Summary: The Psalmist gives both a promise and a warning as he describes the way of the righteous and the way of the sinner.
Having grandchildren has been a tremendous blessing, and one of the things having little ones around has done is remind me of the growth process. Right now our two youngest granddaughters are at the stage where they recently were able to sit up. When it first happened, we all stood around in awe watching their teetering attempts to stay upright without slumping over. Most recently we were all excited that they have been learning to crawl and pulling themselves up to stand. They are now standing around while holding on to the furniture, but it won’t be long until they will be walking on their own. That is how growth progresses. As we mature we learn to sit, then to stand and then to walk. It is a natural progression — sit, stand, walk.
Psalm 1 is a great psalm which talks about two ways of approaching life. One is the way of the righteous, or rightness. The other is the way of the wicked. It is a study in contrasts. The first point I would like to make is that: The psalm opens with a promise and a warning. The promise is that the one who is faithful and does not walk in the way of the wicked will be blessed. But the implied warning is that to go down the path that the wicked follow leads to the road to ruin. The psalm says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers” (Psalm 1:1). The one who will be blessed is the person who does not listen to the counsel and advise of those who do not know God — they look directly to God for their counsel. They do not stand in the way of sinners, that is, they do not make them their constant companions and join in their behavior. And they do not sit in the seat of mockers. They do not degenerate into an attitude of sarcasm and a cynical view of people and life.
The Bible says that we are not to be misled, and warns: “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
The interesting thing about the person described in this first verse is that his progression is backwards. His growth is reversed. The person begins by walking in the counsel of the ungodly. Then they stand in the way of sinners. And, finally, they sit in the seat of mockers. For them it is: walk, stand, sit. The momentum is going backwards — until he stops completely. He begins by being able to walk and ends up immobilized. We see him at last paralyzed by a mocking spirit that will not do anything, but is ready to criticize anyone who is doing something. He does not make a single move to make the world a better place or improve the situation; he just sits around complaining and criticizing how everyone else is stupid and wrong for what they are trying to do.
Let’s follow the progression of the person who falls into the way of the wicked by considering how temptation works. Temptation begins in a person’s thoughts. The thought life is the first thing to be affected. The imagination begins to offer fantasies to the mind. The person is walking around while being enticed by his or her thoughts. Jesus knew this was the birth place of sin. That is why he said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22). “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Here we see that sin begins in a person’s thought life. Jesus said, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart” (Luke 6:45). Sin begins by letting the imagination go where it wills. The heart is the seat of the affections. If sin is not stopped here, it will eventually work its way out and express itself in sinful behavior. This is the second stage. He is standing in the way of sinners. He has joined them. Their way has become his way now. He has walked over to them, and he is no longer walking with God. He is standing with his friends. And finally his regress is complete as he sits down to engage in mockery and sarcasm.