How to Be Happy and Blessed in Life, 1:1-6
(1:1-6) Introduction: the United States’ Declaration of Independence proclaims that God has endowed all men with the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Sadly, the pursuit of happiness is the futile quest of far too many of us. We squander our precious time and resources, make poor choices, and often ruin our lives—and others’ lives—searching for the treasure of happiness in all the wrong places.
Where can happiness be found? The simple yet powerful truth of God’s Word is that true happiness is a gift of God, one of His very special blessings. This wonderful gift is ours if we are rightly related to Him and if we walk in obedience to His commands.
Many commentators believe that this psalm was purposely written as the introduction to the entire inspired collection. Note the following about this hymn of instruction:
The psalm presents two ways—the way of blessing and the way of judgment—which was the choice Israel had to make (De. 30:15, 19). Jesus used a similar image (Mt. 7:13-14). Bible history seems to be built around the concept of "two men": the "first Adam" and the "last Adam" (Ro. 5; 1 Cor. 15:45)—Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, David and Saul—and Bible history culminates in Christ and Antichrist. Two men, two ways, two destinies.
This contrast is fully explained in the book of Proverbs. Proverbs thoroughly discusses the two ways, the two men, and the eternal importance of living by the instruction of God’s Word. Many terms that are frequently discussed in Proverbs appear in this psalm. A word search and study of these words in Proverbs provides us with a deeper understanding of this psalm. These words include walk, counsel, way, scorner, law, and righteous.
Psalm 1 is the major passageway into the rest of the psalms. Outstanding commentator Derek Kidner declares that “it stands here as a faithful doorkeeper, confronting those who would be in ‘the congregation of the righteous’ (v. 5) with the basic choice that alone gives reality to worship.” At the very beginning of Psalms, the Jewish hymnal, a vital truth is proclaimed: we can only truly worship God if we have chosen to walk in His way and in the light of His Word.
The Holy Scripture is central to all worship. God has revealed Himself, His glorious plan of salvation, and His will for every one of us in His inspired Word. Only if we delight in His Holy Word (law) can we truly enter His presence. Only if we have chosen the path of righteousness can we have an audience with Him. Only if we meditate on His Word can we fully understand the ways of God and worship Him in truth. Anyone can be inspired and comforted by reading the psalms, but we can only experience an intimate relationship with Him if we love Him and obey His life-giving instruction (Jn. 14:21; 15:10, 14). Such a relationship gives us the liberty to pour out our hearts to God.
Before entering fully into the psalms, we must stop at the door of Psalm 1 and make a decision to…
Only then can we be gloriously blessed in the presence of the Lord. This is, How to Be Happy and Blessed in Life, 1:1-6.
1. Separate from the wicked (v. 1).
2. Be devoted to God’s Word (vv. 2-3).
3. Understand the unhappy and wicked (vv. 4-5).
4. Trust the Lord and be righteous (v. 6).
1. (1:1) Separate from the wicked.
This beloved, oft-memorized psalm teaches us how to meet one of the most urgent needs of our lives: how to be happy and blessed (see Deeper Study #1). Note that the Hebrew word for blessed (esher) is plural. It means many happinesses; abounding in blessing; experiencing the full measure of joy, peace, and prosperity with nothing withheld.
Who would not want to live in the realm of the blessed? What must we do in order to receive this favor and dwell in this state? First, we must not associate with ungodly people.
Three postures are described in this verse: walking, standing, and sitting. These different terms are used as poetic language, and together they represent the overall life choices and activities—the day-to-day lifestyle—of the blessed individual. At the same time, each expression relates to the specific type of vile person who is to be avoided. Kidner says that these phrases describe three degrees of departure from God and three different levels of conformity to this world.
Deeper Study #1
(1:1) Blessed: the best synonym the English language offers for this Hebrew word (esher) is the word happy. Yet happy falls short of beginning to express all that is contained in what it truly means to be blessed. Being blessed means…
Blessed is both an inward and outward state: we enjoy this happiness in our spirits, and also in our relationships with others. It is a joy, peace, and assurance that transcends circumstances. “Even when the righteous do not feel happy, they are still considered ‘blessed’ from God’s perspective.”
