The Redwoods stood at attention like an army of giants all around us. We walked along their shadowy paths and craned our necks to see where their branches reached the clouds, often to no avail. There was an otherworldliness to being there like we had stepped into a Narnian realm where everything was lush, green, and tranquil. We marveled at the gentle giants and imagined them as saplings centuries ago. As their branches reach heavenward, their roots anchor them deep and wide into the ground. There’s something about the majesty of the Redwoods that prompts introspection about life’s paths. It reminded me of the imagery found in Psalm 1.
Psalm 1 is a signpost
Psalm 1 is a preamble to the entire Psalter, and it contrasts the two paths of life. The placement of it at the front serves as an introduction to the whole book. It’s as if David is laying down some ground rules, prompting us at the outset to consider our own life’s path.
You can think of Psalm 1 as a signpost at a fork in the road. Down one path is a kind of holy happiness rooted in a relationship with your Maker, similar to a Redwood whose roots allow it to grow to astounding heights. The other path leads to a life that is fleeting, worthless and blows away in the wind. Its end is judgment and damnation. The paths couldn’t be more opposite, and the choice couldn’t be clearer. The signpost points in two directions. Which path will you choose?
Psalm 1 reads…
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;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
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.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
Living the good life
Opening with the definitive line, Psalm 1 begins with, “Blessed is the man.” The Bible Project explains the Hebrew word for blessed is “ashrey” which refers to what other people say about this person’s life. From an outsider’s perspective, they might say, “That person is living the good life.” The good life of the blessed man isn’t the same as the “good life” of the wicked who often enjoy, health, wealth, and happiness apart from God. No, this good life is based on his affections, and the primary affection of the blessed man’s life is love for God’s Word.
“but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.”
The delight and meditation mentioned above are an infinity loop. The more the man delights in the Word, the more he meditates on it; the more he meditates on it, the more he delights in it. Even though storms come into his life, this person’s preoccupation with God’s Word anchors him the way roots anchor a tree. The world might criticize this man’s affections and say he’s so heavenly-minded, that he’s no earthly good, but Psalm 1 disagrees.
The blessed man is formidable, like an impressive Redwood who is not easily moved. There’s continual, sometimes slow, growth because he’s connected to streams of living water. He keeps delighting and meditating, and therefore he’s evergreen. Like a tree that provides shade, his life is marked by a kind of ongoing spiritual flourishing that benefits both himself and others. This kind of life stands so outside the norm, that it’s no wonder outsiders call him blessed.
But the wicked are not so…
How vast is the difference between the blessed man and the wicked? One is characterized by the strength and fortitude of a tree, while the other is considered as worthless as chaff, the outer shell of a grain of wheat, that blows away in the wind.
It’s interesting that the wicked man is first identified by the company he keeps. His primary influences are wicked people, unrepentant sinners, and scoffers. Slowly and subtly he becomes more like them. Feeling confident he won’t give in to temptation, he thinks he has the freedom to walk on by. Eventually, his walking slows to standing. He stays a little longer, watches a few more videos, or orders a few more drinks. Finally, he skips the steps of pretending he’s in control and goes headlong into the sins of his choosing. Now he’s comfortable sitting in the company of the wicked, and living a life of sin.
Like a frog in a pot of boiling water, who doesn’t perceive the gradual increase in temperature, the wicked man’s choices are slowly leading toward his death. The path that led him to sit among the scoffers, resulted in him not being able to stand before God in judgment (5). This is where the path of the wicked ends, and it’s terrifying. Instead of delighting and meditating on the Word like the blessed man, the wicked man has delighted in his sin. His life and his legacy will be forgotten and blow away like worthless chaff in the wind.
The two paths of life
Psalm 1 lays out the two paths of life in stark contrast. We might wonder why anyone would intentionally choose the wicked path. But, the path that leads to destruction disguises itself as the path of life. It promises a good time, earthly riches, and living our best lives now. But just like sin always does, it over-promises and under-delivers. This path is marked by so-called human wisdom. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” The counsel of the wicked might seem right at the time, but as it is separated from the wisdom and knowledge of God, its end is death, destruction, and judgment.
Today, if you stand at the fork in the road of Psalm 1 and consider that you’re headed down the wrong path, there’s time to reverse course. Open God’s Word and read it. Find in its pages the path of life is the path that follows the Savior. As we follow him, and delight in his Word, we find the good life. This is the path of the blessed and happy man. This is the rooted and fruited life.
P.S. Psalm 1 isn’t the only psalm that talks about the path of life. Psalm 23 tells us that the Lord as our Shepherd leads us in paths of righteousness. Do you want to learn more about these paths? Follow in the footsteps of the saints of old and discover how they found this to be the good life. Download the free eBook below.