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Psalm 1 – The Way of the Righteous

BOOK ONE Psalms 1–41

Today we start an exciting study into the book of Psalms with Psalm 1. The Psalms were written over a 1,000 year period beginning with Moses. This book, originally five books, is filled with the battle plan involving praise and declaration to equip us to face the days we find ourselves in. It was written by a number of different authors. Whilst 48 of them remain anonymous, King David wrote 73 of them. Asaph, who was one of the Levites that King David assigned as the worship leader, wrote 12 of them.

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Nine of them were written by the sons of Korah. These were descended from the Korathites. Descendants who had been spared from the earth swallowing event that the rebels among them had experienced (Num 26:9-11). They had been responsible for the care of the Sanctuary. Yet these sons had been gifted with choral and orchestral talents. Their poems express a deep gratitude and humility to a majestic God and they wrote ‘As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you’ (Psa 42) and ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psa 46).

King Solomon wrote three of the Psalms and Ethan the Ezrahite, along with Moses wrote one Psalm each. Ethan calls God’s people to bless the Lord and call upon His strength especially in times of suffering and struggle. The Book of Psalms is in the very centre of the Bible, strategically positioned for us to understand the centrality of worship in our lives. The main themes throughout the book are Praise, the power of God, gratefulness, forgiveness and trust.

PSALM 1 – A Psalm of David

Blessed is the man, Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree, Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Setting Before us Life and Death

Henry says – This is a psalm of instruction concerning good and evil, setting before us life and death. The blessing and the curse. Given so that we may take the right way which leads to happiness and avoid that which will certainly end in our misery and ruin. It outlines the different character and condition of godly people and wicked people. Those who serve God and those who do not.

The division of the children of men into the righteous and unrighteous, the children of God and the children of the wicked one is as ancient as it has ever been. Ongoing since the struggle began between sin and grace. It is the difference between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent for by this men’s everlasting state will be determined. The distinction will last as long as heaven and hell.

The Lord knows those who are His

This psalm shows us the holiness and happiness of a godly man, Ps. 1:1-3 and the sinfulness and misery of a wicked man, Ps. 1:4, 5. Whoever collected the psalms of David (probably Ezra) with good reason put this psalm first, as a preface to the rest. It is absolutely necessary in our devotions that we be righteous before God (for it is only the prayer of the upright that is His delight).

The psalmist begins with the character and condition of a godly man’s spirit and way, by which we are to try ourselves. The Lord knows those who are His by name, but we must know them by their character. The character of a good man is here given by the rules he chooses to walk by. A godly man must utterly renounce the companionship of evil-doers, and not be led by them (Ps. 1:1): He walks not in the council of the ungodly, etc. Those who will keep the commandments of their God must say to evil-doers, Depart from us (Ps. 119:115). In departing from evil is where wisdom begins.

The good man sees with a sad heart

Evil-doers are described here by three characters, ungodly, sinners, and scornful. First they are ungodly, casting off the fear of God and living in the neglect of their duty to Him. When the services of faith are laid aside they then come to be sinners, that is, they break out into open rebellion against God and engage in the service of sin and Satan. Omissions make way for commissions, and by these the heart is so hardened that they come to be scorners openly defying all that is sacred. They scoff at religion, and make a jest of sin. The bad grow worse, sinners themselves become tempters to others and advocates for idolatry.

The word which we translate ungodly signifies those who are unsettled. They walk by no certain rule, and are at the command of every lust and at the beck of every temptation. The word for sinners signifies those who are determined for the practice of sin and set it up as their trade. The scornful are those that set their mouths against the heavens. These the good man sees with a sad heart. They are a constant vexation to his righteous soul. But he shuns them wherever he sees them. He does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. Though they are ever so witty, and subtle, and learned, if they are ungodly, they shall not be the men of his counsel. He does say as they sayLuke 23:51.

