A favorite Psalm of mine is the very first – Psalm 1. It contrasts for us the differences between a person who lives in obedience to the Word of God and the ones who chooses to defy God. It also serves as a warning about who you “hang out” with. Let’s examine for a moment the first verse, which is a description of the progression a person follows from mere casual interest in sin to a point of leading others to join in.
“Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”
First, the psalmist tells us “Blessed is the man” who doesn’t do the following things. The meaning of the word blessed is the same as when it was used by Jesus in the Beatitudes. It basically means happy in the sense of being satisfied, contented, fulfilled.
So what does God say will make a person happy? To not follow the progression of choices that lead to sin (and its consequences). This progression begins when a person chooses to “walk in the counsel of the ungodly.” In Scripture “walking” is symbolic of behavior. We walk in the counsel of the ungodly when we begin to mimic the actions of people who live sinful lifestyles, adopting their values as our own. Rarely do we say, “I’m going out to sin today!” Instead, it is usually a matter of seeing what some others are doing and deciding you want to get in on it. One of the greatest influences in this day and time toward sin is television. So many things which are sinful in nature are glorified in the TV programs and cable movies we watch. Immersion of the mind in these things will lead us to accept those things as being OK or just normal.
The second stage of our progression into sin is to “stand in the path of sinners.” This means to feel at home with our sin. Usually when we first engage in a particular sinful activity we feel that familiar twinge of guilt, but the more we repeat that action the less it bothers us, until we get to the point that it just comes naturally. Our conscience simply becomes numb and we no longer are bothered by any sense of guilt.
This stage in the progression is usually followed by a third – becoming a leading proponent of sin. This third stage is expressed in this way: “sits in the seat of the scornful.” In that day the leaders of the community or organization sat while the others stood. Being seated was a sign of leadership. Therefore, sitting in the seat of the scornful means to be one who leads others to be scornful or practitioners of wicked ways. Thus, the progression is completed . . . moving from a passing interest in sin to being one who actively encourages others to engage in sinful practices. And it is so easy to get started in this progression. What looks so innocent and inviting turns out to be like a fishing lure . . . a concealed hook that leads to a very unfortunate end.
Next time we will look at what this psalm says can keep us from falling into the trap of sin, and the results of the choices we make in our lives. And it is all about choices. One the choices we must make . . . in which chair do I prefer to sit?