In the first three verses of Psalm 1, the psalmist describes the one who chooses to live a righteous life, the one who consciously resists the subtle inroads of compromise. He envisions a person who remains wary of anything that might erode commitment to a godly life. His song begins with three negative analogies to illustrate the importance of resisting compromise with evil, lest the evil become a habit of life. Then, in verse 2, he shows the positive side of godliness and the means by which it may be attained. Verse 3 describes the benefits of a righteous walk. Now let's do some in-depth analysis.
How 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 seat of scoffers! (Psalm 1:1)
The first word, "blessed," is somewhat bland in our English language. The Hebrew term is much more descriptive, especially with its plural ending. Perhaps a workable rendering would be,
"Oh, the happiness, many times over. . . ."
What is it that causes such an abundance of happiness? It is the uncompromising purity of a righteous walk with God. We see this by analyzing the three categories of remaining terms in this verse.
walk . . . counsel . . . wicked
stand . . . path . . . sinners
sit . . . seat . . . scoffers
The psalmist has spiritual erosion in mind. The word pictures illustrate how easily our intentions toward righteousness slow to a standstill or a complete stop as they are worn away by the company we choose to keep.
"Walk" is a term that suggests passing by or "a casual movement along the way." With its entire phrase, it implies the idea of one who does not imitate or "go through the casual motions" of wickedness. The word translated "counsel" comes from the Hebrew term meaning "hard, firm." Here, it means a definite, firm, planned direction. Consider this paraphrase of verse 1:
Oh, the happiness, many times over, of the one who does not even casually go through the motions or imitate the plan of life of those who live in ungodliness.
It is not uncommon to flirt with the wicked life, periodically imitating the motions of those without Christ. We may, in jest, refer to the fun and excitement of ungodliness or chuckle at our children's questionable actions. David warns us against that. He tells us that we will be abundantly happier if we steer clear of anything that could give the erosion of spiritual compromise a head start.
The Hebrew word for "stand" has the idea of coming and taking one's stand. The word "path" comes from the word meaning "a marked-out path, a certain and precise way of life." Can you see the progressive deterioration toward more involvement in sinful living? The casual passerby slows down and, before you know it, he takes his stand.
On the other hand, by taking a firm stand for righteousness, we will be "like a tree firmly planted by streams of water"—one that cannot be eroded by the winds of wickedness and unrighteousness.
The next word the psalmist emphasizes is "sit." This suggests a permanent settling down, an abiding, a permanent dwelling. It is made even clearer by the use of "seat," meaning "habitation" or "permanent residence." Don't miss this: the way of life is in the sphere of "the scoffer," the one who continually makes light of that which is sacred—the blasphemous crowd.
Can you see the picture in the writer's mind? We shall be happy many times over if we maintain a pure walk, free from even the slightest flirtation with evil. If we begin to "walk" in "the counsel of the wicked," it is easy to slip slowly into the habitation of the scoffer.
From Living the Psalms by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
In Embraced by the Spirit, we step away from the heat of theological battle that analyzes and criticizes and move quietly and closely to the One who has been sent alongside to help.