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Series Theme: Short Meditations in the Psalms: Psalm 1

Series Contents:

Psa 1




Psa 2

Psa 3

Psa 4






Short Meditations in Psalms: 1.1 The Wicked


Psa 1:1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked


In the Old Testament blessings are seen as decrees of good from God and so our starting place has to be that the person who does what this verse says, is going to receive God's approval. Now when blessings appear in the Old Testament they are also accompanied or seen alongside curses, decrees of bad from God , so that the person who DOES listen to the wisdom of the wicked is going to get God's disapproval and, indeed more than that, also His decree of bad. In other words if you listen to this person you, as well as them, are going to be in trouble.

But who is ‘the wicked'? Apart from youth slang we don't tend to use the word ‘wicked' much today. It comes up in children's fairy stories though, when you encounter a “wicked witch”. Children will simply tell you that she is someone who is bad! She plots and schemes wrong things. Indeed when you talk about a wicked person you don't refer to someone who sometimes gets it wrong. No, when you speak of wicked person you mean someone who is given over to wrong, who's disposition or outlook is to do wrong and everything they think or do is essentially based in wrong. When we speak of a ‘criminal' we don't think of a person who has done one thing wrong but whose outlook in life is wrong. So it is with the wicked. They are people whose very foundation of life is based on wrong. Their thinking is wrong and their attitudes are wrong and so all their schemes and plans are wrong.

It is because it goes right back into their thinking, that the psalmist says don't listen to their counsel. Their counsel – their wisdom, their advice, their ideas, will always be wrong and it will be to do wrong or will have wrong outcomes. Now note that the thing to avoid is their ‘counsel' because their wisdom is no wisdom, but also note that they are only too ready to share their views. Such people tend to have a lofty view of themselves and so as soon as they find someone who will listen, they will share their wrong thinking.

Perhaps we should ask ourselves the question, who do I listen to? The reality is, of course, being people who live in a TV-age and an age of incredible communications that go on by the means of social sites such as Facebook and Twitter, we ‘listen' to possibly hundreds of people a month. But ‘listen' here means actively take in and agree with what they are saying. Christians are the minority in the West and so when we listen to others we are actually listening to those who starting place is very different from ours. The classic example of this has to be the morality portrayed on TV & films. Be careful, be aware, be discerning.




Short Meditations in Psalms: 1.1b Walking


Psa 1:1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked


In these injunctions not to do something in the first verses of this Psalm, there is an activity that varies. In this first case it is a call not to walk with this person. Walking tends to indicate a time of fellowship and sharing. When you go out for a walk with a friend, you are going out on a time that you know will not be silent. Part of the joy of walking is just being able to share with one another without interruption. When you walk with someone you usually know that person and accept them. Walking with them is the first stage of accepting them. The injunction here is not even to get into a place where such people are acceptable to you – at least in terms of their thinking. Once you accept the outlook of other people, you are open to their views and before you know where you are, you are accepting and taking on board their views, taking them into your own life. If you do that with a wicked person, you are in trouble.

Now the psalmist will move on to talk about ‘sinners', where the emphasis is on people who do wrong, but in this first line it is against people who THINK wrong. Wrong is at their very heart; they are committed to it. They are not people who simply do wrong things without thought; they are given over to it in their heart and in their thinking. This is why we shouldn't walk with them or listen to their counsel.

Now we might have a question – didn't Jesus mix with sinners? Well yes, he did, because he took every opportunity to share his Father's love with whoever would receive it, but I also note that he didn't try and do that with those whose hearts were set against him. The ‘sinners' he met with, gladly talked with him because they were sinners more by birth rather than by commitment. Where there is someone utterly committed to wrong, there is little hope that they will receive us (and yet we never know!). Where there is someone who just does things thoughtlessly, there is hope for them, because they are more likely to be open to listen. Be Jesus to all people, but beware those who have settled mentally in their wrong and who are committed to it.

Even when we mix with those who have not surrendered to God as Jesus might have done, be careful to realise that the base for their life is very different than yours and so be careful that you don't take on board ungodly counsel from them, for they may lead you astray in your thinking. You will need to be prepared to say, well, I don't actually go along with that because I know it is contrary to God's design and the evidence is that it brings harm if not destruction. Be ready.




Short Meditations in Psalms: 1.1c Viewpoints


Psa 1:1 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 scoffers


I'm never quite sure if this is a downward spiral or upward spiral. The thinking behind it being a downward spiral says that

(a) when you walk with someone that is a limited encounter;

(b) when you stand with someone that is a more static or lasting encounter and

(c) when you sit with someone you have settled with them.

The downward spiral says,

  • the wicked = those with wrong thoughts,
  • sinners = those whose actions are wrong, but
  • scoffers = those who are actively antagonistic.

Wrong thoughts are bad, but wrong actions are worse, but outright mockery is attack on your faith and that is even worse.

But the truth is that you can see these things in exactly the opposite way round.

  • Walking, other commentators say, is ongoing relational encounter that is the worst possible, because it has accepted those who are morally set against good. The first description is thus the worst.
  • Standing, these commentators say, is a shorter, temporary encounter and sinners are those who do wrong but have not committed their lives to wrong as the wicked have.
  • Sitting is a fairly passive action, say this school of thinking and so that is not so bad as the other two actions. Scoffers are those who challenge the truth but who don't blatantly do wrong and certainly haven't given their lives over to wrong.

Perhaps we all try to be too clever when it comes to trying to work out what was in the psalmist's mind. Whatever it is, we have three expressions of ungodliness and our thinking has at least warned us that wrong can be that which derides the truth, that which is seen in wrong actions and that which is a way of thinking.

For those of us who are Christians, the warning must be (a) to avoid becoming cynical and mocking of the foibles and failures of the Christian community. It should say to us, (b) watch your behaviour for actions are the outworking of a wrong mind and actions lead you on deeper into wrong ways. Don't do anything that is questionable. But then watch your whole way of thinking to ensure that it is godly and not humanistic or materialistic. Ensure it is God-centred, not self-centred.

For us as Christians, it is quite simple: ensure your life is surrendered wholly to God and that you do not exclude Him from any part of your life. Who we are seen to be, starts in the mind as a way of thinking, which develops into an attitude, and is then expressed in words or actions, and then our words and actions lead to habits. Yes, these are negative warnings and the positive will follow, but we need to heed these first