When I was a little kid, my mother said at times, “I don’t want you playing with those kids. They’re fresh and you’ll only get into trouble hanging around with them.”
Kids from half-decent families usually hear that warning every once in a while, and it’s probably the first and best advice they will ever hear. When you know who and what to avoid, you have half of life already figured out.
The psalmist knew this and expressed it nicely in Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly. . . .” In other words, don’t listen to those who want to drag you off into a lifestyle that can only bring you trouble. Don’t take their advice. Pay no attention to their ideas. Don’t let them tell you what to do.
As I looked around the world when I got older, I saw that most misery was caused by a minority who unfortunately gained more influence than they were worth. In many instances, this was because well meaning but “Psalm 1 illiterate” people allowed themselves to be swayed by the ideas and opinions of the ungodly. The common complaint we hear so often, “My Johnny is a good boy — he just got mixed up with the wrong crowd,” isn’t always just a poor excuse. It might be true more often than not.
The same verse (v. 1) tells me not to stand in the path of sinners or hang around with those who are always ridiculing what is right and decent. This is also great advice. Be careful about associating with those who do not hold your values — especially if their values run counter to the lifestyle commanded by the Bible, your church, or even your family upbringing. This way of living can save you a lot of headaches.
This is just common sense, but it seems that God has made it an imperative. Psalm 1:1 is no longer something that is just a better idea; it has been made a fundamental necessity for sensible, godly living. Yes, you can live and get by without doing this, but you won’t be living and getting by the right way. You’ll be finding your satisfaction in the wrong places, whereas verse 2 says you should be finding it “in the law of the Lord,” or in always doing the right thing. In case there is any doubt on this issue, there is tremendous inner satisfaction in doing what you know is right.
Verse 2 goes on to say that God wants me to think about these things constantly. Pick up tomorrow’s paper, and it becomes obvious that not many people are doing this. Most people just don’t seem to care. But if you want to make out good in life, you will! From God’s law (the Scriptures) you can guide your lifestyle and set your everyday standards and values. Most important, you will constantly refine them as you keep them in the forefront of your thoughts. You will gain strength and satisfaction from doing this.
This psalm then tells me (v. 3) that if I faithfully follow this advice, I will prosper. I will be like a fruitful and healthy tree planted by the river. I will be living the kind of life God wants to bless. Even in adversity I will find blessing because my life pleases God. How can you beat that?
Ralph Filicchia writes from Watertown, MA.