“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2
Over the next three weeks, we have the privilege of memorizing Psalm 1. This Psalm sets the tone for the rest of the book by distinguishing between the righteous and the wicked. The three sections (of 2 verses each) answer an important question about the lives of the righteous in contrast to the lives of the wicked. What differentiates the righteous from the wicked? What will the fruit of their lives be? What outcome will their lives result in?
Verses 1 and 2 answer the first question: What differentiates the righteous from the wicked? That seems like a simple question. In fact, if we were to poll a group of average people walking down a city street, I can guess answers they would give. Most would say that a righteous person seeks to do good things, while a wicked person does bad things. That answer, of course, is not wrong, but it is incomplete. That answer on it’s own cannot define what is good and what is bad. In other words, who gets to decide what is considered good and what is considered bad?
This is where the wisdom of God in Psalm 1 is on full display. The Psalmist is not addressing the actions of the individual at this point. Instead, the Psalmist begins with what the righteous person will allow to influence his life. From where will he glean the knowledge of what is good and what is bad? To put it another way, the concern of verses 1 and 2 is not our actions, but what is shaping our minds.
Therefore, verse 1 is not a prohibition against spending time with wicked people. It’s a warning against planting your life among them in such a way that they begin to infiltrate your mind with their worldview; with their moral compass. We must not walk in the counsel of the wicked. In other words, we must guard against allowing a godless worldview to shape our hearts and minds. We don’t stand in the way of sinners. This means that we don’t plant ourselves in the ways of the world in such a way that we mimic their practices. Nor, do we sit in the seat of scoffers. The righteous person does not occupy the position of those who scoff. It’s easy to sit with and join in with those who scoff and deride others and complain about all that’s not going our way. We must minister to scoffers, but we don’t sit down and make ourselves at home with them so that we join in their derision.
Instead of allowing the wicked to shape our hearts and minds, the Psalmist reminds us that we must allow the Word of God to transform us. We must delight in the Law of the Lord and meditate on his word day and night. This is a humbling command. In our fallen nature, we must continually fill ourselves with and be sustained by God’s Word or we will fall prey to the wicked wisdom of man. We can’t go one week, one day, not even one part of a day, without needing to meditate on God’s Word. We need it in the morning and then we need it again in the evening. This isn’t a guilt trip about what time of day we should read our Bibles. Instead, it’s a call to make Bible intake a regular part of our day. It’s a call to work hard at hiding God’s Word in our hearts by memorizing Scripture. You can’t meditate on God’s Word day and night if it’s not in your head and heart. In order to fight against temptation and resist the influence of the wicked, we need to continually meditate on the truth of God’s Word.
I love how this Psalm flips our expectations. The difference between the righteous and the wicked doesn’t start with our actions, it starts with what we allow to shape our lives. The reason the Bible has transforming power is not mainly because it makes us better people, but because it points us to an all sufficient Savior. As we meditate on God’s Word, we will see more and more of the evil of our own hearts and we will see more and more the overwhelming grace that has been poured out on us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As we see Jesus revealed to us in the Word, we will be transformed into the likeness of his character.