“Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor stands in the path of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
planted by the rivers of water,
that brings forth its fruit in its season,
whose leaf also shall not wither;
and whatever he does shall prosper.”
I have vivid memories of my father teaching me to memorize Psalm 1. I think he hoped that I would put all the Psalms to memory, but I have yet to achieve that goal. However, the first few verses of the book of Psalms has stuck with me for many years as I have faced decisions and various circumstances in my life.
I particularly love the image of being like a tree planted by rivers of water. What does it mean to be a tree by water? The psalm tells us it means that we are bursting with fruit and we do not wither, just like a well-watered tree.
How do we become a tree like this? By delighting in the law of the Lord! By refusing to walk in the path of the ungodly.
Asking Good Questions
With every decision I face, I always want to ask myself: will this plant my roots deeper by the streams of water? Or is this planting myself far away from the stream?
When we make decisions about our children’s education, about what kind of church we will attend, about what city to live in, about what kind of work to pursue, this is the question we want to ask. When I consider how I spend my time, what TV shows I watch, what clothes I wear, what color my hair will be, and how I spend my money, I ask myself if I am following in the path of sinners or if my decision is coming from a heart that delights in God’s law and His ways.
Another way to ask this is: does my life look like the lives of the ungodly? Does my time, my wardrobe, my Instagram account look identical to the wardrobes and Instagram accounts of those who hate God? Or am I using my resources to plant deeper roots by the stream of water?
Looking for the River, Not the Line
If you have spent any time with children, I am sure you have seen that some children want to know exactly where the line is between right and wrong so that they can dance on the line. They want to know how far they can go without being wrong.
Don’t be that kind of woman! The lines between right and wrong are far from the rivers of water in Psalm 1. We should be looking for the river, not the line. We should seek to plant ourselves far away from the line.
Our lives should not resemble the lives of sinners. Our lives should be defined by delighting in God’s law, instead of seeing how far we can reach away from it before we are actually in sin.
In 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul says, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful.” Instead of asking the question, Is this a sin?, we should ask the question, Is this helping me to plant myself by streams of water?
Psalm 1 gives us some helpful pointers for planting our roots: delight in the word of God, meditate on it, think about it, rejoice in it, and live like you believe it is true.
The psalm also offers warnings: do not take advice from ungodly people, do not try to be like them or look like them, and do not sit in their seat or walk in their path.
If we heed these directions, we are promised blessing, fruit, and prosperity in the Lord. So, next time you are faced with a decision, even a small one like what kind of jeans to buy, ask yourself: is this walking like the ungodly? Or will this plant me by streams of living water, so that I can bear fruit and not wither?