“Two roads diverged…” (Psalm 1)

two paths.jpg


There’s a stark life-choice offered in Psalm 1.

It’s the choice between being secure, and being insecure. Or rather, you might say, those two adjectives are the consequence of choosing or not choosing God.

Choosing one means not choosing the other. Remember Frost’s familiar lines?

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

In the space between yes and no, there’s a lifetime. It’s the difference between the path you walk and the one you leave behind.

The key subject in Psalm 1 is the central place of God’s Word to the life and fruitfulness of those make the God-choice. The writer underlines the absolute necessity of the Bible, and  the  stability, and fruitfulness it promises to those who make it the core of their lives.

It’s a contrast between character and destiny.

First the good news: “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!  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season, And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3)

Blessing comes from character-growth  through fellowship with God and through the Word of God. This is no legalistic obedience to a set of rules, but in the sense of an obedience of faith that such a life brings to the one who believes and walks in relationship.

The principle is that certain things corrupt,  and eventually destroy. Other things give the capacity and means for happiness through trust and fellowship with God. This is the message of this Psalm. So, what are those things?

It’s a matter of what not to do

If you want to be happy (“blessed“) then there are three things to avoid.  The first verse portrays three degrees of degeneration, each a little more permanent, settled, and embedded into your life.

Walk …stand …sit.

IThe simple sequence of verbs warn us how man is prone to turn aside little by little and become more and more entangled in the web of self. He is easily influenced by the way of the world in its attitudes and actions, for actions follow attitudes.

Walk” has the idea of “go along with, use, follow.”  “In the counsel” means, “purpose, plan, resolution of the will,” or “deliberation, viewpoint, way of thinking.” It refers to a mental attitude that determines the decisions that we make. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” The one who is “blessed” is the one who has determined to walk by the whole counsel of the Word, and not by his own emotions, experience or tradition.

The choice is radical. It has consequences. The two roads diverge.

The word “Wicked” has as the root idea of being loose or unstable. It means to be loose with reference to morals and without godly restraint. It also means loose from God, without Him as an anchor or controlling factor. You begin to realise that people simply do not remain passive about God.The divergent paths continue to diverge…

So Psalm 1:2 is the all-important truth here. The person who experiences blessing is the one who has a love affair with God’s Word.

“His delight is in the law of the Lord.” The root of the word “Delight” means “to be mindful of, attentive to,” and so it came to mean, “keep, protect.” When something delights us, we protect and guard it. Scripture is a delight is because it is truth. It is accurate, reliable and actively powerful. It works!

And we feed on it “Day and night.”  That means “constantly, consistently, and regularly” working through the implications of the promises of God for how we live.

And the consequence is stability under pressure. “He shall be like a tree.”  It’s the picture of mental, emotional, and spiritual stability in every kind of situation.  And the purpose of that stability  is to be “planted” in order to bear fruit.  “Which yields its fruit.” First the root, then fruit. First the word with obedience and application, and then there is production. Fruit is a proof of the root. “And its leaf will not wither” is a picture of vitality, of being green and healthy, of a continuing fruitfulness.

Of course, the line “In whatever he does, he prospers”  is not a blank cheque to be filled in as we want. The one who is blessed prospers simply because he seeks to operate in the framework of God’s will. The Psalmist points out that this very decision moves him into the sphere of God’s enablement, supply, and direction. Have a look at Psalm 37:3-5.

“Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:”

On the other hand…

“The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.  For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.”

It’s a scary contrast. The way of the righteous is contrasted with the way of the “wicked”. As noted, one of the basic ideas of this word was to be loose or unstable, and so it means to be loose ethically. But loose morals occur only because one was first negative to God; loose from Him, cut loose and excluded from a life with God and the control and stability that God brings into the lives of those who have fellowship with Him.

But there is more. Included in this word is the idea of restless activity.  Look at Isaiah 57:20-21: ”But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” 

Look too at Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.” These words also contrast the results of these different lifestyles: The righteous are stable, fruitful, and will be rewarded.  The wicked are unstable, unfruitful, and will be judged. Peterson calls them “mere wind-blown dust” “Chaff” is the seed covering and the debris separated from the grain or seed in threshing. Unlike the grain or actual seed, it has no body or substance and is blown about by the wind, always unstable.

“Chaff” is that which is worthless, of no value.

Think of the uselessness of the wicked and to the ease with which God deals with them, like the wind that so easily picks up the chaff and blows it away. So they can’t “stand in the judgement.” Thy are incapable of withstanding pressure and are characterised by perishability (1:6).

So it’s clear that the central issue is whether or not you root your life upon God’s word. But why? How can the Bible have such a stabilizing affect on a person’s life?  

We have come to believe that the Bible is God’s inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word to man, and able to meet every need of a person’s soul. Peter teaches us in 2 Peter 1:3, it contains all that man needs for life and godliness, or about truth and righteousness.

This is how Paul encouraged his young workers: “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13). Later he wrote, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction,” and then he quickly warned, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:2-3).


Lord today, let your Word dwell in me richly. Help me to pay attention and allow it space in my head and in my choices. Build me up on your promises that I may live with confidence and assurance, knowing what you intend for those who seek to follow and do your will.

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