This blessing is a gift from God. It is the result of His approval, acceptance, and favor upon an obedient believer’s life. This gift, however, is conditionally received. While God’s favor is always undeserved due to our sinfulness, this blessing is the result of some action on our part. Throughout Psalms we are said to be blessed because we…
a. Their counsel (v. 1).
God’s blessing will be ours when we do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. Note the significant words in this statement:
⇒Walk (halak) is most frequently translated as go in the Old Testament. It refers to our natural activity or movement. As used here, it applies to our behavior in daily life.
⇒Counsel (etsah) generally means advice or guidance. However, it sometimes refers to purposes, plans, or schemes.
⇒Ungodly (rasha) is usually translated as wicked. It is the opposite of righteous, and speaks of a person who is guilty of wrongdoing and stands condemned before God. Scholar H.C. Leupold notes that its root means loose, and it refers to those who have loosed themselves from God and have fallen into evil. In this context it is accurately understood as people who have cast off the restraints of God’s Holy Word. They have chosen to live according to their own sinful purposes rather than God’s righteous commands.
b. Their sinful way (v. 1).
Way (derek) is the road or path we choose to travel. According to Scripture, only two ways exist in life: the way of righteousness that leads to life and the way of wickedness that leads to death and ends in destruction. There is no middle road (Mt. 7:13-14).
Sinners refers to those who are guilty before God because they disobey God. They miss the mark defined in God’s Word. Classic commentator Adam Clarke notes the distinction between the ungodly or wicked person of the first statement and the sinner of this statement: the wicked person is without God and is uninfluenced by Him. The sinner, however, rebelliously lives outside of God’s limits and willfully transgresses against God’s law.
This path of disobedience to God’s commands is the way of those who do not have a relationship with God. Its end is death and eternal separation from God in hell. If we truly desire to be blessed by God, we do not stand in this sinful way of the wicked, much less travel it. As true followers of the Lord, we have chosen the way of life over the road that leads to destruction. We are no longer traveling the foolish way of transgression against God. However, it is possible for us to stand in that road, or to return for a visit to the way of sinners. If we return, we backslide and forfeit God’s blessing upon our lives. In making that choice, we willfully depart from the blessed state of joy, peace, and contentment. The result: we will painfully experience God’s loving but firm hand of discipline (Heb. 12:5-11).
The way of sinners is the exact opposite of the blessed life. Those who live sinful lives do not know lasting joy, satisfaction, or contentment. They never experience the deep-seated and lasting peace that God alone can give. Instead, their experience is a continuous flow of unsettling conflicts with others. As a result, they are plagued with guilt because of their transgressions and the hurt they bring to those who love them. They are selfish, and their sin often leads them to an isolated, lonely life that is cut off from others. Habitual sinners are prone to turn to substances—drugs and alcohol—to numb their nagging consciences and ease their pain.
c. Their mockery (v. 1).
Scorners mock everything that is holy. They have no respect for God and His Word. The Hebrew verb form of this word literally means to make mouths at. Through continued rejection of God’s Word, they have become hardened toward sin and toward God. The scorner (luwts) is thoroughly discussed in Proverbs.
Scorners are marked by their pride (Pr. 3:34; 21:24). They elevate themselves above God and others, and they defiantly disobey God’s commands. Note that the scorner is portrayed here as sitting. Picture the scorner arrogantly perched on his self-appointed throne, contemptuously sneering at God and jeering at all who walk in the path of righteousness. He haughtily looks down on those with a lifestyle that shuns sin and revolves around God’s instruction. He exists to fulfill the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 Jn. 2:16). If we desire to be blessed, we will not sit in his seat: we will not act arrogantly before God or others. We will not disregard God’s holy commands. Instead, we will guard ourselves from being influenced by those who live in mockery of God’s Word.
