The Willow Tree: Psalm 1 (Pt 3)

A Study in Psalm 1: (Part 3: Exposition IA)

Central TruthGod preserves the righteous, but the wicked shall perish.

I.  God blesses the way of the righteous.

A. The righteous man is disciplined and devoted:

1.  He avoids ungodly advice: The righteous man is blessed, because he does not walk in the counsel of the wicked. This means that he does not listen to sinful advice or allow his thinking to be influenced by sinful men.  It is fascinating to consider the vast number of things that influence our thinking, often without us even realizing it.  Whether we know it or not, we are influenced by the books we read, the conversations we have, the television we watch, the internet we surf, the images we view, and the ideas that we absorb.  None of these mediums are, in and of themselves, bad; however, they are often used as the vehicles through which the counsel of the wicked is delivered into our heads for the shaping of our hearts.  Influences are never neutral.  They either make us godly or they make us worldly.

What has the greatest influence upon your thinking: the things of God or the things of the world?

2.  He avoids ungodly behavior: The righteous man is blessed, because he does not stand in the way of sinners. This means that his behavior does not resemble the behavior of sinful men.  The manifestations of his heart do not reflect rebellious ways.  If your entire life was recorded on DVD and someone was to catch a glimpse of any given moment of your life, what would they see?  Would your behavior in that random moment be reflective of godliness or worldliness?  Would someone look at your behavior and comment on whether you are a righteous person or a wicked one?  Our lives are all on camera, and God sees everything that we do in every moment of our lives.  There are only two paths.  We are either walking in the way of God or standing in the way of sinners.

Does your behavior reflect a lifestyle of righteousness or more often resemble one of rebellion?

3. He avoids ungodly companions: The righteous man is blessed, because he does not sit in the seat of scoffers. This means that he does not gather together with those who express contempt for God.  He neither mocks the things of God, nor holds company with those who do.  “Scoffers, if not the most scandalous of sinners, are the farthest from repentance.” [1] The righteous man is not characterized by an unrepentant spirit, but recognizes that the righteous life is one of perpetual faith and repentance. [2] The righteous man does not maintain relationships with those who exhibit hearts that are cold, calloused, and contemptuous toward the gracious God that he loves.  This is not to suggest that he never befriends an unbeliever; it simply acknowledges that his closest companions are those who honor God and love His word.  A Puritan pastor once said, “Let your choicest companions be those who have made Christ their chief companion.” [3] We often conform to the character of those individuals in whose company we spend most of our time.  Our time should be most spent with those whose hearts recognize Christ as supreme.

Are your closest companions those who have made Christ their chief companion?

4.  He exercises godly devotion: The righteous man is blessed, because his delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law he meditates day and night. This is the key that unlocks the other three.  Taking pleasure in the word of God enables the righteous man to avoid the pitfalls of the wicked.  As he meditates on the ways of God, his heart and life are conformed to the character of God.  Not only does he take delight in the things of God, he is also devoted to thinking often and deeply about them.  Instead of taking the counsel of the wicked, he receives the counsel of the Lord.  Instead of imitating the behavior of the wicked, he imitates the ways of God.  Instead of expressing contempt for God, he joyfully contemplates Him and enjoys the company of others who do likewise.

Meditation is best characterized as mental-chewing.  A helpful illustration will be that of a cow. After a cow consumes grass, it will repeatedly chew this food until it is made ready for a thorough digestion.  The first chewing moistens the food and allows it to be swallowed.  Once swallowed it enters the stomach where chemicals soften it and then the stomach muscles regurgitate it up for a second chewing.  This softened, half-chewed material is called cud.  During the second-chewing, the food is further softened and made ready for digestion.  As the cow digests the cud, the rich nutrients contained in the original grass become part of the animal and serve as a source of strength and sustenance.

Meditating on the law of the Lord is a lot like chewing cud.  The righteous man is not critical of Scripture.  He enjoys consuming and repeatedly chewing on it.  Digesting the truths of Scripture requires our minds to constantly mull over them so that the rich nutrients they contain become a part of our lives.  The repeated chewing causes our hearts to soften so that we might receive the goodness that they have to offer.  Once digested, these truths will have their full effect of transforming our lives and bearing the fruit of righteousness.  Meditation requires two things: our delight in the things of God, and our devotion to thinking often and deeply about them.  This is both practical and personal.  As the Psalmist writes in Psalm 19, the law of the Lord is sweeter than honey.  Let us digest it.

Do you take delight in the things of God and think often and deeply about them?

The righteous man is characterized by both discipline and devotion, and the fruit of this lifestyle is spiritual prosperity.  He will flourish and be fruitful, just like that willow tree near the pond.

*This is the third of several posts over Psalm one.

[1] Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72 in The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), 47-48.

[2] Martin Luther, in the first of his 95 Theses nailed to the door at Wittenburg, wrote: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent’ [Mark 1:15], he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”  Martin Luther, “Ninety-Five Theses.”  C.M. Jacobs, trans. Luther’s Works.  Helmut T. Lehmann, gen. ed., vol. 31. (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1957), 25-33.

[3] Puritan Pastor Thomas Brooks: <>


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