The Bible presents life as a journey of two paths. Standing at a crossroads, a person encounters a way of life and a way of death. Thankfully, God does not leave the world without instructions or guidance.
Scripture itself is a road map leading the reader through life's journeys. One chapter that provides this guidance is Psalm One. The text gives clear promises for all readers to consider as they determine which path to set out on.
The psalm begins by pronouncing a blessing on those who choose a righteous path. They are blessed because they avoid three things. First, they do not walk in step with the wicked; second, they do not stand in the way of sinners; and third, they do not sit in company with mockers.
The actions of walking, standing, and sitting describes a progression toward an overall lifestyle. The person who begins walking or flirting with unrighteousness will end up sitting in communion with mockers. We see then that the promise of blessing is granted to those who choose to travel alongside righteous people while avoiding those who will drag them down.
Next, the psalm shows that the blessed person will be the one who delights in God's law. This law is the God-given regulation of life for his people. It has shaped the relationship between God and man and the relationship between one another. It is not made up simply of commandments but includes stories and is made flesh in the person of Jesus.
The one who chooses the blessed path should then learn to devote themself to his word and meditate on it continually. The devotion to his word will lead to a change in attitude, which will, in turn, lead to a change in action. Just as a person who delights in a song will keep singing it through the day, the person who delights in God's word will return to it both day and night.
The connection to God's word becomes the source of blessing and will lead to fruitfulness in the lives of the faithful. The psalm changes metaphors by comparing the blessed person to a tree. It states. "That person is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season." (Psalm 1:3).
The tree must be near the streams of water to produce fruit. These streams are channels springing from one's devotion to God. Their connection to the stream allows the faithful to be fruitful. This connection is imperative since the fruit-bearing season is the season of most pressure. The sun is essential for the ripening of the fruit, but the heat threatens the leaves and may cause them to wither. The promise for the blessed person then is that they will prosper under pressure because they are connected to the stream flowing from God's word.
This psalm does not only make promises to the blessed person. It also warns people of the eventual fate of those who choose to wrong path. The words describe the outcome of the faithless as chaff blowing away in the wind. Chaff is the separated husk of a wheat stock left over after threshing. It isn't beneficial and blows away to nothing. Such is the fate of all who set out on the wrong path. They will not be able to stand at judgment nor be in the assembly of the righteous. The reader should see this as a caution sign signaling danger ahead.
In the end, the blessed person can live in peace. It is a peace that comes through knowing that God is watching over the path of the righteous. As the faithful surround themselves with a community of praise, prayer, and study. God acknowledges their way and guides them in the direction of safety. Those who choose this road find abundant and fruitful life. Those who choose the other route, ignoring the warning, will be met with destruction. It is up to each individual to decide which path to take.
Micheal Hurlbert is pastor at First Christian Church.