In conclusion, Psalm 1:1 charts the path that can lead us away from God and into a life of sin. It begins with considering ungodly advice. Then it progresses to following the ways of sinners. It culminates in adopting the attitude of those who live in proud, persistent rebellion against God’s Holy Word.
It is significant that all the verbs in these statements are in the Hebrew perfect tense. This indicates that those who are blessed have made a once-and-for-all commitment to live in obedience to God, a commitment that guides them the rest of their lives. The journey of righteousness is walked day by day in the power of God’s Spirit. But it is their settled commitment to God that holds them faithful in all things. This complete presentation of oneself to God as a living sacrifice prevents straying onto the way of sinners (Ro. 12:1). Faithful devotion to this commitment results in God’s glorious favor and blessing upon us.
Thought 1. Psalm 1:1 is a verse that calls for a decision: Will you fully dedicate yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ? Will you make a commitment to walk in obedience to Him, to obey His Word and will for your life? Paul’s passionate plea in Ro. 12:1-2 challenges us all:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Ro. 12:1-2).
This presentation of ourselves to Christ—laying all that we are and have upon the altar of sacrifice to Him—includes the commitment to live separately from sinners, to pledge…
- that we will refuse to listen to worldly advice. We are surrounded by ungodly counsel. Writers, self-proclaimed experts, television hosts, worldly family and friends, and a host of others—many throughout society beckon us to live contrary to God’s Word. If we will be blessed, we must first know what God says in His Word, the Holy Bible. We must then reject all advice that is in disagreement with God’s Word, and we must trust Him enough to choose His counsel over the counsel of others.
- that we will never depart from the path of obedience to God’s righteous commands. We all face daily temptations to sin. The desires of our sinful nature stir us to disobey God’s holy commands. The world presents repeated opportunities to indulge our flesh. If we will be blessed, we must adhere to God’s Word. We must refuse to stray from the path of obedience—refuse to even stand, much less walk, in the sinful way.
- that we will guard ourselves against the tireless efforts of scorners to influence us to question God’s Word. In many countries, the teaching of God’s Word vanished decades and even centuries ago. Within every nation, believers are pressured to accept immorality, dishonesty, injustice, and sinful living. Scorners of God’s Word beckon believers to be tolerant of sin. However, if we, as believers, want God’s blessings, we must stand strong on the truths of God’s Word. We must stand for what is right, even when we can no longer successfully overcome evil influences (Eph. 6:13-14). We forfeit God’s blessing when we succumb to the pressure of those who mock God’s holy commands.
The once-and-for-all decision to present ourselves fully to Christ enables us to know what to do in the daily decisions we face. Our choices are clarified in the light of our total surrender to Him. Our commitment to Him will guide us through every step of life and will help us to obey Him and His will. This is the key to the blessed life, a life that results in God’s joyous favor.
“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33).
“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:17-18).
“I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers” (Ps. 26:4).
“Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away” (Pr. 4:14-15).
“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Pr. 13:20).
“I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation” (Jer. 15:17).
Thought 2. Pastor and Bible teacher Harry A. Ironside viewed this verse as Messianic; that is, as a prophetic reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. He understood the perfect tenses of the verbs to speak of one who never walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful:
Who is this blessed man to whom our attention is directed as we open this lovely Old Testament book of praise and prayer? …he is telling us of the blessedness of the Man who has never done any of these things, the Man who never took his own way, the Man who never walked with the world as part of it, who never did a thing in opposition to the will of God. Who is that man?
… there is only one Man who ever walked through this scene to whom these words apply. The One of whom David speaks here is the One who hung on Calvary's cross, and who in the words of the twenty-second Psalm cried, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ (Psa. 22:1).
How delightful it is to contemplate Him, to think of Him coming down into the world His hands had made, becoming man and going through this scene in all perfection, ministering to the needs of sinners but never joining with them in their rebellion against the Father.
Ancient church fathers Augustus and Jerome also believed that the first half of this psalm was intended to describe the character and reward of the Lord Jesus Christ. The instruction of the psalm to us must not be ignored, but meditating upon these verses with Jesus in view stirs our hearts to focus on Him and follow His example as never before.
