Psalm Bible Study (Worshiping God)

Psalm 1, The Person God Blesses and the Way of the Wicked

I. The Person God Blesses

A. Blessed

  1. Many times the word “blessed” is understood to mean “happy.” Generally speaking this definition is true except that by saying “happy,” we misunderstand what the writer is saying. The writer is not saying that if you do all of these things, you will be happy. The psalmist is not talking about our feelings or emotions. He is going far beyond that.
  2. “Blessed” means to have a fullness of life. Another way to say this would be “a deep sense of peace, contentment, and satisfaction in life.” The writer is not talking about always having a feeling of happiness, because we will all experience things in life that will cause pain, sorrow, and sadness. But the writer is telling us that we can find fullness in our lives. Therefore, “blessed is the man” who will do the things that he says.

B. What the blessed one does not do (vs. 1)

  1. The psalmist begins by describing what the blessed person does not do. He says there are three things that a blessed person will not do: walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers.
  2. The person that is blessed in this life will not accept the advice of those who are ungodly. We sometimes commit the error of looking to the ungodly and thinking that since many seem to be prosperous that we need to solicit their advice. But what real, practical advice can the ungodly give to those who are followers of God? The ungodly have different values, different goals, different standards, and different concerns than what we are supposed to have. The blessed do not heed the advice of the ungodly.
  3. Further, the one that is blessed does not stand in the way of sinners. There is a path that sinners are walking down. Matthew 7:13 says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” The one who is blessed by God will not find himself standing on the path of sinners that leads to destruction. Once we see we are standing on that road, we need to quickly get ourselves off that road and turn around before it is too late.
  4. Finally, the one that is blessed by God is someone who does not sit in the seat of mockers or scornful. To sit with them suggests that you are one with them. You have fellowship with the mockers and have taken your seat with them. Clearly, those who are mockers of God will not be blessed by God.
  5. Before we leave this verse we need to see the progression that the psalmist is describing. I believe the psalmist is describing to us the nature of sin and the schemes of the devil. Notice that first the person is walking in the proximity of the ungodly. But then the person stops, and is now standing with the sinners. Before he knows it, he has taken his seat with them.
  6. Notice also the downward progression of those that we befriend. First, it simply begins with the ungodly. They may not be bad people so much, but they are without God. Soon that turns into being with those that are sinners until we are with those who are completely rebellious and hardhearted against God, the mockers and the scornful.
  7. How did this all begin? Notice in verse 1 we see the person was listening to the counsel of the ungodly. But by heeding that counsel, the person is now on the same path to destruction as the sinners. Finally, the person has become one of them and has strapped on his seatbelt, seated in the way to destruction. We can rationalize and tell ourselves that it is just the counsel of the ungodly. But such an action not only leads us down the wrong path, it also means that we will not have a blessed life by God.

C. What the blessed one does (vs. 2)

  1. After describing what the blessed one does not do, now the psalmist describes for us what the one who is blessed by God is doing. First, the writer tells us that the one who is blessed delights in the law of the Lord. The blessed take pleasure in the law of the Lord.
  2. Now this may be a rather unusual statement at first glance. How is it possible to delight and take pleasure in laws? Generally speaking, we think of laws as rules that prevent us and limit us from doing things. We usually have a negative outlook toward laws. However, we need to see that the laws of God are for our benefit. The laws of God are given to increase goodness in our lives so that we will live a blessed life. God’s commands are given so that we can maximize our lives, not so that we will be miserable and limited from what we want.
  3. How can we delight in the law of the Lord? The psalmist tells us in the rest of the verse. He says, “on his law he meditates day and night.” The scriptures are always on his mind. Meditation is something that we usually make fun of and reject because it sounds like it requires going up to the top of some mountain, sitting down, crossing our legs, holding up our hands in a strange position, and making funny sounds.
  4. But to mediate is to have a focused mind. It is not some sort of new age hocus-pocus. God is telling us that we need to have a focused mind on Him and on His words. Our minds are not to be centered on the things of the world, the lusts of the eyes, the pride of the world, or the possessions to obtain. Our minds are to be thinking about godly things. Paul said in Philippians 4:8, “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.” Those that are blessed by God are ones who focus their minds on God.
  5. It should be no strange coincidence to us that if we meditate on God’s law, we will delight and take pleasure from His word. Further, when we are meditating on God’s law, we will avoid the pitfalls that we read about in verse 1 that would cause us to be on the path to destruction. The psalmist has already revealed the great benefits for us to undertake this meditation. However, the psalmist is going to describe for us the end result of these things in verse 3.

