The first Psalm describes someone who follows the Lord: he is “blessed.” If he keeps the “counsel of the wicked” however, he will “perish” (v.6).
Who, then, are “the wicked”? One must avoid their teaching in order to receive blessings as described by the Psalmist. What are those blessings?
Jesus Taught the Meaning of ‘Blessed’
According to Psalm 1, the one who follows good counsel “is like a tree planted by streams of water,” never drying out, and he “yields fruit in season.” Everything he does “prospers” (v.3). Prosperity here is not worldly wealth.
In Matthew 5, Jesus told his disciples that blessings are not what we suppose they are: plenty of food, money, land, and good health. The poor, the meek, those who mourn, those who crave justice and mercy: these are all blessed.
One often experiences a joyous event or feels happy and says, “I am blessed,” but a disciple is blessed by knowing when he goes through intense suffering, the Lord at his side.
John Stott explained that in the Beatitudes, Jesus does not describe a subjective feeling but is making a statement about “what God thinks of them and what on that account they are,” which is “blessed.”
This means that they will inherit the kingdom of heaven, but he wants them to live like adoptees right now, certain that the Lord is near and assured of their salvation. Their names are “written in heaven” as are the names of all true disciples (Luke 10:20).
The blessed have responsibilities. There are eight “blessed are” statements representing the qualities of a disciple and also “what the enjoyment of God’s rule means.”
A blessing is a gift, which one is to utilize for the good of others — to comfort, to seek justice, to give mercy, and so on (John Stott, A Deeper look at the Sermon on the Mount).
Like Joseph, who had access to Pharaoh’s wealth with which he rescued his family from starvation, the disciple’s fruitfulness is meant to meet the needs of others.
The blessings of Psalm 1 in light of the Beatitudes are:
1. Abundant faith in God’s promises for the future.
2. The Holy Spirit to strengthen and equip us.
3. Fruitfulness emerging from trials.
4. The ability to share our fruit in order to promote faith and endurance when others are suffering.
Who Are the Wicked?
Humans are wicked. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). “Wickedness” is sin, and we all sin.
A Christian, however, is made righteous by the blood of Christ, which he or she puts on like a cloak. We are justified by his blood, even while we remain sinners. Christians are not saved by being less wicked, although a disciple is one who, out of love and gratitude and devotion, tries to be like the One who saved us.
A disciple repents of sin and submits to the Lord’s refining mercies, keeping his eye fixed not on the results of ongoing sanctification but on Christ and his example; what Habakkuk called “my high places” (3:19) and, or Paul’s words, “the things above, where Christ is” (Colossians 3:1).
The Counsel of the Wicked
Counsel is advice; teaching; direction. Jesus is sometimes referred to as our Wonderful Counselor. A counselor gives his opinion based on an idea of what the truth is. Unfortunately, not everyone’s “truth” is the same, as though this can be a relative, subjective notion.
One who seeks counsel from anywhere other than the truth of God is at risk of hearing a version of the truth, which contradicts the Lord’s teaching and commandments. Other versions of truth shift according to culture, unintentional distortions, and even malicious lies.
The Bible depicts some potential consequences of following unreliable counsel. Eve believed Satan’s half-truth, rejecting the full truth God had already given her. She was deceived into eating the apple.
The couple who sold their property and lied about giving all the proceeds to the church were struck dead (Acts 5). It is reasonable and wise to check the credentials of anyone offering information. What makes this person an expert?
Who gave him or her the authority to teach on a given subject? The wickedness embodied in these counselors is their desire for moral autonomy, even to the point of leading others astray.
Not everyone means to cause problems or lead people into sin when they give false counsel, but “even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Proverbs 17:28).
When people obtain their information from supposed “experts,” they might be receiving false information and passing this on to others as truth.
One must break that cycle by not speaking without consulting the highest authority — God himself — and asking for references, sources, and taking time to assess those.
The Best Counselor
Christ taught from Scripture; he relied on it to give him hope and it was the basis for his certainty about God’s promises. He lived the truth he preached. Christ is also One with God, he was there when God created the Heavens and the earth, so his testimony about God is reliable.
Only Immanuel could testify to the truth of all Scripture from the beginning until the time of his own ministry and thus make promises for the future, which Christians today can base their faith on.
For one who is blessed, “his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
When one is blessed by good counsel, what does this look like? There is comfort, promise, hope, and responsibility. This individual yields fruit, which benefits others. His prosperity is not for him alone but for the good of those who rely on him and it lasts through seasons of plenty and seasons of want.
Fruitfulness has seasons. There are periods in a Christian’s life when he or she prays less often or experiences doubt, but a disciple of Christ comes back to prayer, and faith is restored because of a healthy root system. “The fruit comes naturally from this tree, because it is planted by the rivers of water. It is abiding in a life-source,” which is Jesus.
Life or Death
Psalm 1 contrasts the future of one who walks under sound teaching with that of one who follows wicked counsel: a life that produces fruit versus “chaff that the wind drives away,” which is death (v.4).
Spurgeon said that chaff is “‘intrinsically worthless, dead, unserviceable, without substance, and easily carried away.’ There is a huge difference between a tree and chaff.”
The blessed person enjoys life abundant, that is his prosperity. This life is more than bread; more than treasure stored up on earth “where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).
Life in Christ is eternal, and it cannot be taken from us. Essentially, those who are blessed by not following wicked, distorted counsel are choosing life over death.
Finding a Good Counselor
A good teacher is one who continues to seek counsel from God no matter how learned or wise he or she seems. The scriptures are of deep importance to his or her life; they are greatly valued.
While the Holy Spirit is available to help Christians enjoy the blessings of fruitful discipleship, one also requires community.
Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Christ is the ultimate counselor, but he also works through godly, discerning people. A disciple must choose fellowship wisely, and when he does, the value of such community is inestimable.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.