The godly submit to the Word of God

He stands not in the way of sinners; he avoids doing as they do. Their way shall not be his way for he sets himself in a way that is not goodPs. 36:4. He avoids (as much as can be) being where they are. That he may not imitate them, he will not associate with them, nor choose them for his companions. He keeps far from them for fear of the contagion, Prov. 4:14, 15.

The godly sits not in the seat of the scornful. He does not associate with those that sit in close cabal to find out ways and means for the support and advancement of the devil’s kingdom. The seat of the drunkards is the seat of the scornfulPs. 69:12. Happy is the man that never sits in it, Hos. 7:5. A godly man submits to the guidance of the Word of God and makes that familiar to himPs. 1:2. This is that which keeps him out of the way of the ungodly and fortifies him against their temptations. By the words of thy lips I have kept me from the path of the deceiverPs. 17:4.

His delight is in it

All we need is fellowship with the Word of God and with God Himself in and by His WordWhen thou awakest it shall talk with theeProv. 6:22. We may judge of our spiritual state by asking, “What is the law of God to us? What place has it in us?”. The good man’s entire affection is for the law of God: His delight is in it. He delights in it, though it be a law, because it is the law of God, which is holy, just, and good, which he freely consents to, and so delights in, after the inner manRom. 7:16, 22. All who are well pleased that there is a God must be well pleased that there is a Bible, a revelation of God, of His will, and of the only way to happiness in Him.

In that law does he meditate day and night that his delight is in it, for what we love we love to think of, Ps. 119:97. To meditate in God’s word is to talk with ourselves concerning the great things contained in it. This we must do day and night. We must have a constant habitual regard of the Word of God as the rule of our actions and the spring of our comforts.

To do this we must have it in our thoughts and upon every occasion, whether night or day. No time is misspent in meditating on the Word of God, nor is any time unseasonable for it. We must set ourselves to meditate on God’s Word at the entrance of the day and of the night. And still interweave it within the business and conversation of every day and with the slumbers of every night. When I awake I am still with thee.

He is blessed

To encourage ourselves in this an assurance is given of such a godly man’s happiness. He is blessedPs. 5:1. God blesses him, and that blessing will make him happy. Blessings of all kinds, enough to make him completely happy. When the psalmist undertakes to describe a blessed man, he describes a good man. Goodness and holiness are not only the way to happiness (Rev. 22:14) but happiness itself. (Ps. 1:3He shall be like a tree, fruitful and flourishing. This is the effect of pious practice. The more we converse with the Word of God the better furnished we are for every good word and work. Divine blessing produces real effects. He will be planted by the grace of God. These trees were by nature wild olives, and will continue to be so until they are grafted in and so planted by a power from above.

From the rivers of water, good men receive supplies of strength and vigour, but in secret undiscerned ways. So that his practices shall be fruitful, abounding to a good account, Phil. 4:17. To those whom God first blessed he said, Be fruitful (Gen. 1:22), and still the comfort and honour of fruitfulness are a reward for the labour of it. It is expected from those who enjoy the mercies of grace that they bring forth fruit in due season. The season when it is most beautiful and most useful, improving every opportunity of doing good and in its proper time.

He is coming whose fan is in His hand

His profession shall be preserved from decay: His leaf also shall not wither. As to those who have profession but without any good fruit, even their leaf will wither. If the Word of God rule in the heart, that will keep the profession green and prosperity shall benefit him wherever he goes, soul-prosperity. Whatever he does, in conformity to the law, it shall prosper and succeed to his mind and far above his hope.

Where the righteous are like useful, fruitful trees, the ungodly are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Of no worth at all in God’s account, however highly they may value themselves. They are vain having no substance in them. They are easily driven to and fro by every wind and temptation, and have no steadfastness. The chaff may be, for a while, among the wheat. But He is coming whose fan is in His hand and who will thoroughly purge His floor. Those that by their own sin and folly make themselves as chaff will be found as such before the whirlwind and fire of divine wrath (Ps. 35:5), and be unable to stand before it or to escape it, Isa. 17:13.

