Psalm 1:1-6 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.” (NASB)
Where can one look when defining the godly man? In our English Bibles we have a collection of five inspired books that we call “the poetic books”. The first of those, Job, describes the trials of a godly man by the same name. In the English Bible, the book of Job is followed by the book of Psalms, with Psalm 1 dedicated to defining the man of God. The Hebrew Bible arranges the ordering of these books in a slightly different fashion. For reasons which we won’t elaborate upon today, the Hebrew section including these books is called “the writings” or “ketuviim” and begins not with Job, but Psalms. May the reader be reminded that when it comes to the relationship between Divine inspiration and canonicity, each book is Divinely inspired by God. However, the canonical order of the Bible books is not inspired since canonicity reflects the way in which the people of God received and identified each book as God’s Word.
In the Hebrew Canon at least, its as if we are beginning with the definition of the godly man, followed by various Psalms written by different godly men. It is then we see the Book of Job depicting in flesh and blood the struggle and victory of a godly man as he deals with illness, loss and restoration in his walk with God. Today’s post aims to glean insights from the Hebrew text of Psalm 1 in defining what it means to be a man of God. To make sure that as many readers can benefit from this study, ample explanation of the Hebrew text will be given from the reliable English version – the NASB. Additionally, headings will be included for the sake of ease of reading and spiritual benefit. At the end of today’s post, final applications will be given and the full Hebrew text of Psalm 1 will be listed for those readers who want to further study or see the Hebrew text of Psalm 1.1 So then, what is a man of God? Let us note two main ways of viewing the man of God that can answer this question.
A Man of God is defined by his activities. Psalm 1:1-3
The Psalmist begins by observing the man of God from a distance and by noting the progression of his activities. We can conceive of the man of God’s activities in terms of what he won’t do, what he does and what he is like. Three verbs are used in Psalm 1:1 to show the reader what the man of God will not do: he will not walk, stand or sit in certain places nor hang around with certain people:
לֹא הָלַךְ בַּעֲצַת רְשָׁעִים = does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.
The verb translated “walk” (halak) can refer to any method of going from point “a” to point “b”. The idea of “walk” in the Hebrew Bible can also refer to one’s lifestyle and overall choices. A true man of God will not set himself up to be duped and swayed by those whose “walk” is in the opposite direction from God.
= וּבְדֶרֶךְ חַטָּאִים לֹא עָמָדו Nor stand in the path of sinners
The verb translated “stand” (amad) is defined by Hebrew scholar William J. Holladay as referring to “taking one’s stand” or “to stand still and stop moving”.2 When a person is being tempted to follow the counsel of the ungodly, they may become persuaded to stop moving and stand to get a closer look. The man of God though must keep on moving.
= בְמוֹשַׁב לֵצִים לֹא יָשָֽׁבNor sit in the seat of scoffers!
The counsel of the ungodly in Psalm 1 will attempt to persuade the man of God to stop walking with God, stand still and then stay for a while. The verb translated “sit” (yeshav) is rendered by Holladay’s Hebrew Lexicon as actually “dwelling” or “remaining sat down”.3 Years ago a saying describing the dangers of sin in this regard went something like the following: “sin will cost you more than you intended to pay and have you remain longer than you intended to stay.” The man of God who aims to follow the Lord will not entertain the notions of ungodly counsel (see Romans 14:13).
So now what does a man of God prefer to do? Psalm 1:2 describes the the man of God delights in the law of God:
=כִּי אִם בְּתוֹרַת יְהוָה חֶפְצוֹBut his delight is in the law of the Lord
The underlined words translated “but” (ki eem) are not only used for contrasting the godly man with the wicked, but also to emphasize the fact that this man “indeed” takes his delight in the Word of God. As the rest of Psalm 1:2 indicates, the godly man finds his delight in the Law of God to be not a hobby, but a passionate pursuit that characterizes his every waking moment. So we have seen what the man of God won’t do and will do. However, Psalm 1:3 describes the third characteristic of the godly man’s actions, namely what he is like in such actions. Psalm 1:3 begins…
וְֽהָיָה כְּעֵץ שָׁתוּל עַֽל־פַּלְגֵי מָיִם = He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water….
The NASB renders the verb שָׁתוּל (shatul) by the rendering “firmly planted”. Functioning as a passive participle in the Hebrew text, this is a tree that has been “transplanted” from one location for the sake of planting and cultivation beside the trees of still waters. When one thinks about it, the man of God is planted by God and without His Sovereign grace working in his life, will die and wilt. Like a tree that is being cultivated beside a lush, flowing stream, the man of God has an endless supply of water and nutrients to draw from as he grows in the midst of abundant and dry seasons, as indicated by the remainder of Psalm 1:3. So we see the man of God defined in Psalm 1:1-3 by his actions. But notice a second way in which the man of God is defined in Psalm 1….
