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Not a Monkey-Paw-God
Croesus, king of Lydia, died screaming his final words – “Oh Solon, oh Solon, oh Solon, count no man happy until he is dead.” The pagan gods were powerful, but fickle. And the state of man living under them was always uncertain. A short story by WW Jacobs, published at the beginning of the twentieth century, concluded with the moral, in a very creepy way, that you shouldn’t mess with fate. But Psalm 1 tells us that, as Christians, we stand in a very different relationship with God and with the fate that he has decreed for us – “blessed is he,” “happy is he,” “fortunate is he.” There are various ways of translating it. But it all amounts to the same. There is a man that lives, walks, stands, and sits, that you can know lives in the blessing of God, experiences his joy and happiness.
1. The Blessings of the Man Who does not Walk
The word “blessed” (see Gen. 30:13) in the Hebrew is actually in the plural, indicating not just a singular blessing, but an overarching blessedness. This blessing is for the man who does not walk, stand, or sit with the wicked.
You must understand that to be a Christian necessarily requires being set apart. The Jewish Talmud makes this profound observation here – “…if he has walked he will finally stand, and if he has stood he will finally sit, and if he has sat he will finally scorn, and if he has scorned, of him the Scripture says ‘and if thou scornest thou alone shalt bear it.’” Sin is progressive. Faithfulness sees this and cuts it off at the beginning.
Instead of giving himself to sinful fellowship, the godly man gives himself to God’s word, and in it finds an exquisite delight. The Bible is the word of God that called you into this body, that called you to life itself. The command to immerse yourself in the Bible (Deut. 6:6-9, Josh. 1:8-9) is like a command to never skip dessert.
3. The Tree
Don’t rush past this image, because in it is pictured the profound blessing of God that you need to hear. God will make you like a deeply rooted tree (Jer. 17:7-9). So many of your fears, your temptations, your stresses, your pathologies are all answered in this picture. Your fleeting life is made permanent, made fixed when you find yourself inside of this blessedness (Ps. 121:3-4).
4. The Chaff
And you can see the blessedness of the godly even more when you see the curse against the ungodly. They are chaff, which the wind (the Spirit) drives away. Their moment is always fleeting, here for a moment seeming to dominate, and then gone. What a tragedy that someone would trade the permanent blessedness that they have with God in order to walk with the chaff.
5-6. Standing in the Judgment
If we were to simply read the first four verses of this Psalm on their own, it would be easy to come away with a health and wealth interpretation of this passage. But here we see that the blessedness, the permanence that God promises is ultimately fulfilled in the final judgment. There are still a partial fulfillment in this life. But the final fulfillment of this passage is a scene that takes place at the end of history, before the throne of God (John 5:29, Rev. 20:11-13). And those who stand with sinners in this life, will not stand with the righteous in the life to come. The final judgment is a terrifying thing to consider (Acts 24:25, Joel 2:11). But here we are promised that God knows you and he will make you like a tall, thriving tree to stand in that day.