“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
The figure of nuggets that appears in the heading above is not original with me, but is used by a certain author whose works are well known among Bible students. Since it serves my purpose at present I am borrowing it, as it were, from someone else.
I want to refer to two words which appear very often in Scripture, both of which are often used together and appear in the text taken from Psalm 1. I refer to the words “walking” and “way”. Scripture speaks, for example, of the fact that Enoch walked with God. And in the last verse of this Psalm we read, “For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
The figure is so obvious that it hardly needs to be pointed out to us. A way calls to mind a path or trail that stretches out ahead of us. One walks on that way, moving along, making progress as he goes. He follows the trail, wherever it leads him. And thus he finds himself going in a certain direction, toward a very definite goal. As long as he stays on that way he approaches ever closer. either unavoidably or happily, to his destination. Whether this goal is to his liking depends on the point of view. If he intentionally takes a certain path because he knows that this path leads to the goal that he is seeking, he is happy in attaining that goal. If he finds himself heading toward a destination that he never intended to reach, he may realize that he is heading for disaster. The idea of progress stands out very strongly in the first verse of Psalm 1. which is quoted above. The text speaks of walking, then standing, and then sitting. Moreover, it speaks of ungodly men who become sinners, and who end up being scorners. And then, finally, it speaks of “the counsel” of the ungodly, their deliberations and thoughts and plans, which come into action by sinning. The ungodly inevitably become sinners. And standing in the way of sinners they end up sitting in the company of scorners. The individual who is referred to in our text ends up where he never intended, sitting corralled, as it were, with a crowd of mockers.
Let’s take a closer look at that first expression, “walketh. . . in the counsel of the ungodly”. The ungodly are those who do not have God in all their thoughts. They never ask of God, “What wilt Thou have me do?” They would not want to be put in such a straight jacket. They want to be independent, self-sufficient. Nobody in going to tell them what to do. They resent authority, for within them is the urge to kick the traces. defy all laws, and enjoy doing their own thing. The person the Psalmist is talking about meets the occasion and feels an inner urge to join those who “walk in the counsel of the ungodly”. He enjoys their company, laughs. jokes with them, and thus walks along with them.
This person soon finds that he “standeth in the way of sinners”. Sinners are those who miss the mark. They miss the mark that is set before them by God in Scripture. For God is God, who not only has the right to set a mark, or target, before us, but simply must do so to maintain His own honor as our Creator, Who is blessed forever. Every man, woman and child, young or old. stands before that target with the calling to aim his arrows, that is, his thoughts, his desires, his words and his deeds in the direction of that target, at the bull’s eye. He is to aim his whole life toward the glory of God. As Scripture sums it up for us, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do it all to the glory of God”. As we already have seen above, ungodly men want no part of that. They simply set up their own target to aim in the very opposite direction. They delight in wrong doing, in defying all authority of God, no matter in what form it appears. They enjoy the works of darkness under the cover of the night. This antipathy against God and His law is rooted in their hatred of God. So now the man who ventured out to walk in the counsel of the ungodly finds himself standing still on the road, as it were. He is confronted with a decision whether or not to go on, for the counsel of the ungodly leads him along a path that becomes more involved as he goes. Actually, he has already made his choice when he started out on this road. Unless he comes to a halt, once and for all, and makes an about face, he has no choice but to go on in the company of those whom he joined back a ways already. His thoughts are brought into action. His sinful desires take hold of him, drive him on to commit the deed which he knows is sin. He becomes involved more and more, for sin breeds sin and produces more sins.
You likely have travelled on a freeway at one time or another. You may have taken a wrong exit. For a few short moments you were still close to the freeway, within sight of it. But the farther you went the farther you were from the freeway, until you were lost. That is exactly the experience of the fellow who starts down the road in the company of ungodly men and becomes involved in their sins. At first his conscience bothers him, like the lad who stole a nickel and thought that everybody could see the stolen nickel in his pocket. Everybody branded him as a thief. But he got away with it. The next attempt was far less painful, so that before long his fingers reached out for bigger and bigger things to steal. Before long he thought nothing of it. The deed that once seemed like a terrible offence to us begins gradually to look like child’s play. We have to go on to greater sins to get the same enjoyment out of them. What we condemn in others as “something awful” we condone in ourselves. In our case, well, that’s different.
In that way, the person who joined some friends in giving in to their sinful desires finds himself sitting in the company of scorners. Scorners are those who are so hardened in their sins that they take a keen delight in laughing and joking about them. They indulge in a bit of slang, a few choice swear-words, topped off with some off-colored jokes. They actually mock with all that is holy. He who joins their company finds himself corralled, trapped in the snares of sin, inescapably a friend and companion of evil doers. When everything is said and done nothing remains but some dry ashes of burnt out ambitions, a sad disillusionment and a lingering suffering from the consequences of sin.
Blessed is the man who avoids walking down that road of disaster. The Psalmist actually declares: O the blessedness of that man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, who does not stand in the way of sinners and who does not sit in the seat of the scornful. He is thrice blessed, because he escapes the snares of sin and all its horrible consequences. Therefore, there is a warning here that we should avoid the very appearance of evil. (I Thess. 5:22) You know the old adage, “Don’t aim a gun unless you intend to shoot”. Or the other one, “Do not start anything that you cannot finish”. Or even, “Don’t play with fire unless you want to be burned”. Let us beware of Satan’s cunning lures and our own sinful lusts. Flee as fast as you can and as far as you can away from temptation. Think of Joseph, far from home in the strange land of Egypt, tempted by the lusts of his master’s wife. Say with him, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Do so, no matter what the consequences may be.