Tom Lowe

Psalm 1


1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.



Psalm 1 is a wisdom Psalm and focuses on God’s Word, God’s blessing on those who obey it and meditate on it, and God’s ultimate judgment on those who rebel. Wisdom Psalms also wrestle with the problem of evil in the world and why God permits the prosperity of the wicked who reject His Law. Other wisdom Psalms include 10, 12, 15, 19, 32, 34, 37, 49, 50, 52, 53, 73, 78, 82, 91, 92, 94, 111, 112, 119, 127, 128, 133, and 139. While this psalm depicts two ways, it actually describes three different persons and how they relate to the blessings of the Lord.

This psalm combines two characteristic interests of postexilic Judaism, the trend toward legalism and the teaching concerning retribution. And the trend in the psalm toward the Law and its study points to a time of origin of around 397 B.C., when the priestly law was introduced to the restored community in Jerusalem and Judah. The psalm was placed first because it was intended to be an introduction to the book of Psalms as a whole. How relevant, then, is its portrayal of the two ways of life which are differentiated with such variety and sharpness in the Psalter! The good man (blessed man) becomes stable, gracious, and prosperous; the evil man becomes empty, futile, and forgotten.





1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.


God’s covenant with Israel made it clear that He would bless their obedience and judge their disobedience (Lev. 26, Deut. 28). The word “blessed” is asher, the name of one of Jacobs sons (Gen. 30.12, 13)[i]. The person described here met the conditions, and therefore God blessed him. If we want God’s blessing, we too must meet the conditions.


Religious life is the “blessed” life: and blessedness is more than happiness. The blessed man is right with God and enjoys the spiritual peace and joy that results from that relationship.  “The man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly” is the man that does not live his life according to their advice, or direction, or manner of living; who does not associate with them nor follow their evil promptings or examples. The term “walking” as it is used here means choosing, and making progress or continuing in it. “Nor standeth” denotes hardness and obstinacy. “In the way” means their course of action, or manner of conversation; in the practice of those things which they chose to do, which is sometimes called a man’s way (Ps. 25.4[ii]). “Of sinners” are those who give up themselves to the power and practice of sin; making it their great concern and delight. “Nor sitteth in the seat” denotes their association or incorporation of themselves with them, a constant and resolved perseverance in their wicked choices, with great content and security; and a great proficiency and eminence in the school of wickedness, and an ability and readiness to lead others to come along with them. “Of the scornful” refers to those who are not only diseased with sin, but reject, despise, and ridicule all remedies; who poke fun at sin and at God’s threatenings and judgments against sinners; who feel it’s their duty to laugh at goodness and good men.


This verse states the practice of the blessed man. A bit further in the psalm we will see the power of the blessed man, and finally his permanency. In this verse we see the negative side of the practice of the blessed man. We are told what the happy man does NOT do. Here we see three positions or postures. Blessed is the man, or happy is the man, who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, or stand in the way of sinners, nor set in the seat of the scornful. The person who does these things is not a happy person. He goes through three stages. First he associates with the ungodly, then he gets in with sinners, and finally he joins in with the scornful. There was a pastor at a church I attended at one time who liked to say, “Sin will always take you farther than you want to go.” That is what happens to this unfortunate sinner.


There is definitely regression, degeneration, and deterioration here. The blessed man does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. Counsel means “advice.” He does not listen to the ungodly. Did you ever notice that even the Lord Jesus never referred to His own reason or His own mind as a basis for a decision? Whatever He did was based on the will of God. He never said to His disciples, “Men we are going into Galilee again. I have been thinking this over, and I am smarter than you fellows, and I think this is the best thing to do according to my point of view.” That is not the way He approached His disciples. He always said, “I am going to Jerusalem because it is the will of My Father.” He spent time with His Father and knew what His will was and moved into certain areas on that basis


My friend, it is one thing to listen to counsel, and good counsel is fine, but certainly not the counsel of the ungodly. We are to walk by faith. Listening to the counsel of the ungodly is not walking by faith. Who are the ungodly? They are the people who just leave God out. There is no fear of God before their eyes. They live as though God does not exist. There are multitudes of people like this around us today. They get up in the morning, never turn to God in prayer, never thank him for the food they eat, or for life or health. They just keep going on living it up. They are ungodly—they just leave God out.


The ungodly counsels the man, and now we find him standing in the way of sinners. It is the sinner who takes him from there. Sin means to “miss the mark.” They don’t quite live as they should. They are the ones Scripture speaks of when He says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14.12). Again the scriptures say, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits” (Prov. 16.2). The sinner may think he’s alright, but he is a sinner. God’s Word says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55.7). Also it says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53.6). The Father laid on the Lord Jesus all the weight of our guilt. We are sinners. That’s our picture.


