Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1, NLT)
Psalm 1 is a tale of two people: the righteous person and the ungodly person. It employs parallelism to compare the behaviors, influences, consequences, and spiritual destinies of each person while holding up a mirror in front of us, inviting us to see how we align with these characters in our own lives.
Much of the Psalm focuses on the righteous person. The righteous person is like a healthy tree growing by a river. The tree receives ample nourishment from the river so it grows, bears fruit, and thrives instead of withering and dying. Likewise, the righteous person receives ample nourishment from the Lord, both in Word and Spirit, growing spiritually, living as a blessing to others, and finding success in living for the Lord as the Lord bestows special favor on the righteous person, helping them to find their happiness in Him.
But the ungodly person is like chaff. Chaff is the outer husk that grows on grain stalks. It is dead and worthless, having no nutritional or economic value. In the ancient world, grain was harvested by tossing it into the air. The wind would blow the lighter chaff away while the heavier seeds would fall to the ground. Similarly, the ungodly person is spiritually dead, living for self, oscillating among influences of ungodly counsel, and impeding God’s work. The Lord withholds special favor from the ungodly person, who does not find happiness in the Lord.
Clearly, Psalm 1 speaks to the dual nature of humanity and the natural consequences that the Lord has ordained for our sources of counsel and lifelong pursuits. But in application, I suggest to you that Psalm 1 is also about Jesus.
Who is this person who always delights in God’s law? Jesus.
Who is this person who never takes counsel from the ungodly? Jesus.
Who is this person who always prospers in everything he does? Jesus.
And in at least three ways, Jesus is the prototype of righteousness living as well as our example for how to find true happiness in the Lord.
1. Jesus is always and only about the Lord’s work. As Jesus replied to the religious leaders of his day John 5:30, 36, “I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will. … But I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me.”
2. Jesus is our example for living and loving. Just prior to the transfiguration, Jesus told his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matt 16:24). And after washing the disciples’ feet in the upper room, he told them, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message.” (John 13:15–16).
3. Jesus enables and empowers us to live for God. As Peter explains, “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.” (1 Pet 2:21–24).
So by way of application, Jesus is the righteous person. And each of us, apart from Christ, is the ungodly person:
- We were powerless to save ourselves.
- But Jesus, God the Son, became a man and died in our place to save us.
- And now, through the blood of Christ and the power of the Spirit, we can live for God.
The LORD wants to bless us. He wants to find happiness in Him. But that only happens when we listen to His voice and live for Him. Let’s listen to the Word, and live by the Spirit, and find happiness in Him.