Psalm 1: Who are you listening to?

Psalm 1 English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

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;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

The frightening thing about this psalm is that there are only two options.

I live my life under the influence of either righteousness or wickedness. Righteousness comes through meditating on God’s Word. Wickedness, through listening to those who oppose God’s will.

It’s been pointed out to me that there is a progression in verse 1. The one who is influenced by the world begins by walking, then standing and then sitting as if he has been slowly persuaded that this is something that is worth his while. It conjures an image in my mind that goes something like this:

A man goes on a journey through life. On his journey he is joined by various voices. At first he is hesitant but politely smiles and nods as the words wash over him. At some point however, something that the voice says catches his attention. The speaker’s words hold the promise of something that he cannot ignore. So he stops and turns to face the voice and to give it more of his attention. He has not yet committed to the ideas but is interested to hear more and, as the conversation continues, the voice promises to give him everything he wishes for: happiness, pleasure, success, popularity and wealth. He and the voice take their seats and begin to plot a new course for their lives. The traveller has bought into all that has been said to him and his sojourn has ended.

Surely the warning is that in my walk with the Lord I constantly face the same danger. I wonder how many believers have drifted away from the Lord because they began to flirt with sin, which lead to engaging with sin, which lead to immersion in sin. I wonder how many now are walking or standing or sitting in sin. Even more importantly for me however, is to honestly consider in what ways I, not others, stand or walk or sit with the counsel of the wicked. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take me very long to see how easy it is for the world to gain my attention.

Fortunately, I am also encouraged by this passage. Here are three encouragements that I offer to you as fellow sojourners who may be getting weary in the battle against sin.

First, we need to meditate on the teaching of the Bible. The solution is not so much that I need to stop listening to the world but that I need to start listening to God. It is not good enough to pull out the weeds, we also need to plant flowers (or so my father-in-law keeps telling me!). It is the same with our walk with God. We need to sow God’s Word deeply and regularly into our hearts and minds so that it begins to produce fruit.

Secondly, we need to remember the end. No matter how hard the Christian life, or tempting the ways of those who reject God, we should always keep the final destiny of all people in mind. One day you and I will stand before God. Ultimately those who reject God and embrace sin will perish but His people will live in His kingdom forever.

Lastly, we need to remember Jesus. The reality is that we will constantly wax and wane in our walk with God. We will too often flirt with the counsel of the world. We will too often neglect God’s Word. At times this may cause us to lose heart and despair. It is at these times that it becomes especially important to fix our eyes on Jesus who is the author and the finisher of our faith, the atonement for our sin, our Lord and perfect example, and the promise of our reward.

Who are you listening to?

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