Theme: The Doctrine of the Two Ways
In this week’s studies we learn how the doctrine of the two ways is described, and that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who perfectly fits the description of the righteous man of Psalm 1.
Scripture: Psalm 1:1-6
The doctrine of the two ways is a very common concept. Most Americans are acquainted with Robert Frost’s use of the idea in the poem “The Road Not Taken:”
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.1
Those who know literature a bit more thoroughly are aware that the idea of paths diverging in a wood is found in Dante Alighieri, the Florentine poet of the Middle Ages, whose Divine Comedy begins:
Midway this way of life we’re bound upon, I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
where the right road was wholly lost and gone.2
But there are biblical examples too. The most important is the use of the idea by Jesus toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount as recorded by Matthew. The last section of the sermon lists a series of contrasts, among which choices must be made: two gates and two roads, two trees and their two types of fruit, two houses and two foundations. The part regarding the two ways says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt. 7:13).
The first psalm is the clearest, most developed, and first full expression of this idea in the Bible. But let me back up slightly. The psalms may be classified in a variety of types or genres, about seven of them.3 One of those types is known as “a wisdom psalm,” and that is what this is. It portrays the way the wise man chooses. But it is more than this. It is the father of all the wisdom psalms. Saint Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, called Psalm 1 “the preface of the Holy Spirit” to the Psalter. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who also calls Psalm 1 a “Preface Psalm,” adds, “It is the psalmist’s desire to teach us the way to blessedness, and to warn us of the sure destruction of sinners. This then, is the matter of the first psalm, which may be looked upon in some respects, as the text upon which the whole of the psalms make up a divine sermon.”4
In his helpful introduction to the psalms Tremper Longman III, an associate professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, writes, “Psalm 1 deliberately draws two portraits in our minds: the portrait of the wicked man and the portrait of the wise man. The question then is posed: Which are we? As we enter the sanctuary of the psalms to worship and petition the Lord, whose side are we on?”5
How does Jesus work with the doctrine of the two ways in the Sermon on the Mount? What other biblical examples of this doctrine can you think of?
What kind of psalm is Psalm 1 considered, and why?
Application: Since this psalm instructs us to meditate on Scripture day and night, make it a goal this week to memorize this psalm.
1 Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken,” in Major American Writers, vol. 2, ed. Howard Mumford Jones, Ernest E. Leisy and Richard M. Ludwig (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1952), p. 1609.
2 Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: The Inferno, trans. Dorothy L. Sayers (Harmdonsworth, England: Penguin, 1951), p. 71.
3 See Tremper Longman III, How to Read the Psalms (Downers Grove, IL and Leicester, England: InterVarsity, 1988), pp. 23-35.
4 C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. la, Psalms 1-26 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 1.
5 Tremper Longman III, How to Read the Psalms, p. 45.