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Which Path to Take? Part 1

“Blessed is the man (the godly person) 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 (instruction) of the Lord, and on his law,  he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2, NKJV)


“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”


Ah, the profound philosophical musings of the late great baseball catcher-coach-manager Yogi Berra! His renowned “Yogi-isms” were often built on the humor of the incongruous. His quips, “It’s deja vu all over again,” and “The future ain’t what it used to be,” have snuck into our culture’s oft-quotables. The clash of two conflicting, incompatible meanings within his quotes makes them so hilarious and memorable.


But not everything that’s incongruous is funny. Nor can incongruous paths be taken simultaneously. Psalm 1 is a wonderful lesson illustrating those facts.


This delightful psalm that opens the Book of Psalms lays out our life’s right and wrong paths. All of us. Every single one of us. And it requires us to make a wise choice because the consequences are profound and permanent.


In two parts, I want to walk you through Psalm 1 to outline the paths the psalmist describes. It’s a little like Truth and Consequences. The pursuit of truth or refusal to do so determines the consequences of the person’s path of choice.


So, shall we take a stroll?


Verses 1-2 describe what a godly person does and doesn’t do. Simply put, a godly person doesn’t take the path of the wicked, the sinner, or the scornful person. The godly person won’t “walk, stand, or sit” with them.


Now, I’m not saying we should isolate ourselves from such people. That would be ridiculous since the world is full of wicked, sinning, and scornful people, and we would have to leave the planet to get away from them (see Paul, 1 Corinthians 5:9-11). On the contrary, they need to see how Jesus transforms people into good and godly people. We must show them “Jesus in the flesh,” our flesh, by becoming a living representation of Jesus right before them.


What the psalmist is saying is we shouldn’t do what they do. Allow me to clarify the meaning of the Hebrew words in the text.


“To walk in the counsel of the wicked” means to live one’s way of life according to the advice, purposes, and plans of those hostile to God. The wicked are those who are aligned against God, live a life opposed to His ways, and follow their own counsel, purposes, and plans.


“To stand in the way of sinners” means to fix one’s moral character according to those who offend God and are condemned for opposing Him. Sinners are those whose opposition to God and His will is their habitually immoral lifestyle.


“To sit in the seat of scoffers” means to join in with those who openly ridicule God and defiantly reject his will, which is spelled out by His Word. Scoffers are those who mock and scorn others who are trying to please God and do His will.


Notice the progression: These people go from simply following their ungodly counsel, purposes, and plans to making sin a lifestyle to reviling both God and His righteous children. All three are linked by the common thread of refusing to set God’s Word as the benchmark of their lives and use it as their moral compass.


On the contrary, a godly person embraces the whole of God’s Word as their only guide for life. They align their lives with God, follow His ways, and tightly grip His counsel, purposes, and plans. The godly person’s choices and actions are by habit based on God’s standard of right and wrong. Finally, the godly person respects and admires those living to please God by doing His will.


As you can see, these two paths of the righteous and the unrighteous are vastly different and will never cross. Trying to walk both paths simultaneously is as ridiculous as simultaneously walking both edges of the Grand Canyon. It just ain’t gonna work. The two paths are utterly incompatible.


Okay, so we see how ungodly people become the way they are. How do godly people become and stay godly? It’s pretty simple.


Verse 2 says, “His delight is in the law (Hebrew – Torah, instruction) of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Notice the difference between verses one and two. The ungodly person follows their own instructions and self-made laws, while the godly person follows God’s instructions and laws. See? Simple.


The godly person is that way because they delight in and meditate on God’s instructions. Yes, the psalmist said it. Godly people delight in God’s laws.


Let me address the elephant in the room again. Today, so many Christians don’t have a clue about what God’s law means. To the misinformed Christians, God’s Law is a bad thing, filled with commands we can’t follow, pointing out how evil, wicked, mean, and nasty we are. It’s such a downer, you know? But thankfully, along came meek and mild Jesus and the New Covenant, where everything is about love, and we don’t have to worry about obeying that evil Old Covenant Law. “Ummm, except for those Ten Commandments. But that’s all I’m doin’, okay?”


Think again, dear Christian (if you are one of these folks). I refer you to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:17-18, “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished.”


