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Which Path to Take? Part 2

“He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.  The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” (Psalm 1:3-6, NKJV)


In my previous part, we observed two types of people, the ungodly and the godly, and what made them that way. The psalmist describes the ungodly as:


1)      The Wicked. These people have set the course of their lives the way they want to and not God’s way. The Hebrew word for walk is halak. It means to “walk, proceed, move, or go away.” The psalmist uses halak figuratively to refer to a manner of life or lifestyle. In Judaism, halak is the root for halachah, the body of laws that make the ordinary acts of life into acts of spiritual significance ( According to the psalmist, the laws, instructions, and guidelines (halachah) you use to direct how you walk (halak) through life determine your ultimate destiny. Therefore, we’d better embrace and follow God’s laws, instructions, and guidelines if we want to be godly.


But that isn’t what the wicked do. Their counsel (Hebrew – advice, purpose, plan) becomes their halachah, directing their walk (halak) away from the Lord. Therefore, their lives will produce acts of ungodliness or spiritual insignificance. Why? Because their lives are based on what they want, not what the Lord of life wills.


2)      The Sinners. This is the next step in the progression. These people take a stand for sin and against God. Because of their anti-God orientation and choices, they’ve planted themselves firmly on the path that opposes the Lord. Sinners move past choosing a self-centered, anti-God counsel, purposes, and plans and make it their way of life. They’re acting against God’s way, taking a stand against Him, and justifying it. They choose to do evil actively, habitually opposing God and His will.


3)      The Scorners. These people not only defiantly reject the Lord’s Word and take a stand for ungodly choices and actions, but they mock and scorn godly people who try to please God and do His will by living their lives His way.


Again, here’s the progression: From following their ungodly counsel, purposes, and plans to adopting a sinful lifestyle to reviling God and His righteous children.


Not so with the godly, righteous person. They orient their lives to God’s Word (His will), live it, and bless those doing the same because they delight in and long for the Lord’s instructions and guidelines. So much so that they consume God’s Word and let it infuse their entire being.


There you have it, two paths. These two diverging and incompatible paths lead through the landscape of a person’s life and end in two profoundly different destinations. Let’s look at those landscapes and the destinations.


Two Landscapes

The godly person’s landscape. “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3). When a godly person delights in and meditates on the Lord’s instructions, they become like a well-watered flourishing tree.


Take a moment and imagine sitting under a tree on a warm summer day. The sun is bright, illuminating the world around you. Under the canopy of leaves, the coolness of the air wafts by as each leaf rustles above you. A small nearby stream flows with cool water as it gently winds its way between the banks. The rustling leaves and gurgling water make it feel like you’re sitting in God’s auditorium, listening to His gentle symphony as every note intertwines to wash over your soul.


Get the picture? Verse 3 becomes even more vibrant when we look at it Hebraically in terms of function rather than the Western mindset focusing on form.


What is “Living Water”? Living water moves like a stream, a river, rain, or the ocean. Living water is always fresh because it moves from source to outflow. “Dead water” has an inflow but no outflow, like the Dead Sea in Israel. The Jordan River flows into it, but there’s no outflow, only evaporation. That’s why it’s called the “Dead” Sea. Dead water can also have an outflow, but with no inflow, it dies as it dries up. Or dead water can have no constant inflow and outflow, and you have a putrid swamp.


The thing about Dead water is it harms trees. It eventually dries up, causing the tree to languish and die. Pathogens thrive in stagnant water or minerals concentrate through evaporation, killing the tree. As we all learn as children, water is a tree’s main life-support, and freshwater is needed to revitalize it continually.


One of Jesus’ promises under the New Covenant is for us to experience a constant flow of spiritual life through us via the Holy Spirit, characterized as Living Water (John 7:38-39, 4:10-11). Without Jesus and His Spirit moving in, through, and out of us, we are a “dead tree” with no spiritual life. We’re like the proverbial dead tree that hasn’t toppled over yet. But when the Living Water of God’s Word, activated and energized by the Holy Spirit, moves through us, we bring life to those around us. That’s bearing fruit.


What does it mean for the godly to be fruit-bearing? As bearing fruit is our natural expectation for a fruit tree, it’s natural and expected for a righteous person to produce words and actions reflecting their righteous God-given nature. To not reflect God and His ways is to have a fruitless, dead existence. What did Jesus say happens to trees that don’t bear fruit? Oh yeah, they’re destroyed. Before that, though, He’ll do everything He can to make you, His fruit tree, fruitful.


God’s instructions convey spiritual life and guide us to thriving and fruitfulness, living a vibrant spiritual life that reflects our Divine Horticulturalist and nourishes others. Bearing fruit reveals God through us and is a blessing we share with others.


I’ve never seen a tree eat its own fruit, but I have seen people walking through apple orchards enjoying the juicy sweetness of the fall crop. Yes, we benefit from personal spiritual fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, Galatians 5:22-23), but let’s not be so self-focused. These fruits of the Spirit are a blessing for others as well.


