Blessings from God are noted frequently throughout the scriptures. The word “blessed” occurs as many as 51 times in the Psalms alone. And as the first word of the whole Psalter it appears to stand as a sentinel over all 150 of them.
Human life is saturated with daily blessings — adequate sunshine to sustain life, shelter from stormy weather, nourishment for the body and so much more. But in Psalm 1 special favor is promised to those who meet certain conditions.
This psalm begins in verse 1 with a blunt exhortation to avoid ungodly companions. “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.”
This does not mean we must strictly isolate ourselves. But it holds that if we intend to live out the blessing promised we should avoid walking in the paths of wicked companions — persons lacking reverence for God and the morally casual. Nor are we to stand around those doing evil, or make common cause (sitting with) persons who mock known standards of godliness. Sinners know what is good or righteous, but they act contrary to this knowledge, offending God’s righteousness.
The psalmist says don’t walk, stand, or sit with them — not so much in the physical sense as in the participatory sense — or you may find yourself sharing their ways. This is a good psalm for young people to ponder as they choose companions from school, work, and leisure.
There is a progression in the commands: Don’t walk! Don’t stand! Don’t sit! Each instruction seems to emphasize and become more urgent in warning the reader to avoid the wayward life.
The psalmist recommends not only what to avoid, but also what to pursue. Verse 2 says, “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
He who would be blessed must at the same time make heart commitments that are carefully centered on God’s Law. At the time of writing the psalmist may have been referring to the first five books of the Bible, a rich resource for understanding the mind of God and his way of dealing with his chosen people. The pondering of God’s word “day and night” is an exercise of the soul that God promises to bless. The pondering of the complete Bible we have today would be even better.
What will be the results of all this? The psalmist reaches for a simile and offers that the faithful seeker after God’s blessing will be “like a tree planted by the water” (verse 3). Even during parched times this blessing seeker might expect abundance of fruit. As the tree’s leaves will not wither, so whatever projects he attempts will succeed.
But what about the person who ignores God in his life plan, who chooses the paths marked by wickedness? Blessedness is of no concern to him. In fact, while appearing to have the world in his wallet, he may be hard or indifferent to righteousness. To all appearances, he has it made. One could almost be envious.
But the way of the wicked is not to be envied when long-term consequences are taken into account. Verse 4 says, “They are like chaff that the wind blows away.” When the winds of adversity blow he will respond like the worthless, inedible paper-like husk of grain that flies into the air in all directions at the harvest.
Psalm 1 ends with a summary of the two destinies: “For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous; but the way of the wicked leads to destruction” (verse 6).
Some may argue that there are many paths in life. Ultimately there are only two, the psalmist contends. And only one of the two promises rich blessings and escape from destruction.