Every man’s future state will be determined

Ps. 1:5 They will be cast, upon their trial, as traitors convicted: They shall not stand in the judgment. They shall be found guilty, shall hang down theirs heads with shame and confusion, and all their pleas and excuses will be overruled. There is a judgment to come, in which every man’s present character and work, though ever so artfully concealed and disguised, shall be truly and perfectly discovered. Every man’s future state will be determined for eternity. The ungodly must appear in that judgment, to receive according to the things done in the body. In this they may hope to come off with honour, but their hope will deceive them. They shall not stand in the judgment so plain will the evidence be against them and so just and impartial will the judgment be upon it.

From the society of the blessed they will be for ever shut out. They shall not stand in the congregation of the righteous, that court where the saints, as assessors with Christ, shall judge the world. Jude 1:14; 1 Cor. 6:2. There will be soon seen a congregation of the righteous, of all the saints made perfect as such never was in this world, 2 Thess. 2:1. The wicked shall not have a place in that congregation. Into the new Jerusalem none unclean nor unsanctified shall enter.

He orders their steps

They shall see the righteous enter into the kingdom, and themselves thrust out, Luke 13:27. The wicked and profane, in this world, ridiculed the righteous and so they be separated from them forever. Hypocrites in this world may thrust themselves into the congregation of the righteous and remain undiscovered there. But Christ cannot be imposed upon. The day is coming when He will separate between the sheep and the goats, the tares and the wheat; see Matt. 13:41, 49. That great day will be a day of discovery and a day of final division. Then we shall be able to discern between the righteous and the wicked, which here it is sometimes hard to do, Mal. 3:18.

The godly are blessed because the Lord knows their way. He chose them into it, inclined them to choose it, leads and guides them in it, and orders all their steps. Sinners must bear all the blame of their own destruction. Therefore the ungodly perish, because the very way in which they have chosen and resolved to walk leads directly to destruction.

Let it stir us up

Let this support the drooping spirits of the righteous, that the Lord knows their way, knows their hearts (Jer. 12:3). He knows their secret devotions (Matt. 6:6), their character. However much it is blackened by the reproaches of men, He will shortly manifest before the world, to their immortal joy and honour. Let this dampen the security and jollity of sinners, that their way, though pleasant now, will perish one day.

In singing Ps. 1:4-6, and praying over them, let us possess a holy dread of the wicked man’s portion. Let it stir us up to prepare for the judgement to come and with holy care approve ourselves to God in everything, entreating His favour with our whole hearts.

Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary

 Saved From Sin
 Rejoice; rejoice
 Again I say rejoice.
 No longer has sin any power over you
 Unless of your own deliberate choice.
 Run the race
 In order to win.
 Safeguard yourself against
 Any temptation to sin.
 Learn to live to do My will
 And to love to have that Will done.
 In the little as well as the 
     big things of life
 Model yourself on My Son.
 Sin may be a powerful enemy
 But through Jesus you’ve been 
    made whole.
 If in your heart you do not want to sin
 Sin will have no power over your soul.
 Man will be saved from sin;
 My life and purpose he’ll fulfil
 If his love; his desire; is set on Me.
 If he wills only to do My will.
 By the late Andrew Feakin 
 [passed away 16th March 2019] 

Prayer for the Day

Father, I come to You. Help me to separate myself from all that would lead me astray. May I be one who submits myself to the guidance of Your Word and make it completely familiar to me. I declare that all I need is fellowship with Your Word and with You, cause me to be in hot pursuit of Your Word every possible moment. May I converse with Your Word more and more that I be better furnished for every good work.

Let Your Word rule in my heart that my profession be true and alive and so that I may soul-prosper wherever I go. You alone know my way. May I be careful to follow the way You have chosen for me. I pray that I would possess a holy dread of the wicked man’s portion. Let it stir me up to declare Your Word that men might be saved. Help me prepare for the judgement to come and with holy care approve myself to You in everything, entreating Your favour with my whole heart. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Psalm 1

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