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. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 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. 4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish (Psalm 1: 1-6)
In Psalm 1, the psalmist paints two contrasting portraits – the way of the godly that leads to eternal life, and the way of the ungodly that leads to everlasting damnation. The psalm begins with the word “Blessed”. The Hebrew word for “blessed” is very emphatic. “Blessedness belongs to that man, or, Oh the blessedness of that man. Thrice blessed is that man; who is here described negatively, and in the next verse positively” (Matthew Poole).
The next two verses tell us the characteristics of this blessed man. He is a godly man whose character is marked out by the things, places and company that he avoids. He separates from evil-doers and shuns any call to compromise with the world. He does not listen to, nor linger with the ungodly man. His conduct is not shaped by worldly standards; he does not embrace their principles or adopt their maxims.
Note the subtle declension from conformity to sinful involvement to scoffing – from “walketh” to “standeth” to “sitteth.” Sin is progressive; it creeps up on us slowly and stealthily. The Christian may begin by associating with the wicked, following their wrong counsel and savouring their ungodly company. Soon, he finds himself standing in their midst to be identified with them. Before long, he is sitting down comfortably in their company – “in the seat of the scornful” – finding pleasure in sin and mocking at the things of God.
The word “but” in verse 2 indicates a contrast. Instead of finding pleasure in the society of the wicked, the godly man’s chief “delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” He delights in it as his rule of life and practice. He treasures its precious promises and words of wisdom that fortify him against temptation and keep him in the path of safety.
“‘The law of the Lord’ seems to have been one of David’s favourite expressions for the Word – see Psalm 19 and 119. ‘The law of the Lord’ throws the emphasis upon its Divine authority, upon God’s will. This is a sure mark of those who have been born again. ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God’ (Rom 8: 7). To delight ‘in the law of the Lord’ is a sure proof that we have received of the Spirit of Christ, for He declared ‘I delight to do thy will, O my God’ (Ps 40: 8)” (Arthur Pink).
“Meditate” has the idea of pondering over God’s Word deeply and thoughtfully to understand its meaning, and reflecting on its application. The phrase “day and night” implies that the blessed man’s devotion is intense and deliberate. It is probable that the psalmist had Joshua 1: 8 in mind when he used this phrase: “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.”
A description of the fruitfulness and prosperity of the godly man is highlighted in verse 3. Because of his delight in God’s Word, the blessed man “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 godly man is likened to a flourishing tree. “Planted by the rivers of water”, he is stable and fruitful. “Bringeth forth his fruit in his season” means that he uses his opportunities well – to honour God, to do good to his soul and to be a blessing to others. His spiritual well-being is evident – “his leaf also shall not wither”. God will crown his actions with success so that “whatsoever he doeth shall prosper”.
The phrase – “his leaf also shall not wither” – is explained well by commentator Adam Clarke: “His profession of true religion shall always be regular and unsullied; and his faith be ever shown by his works. As the leaves and the fruit are the evidences of the vegetative perfection of the tree; so a zealous religious profession, accompanied with good works, are the evidences of the soundness of faith in the Christian man.”
Because of his devotion to God’s Word, the godly man is a happy man. As he submits to God’s Word as his rule of life and practice, he is spiritually well. His life manifests the fruit of the Spirit and marks of true saving faith. Divinely favoured because of his piety, he finds grace and help in all of life’s situations. When faced with difficulties, he does not waver, but remains steadfast, trusting in the Lord to see him through. Truly, how blessed is the man whose delight is in the Word of God! (…to be continued)