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Lu. 9:23).
“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him” (Col. 2:6).
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Pe. 2:21).
“He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 Jn. 2:6).
2. (1:2-3) Be devoted to God’s Word.
Instead of following ungodly advice, the blessed person heeds the counsel of God’s inspired Word. We must be guided by the light and wisdom of Scripture if we wish to enjoy a life filled with peace, happiness, and hope.
a. Love it and take great delight in it (v. 2)
A delight (chephets) is something that we desire and enjoy. It speaks here of an emotional involvement with God’s Word. The law (torah) stands for all the Scripture, but it originally consisted of Genesis through Deuteronomy. At the time of this psalm, the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) was all that the Hebrews possessed of God’s Word. We are privileged today to possess God’s complete revelation to humanity.
The blessed person has genuine affection—passionate feelings—for the Bible. He or she has an emotional relationship with Scripture. If we wish to receive God’s life-enhancing favor, we will love the Bible. How can we not love the Word of God if we truly love the God of the Word? The person who longs to be blessed and happy will delight in…
- reading the Bible
- studying it
- thinking about it
- hearing it preached and taught
- obeying it (see Thought 1 below)
b. Meditate on it continuously (vv. 2-3).
Deep, passionate affection for God’s Word drives the blessed man to meditate (hagah) on it unceasingly. This Hebrew word is in the imperfect tense, indicating continuous action, ongoing meditation. The Bible has not only “captured his full affection” but also “claimed his full attention.”
Biblical meditation is nothing like the popular techniques taught in Eastern religions in which people are given methods of emptying their minds. “It is not content-less but content-full. It is not accomplished by eliminating thought but by redirecting thought to the Word of God.” Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. To meditate on the Scripture is to be filled with it, “to discourse with ourselves concerning the great things contained in it, with a close application of mind, a fixedness of thought, till we be suitably affected with those things and experience the savour and power of them in our hearts.”
Hagah means to murmur, to speak, to study, to talk, to utter. Thus, meditation involves more than keeping God’s Word on our minds and in our hearts. It also includes keeping God’s word on our lips. “Meditation includes audible recitation;” that is, speaking God’s Word aloud. Why is this so important?
The New Testament teaches that the Bible is the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17). It is a weapon that we are to wield against the enemy. Jesus modeled this when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Mt. 4:1-11). When Satan enticed Him, Jesus spoke the Scripture aloud in response. Eventually, God’s powerful Word wore down the enemy and he left the Savior alone.
Our battles as Christian believers are spiritual battles. We fight against Satan and his demonic forces (Eph. 6:12); therefore, we must wage war against them with spiritual, not physical, weapons. Our weapons are the Word of
God and prayer (2 Cor. 10:3-4; Eph. 6:17-18). To speak God’s Word is to release it and empower it, to unleash its
conquering power against the enemy. By speaking God’s Word, we swing the sword of the Spirit against our deadly, destructive foe.
In His challenge to Joshua, the Lord connected meditating on the Word with speaking it:
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth [emphasis ours]; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Jos. 1:8).
Many voices vie for our attention as we journey through this world. How can we identify which voices must be ignored and which should be heeded? We do it by meditating on God’s Word. Through meditation we learn to discern the counsel of the ungodly and reject it. Meditation also strengthens us to resist the temptation of the sinful way, and it preserves us from developing a scornful attitude toward God’s commands.
As we focus our thoughts on the Bible, we learn more about God and His ways. We learn that God’s holy commands flow from His loving heart and that they protect and guide us throughout life. Through obeying God, we learn to appreciate His commands because God showers His favor and blessings upon us. We become the blessed person of Psalm 1 (Jn. 14:21; 15:10, 14).
c. The result (v. 3).
The blessed man (or woman) is compared to a tree, but not just any tree. He is not like a wild seedling that randomly sprouts in an inconvenient place. He is like a tree intentionally planted in a carefully chosen spot: by the river where it will receive plenty of water for its growth, where it will have every advantage to become fruitful.