D. The end result (vs. 3)

  1. When we are not casting our lot with the sinners, but are meditating on the laws of God, then the psalmist tells us that we are like a tree planted by the streams of waters. This is a common illustration used in the Old Testament to describe the strength that we will receive from the Lord. Isaiah, in prophesying to wicked Jerusalem , said in Isaiah 1:30 , “For you will be like an oak whose leaf fades away or as a garden that has no water.” This was a pronouncement of judgment upon Jerusalem . For the oak’s leaf to fade suggests that it is dying, and for a garden to not have water suggests that it is dried out and fruitless.
  2. Here we see that the blessed one is like a tree by the streams of waters. Jeremiah gives a similar image in Jeremiah 17:7-8, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.” The waters will not dry up, but will continue to give its needed water for sustenance. Further, the tree is planted. The tree will not be uprooted or tumble over. The tree is firmly planted by God. We are anchored down and cannot be moved. The writer of Proverbs said it like this, “A man is not established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous cannot be moved” (Proverbs 12:3). We will be anchored down to handle any difficulties that can come along. The winds may roar, the waters may rise, and the ground may move, but he is like a tree firmly planted that will not be shaken.
  3. Further, the blessed one is a fruitful person to the Lord. To bear fruit is to be a person that is useful to God. Jesus said in John 15 that those who do not bear fruit do not abide in Him. Fruit is the natural product of a healthy plant. In the same way, fruit is also a natural product of a healthy Christian. Jesus said that those who have a good heart will bear fruit, some thirty, some sixty, and some one hundred fold (Mark 4:20 ). If we are not bearing fruit, then there is a very good chance that we have not been planted and blessed by God. We are more likely in one of the three categories the psalmist listed in verse 1.
  4. The psalmist also says that the leaf does not wither. This image continues to show us the strength that is given to us by God. A plant that is withering is not strong, but suffering. The plant is unable to stand against the scorching sun and other earthly elements. When the droughts of life come along, we will still stand strong and will not wither away. God will continue to be that stream of water to us to give us strength. Notice that strength comes to us by meditating on the law of the Lord (vs. 2). Too many times the hard times come and we stop meditating on God and His word and we become weak. Most of the time we do not understand why we are withering under the trial, but it is usually because we have lost our focus on God. We have turned our focus to the trial and have not kept our eyes on God. Keep your eyes on God and you will not wither in the drought.
  5. Finally, the psalmist says that “whatever he does prospers.” We should know from the tone of this psalm that the writer is not teaching that when we do these things we will be prosperous in physical things. This is not teaching that we will be wealthy or accumulate possessions. If we think such, then we are not focused upon God as the psalmist as commanded. I believe the prosperity is endurance. Just as the tree will be able to endure all the disasters that may come because it is firmly planted by waters, so we will also be able to endure.
  6. After hurricane Andrew, I had taken a trip to the Florida Keys . On the way down I saw a tree that looked like stumps and toothpicks after the great storm had come through. A couple of years ago I was able to go back to the Keys and all of those trees had grown back up to their greatness of before. Jesus used the same analogy in John 15 when he said that the branches that do not bear fruit he cuts off, but those that bear fruit are pruned (John 15:2). There is going to be pruning and cutting that will come, but those planted by God will continue to prosper and endure.

