Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | April 1, 2009

Psalm 1

Tree by a stream in the Negev.

Tree by a stream in the Negev.

While visiting the Negev Desert in Israel, our team stopped by a tree growing beside a seasonal stream bed. It was the only tree in sight. The writer of Psalm 1, though not named, was doubtlessly a man with deep insight into life. He likely had seen such trees standing defiantly by streams of water in an otherwise hostile environment. Read Psalm 1 and consider where you are planted. Psalm 1 serves as the preface to the book of Psalms and, in the words of C.H. Spurgeon, forms the text “upon which the whole of the Psalms make up a divine sermon.”

1:1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

The style of the righteous person’s life.

“Wicked” (ungodly) is a general term used to refer to the person who is out of touch with God. The righteous individual does not take the advice of the wicked. Such action might lead to standing where sinners stand in regard to spiritual, moral, and ethical issues. The righteous know that if they seek advice from those who are out of touch with God then they put themselves in danger of losing touch with God.

“Sinners” is a term used to describe habitual offenders or those who have developed the habit of missing the mark and veering from the straight and narrow. It is a term that describes those who have become established as strays or who are out of touch with God. The righteous do not loiter with habitual moral failures (see 1 Corinthians 15:33). Instead, they exercise caution in their associations with the ungodly. They desire to influence the ungodly rather than to be influenced by the ungodly.

“Scoffers” refers to those whose habit it is to treat with ridicule that which is holy and good and sacred. Scoffers criticize many things, but in particular, God’s people, God’s book, and God’s ways. Scoffers speak out of that which fills their heart (see Matthew 12:34). They are the most scandalous of sinners and, perhaps, the farthest from repentance.

The three complete phrases in verse 1 illustrate three degrees of departure from God by portraying conformity to this world at three different levels. First, accepting the advice of the world. Second, being a party to the ways of the world. Third, adopting the most fatal of the world’s attitudes. Notice also the progression: “walk. . .stand. . .sit.” Evil grows. Sin may begin quite simply, but it always becomes more serious.

We should be careful about the company we keep. | Parents often warn their children to be careful about the company they keep. Parents do not want for their children to be influenced to do wrong by the wrong crowd. Children do not always heed the advice of their parents and consequently prove how right the advice of their parents was. God, too, warns us to exercise caution regarding the company we keep. He knows that we can be influenced to do wrong by the wrong crowd. Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals'” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

1:2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

The staple of the righteous person’s life.

The “law of the Lord” is the righteous person’s diet. Law (torah) basically means direction or instruction. It can be confined to a single command, or can extend, as here, to Scripture as a whole. The law of the Lord stands opposed to the “counsel of the wicked” to which it is ultimately the only answer. The righteous do not need the “counsel of the wicked” because they have something infinitely superior available to them — “the law of the Lord.” The righteous do not stand with the wicked nor do they adopt the attitude of scoffers because God’s Word tells them how truly wonderful God is (see Psalm 119:38). The thing that makes the righteous different and distinctive from the wicked is their attitude toward God’s Word. The law of the Lord is a diet in which the righteous delight. They enjoy it. It is also a diet on which they depend. They cannot live without it. They must meditate on it both day and night.

We should be diligent students of the Word of God. | The righteous love the law of the Lord (Psalm 119:97) and meditate on it both day and night (Psalm 1:2). They hide God’s Word in their hearts (Psalm 119:11) and order their lives according to its teachings (Psalm 119:9). We must not be lazy or undisciplined in regard to Bible study. We should study, memorize, and meditate on God’s Word every day. Our daily lives will reflect the results of our study and understanding of God’s Word.

1:3 And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season,
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

The stability of the righteous person’s life.

The life of the righteous is like a tree planted in close proximity to life-giving streams of water. They are able to survive the difficulties of life because of their closeness to the Lord. The righteous person’s life is also productive and pleasant — a life “which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”

We can go far if we stay close to the Lord. | The righteous are like a tree firmly planted by streams of water. They are able to survive life’s scorching difficulties because of their closeness to the Lord. They can continue to be productive and pleasant through the kind of pains, problems, and pressures that immobilize and devastate others. The life of the righteous is not cut short by life’s difficulties. The person who stays close to the Lord will go far.

1:4 The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.

The description of the wicked.

The wicked are those who are out of touch with God or who do not have a relationship with God. The phrase “are not so” declares that the wicked are not like the righteous. The difference between the wicked and the righteous is accentuated by the conjunction “but.” The wicked are likened to chaff, which is at the mercy of the wind. Chaff, unlike a tree firmly planted, is rootless and fruitless. Chaff is always at the mercy of the wind. It is unanchored. The life of the wicked is misspent. Because man was created to have fellowship with God and enjoy him forever, a life of anything less is a misspent life.

1:5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

The defenselessness of the wicked.

The wicked will have no defense before God on the Day of Judgment. Because the wicked choose to leave God out of their lives, they have absolutely no stability and will suffer collapse in the end. Sometimes the righteous are confused by the seemingly trouble-free life of the wicked. The psalmist was no exception. The writer of Psalm 73 wrote, “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end” (Ps. 73:16-17). The wicked may appear to be successful in life without God, but they will ultimately fail and fall.

We should stand with God or we will fall in the judgment. | The wicked are those who take a stand apart from God. They choose to leave God out of their lives. They live their lives without regard to God and His laws. They live their lives independent of God. They do not yield to the influence or guidance of God. On the Day of Judgment, however, they will have no defense. They will be unable to stand.

1:6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.

The destiny of the wicked.

A man’s path determines his destiny. The wicked have chosen a course of life that ignores God and the things of God. The wicked man has chosen the broad way that leads to destruction (see Matthew 7:13). The word “perish” refers to a course that comes to nothing but ruin. Proverbs 14:12 warns, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” C.H. Spurgeon comments, “The righteous carves his name upon the rock, but the wicked writes his remembrance in the sand.”


  1. Thanks for psalm 1! I have been reading through whole chapter and trying to understand those things that you have wrote.


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