Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and on his law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth forth his fruit in his season his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish.Psalm 1
When I was newly saved, I had the privilege of being mentored by a long-time Christian who was a great student of Scripture. At our first study session together, she directed me to read aloud this, the first of the Psalms.
When I had finished, she asked me, “Well, what is your first impression?”
“I really hope I am one of the righteous and not one of the ungodly,” was my truthful response.
She broke into a hearty belly-laugh, explaining that she had never looked at that Psalm in quite that way before. As Christians, we believe ourselves to be counted among the righteous. Faith in what Christ has done for us is the very starting-point of our salvation.
But I had been raised in a faith tradition, that, although nominally Christian, had unsound ideas about salvation. I was familiar with certain verses, but did not have a familiarity with the whole Scripture. I had no context in which to read verses such as these:
Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:22-23);
For no one living is righteous before you. (Psalm 143:2)
How then, could I have any confidence in my own righteousness?
Without a proper context in which to read these verses, Psalm 1 might very well be saying that in order to be righteous, I must follow the example of this blessed man, and meditate on Scripture day and night. Indeed, I may go so far as to misunderstand as to fear that if I did not meditate long enough or hard enough, I would end up counted among the ungodly.
And how would I ever know what is enough? To whom should I compare myself? If someone else is meditating longer, praying more fervently, is my salvation less assured than theirs? Where is the line?
What I did not understand, is that taken in the context of the entire Bible, these passages become much easier to understand, and their message aligns perfectly with the rest of Scripture. Only by reading through the entire Bible, over time, can we come to a full, mature understanding, and more complete answers to those questions.
The answer is that there is only one standard of righteousness, and it is Christ. Comparing myself to any other standard is futile.
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin…
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”Romans 3:20-24
How then, do I know if I am covered by Christ’s righteousness, or if I am one of those crying “Lord, Lord” in vain?
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.Romans 10:9
Confess Him. Believe in Him. Trust in Him. And you are already righteous, not because of your own works (so that no one can boast), but by the sheer grace of God.
So where does the meditating day and night come in?
Simple. The study of God’s Word is not what we do to be saved. It is what we naturally do after we are saved. It is an overflow of our gratitude and love for the Lord. Praise God! He has pulled me out of the pit of my own sin, and now my delight is in Him, and I freely choose to meditate on His word day and night, because I love Him!
What an amazing God! What tender mercy, what beautiful grace, what a sweet means of salvation He has set up for us! Because He wants our love for Him to arise from our free will, He has not created a works-based system of salvation. Instead, He has provided a beautiful means to reach Him, not through our efforts, but through Christ, who is Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Light. Hallelujah!
Let’s take the first two verses for a memory passage, and remember how sweet it is to meditate on the law of the Lord out of our sheer delight in Him!
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and on his law doth he meditate day and night. Psalm 1:1-2