Theme: The Way of the Wicked
In these lessons we see that our growth in holiness is dependent upon our being grounded in the Word of God, which points us to the Lord Jesus Christ as the only source of salvation and sanctification.
Scripture: Psalm 1
The psalmist says two important things about the man who walks according to his sinful dispositions.
First, the course of the wicked man is always downhill. He is caught in a downward progression. This is a very important thing to see about sin. We see it in somebody else and say, “Look how sin has caught that person and dragged him down.” But we add, “That won’t happen to me. I’m going to do just this one little thing. Then I’ll draw the line and I won’t go any further.” But sin is not like that. Sin catches us and draws us along. You cannot sin “just a little bit.” Sin is a maelstrom which drags us down.
That is what Psalm 1 describes.
It does it through a progression of images. The obvious ones are in the verbs of verse 1: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers.” It is the picture of a man who is walking along and passes those who are ungodly. They say, “Come along with us. We’ll talk a little bit.” So the man walks along in that kind of company. Then the wicked say, “Let’s stop a minute.” When he does, he has lost his mobility. At this point he cannot even walk on by. Finally, he sits down and is caught in the sin’s meshes.
The same progression is in the nouns that go with the verbs. First, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.” As our man walks along, the wicked are talking about how wonderful sin is. Next is says that the blessed man does not “stand in the way of sinners.” Now it is not merely wicked counsel that is warned against, but it is a sinful way of life. Finally the psalm speaks of the one who does not “sit in the seat of mockers.” At this point sin has become a fixed, permanent thing from which one cannot escape.
Lot, Abraham’s nephew, is an example of this downward progression. First, he looked toward Sodom. Next, he pitched his tents near Sodom. Finally we find that he was actually living in the city and sitting in the gate, as one of the prominent men of this pre-eminently corrupt city of the ancient world.
The psalm says a second thing about the man who walks in sin’s way. Not only does he get caught in sin’s downward progression, but he is also unable to stand in the day of God’s judgment. Verse 5 expresses it this way:
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
What does it mean, “not to stand”? It means that the man who lives like this has not been justified and will be condemned in God’s judgment. The word is used in Romans 5, for example, where the fruits of justification are described. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (Rom. 5:1, 2). To stand in grace is to be justified before God. So what the psalm is saying is that the wicked are not justified. On the contrary, they are condemned and become, as it says in verse 4, like “chaff that the wind blows away.”
In the ancient world there were no threshing machines. Threshing was done by hand. Workers poured the rough grain onto a threshing floor. Then animals, generally oxen, were walked around on it to break the wheat loose from the chaff. Finally, when the grain was broken apart the workers would come with pitchforks and throw the mixture of grain and chaff up into the air. The chaff, which was light, would be blown away. The grain, which was heavier, would fall back onto the floor. The psalmist is saying that the day of judgment is going to be like that. God is going to enter His threshing floor and separate the wheat from the chaff. On that day the chaff will be blown away. But the grain will remain.
John the Baptist had a message concerning judgment, saying that when God comes to do His threshing He is going to bring His fan with Him (Matt. 3:12). What does that mean? Well, when the ancient farmers wanted to winnow grain they had to wait for the right kind of day. If the day was too windy and they threw that mixture of grain and chaff up into the air, the wind would blow the grain away with the chaff. They would lose it all. Or if there was not enough wind, the grain and chaff would fall back down together. They had to wait for the right kind of wind. But John the Baptist said that when Jesus comes in judgment, He is not going to have to wait for the wind. He is going to bring His own fan. He will make the wind right and will be sure that all of the chaff will be blown away.
We do not hear much about judgment today, but we need to hear about judgment simply because it is a pervasive theme throughout the Word of God. God does not tell us about judgment because He delights in telling us frightening stories. The message is told for our good, as a warning. God says, “I am a just God. This is a moral universe. I am going to punish sin.” God tells us that so we might turn from sin to the way of salvation in Christ.
What is the first thing we learn about the one who walks in his sinful tendencies? How does the psalm demonstrate this point?
What is the second point about the one who follows after sin?
We do not seem to hear very much in the church about judgment these days, at least not as much as in earlier generations of Christian witness. Why do you think that is?