“Abolish” has the sense of doing away with something. And no, “fulfill” doesn’t mean the same things as is often used today. For example, if you’re working in a fast food joint and you’ve fulfilled the food order, you can do away with the order because it no longer applies. The customer has their food as ordered, right?


However, “fulfill” in this verse doesn’t mean “to satisfy or bring to an end” ( If it did, we would read Jesus’ declaration: “Don’t think that I came to do away with the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to do away with them but to do away with them.” See? Incongruous.


As I’ve shared, “fulfill or abolish” means “correctly interpreting or applying God’s command or not.” If we correctly interpret God’s command, then we give that command its most correct and fullest meaning. Therefore, we can obey it as God intended. However, if we fail to interpret God’s command correctly, with His true intent and purposes, even if we think we obey it, we can wind up breaking that command to our detriment. If we fail to interpret or obey a command correctly, we have essentially abolished it, i.e., nullified it, destroyed it, done away with it.


Jesus didn’t tell us He was going to do away with His Father’s Law/Torah/commands (that would be hugely incongruous!), He was going to teach and do them exactly as His Father intended for His people. Furthermore, Jesus affirmed that His Father’s law with its commands would remain in force for as long as it took to restore humanity to the obedient and God-loving people we were designed to be. Yet, Jesus still expects His followers to learn and follow His Father’s commands properly, just like Jesus did.


God’s Law/Torah puts the brakes on our desires and places boundaries around our behavior to stop ungodly living and encourage godly living. God’s Law serves as our instruction manual, which shows us how to function at our best and what not to do to avoid breakdowns. Undoubtedly, we can avoid a lot of trouble and enjoy much freedom if we follow God’s instructions.


Now that the pachyderm has been sent packing, the psalmist tells us it’s delighting in and meditating on God’s laws that make us godly and keep us from becoming ungodly, rotten people. So, what does it mean to delight in God’s law?


The Hebrew word for “delight” in verse 1:2 means to take pleasure; desire, longing. This definition creates a stunning contrast between the righteous taking great delight in God’s word, even yearning for it, vs. the ungodly taking great pleasure in their own understanding.


Most of us know ungodly folks who delight in their intellect and philosophies while they oppose God. The righteous may have a high intellect, but their primary desire and longing is for the Lord’s Word, and they submit their intellect to God’s thoughts. No matter how intelligent a righteous person knows they are, they know the Lord’s thoughts surpass their own. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).


Next, the Hebrew word for “meditate” means to devise, muse, and imagine, taking what we’ve learned and focusing our minds to consider it. The Hebrew word also means to mutter, toss God’s thoughts around in our mind, and mull them repeatedly. Think of a cow chewing its cud. Chew, chew, chew, swallow. Bring the cud back up and chew, chew, chew, swallow. Repeat until the grass is thoroughly ground up so the cow’s being can absorb all the needed nutrients. Disgusting, yes. But an apropos example of what biblical meditation is. Are you chewing on God’s word regularly and repeatedly to get all the spiritual nutrients you need?


Meditating is also like turning a diamond around and examining every facet. Or like tasting a delicious pastry, rolling each bite around in our mouths and savoring the various flavors. Or, like an artist studying their subject for long periods to draw out the nuances of colors.


God’s Word is living and active. The more we mentally chew on it and mull it over, the more it unfolds because the Holy Spirit is at work in us, bringing out more meaning and applications. We can say that as we chew on God’s word, it chews on us. (Now that’s a picture!)


King David, who wrote Psalm 119, meditated on God’s word because He delighted in it and didn’t want to ignore or forget the object of his desire. He wrote, “I will meditate on Your precepts and think about Your ways. I will delight in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word” (Psalm 119:15-16). Returning to Psalm 1, when does the writer say we should meditate on God’s word? Day and night. In other words, continually.


That’s what makes the difference between the godly and ungodly person, the place of God’s Word in our daily, moment-by-moment lives.


In the next part, we’ll see why devoting ourselves to the Lord’s Word is such an important choice. Spoiler alert! It’s because the consequences are immense and eternal. When the wicked arrive at their destination, like Yogi Berra, they’ll declare, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”




Shining the Light of God’s Truth on the Road Ahead


Pastor Jay Christianson

The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts


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