Aren’t they blessed when we walk in love, are joyful around them, live peacefully with them, and are patient, kind, and good to them? Doesn’t our faithfulness to the Lord lead to gentleness and self-control that touches others? Of course. The fruit is not just for us. Growth is for us, fruit is for everyone to enjoy, and Living Water, i.e., spiritual life, is crucial for both.


What does it mean not to wither? As freshwater flows, the tree and its fruit grow. Likewise, staying spiritually clean is essential to keeping the Living Water moving. Sin staunches the flow of spiritual life, much like kinking a hose. What happens when we let sin take over by resisting the Spirit or refusing to read God’s Word? “All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind” (Isaiah 64:6). Sound familiar? Sin cuts off the water supply and causes us to wither. Living water continually cleanses us and keeps us vibrant.


God’s Word, energized and illuminated by the Holy Spirit, is the Living Water we need to thrive and bear fruit. But Jesus wants more than just a few pieces of fruit. He wants a bumper crop!


What does it mean to prosper in whatever we do? Lots of money and stuff? That’s what the Prosperity Gospel teachers claim. While biblical prosperity can undoubtedly include the material realm, the Hebrew word for “prosper” in this psalm means “to advance, make progress, succeed, be profitable.” It’s more than an abundance of material things.


Prospering encompasses progress in our spiritual growth and being productive for God for the sake of ourselves and others. Prosperity is about the whole person and every area of life. And just because one area of our lives isn’t succeeding, making progress, and being profitable doesn’t mean we aren’t prospering in many other areas.


Prosperity in this context means the Lord is with us, helping us succeed in our spiritual development, which eventually affects the rest of our lives. But when it comes to the ungodly, it is an entirely different landscape.


The ungodly person’s landscape. “The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away” (Psalm 1:4).


First, they’re spiritually dry because they either don’t have the Living Water of the Spirit coursing through their lives, or they’ve purposefully cut off the flow of the Spirit and Word’s work in them. They become like chaff.


Chaff is the outer husk that’s left after the grain is crushed. There’s no nutrition in chaff. It’s dry and worthless. Therefore, it’s separated from what the farmer wants – the kernel. How? The farmer scoops up the threshed grain and throws it into the air. The valuable kernel has weight so it falls at the farmer’s feet. The chaff is so light the slightest breeze blows it away.


Do you see the difference God’s law, instructions, and guidelines make in a person’s life? The godly person is productive for God and thrives in life. The ungodly person (the wicked, sinner, and scornful) does neither. Those are the two paths from which to choose.


Two Destinations. Every path has a destination. A destination is why we select the path we’re on. When I hit the road, I’m usually not joyriding. I’m on a mission to get to a destination. When we choose a path for our lives, we also choose a destination.


Will we be with the Lord or separated from Him forever? “Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psalm 1:5-6).


The psalmist is clear. The destination for both paths is judgment. But the outcomes of each path’s Judgment Day are vastly different.


Per our grain and chaff illustration, the godly fall at His feet when the wind of God’s judgment blows and remains there. The ungodly, however, will get blown away, never to be seen again.


The contrast is truly stunning. A well-rooted, healthy, thriving tree bends even in the strongest wind. But even in the lightest breeze, the chaff is carried away. Why? One has roots, and the other doesn’t. Only the godly will stand with the Lord on that Judgement Day of Separation, much like a tree that has developed deep roots stands in the wind. And as we know from nature, the stronger the wind, the deeper the roots.


The wind of God’s judgment will be enough to separate the godly from the ungodly. The godly (trees) will have “roots,” and the ungodly (chaff) will have none. The wicked follow their own counsel, purposes, and plan. They take a stand but aren’t grounded with roots sunk deep into the source of life. And standing there with no root, they revile God and His people, falsely thinking they’re standing strong. What a shock that Day will bring to them. The wind of the Word that helped the godly develop deep roots will blow away the ungodly who aren’t rooted in their relationship with the Lord.


The godly follow the Lord’s counsel, purposes, and plan. They stand with deep roots and prosper as they bless everyone with the fruit of good character, words, and deeds.


Nothing about chaff is beneficial, useful, stable, or productive. But everything about a thriving fruit is beneficial, useful, stable, and productive.


And so, the psalmist tells us the wicked will perish (Hebrew – vanish, go astray, be destroyed; die, be exterminated) because they have no connection to the source of life. The Lord is the source, and His Word via the Holy Spirit is the channel through which His life flows. But they refuse it. Therefore, their only option is death. That’s their path’s end.


But godly people are firmly rooted in the source of life. Their only option is life, and what a great option that is.


The psalmist says the Lord knows the way of the godly. Why? Because their way is His way. Our Heavenly Father is intimately involved with His righteous ones. For those who attend to the Lord, the Lord will attend to them. But on Judgment Day, the ungodly will only hear, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!” (Matthew 7:23).


Your commitment to the Lord’s law, instructions, and guidelines reveals who you are. There are only two clear choices. Embrace God’s Word and thrive, or don’t and die.


Which is your choice?




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


Pastor Jay Christianson

The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts


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