Psalm 1 contrasts the way of the wise with the way of the wicked. We can hear the psalmist ask three questions of us. First, if you stop, what do you hear? Many of us today are so media and technology-driven that we honestly don’t stop. We cannot stand awkward silence. A slight pause in the conversation and our smartphone immediately pops out. The psalmist warns that those who begin by walking with the wicked soon find themselves stand among sinners. Ultimately, they sit down in mocking and scornful judgment of others (which sounds a lot like Facebook!). So the wicked “stop,” but they do not listen. In contrast, the wise intentionally cause themselves to stop and listen. We are told that they delight to meditate on the instruction of the Lord day and night.
Second, when trouble comes, how do you stand? The wise are described as the very Tree of Life deeply rooted beside the rivers of Eden. Drought will not damage them nor storms uproot them. In all seasons, the wise flourish. They bless the lives of others with fruit of their good works and comfort to the afflicted with their shade of their leaves. The wicked, however, are like chaff easily blown about by the slightest breeze. They are useless to themselves or to others when the trials of life come. (Sadly, Jeremiah 17:5-8 describes a “middle way”between these two–those who have a shallow faith–as a bush struggling in the desert for its own sustenance, unable to bless others.)
Third, in your journey, who do you trust? The psalmist describes life as a journey. With assurance he tells us the LORD watches over the way of the righteous. Like a GPS, God can guide the steps of the righteous even when our path is obscured by the storms of adversity, the fog of loss and struggle, or the darkness of fear and doubt. Not so the wicked, concludes the psalmist. He tells us that they vanish on their path and so will not stand in the judgment.
In Aesop’s Fables, Prometheus tells Zeus he created two roads. The path of freedom starts out difficult and rocky but ultimately becomes a wide easy plain with beautiful gardens and rivers. The path of slavery starts out easy and wide, a joy to behold, but eventually it becomes an impassible, treacherous climb. Thanks be to God who sent Jesus our Christ to show us the way–no, to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As his one body, he called his followers to help our brothers and sisters through those difficult parts of our journey. Together, we delight in our Christ, we meditate on the One who embodies the Law.