God is presented throughout the Bible as a husbandman or gardener. His relationship with Israel is portrayed as that of an owner and dresser of a vineyard (Isa. 5). He is seen diligently cultivating His choice vine, the Hebrew nation. Those reached by the Savior are called “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord” (Isa. 61:3). Jesus also described the Father as the vinedresser and believers as branches of Christ, who is the True Vine (see outline and notes—Jn. 15:1 for more discussion). The Father’s work in pruning and cultivating fruit is again emphasized. A believer is also portrayed as a field that is sown and watered, a field in which God produces an increase
(1 Cor. 3:7-9).
Planted also indicates that the blessed individual is firmly fixed. Like a deeply-rooted tree, the righteous are secure when the winds and storms of life rage against them (Eph. 3:17; Col. 2:7).
The strong root system also delivers fresh water from the river, which produces abundant fruit. The tree flourishes. Its leaves do not wilt and fall off. Its foliage is rich, thick, and lush. As ones who are blessed, our lives are flourishing and fruitful. Like a well-watered tree, we produce spiritual fruit when we delight and meditate in God’s Word (see Deeper Study #2).
The blessed man is prosperous in all that he does. Prosperity may include earthly possessions, but God’s richest blessings have nothing to do with material blessings. Scripture speaks of a more valuable prosperity, the prosperity of the soul (3 Jn. 2). True prosperity in our lives is producing the fruit of God’s Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience. Bearing the fruit of God’s Spirit is the result of loving God’s Word and obeying it.
Also note this: water in the Scripture is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 7:38-39). It is the Spirit who produces fruit in our lives (Gal. 5:22-23). Water is also a symbol of the Word, specifically of the washing and cleansing effect of Scripture (Jn. 15:3; Eph. 5:26). Sin can quickly make us unfruitful in the service of the Lord. Living in obedience to God’s Word protects our fruit from becoming contaminated, diseased, and destroyed by sin.
Deeper Study #2
(1:3) The Fruit of the Believer: God commands us to bear fruit for the Lord Jesus Christ and His kingdom. He has chosen us for this very purpose: that we should go and bring forth fruit, spiritual fruit that remains even after we are gone (Jn. 15:16; Ro. 7:4). Jesus cursed the fig tree that did not bear fruit (Mt. 21:19), and He is equally displeased with us when we are unfruitful in His service (Jn. 15:2).
The New Testament mentions six fruits that we should bear for the Lord:
1. The fruit of telling others about Jesus Christ and sharing the gospel with them
“Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto [hindered],) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Ro. 1:13-16).
2. The fruit of holiness
“But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Ro. 6:22).
3. The fruit of giving
“When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain” (Ro. 15:28).
“Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account” (Phil. 4:17).
4. The fruit of the Spirit, which is Christ-like temperament and character
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).
5. The fruit of good works
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).
6. The fruit of praise and thanksgiving
“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Heb. 13:15).
Thought 1. Loving God’s Word consists of far more than just reading it, listening to it, or studying it. It includes obeying it. The Apostle James emphasized this fact…the importance of obeying God’s Word:
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (Ja. 1:22-25).
In His charge to Joshua, the Lord also stressed the importance of obeying His Word:
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do [emphasis ours] according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Jos. 1:8-9).
Note how the Holy Spirit, who has inspired all Scripture, linked these passages to Psalm 1: it is the person who is a doer of God’s Word who is blessed in all he or she does. We are blessed only when we obey the commands and principles of God’s Word.
“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:14-17).
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Jos. 1:8).
“The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing” (Ps. 92:12-14).
“Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight” (Ps. 119:35).
“O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97).
Thought 2. Failure to love God’s Word is the symptom of a deeper spiritual sickness: a lack of love for God. When we truly love God, we cannot help but love His Word. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself, His love, and His plan to us. It is the very breathing out of the heart of God.
