“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” (Psalm 1:1)
The First Psalm is a contrast between two different types of people on two very different paths. The blessed, righteous man is described by that which he does and does not do. This opening Psalm culminates in the Sixth verse where we are told that “the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
Two paths. Two destinations.
But how is it that so many of God’s people, people whose destination is not the same as the “wicked”, are walking on the same path? Why do we walk on the path of the wicked if we do not wish to end up in the same destination? We can argue, of course, that those who do so may not really be God’s people after all or else they would not be content to walk on paths which lead away from the Lord. Perhaps many of these are like those poor souls whom the Lord Jesus described in Matthew 7:21-23:
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (KJV)
Maybe a great many of these people are only fooling themselves. But are there not many who, like the Prodigal Son of the parable, are sons and daughters indeed who have merely taken a wrong turn and started down a path which will take them further and further from the comforts of their Father’s House?
Consider the example from Scripture of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. The Bible calls Lot a “righteous man” (2 Peter 2:7) and he surely must have been or else he would have perished in the same judgment that befell the rest of Sodom (cf. Genesis 18:25). But when we look at Lot’s life, it quickly becomes apparent that this man was not walking on a righteous man’s path. For he walked in the counsel of the wicked when he chose the lush Jordan Valley to graze his livestock (Genesis 13:10). He stood in the path of sinners when he settled in Sodom (Genesis 13:12-13). And he sat in the seat of scoffers when he “sat in the gate” of the city (Genesis 19:1) — the place in the cities of Old Testament times where city officials and judges conducted government business.
Psalm 1:1 presents a blueprint of a downward spiral that can ensnare even a child of God if they allow it. The first step is to walk after the counsel of the wicked, that is, to follow the advice of worldly people who do not know God. It is to value the things that the world values and to prefer that which is desirable to the flesh over the things of God. Lot’s own woes began the moment when his Uncle Abraham offered him a choice: settle in any part of the land and I will settle elsewhere. Lot was given an opportunity to live anywhere in the newly adopted homeland and what did he do? He looked out across the Jordan Valley and decided that he would move his livestock there.
I don’t know whether or not Lot consulted anyone else before making his decision, but if he had, would this not have been the advice most people would have given him? Pick the best spot, the greenest fields, the most fertile valley. Or, to put it in modern terms, choose the biggest house, the most expensive car, the best designer clothes, the highest paying job, etc. This is the advice which the worldly-minded give; this is the counsel of the wicked. Give no thought to the will of God or to the needs of others, just make yourself as wealthy and comfortable as possible.
The second step naturally follows the first and seldom takes long to reach. Once we begin to accept compromise in our lives, it is easier to continue doing so. Since Lot was already residing in the region, why not go ahead and settle his family within the walls of Sodom? After all, they surely had the nicest houses, the richest markets, and the top entertainment spots in all the country. People flock to the biggest cities today for the same reasons. So what if the residents of Sodom were “wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord” (Genesis 13:13)? Eventually, Lot became firmly established in his new home city. He would take a prominent position in the town council and his own daughters would become engaged to two local men (who were themselves the very portrait of scoffers who laughed at Lot’s warning of the impending judgment – Genesis 19:14).
Such is the process of the “righteous man” in conforming himself to the world. He walks in the wicked’s counsel, he stands in the path of sinners, he sits in the seat of scoffers. Each step involves laying down a little deeper root and allowing a little more compromise. If we are not headed for the same destination as the wicked who will perish, then why do we walk along the same paths? We walk, but at least we are still moving; we stand, but at least we are still ready to start moving again; until finally we sit, firmly entrenched in the way of the wicked.
“And if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:7-9)
The Bible tells us that Lot, a righteous man, was tormented while living among the wicked sinners of Sodom. He chose everything that he believed would make him happy and prosperous, yet paid a heavy price in the agony of his own soul. The Apostle Paul warns Christians in 2 Corinthians 6:14 that righteousness has no partnership with lawlessness, neither does light have any fellowship with darkness. How can we know if we are really a “righteous man” who has gotten over onto the path of the wicked or if we are simply among the wicked walking along the path we naturally belong on? Because the people of God will find no peace or contentment there. In fact, we will be downright miserable. We might be able to fool ourselves for a moment by pretending that a lifestyle of sin, lust, and greed is bringing us great pleasure; but if we truly belong to God then we will be tormented by walking along the path of the wicked.
The opening words of the First Psalm are, “How blessed is the man…” Literally, it means how happy, how joy-filled, how contented is the one who shuns the path of the wicked! Dear Christian, if you find yourself today living as the wicked do, treading along the road that leads to destruction, is it not time to begin to walk the way which God intended for you? Your Salvation is in Christ Jesus, your destination is Heaven, and your Father is God Almighty. Do not live as Lot did, entrenched among the wicked. Live a life from this day forward that glorifies God and blesses you.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.
[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]