Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.Psalm 1:1. Blessed is the man — The Hebrew words are very emphatical: Blessedness belongs to that man; or, O the blessedness of that man! Blessedness here means happiness. And the character of the truly happy man is described in this Psalm both negatively, in his abstaining from sin; and positively, in his practice of a most important duty, introductory to all other duties. It is then illustrated by a beautiful similitude, borrowed from vegetation; and, lastly, contrasted with the opposite character of the ungodly. In this verse we have the negative part of his character in three particulars: 1st, He walks not in the counsel of the ungodly. The word רשׁעים, reshagnim, here rendered ungodly, according to Aben Ezra, signifies inquietos, qui nunquam in eadem constitutione permanent, the restless, who are never at one stay; according to Isaiah 57:20 : “Those,” says Henry, “who are unsettled, aim at no certain end, and walk by no certain rule;” who may indeed be moral in their conduct toward their fellow-creatures, and outwardly unblameable, but live without a due regard to God and religion, which all unconverted persons do. Now the man that is truly pious, and therefore happy, doth not walk in the counsel of such; doth not lead his life according to their advice, or manner of living; doth not associate with them, give ear to their suggestions, or follow their example. This part of the happy man’s character is put first, because those that would keep the commandments of their God must say to evil-doers, Depart from us, Psalm 119:115, and because wisdom begins in departing from evil. 2d, Nor standeth in the way of sinners — Of open and notorious sinners, to be picked up and gathered with them: but he avoids as much as may be the company of such, lest he should be insnared by them, and drawn by degrees into an imitation of their practices. He keeps at a distance from them, as he would from persons or places infected with the plague, for fear of the contagion. Or, standing in their way may imply a continuance in their manner of conversation. 3d, Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful — Of those who make a mock of sin, and of God’s threatenings and judgments against sinners: who deride all wholesome reproofs and counsels, and scoff at goodness and good men. So that there seems to be a double climax, or gradation, in this verse, each following clause exceeding the former in two respects. For standing, or delaying, in an evil course, implies a greater degree of guilt than being occasionally entangled and induced to walk therein, and sitting denotes a more settled and resolved perseverance than standing. Again, the term sinners, in Scripture language, implies more wickedness than the word ungodly, and the scornful are the worst of sinners. Observe, reader, by what steps men arrive at the height of impiety. Nemo repente fit turpissimus: No one becomes very wicked all at once. They are ungodly first, casting off the fear of God, and living in the neglect of their duty to him. But they rest not there; when the services of religion are laid aside, they come to be sinners, that is, they break out into open rebellion against God, and engage in the service of sin and Satan: omissions of duty make way for the commission of crimes, and by these the heart is so hardened that at length they come to be scorners: they openly defy all that is sacred, scoff at religion, and make a jest of sin. Thus is the way of iniquity down hill; the bad grow worse, and sinners become tempters to others and advocates for Baal.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.Psalm 1:2. But his delight is in the law of the Lord — In the study and practice of it, as appears from the context. Having described the character of the truly blessed man negatively, in the preceding verse, he, in this, speaks of it positively. The law of God may be here understood of the whole doctrine delivered by God to his church, consisting of doctrines, precepts, promises, and threatenings, &c.; or more particularly of the preceptive part of it, which is commonly called his law; and so this is recorded as the particular character of a good man, that he takes delight, not only in God’s promises, which a bad man may delight in, but even in his commands, which are unwelcome and disagreeable to the wicked. In his law doth he meditate — The word יהגה, jehgeh, implies that he exercises a deep, serious, and affectionate thoughtfulness about it; and by this it appears that his delight is in it, for what we love, we love to think of. Day and night — Not seldom and slightly, but diligently and constantly. Thus the Psalms, “like the sermon on the mount,” says Dr. Horne, “open with a beatitude; for our comfort and encouragement directing us immediately to that happiness which all mankind, in different ways, are seeking and inquiring after. All would secure themselves from the incursions of misery; but all do not consider that misery is the offspring of sin, from which it is therefore necessary to be delivered and preserved, in order to become happy, or blessed.”
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.Psalm 1:3. And, or For, he shall be like a tree, &c. — This is the proof of that blessedness of a good man which he had only asserted, Psalm 1:1. He shall be fruitful and flourishing. By his meditations on the law of God, his graces and virtues shall be nourished and increased, and he shall be thoroughly furnished for every good word and work. The means of grace are those rivers of water near which the trees of righteousness are planted, and from these they receive supplies of strength and vigour, but in secret, undiscerned ways. That bringeth forth fruit in his season — That is, in the time of fruit-bearing; which, being applied to the good man, denotes either, 1st, His active goodness, that he seeks and improves all opportunities for doing good, exercising faith, hope, and love, piety and virtue, justice, mercy, charity, temperance, patience, meekness, long-suffering, according to the several occasions offered him: or, 2d, The issue thereof, the happiness resulting therefrom; that he shall have the fruit, or benefit, of his godly life in due time, and when it will be most for his advantage, possibly in some measure in this life, but assuredly in the life to come. His leaf also shall not wither — His blessedness is not short and transitory, as all worldly felicity is, but fixed and everlasting, like those trees which are continually green and flourishing. And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper — All his actions, being directed by the word, providence and grace of God, shall be crowned with success in one respect or another, (for even disappointments, losses, and afflictions, shall work for his good,) and with a blessed effect or end.
The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.Psalm 1:4. The ungodly are not so — Their condition is far different; but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away — Withered and worthless, restless and unquiet, without form or stability, blown about by every wind, and, at length, finally dispersed from the face of the earth, by the breath of God’s displeasure, and driven into the fire which never shall be quenched. Their seeming felicity hath no firm foundation, but quickly vanishes, and flies away, as chaff before the wind.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.Psalm 1:5. The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment — Shall not endure the time of trial, which will assuredly come. It may be that God will arise, and judge, and punish them by temporal calamities, and that these will fill their consciences with horror, and cause their hearts to fail. But if not, if they escape these, it is certain they shall not stand, nor escape condemnation and wrath in the great and general judgment of the whole world. Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous — That is, in that society which shall consist of none but righteous persons. “At present,” as Dr. Horne observes, “wheat and chaff lie in one floor; wheat and tares grow in one field; good and bad fishes are comprehended in one net; good and bad men are contained in the visible church;” but let us wait with patience God’s time of separation. The husbandman will appear, with his fan in his hand, and will thoroughly purge his floor; the harvest will come, and the tares shall be gathered up, and bound in bundles to be burned; the net shall be drawn to shore, and, while the good fishes are gathered into vessels, the bad shall be cast away. In other words, at His command who is the governor of his church, and to whom the Father hath committed all judgment, the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and then not one sinner shall be found in the congregation of the righteous.
For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.Psalm 1:6. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous — As he searcheth the reins and the heart, and perfectly knows all his people, so he approves, loves, and delights in them, and in their conduct and conversation, and therefore will recompense them; but the way of the ungodly shall perish — All their designs and courses shall come to nothing, and they shall perish with them.