Theme: Flourishing or Fruitless
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
When most people think of the results of upright or godly living they think of rewards. That is, they think that if they do what God tells them to do, he will reward them, but that, if they do not, they will get zapped. There is an element of truth to this; it is what is involved in the doctrine of the final judgment. But what the psalmist says next in the psalm is quite different. He is talking about “blessedness,” the blessedness of the man who does not walk in the way of sinners but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and his point is that this is not a reward but rather “the result of a particular type of life.”1
The poet uses two images to show the result of these two ways. The first is a fruitful tree. It describes the man who delights in the law of God and draws his spiritual nourishment from it as a tree which draws its nourishment from an abundantly flowing stream. The land about might be quite dry and barren. The winds might be hot. But if the tree is planted by the stream, so that it can sink its roots down and draw nourishment, it will prosper and yield fruit. This is the godly man: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does he prospers” (v. 3).
Many years ago a couple who had gone to China as missionaries used this image to describe their life there after the Communists had taken over China at the end of the Second World War. Their name was Matthews, and they were the last missionaries of the China Inland Mission to escape. They were under Communism for two years, during which time they lived with their young daughter Lilah in a small room. Their only furniture was a stool. They could not contact their Christian friends for fear of getting them into trouble. Their funds were cut off by the government except for the smallest trickle. Their only heat came from a small stove which they lit once a day to boil rice for dinner. The only fuel they had was dried animal refuse which Art Matthews collected from the streets. These were indeed dry times. But when they wrote their testimony to God’s grace in the midst of such privations afterwards, they called their book Green Leaf in Drought Time. They found that those who delight in the Word do not wither but instead produce the Holy Spirit’s fruit.
The second illustration the psalmist uses is chaff, to which he compares the wicked. The picture here is of a threshing floor at the time of the grain harvest. The threshing floors of Palestine are on hills where they can catch the best breezes. Grain is brought to them, crushed by animals or threshing instruments which are be drawn over it, then pitched high into the air where the wind blows the light chaff away. The heavier grain falls back to the threshing floor and is collected. The chaff is either scattered or burned. This is what the psalmist says those who walk in the counsel of the wicked are like.
They are like chaff in two senses. Chaff is worthless and is burned. This pictures the futile, empty, worthless life of the godless, as well as their inevitable judgment. If only those who are running away from God could see this! But they cannot, because they will not listen to God and the world is shouting the exact opposite of the Bible’s teaching. The world says that to be religious is foolishness. Religious people never have any fun or accomplish anything, the wicked say. If you want to amount to something and enjoy yourself doing it, get on the fact track of sin, reach out for whatever you want and take it. Be happy. That is what the world teaches. But it is all a lie, which is exactly what Paul calls it in Romans 1 where he analyzes this fast downward spiral (v. 25). In Eden, the devil told Eve that if she disobeyed God by eating of the forbidden tree, her eyes would be “opened” and she would be “like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). But she did not become like God, for she already was like God (Gen. 1:26, 27). She became like Satan. And her eyes were not opened; they had been open. Now she and her husband became blind to spiritual realities. Do not believe the devil’s lie. Do not follow the world when it tries to draw you from righteous living by false promises.
What two images does the psalmist use to show the results of the two ways? How does each one serve as an effective teaching device?
How was Eve changed by her pursuit of sin? How is that also true for us when we pursue sin?
Reflection: How has the Lord caused you to look like a fruitful tree when you followed in the way of righteousness?
1 Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), p. 6l.