The next step down from standing in the way of sinners is setting in the seat of the scornful. The scorners are atheists. Now the sinner gets the young man to set down. We are told that the third stage is that he sets in the seat of the scornful. The scornful is the atheist. He not only denies God, but he exhibits an antagonism and a hatred of God. We see this on every hand today. The scornful—they’re the ones who are absolutely opposed to God. They don’t want the Bible read in public schools or anywhere else, and they want to take “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance. They deny the Word of God. May I say to you that there is nothing lower than to deny God. The drunkard in the gutter today is not nearly as low as the man who is denying God. And if you want to know God’s attitude, here it is, “Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly” (Prov. 3.34). God is opposed to the scornful, and He will scorn them. That is a very frightful picture, by the way, which we are presented with here.


Now this is the negative side. This is what the happy man does not do. In the next verse we see what the happy man does do.


2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

Verse 2 gives the positive side of the saint and declares the kind of thoughts he is free to entertain in his life. His pleasure is to think God’s thoughts, which he can know by studying His Word. The thoughts he entertains are thoughts to which he could call the Lord’s attention. Moreover, he is a man who wills himself to meditate on the issues of life, which is something our fast-paced society needs to remember. Where there is a will to meditate there is both time and a way.

“In the Law” means the study and practice of it, which is how it appears from the context. Here, the Law of God may be understood to mean the whole doctrine delivered by God to the Church consisting of doctrines, precepts, promises, and threatenings, which are to be stored in the heart according to Psalm 37.31[iii]. This is a characteristic of a good man that he delighteth himself not only with the promises, which a bad man may do (Matt. 13.20[iv]), but even with the commands of God (Ps. 112.1[v]), which are unwelcome and burdensome to a wicked man. A godly person is not influenced by unrighteous people but by his meditation on the Word of God. Such meditation necessarily involves study and retention. This is possible only if he has a desire to do so, which is referred to here as a delight.

Many people think that if they clean up their lives a little, that is all that is necessary. But notice “his delight is in the law of the LORD.” The delight of God’s man is in the law of the Lord. In other words, he finds joy in the Word of God. I wish I could get the message out to people that the Bible is a thrilling Book. It’s not a burden; it’s not boring. It is a real delight to read and study the Word of God. Blessed in the man—happy is the man—whose delight is in the law of the Lord. Today the great tragedy we see all around us is the heartbreak of broken homes, ruined and wrecked lives—and it is caused by God’s broken Laws. The Word of God makes it very clear, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5.3). His commandments for believers today are not only the Ten Commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

The idea that being saved by grace means that you can be lawless and live like you please is not the picture given to us in the Word of God. We are not to be lawless. “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal. 5.13). Liberty is not license by any means. Of course we do not keep the Ten Commandments in order to be saved, but that doesn’t mean we are free to break them. It means, my friend, you cannot measure up to God’s Law. He demands perfection, and you and I don’t have it. We have to come to God by faith. After we are saved by faith, we are to live on a higher plane than the Law. We are to have the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, which is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control. We have the discipline and guidance of grace.

“His delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate.” “Meditate” means to think about what you have read, and to go over it in your mind until you’ve got it. Meditation is certainly something believers need to do today. Remember that James spoke of a man who beholds his natural face in a mirror, then “. . . straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was” (James 1.24). We are to meditate on the Word of God (which is God’s mirror that shows us what we really are). We are to allow the Word to shape our lives. Delighting in the Word and meditating on the Word must go together (Ps. 119.15, 16[vi]), because whatever we enjoy we think about and pursue. As God’s people we should prefer God’s Word to food (Ps. 110.103[vii]), wealth (Ps. 119.14[viii]), and friends (Ps. 119.23[ix]). The way we treat the Bible is the way we treat Jesus Christ, because the Bible is His Word to us.

“And in his law doth he meditate day and night.”  My friend, God has no program whereby you can grow and develop as a believer apart from His Word. You can become as busy as a termite in your church (and possibly with the same effect as a termite), but you won’t grow by means of activity. You will grow by meditating on the Word of God—that is, by going over it again and again in your thinking until it becomes part of your life. This is the practice of the happy man.

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

The psalmist paints a picture of the graciousness, stability, and prosperity which come to the “good man (“happy man”);” “whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” The image therefore is an expression of the prevalent view of that age that the secure and prosperous life here and now is the sign and reward of godliness. For all who take their delight in living by God’s Word, there is prosperity. Under the image of a fruitful tree, the psalmist declared that whatsoever the righteous do will prosper. But there are two qualifications that must be noted:

1.    The fruit, that is, the prosperity, is produced in its season and not necessarily immediately after planting.

2.    What the godly person does will be controlled by the Law of God (v. 2).

So if a person meditates on God’s Word, his actions will be godly, and his God-controlled activities will prosper, that is, come to their divinely directed fulfilment.

