1 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 assembly of scoffers.
For the month of November, I want to go through Psalm 1. First, because many of my devotionals to date have been New Testament, and I want to spend some time in the Old Testament. Also, since I’m in doing NaNoWriMo this month, I can draw from notes I made for a study I did some years ago on this psalm. I hope these thoughts are of use to you in your walk with the Lord.
In the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for “blessed” is translated into the Greek word makarioi, which is the same word used in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12. As we saw in our series on the Beatitudes, there are rewards attached to each statement, showing the way in which people were blessed. So, I think it is fair to say that the blessed man in Psalm 1 is someone who receives blessings (as we shall see). I also think it’s someone who has an inner feeling of blessedness–happiness as some translations render the word–that comes from the knowledge that, despite the way of the world around him, he is standing firm with the Lord and doing what he knows is pleasing to God.
The psalmist describes the attitude of the righteous man in two ways: first the negative, then the positive; in other words, he first describes what he doesn’t do, and then what he does do. Notice first the verbs used: walk, stand, and sit. Some have taken this to indicate a downward progression from bad to very bad to worse, first of going along with the council of the wicked, then of standing as one to be counted as a sinner, and then finally to rest oneself firmly in the place of one of the scoffers. Others simply see the use of the three verbs as encompassing the various ways one might ally oneself with the wicked of this world: walking with them, standing shoulder to shoulder with them, and sitting with them, sharing in their abuse of the righteous. I think there is certainly the idea of conforming to the thoughts and actions of these people. The last phrase in the Hebrew is literally, “who sits in the sitting of scoffers.”
There are also three different adjectives used to describe the people in verse 1: wicked, sinners, and scoffers. The first two are almost synonymous. The wicked refer to those who are actively criminal in their deeds, offending both God and man in their sin (Proverbs 28:15; 29:2; 10:3).
The adjective “sinner” has a root verb meaning to miss the mark. While the idea of one who offends God is still intended, there is a shade of meaning that can also include those who perhaps originally intended good—at least in their own eyes—but ended up doing wickedness. The net result is the same for both the wicked and sinners. Proverbs 13:21 says: “Adversity pursues sinners, But the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity”—notice sinners are contrasted with the righteous.
What about the “scoffer”? Again, I think Proverbs helps shed some light on what’s intended here:
He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you. (9:7-8)
A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. (13:1)
’Proud,’ ‘Haughty,’ ‘Scoffer,’ are his names, Who acts with insolent pride. (21:24)
So the righteous man does not walk with those who are intent upon harm and actively rebelling against God; he does not stand with those who are also in sin, whether by misplaced intentions, or by active rejection of God’s ways; and he does not sit with those who mock and scorn justice and wisdom which come from God.
We need to examine our lives daily, the things we say, the people we find ourselves communing with, and the things we do to be sure we are not falling in line with the ways of this world. It’s hard when we are surrounded by fallen humanity in a fallen world to live as salt and light. It’s much easier to allow ourselves to be sucked in and carried along. We need to pray for the grace to stand firm.
Next week we’ll look at what the psalmist says the righteous do. Have a great week!
P.S.: I want to give a shout out, and a big THANK YOU to Cesar Vigil-Ruiz, who mentioned me and this weekly devotional on his blog, Killing Sin, this past week. These devotionals are beneficial to me, which is one reason why I do them. But it is such an encouragement, and humbling, to know that others are benefiting from them too. Thanks, Cesar!