s law is that the blessed man will bear the fruit of a godly walk: “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” (Ps. 1:3). He will love God and his neighbor. He helps in the causes of Christ’s kingdom. He seeks peace in the church. He brings forth the fruit of good works in every area of his life, whether as an officebearer, a spouse, a parent, a child, a student, or a laborer.
Needless to say, none of us perfectly matches this description of the blessed man. Indeed, many of us have tasted the bitter fruit of a downward spiral into sin. Neither have we delighted in God’s law or born the fruit of good works as we would like. Because of this, some might question whether it is proper to call ourselves blessed. But, in spite of our shortcomings, we are blessed. That’s because true blessedness is not necessarily perfect blessedness. And, though we don’t see these things manifested perfectly in our lives, we do see the characteristics of a blessed man in ourselves.
How did we become truly blessed? By God’s grace. That’s implied by the psalmist when he says, “And he shall be like a tree planted” (Ps. 1:3). Just as a tree does not plant itself, we did not make ourselves blessed. God planted us by rivers of water in order to make sure we would be constantly nourished. He nourishes us by His Holy Spirit, who is like a well of water springing up within us.
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life,
The Holy Spirit, who regenerated us, also “waters” us so that we grow and bear fruit. More and more we delight in God’s law and meditate upon it and bear the fruit of good works.
The basis of this gracious work of God in us is the work of Jesus Christ. He is the man truly blessed of God, having the Spirit without measure. He did not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful. Instead, He delighted in God’s law and meditated on it day and night. As the faithful servant of Jehovah, He fulfilled all righteousness and gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. In His way, Jesus prospered and continues to prosper, accomplishing salvation for His people. Isaiah prophesies about this victory:
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand,
On the basis of that work for us, Christ also works in us. That’s how the psalmist can say, “The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous.” Jehovah dwells with and in the righteous ones. The Good Shepherd knows us and cares for us and leads us.
That God knows us means that we are blessed now and that our destiny is the perfect blessedness in heaven. The blessedness of which the psalmist speaks is not some superficial, fleeting emotion based on temporary things. Rather, it is a firm and lasting joy based on the possession of a spiritual inheritance. In light of the fact that we have these spiritual riches, whatsoever we do shall prosper (cf. Ps. 1:3). That is to say, whenever we walk the way of righteousness, God will prosper us. Whatever we do in faith, according to God’s will and for His glory, it will prosper. God will use it for our spiritual good and for His glory.
Of course, the ungodly are not so. They do not possess happiness in the least. They may laugh and play and try to live life to the fullest. They may have all kinds of money, or toys, or what have you. But in reality their life is empty and vain. Even while they live they stand exposed to God’s utter rejection. Everything they do will not prosper; it will work for their evil.
On the judgment day, the ungodly will be manifest when God blows upon them with the wind of His judgment. Then the vain chaff will be swept away and burned. They will not be gathered together with the righteous in heaven. Rather, they will be cast into hell to experience the fullness of the curse.
But the righteous man, the one who is truly blessed, will be gathered into heaven, into the congregation of the righteous. Then our perfect blessedness will be manifested. There we will no longer have to worry about mixing with the ungodly. There, our delight will be to glorify our God day and night. That man is truly blessed who has the life of Jesus Christ. Blessed now and blessed for ever.