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Sermon: "The Righteous and the Wicked Compared and Contrasted"--Psalm 1:1-6

Updated on October 17, 2016

David the Psalmist


The Righteous is Like a Tree

III. What the Righteous Man is Likened to (v. 3)

  • Like— (figurative language; spec. a simile: an implied comparison)—Keep in mind what “literal interpretation” means. Literal interpretation takes into account such things as figures of speech (metaphors, personification, symbols). Those who accuse Christians of “taking the Bible literally” do not understand what we mean by grammatical-historical-cultural interpretation.

  • Tree—Nature and living things are characteristic emphases of Hebrew—Jeremiah 17:5-8 (Turn)

  • Transplanted (passive)—Firmly planted—cannot be uprooted by storm (Colossians 2:6-7—“As you received Christ Jesus, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith . . .”)

Acknowledging that the Colossians have trusted Jesus as their Savior, Paul exhorts them to continue to conduct themselves according to their belief in Christ as Lord. He wants them to be thankful for the doctrine (“the faith”) which had begun to attach them firmly and grow them deep into the rich, fertile soil of Christ.

  • Rivers (literally, canals or channels) of water—Similar to the tree of life in Revelation 22:1-2. Turn there.

  • Brings forth/habitually produces in its season. Patience required. You must wait if you want maturity. James 5:7 says, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.”

    • Leaf does not wither (John 15:7, 8—If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you . . .)

    • “By this My Father is glorified that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” Fruit is assured to come if you continue in His word.

    • Prosperity—The Bible states the Israelite world view in concrete rather than abstract terms when it comes to prosperity. Cf. Deuteronomy 28:1-14

    • Verse one indicates the conditional nature of Yahweh’s blessings under the Mosaic covenant: in other words, if Israel obeys the commandments, He will set them “high above all nations of the earth” (v. 1). After remarking about God’s blessing upon obedience, Moses lists the spheres of life in which Israel would receive His goodness (vv. 2-14):

    • (1) Place of dwelling (v. 3);

    • (2) Offspring, crops, and food preparation (vv. 4-5; cf. vv. 11-12);

    • (3) Safety in travel (v. 6);

    • (4) Victory in military endeavors (v. 7);

    • (5) Storage (v. 8);

    • (6) Establishment as a people set apart to God (v. 9);

    • (7) International relations (vv. 10, 13-14).

    • Did God speak these promises to the Church, the body of Christ?

    • The writer of Psalm 1 does not state the nature of prosperity in this concrete way; he is appealing to the disciple to trust the LORD to honor His word in this matter of prosperity.

    • This same idea appears in James, the earliest NT book and a Hebrew-flavored letter. (James 1:25—But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer, but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.)

    • What did we conclude from our study of Romans 12 and 2 Corinthians 9 about giving and prosperity?

    • We (in the Church) must guard ourselves from the “prosperity gospel.”

    TS: (The psalmist now contrasts the righteous man’s fruitful- ness with the wicked man’s worthless end).

John the Baptizer

The Wicked is Like Chaff

IV. What the Wicked Are Likened to (v. 4)

  • Like the chaff—figurative of harvest time. (Cf. with the fruitful tree above.) The refuse of winnowed grain, consisting of husks and broken straw. What’s worthless is blown away (or it is burned to prevent the wind from blowing it among the grain again.)

  • Daniel 2:35—Speaking of the destruction of the fourth empire in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel wrote, “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found.”

  • Matthew 3:12—Speaking of Christ’s end-time judgment, John the Baptist said, “And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean His threshing floor, and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

TS: (As the result of their destruction, the ungodly will have a horrific end.)

The Judgment of the Goats


What the Wicked Shall Not Do/What the LORD Knows

V. What the Wicked Shall Not Do (v. 5)

  • Stand in the judgment—they will have no strength or hope, because they have no divine roots. (Read Psalm 73:1-3, 15-20).

  • Asaph first affirms God's goodness toward the pure in heart, but then confesses a personal weakness.

  • He notes how envying the prosperous wicked had almost caused him to fall spiritually.

  • He saw how easy and carefree the wicked lived—proud, defiant, violent, and in luxury. It nearly drove him to give up on God, who chastened him every day.

  • Asaph thought his lot in life was unfair, but he also felt that complaining about his trials would have caused young believers to stumble. So, he didn’t do it.

  • He also tried unsuccessfully to reason out why God caused his life to be so difficult.

  • But here’s the key. Only when he meditated upon the truth about God while visiting the sanctuary one day did he come to understand the wicked man’s end: sudden destruction at the LORD's hand.

  • We have no reason to envy the prosperous wicked.

TS: (Finally, let’s consider Point 6: what the LORD knows.

VI. What the LORD Knows (v. 6)

  • The word yada (“knows”) speaks of special, intimate knowledge.

  • Psalm 139:1-6: He knows everything about me.

  • Job: “But He knows the way I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”

  • “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities (Amos 3:2)

Amos directs all Israel to heed Yahweh's word. He says, in effect, "With great privilege (that is, by virtue of being "known" intimately by the LORD) comes solemn responsibility. If you abuse your privilege by failing in your responsibilities, you will suffer the consequences."

  • Perishes—The wicked will lose their way and won’t reach their intended goal. Psalm 119:176-- “I have gone astray as a lost sheep”

  • By the way, this verse is an example of antithetical parallelism—Common in Proverbs


Psalm 1 is an instructional piece. The teacher instructs the disciple concerning the means and advantages of a truly happy life. The key to such a life is in a deliberate, daily, disciplined delight in Torah. The disciple must couple this practice with a deliberate rejection of all that is not in harmony with Torah. The result of using this key will be “prosperity” in the present and at the end. As I noted earlier, Psalm 1 does not tell us the nature of the prosperity in concrete terms, so it seems to be appealing to the disciple to trust the LORD to honor His word in his life because he has been diligent in his use of Torah.

© 2014 glynch1


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