The Truly Blessed Life Part 1
This article is the first in a three-part series on Psalm 1. In Psalm 1, the Bible contrasts the righteous man (who submits to God and His word/law/counsel) and the wicked (those who disregard God and His Holy word/law/counsel). We read in Psalm 1:1, “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.” (ESV)
Psalm 1 begins with a declarative statement of fact, as the psalmist refers to a man who is ‘blessed’ or ‘happy.’ The word the psalmist uses to describe the man in this verse is not speaking only about his emotional state but, more specifically, about the state or condition of this man’s life as a whole. In Hebrew, the word ‘blessed’ is not singular but plural. So we can translate the beginning of this verse like this, “O the blessednesses” or “O the happinesses of the man.”
The emphasis here is on the magnitude of this man’s present condition. In context, he is the recipient of God’s blessing and favor because he obeys the counsel of God, and as we shall see, because of this, he is ‘happy’ or ‘blessed.’ So, after telling us about this man’s condition, the psalmist tells us about his lifestyle. And these two things are inseparably linked. This man is blessed because of his lifestyle- what he does and does not do.
The psalmist begins by first telling us what the man does not do.
Firstly, the word of God tells us that this man does not walk ‘in the counsel of the wicked’ (v. 1a). To walk in someone’s counsel is to actively listen to their advice. But this man does not actively follow wicked people's advice/counsel/instruction. The wicked are evildoers, and the Bible tells us in Prov 12:5 that the counsel of the wicked is ‘deceitful.’ Therefore, the blessed man does not take advice from the wicked. He walks in the counsel of Another.
Secondly, he does not stand ‘in the way of sinners’ (v. 1b). Not only does this man not walk in the counsel of the wicked, but he does not even stand in their path. Notice the change in action from walking to standing and the change in the description of the evildoers from ‘the wicked’ to ‘sinners.’ To stand in the way/path of sinners refers to participation in the sinful actions of ungodly people performed against God and man.
To stand with them would be to do as they do in their company. We have an example of sinners enticing a young man to join them in their sin Prov 1:10-15. There, a godly father warns his son with the following words:
“10 My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. 11 If they say, “Come with us, Let us lie in wait for blood, let us ambush the innocent without cause; 12 let us swallow them alive like Sheol, Even whole, as those who go down to the pit; 13 we will find all kinds of precious wealth, we will fill our houses with spoil; 14 Throw in your lot with us, we shall all have one purse,” 15 My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path.”
Well, the blessed man in Psalm 1 does not join in with sinners to participate in their sinful deeds. In other words, his lifestyle is radically different.
While their lives are characterized by sin, and they walk along its path, his life is not because he is standing on a different path. The word of the Lord commands us in Prov 4:14-15 saying, “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on” (ESV). Are you continually avoiding and turning away from the path of the wicked?
Thirdly, the blessed man does not sit ‘in the seat of scoffers’ (v. 1c). Scoffers are those who ridicule and mock God and people. They slander others and ridicule them for pleasure. In this verse, the ‘seat of scoffers’ can refer to a public seat of prominence among an official group of scoffers, like a position in a governing council or an anti-God assembly who delight in scoffing at God.
Or it can be a metaphor for having an intimate association with a group of scoffers in an unofficial sense. Either way, we must note that God’s word has nothing favorable to say about scoffers in Prov 21:24, the Bible says, “Proud,” “Haughty,” “Scoffer,” are his names, who acts with insolent pride.” And in Proverbs 24:9, we read that the scoffer “is an abomination to men.” In this last line, the word of God makes it clear that the blessed man does not associate himself with scoffers.
Hopefully, through our brief look at verse one, you will see the sharp contrast between the godly and the ungodly revealed in God’s word. The blessed man does not take ungodly counsel, participate in ungodly actions, or associate himself with those who mock God and ridicule others.
In conclusion, Psalm 1 presents us with the truly blessed life of a man who has a perfect and, if I am honest, desirable standard of righteousness. In this Psalm, we see what godliness and righteousness look like in very practical ways, and I believe it is good and proper for us to desire to see the fruit of Psalm 1 in our lives. The reality is that we do not measure up to the man in this Psalm. The Bible reveals that there is only One Man who matches the description laid out in verse one and the subsequent verses.
And He is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, who is the true and ultimate fulfillment of this Psalm. Jesus is the Blessed One who is seated at the right hand of the God Father Mk 14:61-62. And in Jesus, those who belong to Him are ‘blessed’ and ‘happy’ beyond measure. Therefore, today and every other day, I pray that you would trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world, and learn to walk as He walked. In Lk 9:23, Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”