Psalm 1 1 Meaning: Let’s consider the meaning of Psalm 1:1.
Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “The ungodly”
Let’s start with that first line. Look at that word “ungodly” in the King James Version. The word basically means “guilty”. They’re guilty of sin. They’ve done wrong and they haven’t sought the mercy of God. No, indeed, they have no interest in seeking his forgiveness and mercy.
You know people like that right? We’re surrounded in this world by people who are guilty before God. They know they’re guilt. But they’re not interested in being reconciled to the one whom they’ve offended – the Lord.
Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “Counsel”
And you know, if that was all there was to these kinds of men, they might not be so difficult to deal with. But there’s more to them than simply being guilty before the Lord and not seeking his mercy.
They actually have “advice” that they want you to follow. See that in Psalm 1:1? These guilty men have “counsel” to give you. They have “plans” for you to implement in your life. It’s not enough for them to follow their own destructive plans and advice. They offer it to everyone who will take it – they even push it on those who don’t want it!
Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “Walketh not”
And you know – there are plenty of people who follow their advice. That’s the meaning of this image of walking in someone’s counsel.
The blessed man doesn’t follow the advice of those who don’t want God’s forgiveness. The life of the blessed man is not characterized by paying attention to the advice of men and women on the New York Times’ Best Sellers list who are leading people astray – away from God. The life of the blessed man is not characterized by following the worldly-wise but heavenly-foolish advice offered by people on the media – TV, radio, internet, social media, or anywhere else.
The blessed man might have the unfortunate experience of hearing this advice – but he isn’t patterning his life after this stuff.
What else does the blessed man not do? He doesn’t stand in the way of sinners.
Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “Way”
I’ll remind us – if we need it – that this is poetic metaphorical language. There is no road in Whitewater, Wisconsin (where our church is) or – I hope – anywhere named Sinner Street or Sinners Road. So, it’s not that the blessed man avoids a literal physical Derek Chataim or Road of Sinners. So, then, what is this picturing?
What do you do with a road? In ancient times you’d mostly walk on it. It was a means by which you’d get from one place to another – it still is. It was a place that you’d frequent and be frequently traveling on – you don’t get places very quickly on foot. And you wouldn’t be the only one on that road, likely. Others would be on that road with you – maybe not at the same exact time, but probably before or after you got on or exited that road. A road is a familiar, well-trodden path which hosts many people. But they’re all going the same way.
So, to try to apply the image to sinners – there are ways in which they all tend to go. There are courses and directions in life that they all tend to take – at least groups of them do. Their lives are headed in a certain direction.
Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “Stand”
And how does the blessed man relate to this particularly evil course of life? You don’t stand there – metaphorically. What is it to stand – literally? This isn’t that deep – but it basically means that you’re there. There’s this course of life that’s pursued by sinners. And there you are – taking it in, observing it, putting yourself right in the midst of the action, expressing curiosity and interest in it. How likely is it that one of them will call you to follow him? And if that happens, how likely is it that you’ll refuse – that you’ll be able to turn away from their influence? I mean, you’re already standing right there. I mean, why would you be standing there if you weren’t slightly interested in following that way of life?
But the blessed man doesn’t stand there. He keeps his distance from the course of life that sinners are characterized as taking. He doesn’t flirt with it. He can have mercy on some, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh, as James says in the New Testament. But he’s not flirting with the lifestyle of those to whom he’s trying to minister.
Well, what else does the blessed man avoid? He doesn’t sit in the seat of the scornful.
Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “Seat”
Let’s deal with the word translated as “seat” here first. This word can definitely mean “seat” as in a chair or place where one physically sits down. It can also speak of the site or location or position of something like a city. Or it could speak of the dwelling place of a person.
Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “Sit”
I think it’s the last of those meanings that’s particularly in view here. We’re given an image of the place where a certain group of individuals dwell. One reason I think that is because the word “sit” can mean “dwell”.
Genesis 13 speaks of Abraham and Lot not being able fit in the land while they were “sitting” together. In that context, it simply means that Abraham and Lot were dwelling in the same area in close proximity.
Or Genesis 4:20 where a man is said to be the father of all those who “sit” in tents. Of course, that’s just saying that they dwell in tents. Tents are the place where they live.
Psalm 1 1 Meaning: “Scornful”
Well – back to Psalm 1 – what’s the real issue with these places where certain people are viewed as dwelling? The problem is the actual people dwelling in those places. These men are described as scornful. What does that mean?
The NET Bible gives a helpful overview of this kind of man. It says that these are “…arrogant individuals (Prov 21:24) who love conflict (Prov 22:10) and vociferously reject wisdom and correction (Prov 1:22; 9:7–8; 13:1; 15:12).” Do you know anyone like that? I do!
Now, picture what the dwelling place of a man like that is like – or a group of these men living in close proximity. It seems that often when the psalms speak of a home atmosphere, they illicit feelings of comfort, of belonging, of protection. But in a gathering place of scorners, you wouldn’t have that. You would have strife and all the calamities that attach themselves to an utter rejection of wisdom and godly living.
A blessed man has no interest in surrounding himself with the likes of these folks. He wouldn’t want to pitch his tent in the camp of these characters, either literally or metaphorically.
Psalm 1 1 Meaning: Summary
So, to summarize Psalm 1:1 – the blessed man takes no pleasure and has no interest in the advice, or the lifestyles, or the atmospheres permeated and created by people who are guilty before the Lord because of their sin, who rather than seek God’s forgiveness, they gather themselves together to actually shamelessly celebrate their rejection of God and his wisdom.
Back to our Psalm 1 Commentary.Tags: Old Testament Poetry Old Testament Wisdom