II. The Way of the Wicked

A. Immediate result of the wicked (vs. 4)

  1. All of these great things that we have described that the blessed have hope in from verse 3 are not true for the wicked. The wicked are not planted by streams of waters, are not fruitful, do wither, and do not prosper. When the trouble comes, the wicked do not understand, are not anchored down, and therefore do not endure.
  2. This imagery is more clearly seen in the rest of verse 4. “They are like chaff that the wind blows away.” They are not firmly rooted and they simply blow away. But, the psalmist literally says that the chaff are driven away or thrust out. This is a picture of harshness and severity. The wicked will not simply come to their natural end. The wicked will be driven out by the Lord. They cannot and will not endure.
  3. The use of chaff to describe the wicked is also very common throughout the scriptures. Most notable is probably in Matthew 3:12 , “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” The chaff will be driven out and burned. There is not a good ending to the ungodly.

B. Final result of the wicked (vs. 5)

  1. The psalmist further tells us that “the wicked will not stand in the judgment.” The wicked are not going to be given a forum before the Lord for which they will be able to plead their case. They are not going to be able to present their arguments before God and successfully make their way into heaven. The wicked will not be able to stand at all before the fury and wrath of the judgment of the Lord. Every knee will bow and every mouth will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Romans 14:11 ).
  2. Nor will the sinners be able to mix themselves in with the assembly of the righteous. They are not going to get in with the assembly of the righteous and be able to walk their way into heaven. Sinners will not be able to even stand among the righteous on the day of judgment. The sheep will be separated from the goats (Matthew 25:32-33) and only those who are the Lord’s will be with Him.

C. Final reminders (vs. 6)

  1. With these end results in mind, the psalmist now concludes with a reminder in verse 6. First, “the Lord watches over the way of the righteous.” Do not think that God is not seeing what is taking place to His righteous people and that justice will not come. The Lord is watching over our paths and will straighten out all that is crooked in the end. Literally, the psalmist is saying that God knows our ways. It is an intimate relationship that the righteous have with the Lord. We also need to note the implied opposite, which is that the wicked are not watched over by the Lord. The Lord is not watching over and protecting the wicked. The wicked do not have an intimate relationship with God. They are on their own path, walking alone to the pits of destruction.
  2. Thus, the rest of verse 6, “but the way of the wicked will perish.” It is ludicrous for the people of God to look at the way of the unrighteous and think that they will prosper. We should not look at the things that they are doing longingly, surmising that they are getting away with their evil deeds. They will be judged and they will perish. They will not endure. Let us notice again the implied opposite, which is that the righteous will not perish. As Jesus said in Matthew 13:43, “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Conclusion:

  1. Surrender to God daily. Every day we must arise and make the choice that we want to be the righteous ones who will be before God and have an intimate relationship with Him. Every day we are presented with choices as to who is number one in our lives. Will I choose to do the things I want to do or what God wants me to do? We must surrender our will to God so that He can plant us by the streams of living waters.
  2. Spend time with God daily. The psalmist has told us that the ones who live the blessed life are those who meditate on God’s laws day and night. We must focus our minds on God and spend time with Him every day. Relationships do not last when time is not spent together. Spend time talking to Him, reading His words, and thinking about the goodness of God.
  3. Separate from defilement daily. We have also been told that to live the blessed life we must separate ourselves from the ungodly. We cannot heed the advice of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor take our seat with those that are rebellious against God. Keeping ourselves from these things will enhance our lives and grow us closer and stronger to the Lord.
  4. There is only one person who perfectly did these things. Jesus Christ showed us the way. It is not our friends or even the other heroes of faith. Jesus has shown us how to enter through the narrow gate. There are two roads to choose from. One road is the easy path that many are traveling on, but its end is destruction. The other road is more difficult. No one is denying the difficulty of the road. And because of the difficulty, not many are traveling on it. But it is the right road to be on and its end is prosperity and an intimacy with God. Choose who you will serve today. Choose to follow Jesus that leads to life.
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