In the Old Testament, God promised material blessings to His own. Those blessings are not promised to believers today. If you have them, you can thank Him for giving you more than He promised. The important thing is to have Christ. That’s number one! All material blessings are zero. If you don’t have One before your zeros, you have only a goose egg. But if you put that One who is Christ, before your material blessings, then you are blessed indeed. But remember that He has not promised material blessings in this age.

The word rivers, in the Hebrew, is a hyperbole for abundance. The words “planted” and “rivers of water” are symbols of that which is necessary for the development of Spiritual life. A man must be planted in the “Word”—in the conception of God as the arbiter of right and wrong, and consequently must possess principles by which he lives—as the first step in godliness; he must be a man with “roots” growing deep in that which he draws life and power. And he must be planted by the rivers of the grace of God, from which he obtain constant renewal and refreshing.

In Scripture, water for drinking is a picture of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 10.4[x]), while water for washing pictures the Word of God (Ps. 119.9[xi]). Thirst for water is an image of thirst for God (Matt. 5.6[xii]), and the river is often the picture of God’s provision of spiritual blessing and help for His people (Ps. 36.8[xiii]). We can’t nourish and support ourselves; we must be rooted in Christ and drawing upon His spiritual power. To meditate on the Word (v. 2) is one source of spiritual energy, as are prayer and fellowship with God’s people.

What does rivers of water mean? This is the Word of God. Somebody may ask, “Are you sure about that? Well, I know that is what it means, because Isaiah 55.10, 11 tells me, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” God wants His Word to come down like rain. We are to get out the Word of God; and it will produce something—it will cause trees to grow.

God blesses us so that we might be a blessing to others (Ge. 12.2[xiv]). We are to become channels of God’s blessing to others. It’s a joy to receive a blessing but it is even a greater joy to be a blessing. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20.35).

The tree is a familiar image in Scripture, symbolizing both a kingdom (Matt. 13.32[xv]) and an individual (Prov. 11.30[xvi]); and because of the mostly arid terrain of Israel, a lush tree served as a fitting symbol of blessing in the Old Testament. Like a tree, the godly person is alive, beautiful, fruitful, useful, and enduring. The most important part of a tree is the hidden root system that draws up nourishment, and the most important part of a believer’s life is the “spiritual root system” that draws on the hidden resources we have in Christ (Eph. 3.17[xvii]; Col. 2.7[xviii]). This is known as “abiding in Christ” (John 15.1-9).

Trees may wither and die, but the believer who abides in Christ, stays fresh, green, and fruitful (Ps. 92.12-14[xix]). “Fruit” speaks of many different blessings; winning people to Christ (Rom. 1.13[xx]), godly character (Gal. 5.22-23[xxi]), money given to the Lord’s work (Rom. 15.28[xxii]), service and good works (Col. 1.10[xxiii]), and praise to the Lord (Heb. 13.15[xxiv]). It’s a tragedy when a believer ignores the “root system” and begins to wither. We must remember that the tree doesn’t eat the fruit; others eat it. We must also remember that the fruit isn’t the same as “results,” because fruit has in it the seed for more fruit. Fruit comes from life, the life of God flowing in and through us. Each tree “bringeth forth its fruit in its season.” It is interesting to note that God’s trees do not bring forth fruit all the time. They bring forth fruit in their season, and the power is in the Word of God. The primary business of a Christian is not soul-winning, but getting out the Word of God. It “bringeth forth its fruit in its season.” There is a time to get fruit.

God’s trees are planted (Lit. “transplanted”) trees. They are not wild-growing trees, by any means. I think this pictures being born again. Isaiah 61.3 says, “And provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” God does not use wild-grown trees. His trees are born again, taken up and set out in God’s garden—set out by the rivers of water. Trees do not plant themselves; neither do sinful people transport themselves into God’s kingdom. Salvation is His marvelous work of grace (Matt. 15.13[xxv]). However, the Christian has the responsibility of appropriating the abundant resources of God (Jer. 17.8[xxvi]), which lead to eventual productivity.

The psalmist also says: “His leaf also shall not wither.” Now the leaf is the outward testimony of the Christian. That is something that should be out all the time. God’s trees are evergreens—they never lose their testimony. And if you are a Christian, you are always an evergreen. Your leaf is the outward testimony you have in this world for Christ. All God’s children are evergreens.

The godly person pictured in verses 1-3 is surely a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to John 14.6[xxvii] is the way (v. 1), the truth (v. 2), and the life (v. 3).

4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.


