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)
Psalm 1 highlights the importance and necessity of God’s Word, and the blessedness, fruitfulness and stability it promises to those who delight in and meditate upon it. The psalmist uses a pictorial illustration to show the contrast between the godly and the ungodly. The godly is pictured as a green and fruitful tree that is planted by the river, and the ungodly as a heap of chaff that is scattered by the wind.
Much has been said about the godly in the first two parts of our article. Let us now consider the state of the ungodly. Interestingly, in the Latin Vulgate, verse 4 starts with a double negative: “Not so the ungodly, not so!” It draws our attention to the difference between the godly and the ungodly. The godly man is blessed. Not so, the ungodly. The godly man delights in and meditates on the law of God day and night. This means that God’s Word is constantly upon his mind and heart. Not so, the ungodly. The godly person is like a sturdy tree by the rivers of water – strong, stable, fruitful. Not so, the ungodly. It is clear that the godly and the ungodly have two starkly contrasting characters, lifestyles and destinies.
The ungodly are non-believers who live their lives without regard for God or eternity. The psalmist likens the ungodly to chaff – the light husk that is separated from the grain or seed in threshing: “The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away” (v 4). Enlarging on the sad state of those without God, the psalmist adds that the nature of chaff is so light and unstable that the wind easily carries it away. This is an appropriate illustration of the destiny of the ungodly. Without godly restraint, they are unstable and restless as they are guided and controlled by their fleshly desires: “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt” (Isa 57: 20). Their earthly lives are meaningless and unprofitable.
In contrast to the sturdy tree mentioned in verse 3, a heap of chaff has no roots; it is flimsy and light – easily scattered by the slightest breeze. “They are like chaff, of no worth at all in God’s account, how highly soever they may value themselves. Would you know the temper of their minds? They are light and vain; they have no substance in them, no solidity; they are easily driven to and fro by every wind and temptation, and have no steadfastness. Would you know their end? The wrath of God will drive them away in their wickedness, as the wind does the chaff, which is never gathered nor looked after more” (Matthew Henry).
When the ungodly face God on the day of judgment, they will have nothing to plead nor can they defend their cause: “Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous” (v 5). Verse 6 tells us that “the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous”. This refers to God’s providential care and the eternal security of believers (cf Job 23: 10). In contrast, “the way of the ungodly shall perish”. This means that they will be condemned to everlasting fire.
It is clear from this psalm that God’s Word has a stabilising influence on one’s life. One whose life is centred upon God’s Word is happy, steadfast, secure and fruitful. He is not easily moved. Like a sturdy tree, he stands firm even in the storms of life. This is because his mind is constantly occupied with God’s Word which is sufficient to meet every need of the soul. The apostle Peter highlights that God’s Word contains all that man needs to live a happy, contented and holy life: “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Pet 1: 3-4).
Only two ways! The godly man who loves God’s Word finds favour in God’s eyes. His life is stable and fruitful. His eternal security is sure. The ungodly man lives his life without God. He is restless and unstable. His end is eternal destruction in the fires of hell. Let us choose the way of the godly that leads to blessedness and eternal life.