Summary: The very beginning of the book Psalms, the author set forth two ways of life and the destinies of those who choose them.
The Two Ways
Series: Spiritual Truths from Psalms
In the Psalms we find our deepest thoughts expressed. Reverence for God, excitement in knowing him, and terror when we fell cut off from his presence; all of these are set forth explicitly in these hymns of ancient Israel. The first, called “the threshold psalm,” sets forth two way of life and the destinies of those who choose them.
I. Happiness of the righteous person (vv. 1-3)
• The Hebrew word that begins this section can be best translated, “Oh, the happiness of” and should be read as an exclamation.
a. The psalmist give three pictures that describe the righteous person.
i. The first verse tells what he does not do
ii. The second, what he does do
iii. The third, what he is like.
b. Verse 1 contains three things the righteous person does not do.
i. In it, we have three groups of three in descending order.
1. First, walk, stand, and sit.
2. Second, ungodly, sinners, and scorners.
3. Third, counsel, way, and seat.
ii. The Hebrew word rendered “ungodly” is a generic term for all wrongdoing.
iii. “Sinners” are those who miss the mark in life or fall short of a standard.
iv. The “scornful” are those who openly scoff or mock at righteousness.
v. The righteous person does not do these things.
c. Verse 2 tells what the righteous person does.
i. The “law” to the Jew meant more than the Ten Commandments or even the entire Mosaic legislation.
ii. It was the complete ongoing revelation of God to his people.
iii. To us, God’s will is brought first by the written Word, the Bible
1. Second, by the Living Word, Jesus Christ
2. Third, by the interpretation of the Bible and Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
iv. Thus, we would not be wrong if we spoke of the righteous person as meditating day and night on God’s will for his life.
v. John Wesley said, “To find God’s will is man’s greatest discovery, and to do God’s will is his greatest achievement.”
d. Verse 3 tells us what he is like or what he becomes through righteous living.
i. The picture of a tree planted by water suggests both stability and fertility.
ii. His bearing fruit in season suggest his dependability and the non-withering leaf suggests constant fruit bearing.
iii. Because he has inner resources, he “causes to prosper” everything he starts.
iv. He is not a quitter.
v. With God’s help, he completes what he begins.
II. Picture of the unrighteous person (vv. 4-5)
• Everything the psalmist said about the righteous person is untrue of the wicked one. The Hebrew reads literally, “Not so, the wicked.”
b. The metaphor of chaff and wheat is so familiar that it does not need explaining.
i. The wicked person’s deeds evaporate, for they have no lasting value in God’s economy.
ii. The word’s “stand in the judgment” in this context probably mean the crises and testings of this life rather than in the New Testament sense of a judgment at the last day.
iii. The unrighteous person does not have the power to cope with the problems that arise in daily living.
c. “Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous” suggest that ungodly people are never comfortable with those who are godly in character and dedication.
i. They often feel threatened and intimidated even though righteous people do not want them to feel that way.
III. The fate of each (v. 6)
a. God divides people into only two classes: those who please him and those who refuse him.
b. God “knows” the first group
i. Of course, in the larger sense he knows everybody, but this word suggest intimate knowledge, experiential fellowship, and divine approval.
ii. This is the Hebrew word used so often in such passages as “Adam knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain” (Gen. 4:1).
c. To “perish” means to go out into nothingness
i. This is the true picture of a life without God.
ii. It is rootless, fruitless, and worthless.
This psalm emphasizes character and righteous living. Only when we are in Christ do we have the power to lead the kind of life the psalmist promises will bring happiness.