Scripture Text: Psalm 1
Welcome to the second Sunday of the new year. What do you want from this year? What do you expect this year? For many, a new year is an opportunity for new things. It is an opportunity for prosperity. It is an opportunity to learn from the past and move forward to a better future. At least we hope that is what it is — a better future. The new year is also an opportunity to receive new blessings from God. The very first words in this passage is, “Blessed is the man”, a common statement throughout scripture. Jesus said much the same thing in His Sermon on the Mount when He declared a series of beatitudes, or blessings. That word, blessed, means happiness, something most of us desire. The truly happy person is the one who does the things mentioned in this psalm.
The Psalms is the most often-quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament. The book of Psalms is a collection of Hebrew poetry. Over a third of Psalms are actually prayers to God, but most of these “poems” are a collection of songs, such as Psalm 1. The purpose of singing a psalm is so the person will own its values — namely, they will want more and more to be people who love God and the things God loves. They will be people who believe God’s Word, who follow it, and who see themselves as heirs and stewards of God’s redemption and hope. These people can delight in being among the “righteous”, feeling that nothing can compare with such blessedness. This psalm reminds us that there are really only two ways to live: the blessedness of the godly (vss. 1–3) and the wretchedness of the ungodly (vss. 4–6).
Blessed with What Influences You
The first thing this psalm mentioned about the one who is blessed had to do with the company we keep. There is an old English proverb that says, “A man is known by the company he keeps.” If that is so, then one would want to be around good company. Booker T. Washington once wrote, “Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” Bad company is, well, bad and bad for you. We read something very similar the Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to Corinth.
1 Corinthians 15:33 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
Being around the wrong people can corrupt you. When I was younger I tried to convince my parents that some of my less desirable friends was a good thing. I would try to convince them, and myself, that I could be a good influence on them. That is not how it usually goes. It usually goes the other way. It is sometimes easy to hang around bad company and go with the flow of things. It is easy to be carried away by the prevailing ways of the wrong people than to stand up against it or witness Jesus to them. There are several statements in this psalm that describe what the truly blessed and happy person does and does not do. The first thing the psalmist mentioned here is what the one who is blessed avoids. All three of these have to do with keeping the right company.
Psalm 1:1 1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
Notice what the psalmist wrote concerning the one who is blessed: he does not walk in the counsel of the wicked; he does not stand in the way of sinners, and he does not sit in the seat of scoffers. There are three kinds of people mentioned here who refuse to live a blessed life. None who these are those with whom you would want to associate. They are wicked people, sinners, and scoffers. Some people see an increasing level of wickedness with the three types of people mentioned here. It is possible that the first two kinds of people are very similar, the wicked and the sinner; however, the scoffer is probably in a league of his own. This is the kind of person who cannot be taught. This is the kind of person who is not teachable. He hates to be corrected and he scorns godly instruction. He is certainly in a bad place, and it is a place you do not want to be.
In addition to the increasing level of wickedness, notice the increasing level of commitment to being around the wrong company. Do not walk with them. Do not stand with them. Do not sit with them. In essence, the one who is blessed, who is truly happy, will not follow the advice of a wicked person. It will only lead you astray. The truly happy person will not follow the behavior of sinners and be counted among them. The truly happy person will certainly not join a group of mockers or scorners. Those who are truly happy and blessed do not associate with the ungodly, or do the things they do. The godly person refuses to follow such people. Now, this raises the question: If we are to avoid such people, how do we witness Christ to them? It might seem impossible to obey the Great Commission if we have nothing to do with other sinners. We will come back to that question later. For now, the point is to surround yourself with good influences.
Blessed with What Delights You
The contrast the psalmist makes in this song is not necessarily between wickedness versus righteousness. The contrast he made was being influenced from one thing versus being influenced from another. Being shaped in our thinking and feeling by the wicked, the sinner, and the scoffer versus being shaped by something else better. Let us look at verse two to see what should influence us.
Psalm 1:2 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
This psalm stresses that those who would worship God genuinely must embrace His Word. Specifically, the psalmist was referring to God’s Law, but the general meaning here is God’s instruction. In other words, the “law of the Lord” covers the whole range of God’s instruction, not just legal ordinances. We ought to be influenced by God’s Word. We all naturally seek happiness, but the only ones who attains it, are those who seek it in the revealed Word of God. The truly happy person, the one who is blessed, is shaped by God’s Word. The one who is blessed is guided by God’s instruction rather than by the advice of those who reject it. If you want true happiness, read and follow the words of scripture, not the words of the world. Do not give your attention to the world so that you delight in its ways. Make your delight in something else. Delight in God’s Word.
