Psalm 1 can be regarded as a preface or introduction to the entire Psalter. The Psalm brings before us the righteous and the ungodly. There was only one Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who was perfect in all His ways, sinless, spotless, undefiled, and completely and absolutely obedient to His Father’s will. The Lord Jesus Christ is holy, and He alone, the only begotten, eternal, and beloved Son of God, could completely fulfil the description given in Psalm 1 of the righteous man.
Many people spend their resources of time, energy, and money in a constant search for lasting satisfaction and happiness. They fail in this search because they seek material solutions to what are deep-seated spiritual problems. Those who survive to old age experience sadness, discontent, disillusionment, and despair. True lasting happiness, joy, and a peace “which passeth all understanding” (Phil 4:7), and which is independent of outside circumstances, is not found when happiness is pursued as an end in itself. Only those who have been saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8, 9) can enjoy the lasting happiness, peace, and joy that come from knowing God and doing His perfect will.
The Way of the Righteous
In Psalm 1, God sets before us in six short verses the way of blessing and happiness, and the way of unhappiness.
The word translated “Blessed” in verse 1 is, in fact, plural, and the Holy Spirit is telling us of the “blessednesses” or “happinesses” of the man who is obedient to God. We learn that the blessed man leads a life which is separated from the world and to God, and this is the will of God for the believer (2 Cor 6:17). There are negative aspects of the life of the blessed man. He does not walk “in the counsel of the ungodly.” We are influenced by what we spend our time thinking about and being involved in (Prov 23:7; Matt 12:34). God does not want us to be conformed to this world (Rom 12:2). He does not want our thinking, words, deeds, and priorities to be affected and determined by ungodly influences. No matter what outside appearances may be, the counsel of the ungodly is against the Lord (Ps 2:2). The blessed man obtains his counsel and guidance from a prayerful, Spirit-led study of the Word of God.
The blessed man does not stand “in the way of sinners.” He knows that whoever “will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). Separated believers enjoy fellowship with God and with other separated believers, serving God together in that blessed unity which is pleasant and pleases God (Ps 133:1).
The blessed man does not sit “in the seat of the scornful.” He does not enjoy the company of those who make jokes about sin, righteousness, and the judgment to come. He will not want to be with the ungodly, other than for the purpose of speaking to them of the way of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; and he will not enjoy being with those who speak lightly of God, heaven and hell, and misuse and misquote Scripture with the aim of provoking laughter.
We read in verse 1 of a gradual downward progression away from God – walking, standing, sitting among the ungodly; but in verse 2 we have the positive aspects of the godly man’s life. There are places to which the separated man does not go, and activities in which he does not get involved. The blessed man uses his time in other ways. He delights “in the law of the Lord,” and in His law he meditates day and night. He delights to study and meditate in the Word of God, guided and taught by the Holy Spirit. Meditation takes time and involves effort. From the Scriptures, the blessed man obtains guidance, warning, and encouragement (Heb 4:12, Ps 119:105, Josh 1:8).
As a result of feeding on the Word of God, “he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water” (v 3). He will be where God wants him to be and God will supply his needs continuously. The godly man feeds on the Word of God. We do not see a tree’s roots absorbing moisture and nutrients but we see the results as it grows, flourishes, and ultimately, at the right time, bears fruit. So it is with the blessed man: he bears the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22, 23) in his deeds and words which are always guided and controlled by God. This man is constant and reliable and his spiritual life prospers as he serves and pleases God, empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit.
The Way of the Ungodly
In verse 4 we read of the ungodly. Unlike the godly man who is “like a tree planted” (v 3), the ungodly are “like the chaff,” swept about by every wind of adversity and change that blows in their lives, and ultimately swept away to a lost eternity in hell.
They will not “stand in the judgment,” or “in the congregation of the righteous” (v 5). The godly and ungodly mingle together in this life, but in eternity the ungodly will be separated from those who are clothed in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord knows “the way of the righteous” (v 6). Job could say He “knoweth the way that I take” (Job 23:10). God knows every aspect of the life of a godly man and takes pleasure in leading and guiding him. At the end of the Psalm we read these sad and sober words, “The way of the ungodly shall perish.”