Part 4 in a 4-part series

By Will Whyte

Introduction

We now come to the conclusion of our study of Psalm 1. There are two WAYS to follow, each with their own characteristics and actions (Ps 1:1–2). The WAY of the righteous, and the righteous person, is pictured as a strong and sturdy tree whose roots go deep into the ground. This tree is nourished by the Lord’s instruction and prospers in everything (Ps 1:3). In conclusion, we will look at the metaphorical description of the wicked person and discover their outcome. Finally, the Psalm concludes with an overall statement regarding the Lord and his sovereign involvement.

A Metaphor for Nothingness

Psalm 1:4 begins by abruptly disconnecting itself from the thoughts of the three previous verses. Verses 1, 2, and 3 all begin by highlighting the righteous (or blessed) person,

V.1 “blessed is the one…

V.2 “Their delight is in…

V.3 “They are like a tree…

But verse four jumps on the scene with an abrupt “NOT SO THE WICKED.” Quickly disconnecting the following thought from the previous three verses. The only remaining link between verses 3 and 4 is the agricultural simile that is used to describe the individuals. The righteous one in verse 3 is a resilient tree who not only withstands the winds but continually produces in seasons. The wicked one, however, is, “like chaff that the wind blows away” (Psalm 1:4). This contrast is applied by the prophet Jeremiah, when he says,

This is what the Lord says:

‘Cursed is the one who trusts in humans, who depends on flesh for their strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That one will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. That one will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. That one will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. They do not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.’”

Jeremiah 17:5–8

In actuality, although very similar, Psalm 1:4 paints a much darker image for the wicked than Jeremiah. Jeremiah describes their fate, as in their future outcomes, “that one will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity…that one will dwell in the parched places….” Psalm 1:4 however, describes their current state. It emphasizes what a person IS and not merely what they will experience. It states that their very life is “chaff that the wind blows.” This idea is also evidenced in the New Testament as Paul will state “when you were dead in your sins…God made you alive with Christ” (Colossians 2:13). Paul uses the exact same idea in stating that “we were dead in our sins”—not that we were “dying in our sins” but, rather we were dead! In the same sense that when people come to Christ their future outcome changes—they will have life; their present outcome also immediately changes—they receive the life of God at that moment. The eternal life that is offered by Jesus is both a present and future reality and experience. Thus, as Psalm 1 describes for us, the wicked one, whose future will be nothingness, is also presently described as nothing, as, “chaff that the wind blows away.

The metaphor of chaff is uniquely opposite to that of a tree. A tree is rooted in the ground, tall, thick and sturdy. Chaff, on the other hand, “is the ultimate in what is rootless, weightless, and useless.” (1) The imagery is that of winnowing. The process in which one tosses up grain to let the wind blow off any chaff or impurities. When you look up “chaff” in the dictionary it includes such definitions as: 1) straw cut up for fodder, 2) worthless matter; refuse. “Chaff” is nothingness, it is easily blown over and away, it lacks the “internal fortitude to endure difficulties.” (2) Therefore, the wicked, like “chaff,” in its uselessness and weightlessness, will be unable to “stand in the judgment…[or in]…the assembly of the righteous ones” (Ps. 1:5), and in the end “will perish” (Ps 1:6)

The Importance of Community

This Psalm is addressed to an individual—“blessed is the one.” I assume it is usually read and applied individually, which is fine. However, an important aspect of this Psalm must be noted. Although it is written to the individual—“blessed is the one,”—the “wicked” (the wicked, sinners, and mockers of v.1) and the “righteous” (literally “righteous people” in vv. 5, 6) are all in the plural. This Christian life includes many influences, and many enemies and allies. We all go along the “way” together. Our temptations are not one but many, but we have many other “righteous” people to encourage, strengthen and walk along side of us.

The Lord’s Sovereign Involvement

The Lord is finally mentioned in this Psalm. Although he is not mentioned until the very end of the Psalm, this has no bearing on his influence on “the righteous” who walk in his “way” (Ps 1:6). Psalm 1:6 more literally reads, “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous.…” In Hebrew, the word typically translated “watches over” is “yad’a” (pronounced: ya da). It expresses an intimate involvement and knowledge of a given situation or person(s). In Genesis 4:1 “Adam knew (yada) Eve and she became pregnant…” and in Exodus 2:24–25 God “heard their groaning and remembered his covenant…God looked on the Israelites and knew” (yada). Therefore, much like God is intimately aware of and involved in the situations of his people, he is also aware of and more involved than we will ever know with our own individual pilgrimage as we walk “the way of the righteous” (Ps 1:6). We do not walk this journey alone; we walk it in community and under the watchful eye and involvement of the Lord.

Hopefully this verse by verse journey through Psalm 1 has provided you with a greater understanding of the Christian walk, as well as some useful metaphors to reflect on as you take time to ponder your own pilgrimage. Take some time this week to think of the ways God has been involved and watched over your walk, and reflect and thank God for those other “righteous people” who have walked beside you and strengthened you along the way.

 

1)    Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1—72: An Introduction and Commentary. TOTC. 65.
2)    deClaisse-Walford, et al., The Book of Psalms. NICOT. 61

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