We must constantly evaluate how much time we spend in God’s Word, especially in comparison to the amount of time we spend on other interests. Television, the internet, sports, hobbies, entertainment, other reading—all these and many other things occupy far more of the average believer’s time than reading and studying God’s Word. Is it any wonder that so many believers are worldly, spiritually weak, and so prone to falling into temptation when they spend so little time in God’s Word? A believer who considers reading and studying God’s Word a chore is a Christian who is spiritually sick, whose fruit will be devoured by the enemy. This believer will eventually be consumed by sin and worldliness. We make time for that which is important to us. Neglecting God’s Word indicates a heart problem.
“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pe. 2:2).
“O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97).
“How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103).
“Mine eyes prevent [precede] the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word” (Ps. 119:148).
3. (1:4-5) Understand the unhappy and wicked.
In sharp contrast to the enduring blessedness of the righteous is the fleeting worthlessness of the ungodly. Nothing could create a better image of permanence than the flourishing tree planted by the river. Nothing could be more unstable and transitory than the chaff now cited in comparison.
a. They are like chaff: Blown about by the winds of judgment (v. 4).
Chaff is a common illustration in Scripture of those things that are worthless, temporary, and short-lived. (Mt. 3:12; Jb. 21:18; Ps. 35:5; Isa. 29:5; Hos. 13:3). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia explains its significance:
In the process of winnowing [wheat], as it has been carried on in the East for thousands of years, the grain is tossed into the air so that the wind may cause a separation of chaff and straw. The light husks from the wheat and fine particles of straw are dispersed by the wind in the form of a fine dust; the heavier straw which has been broken into short pieces by the threshing process falls near at hand on the edge of the threshing-floor, while the grain falls back upon the pile....This straw is ordinarily saved and fed as ‘roughage’ to the animals. It could easily be gathered and burned…while the chaff is blown away beyond recovery, a strong figure to depict complete annihilation.
The towering tree is firmly established in fertile soil (v. 3). Its deep, huge roots drink abundantly from the flowing river by which it is planted. Its leaves are lush and green, and its limbs hang heavy with sweet, juicy fruit. It stands undaunted when storm clouds gather on the horizon, for it is rooted ever so deeply and can withstand the strongest of winds. This image depicts the godly man or woman.
The chaff of the wheat, in contrast, is weightless and worthless, without substance and without value. When it is tested, it quickly and easily scatters. It cannot withstand the slightest of breezes, much less the violent gusts of the raging storm. Gone! Here one second, then vanished, never to appear again. This is the ungodly person, the man or woman who does not know the Lord.
b. They doom themselves (v. 5).
The wind is a symbol of God’s judgment upon every individual (v. 4). As the feathery chaff cannot survive the stormy gales, the ungodly person will not be able to stand in the day of God’s coming judgment. John the Baptist preached this same message to the Pharisees and Sadducees:
“Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Mt. 3:12).
Excellent commentator H.C. Leupold explains the judgment referred to in this verse:
Though it may be true that throughout life those who have turned from God must experience many a setback and defeat in which they are not able to maintain themselves…this word seems to refer primarily to one outstanding judgment which is the climax of them all, and whose verdicts are ultimate, the final judgment.
On that glorious yet dreadful day when the righteous are assembled together for eternal bliss with the Lord, the ungodly will be eternally banished from God’s presence.
Chaff closely resembles wheat and is difficult to distinguish from it. The picture is that of false believers who pretend to be a part of God’s righteous congregation. Hypocrisy was the heart of John’s scathing sermon to the Pharisees and Sadducees (Mt. 3:7-12). Their fruits (works, deeds) were not those of a righteous tree or person. Scripture teaches that on the day of God’s final judgment all unbelievers will be unmasked and identified as chaff by their works:
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Re. 20:12).
Unbelievers will be eternally doomed on that dreadful day. They will be violently scattered by the fierce winds of God’s unrestrained wrath. They will be forever ejected from the presence of the righteous and hurled into the lake of fire:
“And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Re. 20:15).
