Psalm 1 is only six short verses, but it’s packed with powerful implications. This doorway to the book of Psalms holds out a fork in the road and issues a call to choose the way you’ll proceed. But before you choose your path, this Psalm gives you a clear picture of what the consequences of that choice will be.
Choice: Blessing or Destruction
It starts off with a topic near and dear to all our hearts—blessing. Our culture is looking for the key to happiness and ways to have “Your best life—now!” But sadly, the culture is not promoting what will bring true and lasting happiness and blessing. Being blessed is a good thing and this Psalm is about to uncover for the reader the secret to experiencing the best that there is.
“How blessed is the man . . .”
Before he lets us in on what we need to do to get that blessed life, the writer first gives some warnings. He lets us know that we can miss out by taking the wrong fork in the road. He starts out with 3 major “NOTs.”
You’ll be blessed if you do NOT:
“Walk in the counsel of the wicked”
“Stand in the path of sinners”
“Sit in the seat of scoffers!”
Do you see a progression here?
First you’re walking, then you’re standing and hanging out, finally you just pull up a seat and settle in because you’re comfortable.
I call this the march of death.
Things start off with just a “walk”—listening to the counsel of the “wicked;” making decisions based on the influence of the “wicked.”
“Whew!” You might be thinking, “This lets me off the hook . . . I’m not hanging out with any ‘wicked’ people. I’m safe on that count!”
Ummmm . . . not so fast.
Let’s consider who the “wicked” might be.
The “wicked” would include the Hitlers, the bin Laden’s, or the Saddam Husseins . . . but it also includes all who promote a godless worldview or deny Scripture’s authority over our lives. It includes all who function independently of God. So that widens the circle a bit.
The “wicked” could include the friendly checker at the grocery store who is kind to children but makes her life choices independent of God. It might be your parent, a friend, your favorite aunt. It could definitely include much you’re hearing in the continual barrage of media voices.
What “counsel” are you getting from your facebook friends, your favorite talk show, or that humorous celebrity? What about that book your friends are reading? What kind of “wisdom” is it spreading?
This way to Blessing
This Psalm is laying out the choice of two paths: one is a path of blessing, the other a path of destruction. It is warning about the kinds of influences we allow in our lives and the counsel we receive. James gives a similar warning about the two kinds of wisdom we can follow: earthly and demonic wisdom or God’s wisdom.
The progression here is a subtle descent. First you’re just casually “walking;” you’re checking out the latest gossip magazine or surfing the net, soaking up a few popular sitcoms, getting marital advice from a foolish source, or having fun with an “innocent” facebook flirtation. But all the while you’re “walking” through enemy territory; territory that is devoid of God-filled wisdom.
Warning: You’re soaking up empty philosophies that starve your soul and mess with your thinking. And soaking up wrong thinking eventually affects your choices. You are “walking in the counsel of the wicked.”
You move into a “gray zone” where you lose discernment for right and wrong.
You’ve joined the crowd, hanging out with a new way of thinking and living. You stay in that gray zone long enough and things you thought you’d never do, lines you thought you’d never cross, are justified and become your “new normal.”
Now you’re no longer “walking” but you’ve progressed to “standing in the path of sinners.”
You do things wrong for so long that they seem to be right.
Without a major U-turn occurrence, you’ll not just be hanging with the ungodly, but eventually you’ll be joining the ranks of the “scoffers”—ridiculing those who are taking stands for righteousness. Those “legalistic folks” become the brunt of your jokes.
The Psalm closes with these chilling words: “the way of the wicked will perish.” Let that sink in. When it’s talking about perishing . . . it means an eternal tormented separation from God and all that is good. Those who stand at the fork and choose to take this path are on a death march—headed straight for destruction.
Tomorrow we’ll look at what the other path offers, but today consider what path you are on. You may be a long way from doing any “scoffing” but have you wandered into the gray zone?
Have you gone off course a bit in the counsel you’re listening to? How about your friends? Might they need a compassionate warning if they’re on a death march headed for eternal destruction?