As noted in our previous installments, Psalm 1 is a psalm appropriate for any season of life because we, as Christians, live in a world where sin seems normal and holiness seems weird, where wickedness is celebrated and wisdom is mocked. We need Psalm 1 for the living of these days—to recalibrate our sense of what is right, to bolster and strengthen our sometimes-weak resolve, and to point us to the Savior who does all things well and who “knows the way of the righteous” (v. 6), and shepherds and well-guards the way of his people.
Psalm 1 tells us a lot about the nature of blessing and how the shape that that blessing takes in the lives of God’s saints is often counterintuitive. It is rarely what the world might expect when it envisions “the blessed life.”
In our previous installments, we considered what Psalm 1 teaches us about what it means to be blessed, and what blessing yields. Today we want to consider where blessing leads.
The Blessed Word (verses 3–4)
Take note of the closing two verses of this psalm: “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (vv. 5–6).
Remember the scoffers we met back in verse 1, and that regressive, deleterious effect unchecked sin has in a man? This unchecked sin slows him down—from walking in the counsel of the wicked, to standing in the pathway of sin and sinners, to finally sitting (entirely comfortable and at home in this new position) in the seat of scoffers. But the tables of eternity will turn on these scoffers.
Notice how the imagery is flipped in verse 5. Back in verse 1, there was a company of the wicked offering counsel and scoffing—standing and walking, happily trotting along in their diabolically merry way. Now in verse 5, we are told that the wicked will not stand in the judgment. Furthermore, we are told that those sinners who were content to sit with scoffers will not sit in the congregation of the righteous. In other words, the day is coming when their time is up. As we observed in part 2 of our Psalm 1 study, the psalmist is evaluating these two divergent ways (the blessed way versus the way of the wicked) and he is evaluating the final results over the long term—that is, in light of eternity.
For the wicked, they shall “not stand in the judgment” (verse 5). This does not mean that the wicked shall not appear before the judgment tribunal of Almighty God. This verse is not advocating some quiet form of annihilationism. It is saying, rather, that the wicked shall appear before God’s judgment bar—and they will be found wanting. They will not be able to withstand his piercing, searching gaze, their sins shall find them out, and in the face of God’s holy justice, they shall be undone.
Notice in verse 6 that there is a rather different outcome for the righteous: “The LORD knows the way of the righteous.” The word know used here is God’s covenant word—it is the know of grace-rooted, covenant relationship. It is the same word used when Adam “knew” his wife Eve. It is a word connoting deepest intimacy and tenderness and care.
In the Hebrew of Psalm 1, the root word used is ידע. In the Greek Septuagint of Psalm 1, this know gets rendered as γινώσκει with the root being γινώσκω. It is no coincidence that this is the same word Jesus uses in John 10:14–15 when he says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
The LORD knows the way of the righteous—deeply, profoundly, and truly. They belong to him. And is that not a comfort, that the language of covenant should come right here near the end of the passage? It is a comfort because it drives us outside of ourselves in the most wonderful of ways.
As some of you may know, there is something of an intramural debate that can occur in the commentaries and amongst other pastors and scholars when it comes to studying and preaching texts like Psalm 1. Sometimes the various positions fall along the lines of the redemptive-historical versus the grammtico-historical hermeneutic, but not always. Essentially, the question comes down to this: is Psalm 1 about the believer, or is it about Jesus? For my part, I take the position of “yes.” Psalm 1 is about the Lord Jesus, and it is about the Lord’s disciples. It is a both/and, not an either/or.
We noted in one of our previous installments of Psalm 1 that the overarching themes of the all the psalms are found in Psalms 1, 2, and 3: the blessed life (delighting in God’s law); God’s anointed Messiah; the sorrow and trials that God’s people endure in this life; and how God is faithful to his promises and ultimately comes to deliver his own. Even though the blessed life and God’s Law are the predominant themes in Psalm 1, in its own way, this psalm is also about God’s Messiah—the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the end, who epitomizes the godly character described here in Psalm 1? Who is the blessed man par excellence? Who is the man who meditates on God’s law day and night? Who is he who keeps it, who shuns the wicked, whose life yields fruit, and ultimately prospers in victory, despite all the machinations of the scoffers? Why, it is the Lord Jesus Christ, of course. He is the archetypal blessed man, the man of Psalm 1, our Savior himself.
This is good news for us, his stumbling people. If we are honest with ourselves, I daresay we often come away from Psalm 1 thinking about how we fall short of this portrait of the blessed man who delights in the law of the Lord. The righteous mindset and the godly demeanor outlined are what we desire but do not perfectly exude. The reality is that so often Bible reading, prayer, and meditation are drudgery to us. Something is wrong. Did the psalmists ever struggle with this? You better believe it. It is clear from their prayers. You see it all over the psalms—they know things are not right in their heart.
The psalmist in verse 6 says “the Lord knows the way of the righteous.” How are we to know who the righteous are? 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us: “For our sake God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
The good news is that Psalm 1 describes Christ, and it also can be the blueprint of discipleship for us because of Christ and what He has done for His people. The One of whom this psalm is ultimately true has opened the pathway to make it true of us as well. That is why Christ Jesus is called the “Author and Perfecter” (and in some translations the “pioneer”) of our faith (Heb 12:2) because the path that He has trod we may now trace. We follow in His wake. Because He came and died and rose from the grave, we who look to Him in faith will find that what is true of Him shall be true of us, on account of the glorious union we have with Christ. By the grace of God and union with Christ and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit who indwells us, we may find the great delight and pleasure described in Psalm 1 at work in our hearts. Pleasure, sincere and genuine delight, in God’s Word and God’s ways can be ours as we look to Christ—the One, as Psalm 16 says, at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Friends, may Psalm 1 be a great comfort to us, and may we be a people who take Psalm 1 to heart. May we be a people who find great pleasure in God, delighting in his Word and ways, because we trust and we love and delight in the Christ of Psalm 1, the One at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Having given this wonderful text an exegetical, expositional, and pastoral survey, we will return one last time for a fourth installment wherein we will consider some further implications and applications from this marvelous psalm.
You can find the whole series on Psalm 1 here.
©Sean Morris. All Rights Reserved.
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