The Man of Godly Walk - Psalm 1
Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
Blessed the man! The Psalter begins with an exclamation linking life and happiness together. It does emphasize clearly that happiness is not an ingredient added to life, but a condition which is produced by the kind of life that is chosen and lived. There is a contrast in this Psalm - a contrast which is repeated many times in the book - between the "godly" and the "wicked" (or, ungodly, A.V.). The "godly" dwell in the experience of blessing; the "wicked" perish. It has been said that holiness and happiness go together because holiness is spiritual health. Careful thought regarding the truth expressed in these verses will surely bear this out.
We Think of the Associations which bring true happiness. They are associations which are free from damaging moral and spiritual influences. The Christian should choose his companions carefully. Looking at the three different characters of men in verse i we can soon understand why blessedness comes from avoidance of such. The basic idea of the "ungodly" is that of unrest and chaotic disharmony. Those who by practice rebel against God are not fit companions for the godly. They are better described as "wicked men". As Amos asks, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?", Amos 3. 3. "Sinners" are those who miss the mark; the word is here used in its intensified form - those who are habitual offenders. We are here reminded of Peter, who, before his shameful denial of Christ, stood among the alien throng and warmed himself at their fire. The end of such an association was not happiness; he "went out, and wept bitterly", Luke 22. 62. "The scornful" are a company of people having a spirit of proud self-sufficiency and a contemptuous disregard for God and man. We think of Lot, the righteous man who was found sitting in the gate of wicked Sodom. How utterly unhappy his association proved to be. Said the Psalmist by contrast, "I am a companion of all them that fear thee", Psa. 119. 63. In this sanctified fellowship are the ingredients of true blessedness. We must learn that, whether walking, standing or sitting, the Christian's life must be lived among worthy associations - worthy above all of the Lord Himself.
We also Consider the Appetites of a truly happy man. He delights in God's law. Both day and night it is the subject of his meditation. This suggests, at first, the bent of his desires. He hungers for spiritual food. This food is described as "the law of the Lord". Strange, unworldly food!, yet just as the physical frame is sustained and strengthened by natural provisions, so, and only so, can the spiritual man develop in health and happiness by desiring and enjoying spiritual supplies of food. The "law" - torah - represents more than the decalogue, the ten commandments. It stands for a body of teaching, "all divine revelation as the guide of life". For the godly Israelite it was the Pentateuch; for the Christian it is nothing less than the full content of the Word of God. Thus, desires which lead to a delight in God's Word, bring a depth of true satisfaction and blessing. Have we today keen spiritual appetites, which when satisfied produce robust spiritual health?
The Psalmist then Describes the Achievements of the
happy man in his godly life. "Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper", v. 3. It is not without significance that the idea of prosperity is stated against the background of the simile of a tree. It is planted by rivers of water, suggesting that the source of its life is assured. This is proved by its seasonal fruitfulness. Such is the abundance of its life that the leaves do not wither. It is a beautiful evergreen, suggestive of the godly man prospering in everything to which he puts his hand, or, as the word "prosper" means, carrying all through to its successful conclusion. We feel here that the picture is not one of accomplishment resulting from feverish activity; rather is it the outcome of growth, the logical expectancy of a healthy condition of life. Is this not the true description of spiritual achievement? Of Christ it could be said prophetically that "the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand", Isa. 53. 10. His joy, His source of true happiness, was to do His Father's will, John 4. 34. Thus He glorified the Father through His finished work. It is the joy of the godly life to achieve such objectives that will not only fulfil the designs of service, but will also glorify God in their execution. These objectives must always find their origin in a healthy spiritual mind and life.
Finally we Consider the Atmosphere of a godly, happy life. "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous", v. 6. This sentence speaks volumes concerning the state of soul made possible through true spiritual well-being. It has been said that this is not knowledge which is abstract or ineffectual, but that which involves approval, care and guidance. So Job out of the bitterness of his sufferings could say, "he knoweth the way that I take", Job 23.10. And of Noah, in a day of extreme wickedness, it was written, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord", Gen. 6. 8. The consciousness of divine approval is bound to beget an atmosphere of happiness. The assurance of divine care is bound to instil into the very heart of life a calm contentment. The realization of a divinely guided path must bring peace that is the harbinger of true joy. How happy is the man, exclaims the Psalmist. There can be many a sincere "Amen" from lives today that are governed by the principles of true godliness.