The first half of the psalm describes the godly person, while the last half focuses on the ungodly, the people the godly must seek to reach with the Gospel. How desperately these people need to know God and receive His blessings in Christ! The wicked are pictured in many ways in Scripture, but the image here is chaff. In contrast to the righteous (The righteous are those who have been given the righteousness of Christ by virtue of their faith in Him.), who are like trees, the ungodly are rootless, dead, blown about, and destined for the fire. Chaff is worthless. When the wheat is winnowed, when wind blows the chaff away, and any chaff that remains is thrown into the fire. The image of the godless as wind-driven chaff can bring to mind the ultimate futility of the life that has no steady God-reference. John the Baptist used these same images of tree, fruit, and chaff to warn sinners to repent (Matt. 3.7-12). The wicked of this world seem rich and substantial, but from God’s point of view, they are cheap, unsubstantial, and destined for judgment (See Ps. 73.).No wonder Jesus used the garbage dump outside Jerusalem (gehenna) as a picture of hell, because that’s where the cheap waste ends up in the fire (Mark 9.43-48). The chaff is co near the grain, but in the end, the two are separated, and the chaff is blown away or burned. But until that happens, we have the opportunity to witness to them and seek to bring them to Christ.  


There is a day of judgment coming, and the Lord, the righteous Judge, will separate the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the goats, and the trees from the chaff, and no unbeliever will be able to stand in the assembly of the righteous. The basis of God’s judgment is His knowledge of them; the Lord knows everything, and he has personal intimacy and involvement with His righteous ones. The wicked will hear the Lord say, “I never knew you! As far as their doom is concerned, they shall be forgotten on the earth, leaving no trace, taking no root; and in the other world they will be forever excluded from the happy host of the redeemed (Matt. 13.30[xxviii]; Rev. 21.27[xxix]).


Two men, two ways, two destinies. One is a dead-end street; it leads to death. The other leads to life. God says what is right and what is wrong. We are living in a day when people are not sure what is right and what is wrong. God is sure. His Word does not change with every new philosophy that comes along. The Word “way” means one’s whole manner of life including what directs it and what it produces. The worthless life of the ungodly will not endure.


6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.


This final verse brings the psalm to a fitting conclusion. The way of the righteous persists because it exists in the mind and will of God; but the way of the ungodly is not even known to him: it is outside the patient process of the divine order. Therefore, let all men fear Him, and let Christian men rejoice.


God knows all men; he knows the way they go, though their way may be dark and difficult. Nothing is hidden from Him who bottles out tears (Ps. 56.8[xxx]); and He will not let us be overburdened. And though the ungodly may appear to prosper at the expense of the righteous, it shall be only for a moment: Ultimately the way of the ungodly shall perish (See Ps. 37.). Therefore, rest in the Lord. Your blessedness is better than the ill-gotten gains of the ungodly, and will last longer.

The verb knoweth (knows) doesn’t mean that God is aware of them intellectually and has the godly in His mind. Rather, it means that God has chosen them and watched over them and brought them finally to his glory. The word “know” is used as it is in Amos 3.2, to mean, “to choose, to enter into covenant relationship with, to be personally acquainted with. “The Jewish Publication Society translation of Amos 3.2 is, “You alone hive singled out of all the families of the earth.” That same translation renders verse 6 as, “For the Lord cherishes the way of the righteous . . .” At the last judgment, Jesus says to the wicked, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7.23).

Perish simply means “lost.” It is a word of finality, if you please. The wicked are going to perish: Proverbs 10.28 tells us: “The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.” We are cautioned: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt. 7.13, 14). The wide, broad way is like a funnel in that you enter at the big end, as you continue, it becomes narrower and narrower, and finally leads to death. You enter the narrow way by Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. As you continue, the way becomes broader and broader, and this way leads to life. In John 10.10, Christ says, “. . . I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” What a glorious picture of the blessed and happy man is presented in the first psalm!

This psalm begins with “blessed” and ends with “perish.” True believers are blessed in Christ (Eph. 1.3[xxxi]). They have received God’s blessing, and they ought to be a blessing to others, especially the chaff that will one day be thrown into the fire. Let’s seek to win as many of them as we can.



[i]  And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a second son. And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name ASHER.

[ii] Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.

[iii] The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.

[iv] But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

[v] Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.

[vi] I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.

[vii] How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

[viii] I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.

[ix] Princes also did sit and speak against me: but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes.

[x] And drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

[xi] How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.

[xii] Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

[xiii] They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.

[xiv] "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

[xv] Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches."

[xvi] The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.

[xvii] So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,

[xviii] Rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

[xix] The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green,

[xx] I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.

[xxi] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

[xxii] So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way.

[xxiii] And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,

[xxiv]Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name.  

[xxv] He replied, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.

[xxvi] Let my persecutors be put to shame, but keep me from shame; let them be terrified, but keep me from terror. Bring on them the day of disaster; destroy them with double destruction.

[xxvii] Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

[xxviii] Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

[xxix] And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.

[xxx] Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?

[xxxi] Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.