5 For this reason, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
This week we conclude our devotional series on Psalm 1 with a look at the fate of the wicked. Last week we saw what their standing is before God, and how their sense of self-importance is misplaced. As you would expect, the final two verses continue that thought, and complete it.
The wicked are like chaff, but more than that: they will not stand in the judgment, nor they will not rise up in judgment. This phrase can be understood in both ways: either they will not be able to withstand the judgment that will fall upon them because of their wickedness, or they will not have any authority to judge because of their attitude toward God’s Law and justice. The first is certainly true: wicked people when faced with the divine consequences of their sin and rebellion against God have no defense. They can’t say they didn’t know of God because, as Romans 1 tells us, the evidence of God’s existence is all around–the wicked just suppress that knowledge. Judgment rightly comes against them, and they have no ground for complaint.
I would, however, give a little more weight to the second understanding: “they will not rise up in judgment.” It fits the context better, I think, especially when you consider the next line: “nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.” Just as the wicked have no place as judges in the judgment, sinners have no place in the assembly, or gathering, of the righteous. The wicked, the scoffers, may consider themselves worthy and able to bring judgment upon people, but God has decreed that they have no place in the judgment. Rather, they are to be judged. Likewise, as much as sinners may be filled with a sense of their own self-righteousness, no matter how much they may think they are doing the right thing, they will not share a place with those whom God considers righteous.
The reason for this is in verse 6. The assembly of the righteous is not composed of those who do acts of righteousness according to their own understanding and by their own strength. The righteous are those who meditate on God’s Word, and so they understand the way of righteousness that the Lord has prescribed. God has dictated what it means to be righteous, so the sinner, whose heart has rejected the ways of God and flees the holy paths of the Lord, cannot–and will not–have any place among God’s righteous people. Those who walk in the counsel of the wicked, who stand in the way of sinners, and who sit in the seat of scoffers, are the ones following the way of the wicked. They are not the tree planted by the streams of water, receiving life: they are the ones who leaf withers, who, like the chaff, are blown away. Their way leads to death and destruction.
Even if we confess Christ, and are, therefore, saved and considered righteous before God, we should be sure that our lives honor God by not counting ourselves among the wicked. We need to be standing for righteousness, even when it’s not popular. If we understand that the opinions of the wicked have as much consideration in God’s eyes as chaff, and their ways lead to destruction, then for the believer, the choice should be clear.
Have a great week!