God’s Word: The Path of Life
Psalm 1 is commonly classified as a wisdom psalm. Wisdom psalms present examples of wise and foolish behaviors in order to point readers to choices that please God. Psalm 1 easily divides into two parts: the path of life (see vv. 1-3) and the path of death (see vv. 4-6).
How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! —Psalm 1:1
The word happy, sometimes translated “blessed,” refers to the sense of joy, blessedness, or contentment of those who faithfully walk in a right relationship with God. It points to the best possible life an individual can achieve.
Take note of the progression from walking to standing to sitting. A traveler stops to listen to the banter of bystanders. The unsuspecting journeyer joins the conversation and eventually takes a seat among these gabbers. In contrast, the traveler in verse 1 doesn’t stop, stand, or become one of the wicked.
A wicked person is someone who is corrupt in his or her heart. Sinners continuously practice sin. Mockers scoff at God. The word walk refers to a person’s decisions. The word stand refers to a person’s commitments, and sit represents a person’s attitudes and the disposition of his or her heart.
Warning that each step is a choice, the psalm encourages readers to avoid that choice. Don’t be influenced by the wicked. Refuse to walk down the sinful path. Don’t align yourself with those who scoff at what is holy.
Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. —Psalm 1:2
The psalmist identifies “the LORD’s instruction,” literally “Yahweh’s law,” as the source of appropriate behavior. This phrase is synonymous with Scripture. Scripture transforms the nature of those who delight in it. Such people read the Bible because they hunger for God. They eagerly absorb its instructions and constantly seek to abide by them.
The command to meditate on Scripture day and night doesn’t mean God expects people to read the Bible around the clock. It means the actions of the righteous are steered by the truths of Scripture at all times. God’s Word has become an integral part of their thinking.
He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. —Psalm 1:3
The psalmist compared a person who follows God’s counsel to a productive tree planted near a river. The verb planted reveals that the tree didn’t sprout in this location by chance. God set it in place. The analogy points to the Bible as God’s resource for living in a manner that keeps a person right with Him.
The person who follows the counsel of God’s Word will flourish and produce fruit. Therefore, God’s Word supplies everything necessary for living a fruitful, rewarding life. The phrase “Whatever he does prospers” doesn’t guarantee financial prosperity or career advancement. Rather, because this person follows the counsel of God’s Word, his or her ambition is to glorify God, not to obtain monetary or personal reward.
The wicked are not like this; instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. —Psalm 1:4
The wicked are like worthless chaff that the wind blows away. The words “not like this” are emphatic in the Hebrew text. The wicked are the opposite of all that was said about the righteous in the previous three verses.
Therefore the wicked will not stand up in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. —Psalm 1:5
Listening to the deceptive advice of the wicked leads to instability and destruction. When the wicked are brought before the Almighty in judgment, they will be unable to defend the choices that produced their lifestyle. God’s verdict will result in eternal separation from Him.
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin. —Psalm 1:6
God’s knowledge of the righteous is a present reality. The verb watches means “to know through experience.” God’s knowledge of His people is derived from walking with His people.
The word LORD is the Hebrew Yahweh, God’s covenant name, indicating that the relationship is an intimate one. The intimacy of God’s knowledge guarantees His presence to secure His people. God guarantees His protection to the obedient.
The righteous are individuals who are right with God. Their way is a lifestyle of faith that produces obedient acts. However, the lifestyle of the ungodly ultimately “leads to ruin.”
Excerpted from Explore the Bible: Psalms. © 2017 Lifeway Press. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers®. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.