Righteous versus the Ungodly

by Keith Sharp

Psalm 1

  1. Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
  2. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
  3. 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.
  4. The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
  5. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
  6. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

In the first psalm, the inspired writer contrasts the character and lot of the righteous person with those of the ungodly (wicked). He first describes the character of the righteous both negatively, what he does not do (verse 1), and positively, what he does (verse 2). Then he shows the results in the life of the righteous (verse 3). Next he examines the character of the ungodly (verse 4) and the results (verses 4-5). Finally, he states the reasons for the differences (verse 6).

The righteous is blessed (verse 1). The New American Standard Bible translates this “How blessed.” He has great happiness.

We will return later to look at verse one in detail.

Positively, the righteous delights in and meditates on the law of the Lord (verse 2). Love for the word of God is the foundation and starting point of righteousness. To love to read, study, understand, and apply to our own lives the Scriptures is the first step to a character that is right with God.

The righteous is like a tree planted next to the water (verse 3). Palestine resembles Southwest Texas, where I was born. The hill tops are barren, but next to the spring in the valley grow live oaks. When dry season comes, all the scrub brush on the hills withers, but the live oaks in the valley next to the spring are lush. Their roots go deep into the soil and receive water and nutrients. The righteous endure the same troubles and problems of life that the ungodly do, but with faith rooted deeply in Christ, and with the soul nourishing spiritual water of the Word, the faith of the righteous remains firm.

Nothing that has been said of the righteous is true of the ungodly, whether as to character or lot (verse 4).

Thus, they are like the chaff, the stalks and husks of grain, thrown by the farmer into the air when he winnows his grain crop (verse 4). As the light chaff is blown in every direction, the ungodly are tossed about by every difficulty, temptation, and false doctrine. The result is the ungodly will not be able to stand before the Lord in judgment nor be accepted into the congregation of the righteous (verse 5).

The reasons for the differences in their lots in life is that the Lord looks with approval on the way the righteous live, but the way of the ungodly leads to destruction (verse 6)

Now, return to verse one. This states what the righteous do not do and what the ungodly do.

And it vividly portrays how sinners go progressively deeper into sin. “Walks” indicates repeated action, “stands” portrays habitual activity, and “sits” implies set character.

The nouns also show progression. The “ungodly” has a bad attitude toward God. He may be morally upright, but he’s not interested in serving the Lord. “Sinners” engage in evil conduct. “Scoffers” have lost their faith and ridicule our faith.

A man (or woman) doesn’t fall away from Christ overnight. It begins with a lack of interest in worship and Bible study – ungodliness. Sins begin to creep in – bad language, pornography, immodest dress, dishonest practices. Eventually the sinner loses his faith and ridicules those who serve the Lord.

The same thing happens to churches. When I was a child, churches of Christ debated church support of the orphanage, the sponsoring church, and church “fellowship halls.” Now “mainline” churches of Christ engage in every social gospel activity the denominations practice and support myriads of “para-church” organizations. The debates are over instrumental music in worship, women preachers, and divorce and remarriage for any and every reason. And “mainline” Churches of Christ are losing the battle to remain distinct from denominations. This year the Highland Church of Christ, Abilene, Texas, which led the way into institutionalism in the 1950s by begging money from churches of Christ throughout America for their Herald of Truth TV program, had an Easter celebration service complete with instrumental music in worship.

You’ve probably heard the old tale about how to boil a frog alive. Don’t throw it into a pan of boiling water- it will jump right out. Gently set the poor creature into a pan of room temperature water. Then slowly turn up the heat until the water boils. The frog won’t move until it’s cooked.

That’s the way Satan operates. Both individually and as a congregation, we must be wary of becoming boiled frogs.

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