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; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1–2—NKJV)

Our grandmothers used to say “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” In their wisdom they kept our minds, hands, and feet occupied with things to do so that grandmother and grandchild could avoid the unpleasant aftereffects of easily distractible, juvenile minds and childish tomfoolery. Grandmoms know intuitively how quickly things get out of hand when there is “nothing to do” and a child is left to his own devices. Leave him alone with a group of his peers and you will quickly learn the meaning of bedlam.

The Book of Psalms jumps off at a brisk pace with the words I have cited above. The very first phrase gives the direction of the entire collection of psalms. The entire collection of psalms describes the various facets of the life of faith of the truly blessed man, through thick and thin, as he draws on all of God’s transformational power. Though the world never takes it easy on the committed Christian, living a life of obedient faith is undoubtedly the most blessed a man can be this side of glory.

Blessedness, in the original language, is a plural of intensity; it is an exclamation. “Oh, how very happy is the man” is an adequate translation. “Blessed” depicts a man who has received the full measure of happy circumstances. Can others have more, be more privileged, or be more successful than this godly man? Yes, by hollow human standards. But his happiness is received from the gracious hand of God and is satisfying enough.

The author of this psalm explains the cause of his happiness negatively in verse one and positively in verse two. The godly man lives by a guiding set of principles which discipline the godly mind. He knows, just as grandma knew, that if the mind is shifted into neutral then other forces take over. Living in a world with a seamy side, which often has an appeal to the flesh, is unavoidable, but there is no excuse for the thinking Christian to yield to its influences. There must be a guarding and equipping of the mind, and that must become his way of life.

Verse one teaches that the believer must guard against three interactions with sin, three yieldings to sin, and three characteristics of sinners. These are detailed in a graduating intimacy (walk, stand, sit; counsel, path, seat; and ungodly, sinners, scornful).

1) To walk is to shape your conduct. Counsel is more properly understood as the plan or the principles according to which men live. Ungodly is reminiscent of looseness, and so, abnormality. Guard against shaping your conduct according to the principles of moral laxity, getting loose from God and falling into evil. 2) “Sinners” pictures to miss the mark. Do not take your stand in the ways of those who are missing the mark of God’s perfection. 3) To scoff is to ridicule and make a mockery of that which is holy. Men usually do not do this alone; it is usually something done in groups and so you find the “seat” of the scorners. This third phrase is clearly the most advanced away from God. Do not take your seat among the mockers of the Holy One.

Instead, the truly blessed man is the one who positively seeks to discipline his mind to the pursuit of godly excellence. The Christian life is not made up of godliness acquired by religiously observing a “thou shalt not” list. Spurgeon calls it “a sort of negative purity. Is your delight in the law of God?” To delight is to bend toward something, to incline toward and in so doing seeking to embrace practically. This is accomplished by making it a habit to keep pondering God’s Word day and night. The original word for meditate was to speak and muse upon the Word. This delighting practice is the “root” for the “tree” of the godly man’s life, spoken of in the next verse.

Are you disciplining your mind towards godliness? Are you careful to avoid the fleshly advice of the world? Is your Christianity nourished by a strong taproot burrowing deeply into God’s Word, ever broadening and ever strengthening in Him? Trust and obey.