Thought 1. What does the future hold for the ungodly? Tragically, their prospects are both bleak and terrifying. Every person we meet is going to spend eternity in hell unless he or she receives the salvation and life that Christ offers.
As believers, Christ commissions us to spend our lives and resources reaching those who face the eternal doom of judgment. We must accept this responsibility—love people enough to overcome our fears and tell them about Christ. Our family members, neighbors, co-workers, and friends will perish eternally if they do not repent of their sins and believe in Christ. How can we claim to truly love them without trying to reach them with the gospel?
Part of the fruit we bear as believers is the souls we bring into the family of God. A special reward—the crown of rejoicing—awaits us if we faithfully obey the Savior’s command to win the lost (1 Th. 2:19).
“So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just” (Mt. 13:49).
“Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles” (Ro. 1:13).
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” (1 Th. 2:19).
“For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Re. 6:17).
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Pr. 11:30).
4. (1:6) Trust the Lord and be righteous.
Every human being should seek to know God personally and intimately. When we establish a relationship with Him, He blesses us throughout life and promises to bless us throughout all eternity. Never forget, this relationship is received through trusting Jesus Christ and His finished work on Calvary. As sinful beings, we are justified or made righteous only through trusting the sinless Son of God (Ro. 5:1). Now, a final contrast completes this psalm:
a. He knows the righteous (v. 6).
Knows (yada) does not speak of a mental awareness, realization, or recognition. The Hebrew word means to know intimately and personally. Here it refers to the relationship between the Heavenly Father and His children—we who have been made righteous through faith in His only begotten Son (Gal. 3:26).
The way of the righteous is carefully guided and protected by God. He personally insures that we will reach our final destination, which is heaven. Through His power and care, we can rest secure knowing that He will take us to our eternal home.
“Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro. 8:30-39).
“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).
“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:18).
“Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pe. 1:5).
b. He does not know the wicked: As a result, they perish (v. 6).
The wicked perish because God does not know them. Ps. 1:6 is an example of antithetical parallelism in Psalms. Parallelism is a frequently used tool in Hebrew poetry, in which two corresponding statements work together to teach one truth. In antithetical parallelism, the second statement contrasts or expresses the opposite of the first. When something is said in one statement of a parallel verse, it is usually implied or suggested in the other statement, even though it may not be specifically mentioned. Therefore, the Lord knows not the wicked is implied in the second statement of 1:6; and the way of the righteous is life (the opposite of perish) is implied in the first statement of the verse. Only those who are known by the Lord—who have a relationship with Him—travel the road that ends in life. All others travel the road that ends in destruction. Only two roads and two destinations exist:
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Mt. 7:13-14).
Thought 1. Expositor and commentator John Phillips writes:
There are only two ways. There is the way of the cross, the way that leads by Calvary to glory. And there is the way of the curse, the broad and popular way that leads to a lost eternity.
By nature and by practice our feet are set on the broad way. ‘We have turned every one to his own way,’ the prophet declares. But, by deliberate choice, we can make the change. We come to Jesus, ‘the way, the truth, the life,’ the One who says, ‘No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.’ We take Him as Saviour and become numbered with the godly….The lost man, on the other hand, can no more fight his end than the chaff can fight the gale. ‘The way of the ungodly shall perish.’ That is the Holy Spirit's sobering, closing word in this first great Hebrew hymn.
A question that we all should ask is this: Which road are we traveling? Has there been a time when we turned from the way of sin and death to the road of righteousness and eternal life? Each of us must make sure, absolutely sure.
If you are not absolutely sure you are on the road to life—eternity in heaven with the Lord and all the righteous—do not delay changing paths. Trust Christ today as your Savior. Believe in Him and accept His work on the cross as payment for your sin. Do not assume the deadly risk that another day will bring another opportunity to be saved.
“And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Mt. 7:23).
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (Jn. 10:14).
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26).
“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim. 2:19).
“The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted. As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation….The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish. The way of the Lord is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity. The righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth” (Pr. 10:24-25, 28-30).
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pr. 14:12).