Psalm 1:3-6: At the Crossroads (Psalm of the Day, 2/365)

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

The contrast in vv. 1-2 leads to a second: the “fruit” of these two ways. Those who delight in and meditate on the wicked’s counsel become unstable and unsubstantial like chaff, whereas those who delight in and meditate on the Word of God — and above all the Word that is Jesus Christ — become firmly rooted in the only source of all life and thus never cease to bear fruit, even in seasons of drought and famine. As Jesus said: “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

5 Therefore the wicked will 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 wicked will perish.

The third and final contrast reveals the final destination of these two ways. Those who follow the wicked’s counsel will be blown away in the judgment like the empty husks that they have become. Those who instead follow God’s Word walk the way that he “knows”, that is, the way of those whom the Lord approves, favors, and loves. Yet this “knowing” cannot be said to be earned, for indeed God’s “knowing” bespeaks a covenantal relationship that he himself establishes by grace alone. Confirming this is the fact that the “law” (torah) of v.2 is the instruction given specially to God’s covenant people, the people whom he has saved from slavery and to whom he has bound himself with a covenant: “I am the Lord who brought you out of Egypt” (Ex. 20:2). All of this is a gift of sheer grace.

Ultimately, then, it is from the very first step that everyone begins to walk either in the direction of salvation or damnation (vv.1-2). It is not possible to put off the decision of which road to take. “Choose you this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15), because “today is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor. 6:2). It is today, this very day, that makes all the difference, and wisdom does not linger at the intersection between these two paths but knows to discern to right one and to begin walking in it immediately.

Yet in the greatest sense, the line of division between these two ways, the decisive crossroad between salvation and damnation, is Jesus Christ: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock…. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (Matt. 7:24, 26). He is both the divine Word that instructs and the blessed man who hears and obeys it. Thus, only those who “take refuge in him” (Ps. 2:12) receive the blessings promised in this psalm, because only Jesus is the one who has perfectly fulfilled every covenantal condition on our behalf.


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