We ought to receive our joy in what God has given us, like His Word. This means we should have a continual devotion to God’s Word. We ought to have so much delight in it, that we meditate on it day and night. Meditating describes an active pondering in pursuit of divine insight. To meditate on God’s Word is to concentrate on it in order to really understand it. This means that we read the Bible. We study the Bible. We ponder the meaning of sacred scripture. We ought to dwell on God’s Word so that it may dwell within us. Hearing it preached once or twice a week is not good enough. God’s written Word should be interwoven with every thing we do every day. For that to happen, each of us needs a daily dose of God’s instruction. The one who is blessed, then, meditates on God’s Word “day and night”. God gave Joshua a similar instruction.
Joshua 1:8 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Before Joshua led the Israelites to conquer the Promised Land, God told him to meditate on His Word day and night. Joshua was to do this so that he would be careful to do what God had said. Joshua was to do this so that he would have success and be prosperous. God was not telling Joshua to meditate on His Word so that he would be rich. Those who are deeply planted in God’s Word may not be wealthy, but they will be fruitful in God’s work. The fact that God’s Word, or instruction, leads us to blessedness also removes any sense of our deserving God’s blessings. We are blessed because we follow what God has revealed to us. The way to prosperity comes through devotion to what God has revealed, which leads us to the next verse.
Blessed with True Prosperity
We see in this psalm the way of one who is blessed, the way of the one who finds true happiness in life. It is found by turning away from the things and ways of the wicked, by having joy and delight in God’s revealed word to us, and by mediating on it for direction in life. That is the way to being truly blessed. In the rest of this psalm, we see a comparison between the righteous person and the wicked person. That is, after all, who is the one blessed — the righteous person. Look at the next verse.
Psalm 1:3 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The righteous person, the one who is truly blessed and happy, is like a tree planted by streams of nourishing water. This tree thrives because of its constant supply of water. Because this tree thrives, it bears much fruit. It is a good tree with good fruit. The tree bears fruit, not for itself, though, but for others. A tree does not consume its own fruit, but bears it to bring benefit to others. Thus, when the faithful person prospers, it is not for himself, nor is the prospering even material, but he succeeds to bring benefit to other people. This blessed tree is fruitful, and it is also strong. It does not wither. The one who dwells on God’s Word, who makes it his or her delight is like the tree that is firmly planted with nourishing water. The water that gives life comes from God. This person is also not easily shaken or uprooted when the storms of life come. He remains fixed on God and does not wither. The wicked people, however, are not like that.
Psalm 1:4 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Whereas the blessed person who delights in God’s Word is nourished, strengthened, and bears much fruit, the psalmist compares the wicked to chaff. Chaff are the husks and straw removed by threshing. Chaff was worthless and not kept. It was lighter than the edible kernels, so when a farmer tossed threshed wheat into the air, the wind would drive away the chaff. Those who do not delight in God’s Word, who scorn the righteous and pursue wicked things are like chaff. They bring no benefit to anyone and will not prosper in the end. This brings us to the final verses of this passage, which are a warning to us. The song began with blessings and now ends with woe. The last verses of the psalm lead readers to reflect on where the two kinds of life are headed — the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. Look at these verses.
Psalm 1:5-6 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
The psalmist concludes the song with judgement. This is not just any kind of judgement, like the judgment of man or of human courts. This is divine judgement. The end of the wicked is divine judgement and perishing. Those who reject God and choose to not follow Him and His Word will face an eternal judgment in which they will not be able to stand. Their end will be destruction. It is as John the Baptist said about Jesus: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire (Luke 3:17).” The righteous form a congregation that will be gathered into God’s barn, whereas the wicked will be destroyed. God’s judgment severs the wicked from His church.
Judgment is not the fate of the one who is blessed, though. The one who is blessed receives God’s righteousness. It is worth mentioning that any righteousness we have is only by God’s grace. It is God who showers us with His blessings. It is God who declares us blessed and righteous. We are not righteous by birth. We are not righteous by associating with a church. We are not righteous by having our name on the membership role. We are not righteous by any good things we have done. It is only by the blood of Jesus Christ, only by the grace of God, that we are declared righteous. It is not because of anything we have done. The truly happy person is happy because God showers His favor upon Him. The truly happy person is one who God knows. This is not God knowing about you, but God having a truly intimate, caring, relationship with you. Those who follow Jesus Christ know God and are known by Him. That is true prosperity!
In closing, this psalm describes the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. It shows us what the blessed, happy, person is like. That person avoids the wrong influences of the world and instead delights in God’s Word. The blessed person is like a heathy, thriving tree that bears much fruit and never withers. It is not so with those who do not follow Christ. Those who reject God, who do not follow Jesus, are like chaff that is good for nothing and ultimately perishes. So, wouldn’t you rather be a tree than chaff? Wouldn’t you rather thrive, bear much fruit, and prosper this year? For those who the Lord knows, those He knows with affection and approval, will be. They will be blessed. They will enter into everlasting life. This is not about receiving riches, wealth, power or fame. It is about being known by the living God of the universe and living as royalty with the King of kings. The two ways of life, the way of the wicked or the way of the righteous, are determined by one’s relation to God. The way to real blessing, to the way to true prosperity, is to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Do you know Him today?
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.