Comparing the Righteous and the Wicked
You have to love the Psalms. They are very succinct in so many ways because they don’t pull any punches, but tell it like it is for us.
The Psalms are filled with contrasts that allows us to see with clarity the lessons that God wants us to see in order to live a life that pleases Him and grows in such a way that He is glorified. Ultimately, it is for our good.
I would like to spend several articles going through some of my favorite Psalms to point out truths that are amazing, if we will take the time to focus on them. Let’s start with Psalm 1.
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!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.
There is obviously a great deal that could be said about this Psalm and it would be interesting to learn how it speaks to each person. There are a number of main points that we need to give our attention to and the first is boldly stated in verse one.
I like to allow the Psalms to paint pictures in my mind. In this case, I see one lone man, standing just to the aside, while everyone around him is planning to do something that God considers evil. In fact, it could easily be said that evil describes their life, from one day to the next. That, when compared to the man who is not part of that mentality provides the first visual cue. It is stark.
The first part of this Psalm paints a picture of a mob mentality. We see that a good deal in this world, don’t we? Groups of people demanding their will, their way, all for their glory. This is the world in which we live.
People join together to be more powerful because there is more power in numbers. The fear people might have from being alone melts away. In its place, the audacity and daring to become involved in something that God says is evil, makes it easier to accomplish.
By contrast, the righteous man literally delights in God’s law. He stands to the side, walking a solo path where he yearns to find ways that show God how much he loves Him. Compared to the world, it is a solitary walk yet, God is with that man.
The righteous man thinks about God’s law and living a life that pleases God every day. He works at finding ways to do, think, and say the things that please God even in the face of evil or hardship of this world. He goes upstream, against the current of a world determined to shake off the fetters of God’s rule.
The Psalmist promises that the person who routinely edifies himself by memorizing and thinking about God’s law will bear much good fruit. He will not be able to help living a life that results in bearing good fruit.
Moreover, that man will prosper. In the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), it was a sign that God was with a person if they were wealthy. Job was one such person. Abraham was another. This was one of the ways that people believed God’s blessing was on a person or family.
This is not how we understand this today, because for one thing, Jesus told us that as His followers, we will experience trouble, trials, and tribulation in this world. The Psalmist is not telling us that life will be grand and we will have all the material blessings our hearts desire. The truth is that as we seek to know God through His revealed will, the spiritual blessings received will be far greater than anything money can buy or provide.
We will become like solidly planted tree that only bears good fruit. Our life will bring much glory to God because as we draw closer to Him through His Word, He will conform our desires to the spiritual desires that are to guide our life as those who have received salvation.
If we consider Joseph, we see that this is concretely true. He came from a family of wealth. He was the favored son. He had all the things he could possibly want, yet God took him to the depths, in order to raise him up. He prospered physically after roughly 20 years living in the garbage pile, yet during those 20 years, God was helping Joseph to prosper spiritually.
Joseph was sold into slavery and purchased by a man named Potiphar. Initially, everything went fine and he gained Potiphar’s trust. This was until Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of attempted rape. That accusation landed Joseph in jail, but even there, God saw to it that the jailer looked on Joseph favorably. God had not forgotten Joseph, though it may have seemed like it to those living around him at the time.
Joseph’s life, to me, represents the very real struggle that authentic Christians experience in this life. It’s not all good, outwardly speaking. Yet, God provides for His own and causes them to prosper. The more we are willing to dedicate ourselves to the task of getting to know Him through His Word, and by hiding that Word in our hearts, the greater our spiritual prosperity will become in the here and now, regardless of what is happening in life all around us.
The second part of the Psalm contrasts the righteous with the wicked. Here we learn that the wicked are the exact opposite of the righteous and it’s not pretty at all. Though the wicked are culpable for their evil deeds, your hearts should still go out to them in wanting them to have what the righteous have. Though the wicked believe they have everything, they lack the most important thing: salvation.
The Psalmist declares that those who are categorized as wicked have no root. Because they lack a root in God (cf. John 15), they bear no fruit. A tree that bears no fruit either dies or is cut down. They eventually dry out and are like chaff that is blown along and carried by the wind. Not only do the wicked not have any staying power, but the Psalmist himself declares that they will perish. They will not last at all.
This is difficult for us because it appears to us that the wicked people in this world live they way they want without thought or concern for God and the day of judgment. They seem to outlast most of us and they seem to prosper materially in spite of their wickedness. In the end, all the wicked have is their wickedness and their enjoyment of it. That joy is so fleeting, that in the end, they really have nothing at all.
The righteous – those who know God in Christ because of the salvation received from Him – last forever. God’s eyes are always on us and we are never alone or separated from His presence and watchful care.
The wicked have none of that. They will perish – eternally – and will remain apart from God forever, experiencing nothing but His wrath. Everything the wicked person does will result in receiving more of God’s anger and judgment. They will not even be able to stand in His Presence when they are initially judged! They will grovel, but it won’t help.
The righteous, who will bear fruit in this life (imperfect as it may be), will go into eternity gaining the ability to bear perfect fruit all the time. Everything we will do will bring glory to God.
If you consider yourself an authentic Christian, then we all must learn that it is not about us. It is about God and how we can grow in our relationship to Him through knowledge of His Word. The more we learn, understand, and grow in obedience to His law of love, the more solid will be our stand before Him and the more fruit we will bear for His glory.
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