A Man of God is defined by his anchor. Psalm 1:4-6
Oftentimes in the Hebrew Bible, when trying to understand the meanings of negative statements (thou shall not, he will not, he won’t), we can transform them into positive statements to grasp their significance. So for example, when God gives the first commandment in Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me”, we can also understand it to mean the following positively stated equivalent “You shall only focus on me as your only God.” We can use this same technique in bringing out the truth of Psalm 1:4-6. For example in Psalm 1:4 we read:
לֹא־כֵן הָרְשָׁעִים כִּי אִם־כַּמֹּץ אֲֽשֶׁר־תִּדְּפֶנּוּ רֽוּחַ׃= The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
The idea of the Hebrew text gives the sense that as a result of having been blown away, the wicked are made despondant. Now when we think of how the godly man is anchored to God, we can take this verse and state its opposite, namely that the man of God will remain anchored and at peace with whatever wind may blow. Hence the godly man, unlike the wicked man described in the inspired text of Psalm 1:4, is anchored in his mind. (compare Psalm 1:3)
Psalm 1:5 describes how the wicked are incapable of standing in the assembly of the righteous. The verb used for stand in verse 5 is the same verb we looked at back in Psalm 1:1 (עָמָד = amad = to stand). The godly man, according to Psalm 1:1 and in contrast to the wicked man described here in Psalm 1:5, is anchored upon a firm foundation – namely God Himself. 2 Timothy 1:12 is a great cross reference on this point: “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” (NASB) So the man of God is defined by his anchoring of the mind and his anchoring in the firm foundation of God. But now lets notice the final verse of this Psalm as we round out this study of defining a man of God.
As we think about Psalm 1:4-6, the negative statements about the wicked in those verses function to provide a mirror contrast to the godly man in Psalm 1:1-3. Oftentimes in the Hebrew Bible, authors will use contrasts to highlight the point they are communicating. Much like a jeweler places a black velvet cloth to highlight the already existing beuty and brilliance of a beautiful gem, the Holy Spirit is moving upon David’s words to highlight the godly man in contrast to the wicked. Psalm 1:6 states:
כִּֽי־יוֹדֵעַ יְהוָה דֶּרֶךְ צַדִּיקִים = For the Lord knows the way of the righteous….
When a man of God is described as being righteous, what is meant by that description? The term translated “the righteous” (צַדִּיקִים = tsidiqim). Holladay’s Lexicon defines one who is “righteous” as “a thing examined and found to be in order”.4 In the standard reference work “Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament”, the term is defined: “The man who is righteous tries to preserve the peace and prosperity of the community by fulfilling the commands of God in regards to others. In the supreme sense the righteous man (tsiddiq) is one who serve God (Malachi 3:8).” 5
Psalm 1:6 points out that contrast to the wicked man, the man of God is one who has the unparalleled privilege of being known by God. We could say that as the godly man is anchored in his mind and in the foundation of God Himself, he finds his anchor of confidence – namely in being known by God. The word used to describe this “knowing” of God (yada = יוֹדֵעַ) speaks of an ongoing state of relationship between the godly man and His God.6 The verbal root from whence this word derives refers to an intimate knowledge, relationship and even at times, loving choice God exercises towards his righteous ones (compare Amos 3:2). If anything, the Psalmist demonstrates why it is so important to be right with God in saving faith. The Apostle Paul writes these words in Philippians 3:9-10 – “and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comesfrom God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”
Today we discovered the definition of the godly man as expressed in Psalm 1. A godly man is defined by his actions and his anchor. In terms of the godly man’s action, he is defined by what he won’t do, will do and by what he is like in his actions. Then we explored how the anchor of the godly man also defines what kind of person he is in this Psalm. A godly man is one who is anchored in his mind, anchored to God his firm foundation and anchored in the fact he is known by God. In this post we also considered the Hebrew text of this Psalm as a means of gathering further insights about the godly man as defined by the Holy Spirit through David’s words in this Psalm. It is hoped that this short study has aided the reader in better understanding and applying God’s truth to their lives in this very important subject of defining the godly man.
Hebrew text of Psalm 1 Psalm 1:1-6 Masoretic Hebrew Text אַשְֽׁרֵי־הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר ׀ לֹא הָלַךְ בַּעֲצַת רְשָׁעִים וּבְדֶרֶךְ חַטָּאִים לֹא עָמָדוּ בְמוֹשַׁב לֵצִים לֹא יָשָֽׁב׃2 כִּי אִם בְּתוֹרַת יְהוָה חֶפְצוֹ וּֽבְתוֹרָתוֹ יֶהְגֶּהיוֹמָם וָלָֽיְלָה׃ 3 וְֽהָיָה כְּעֵץ שָׁתוּל עַֽל־פַּלְגֵי מָיִם אֲשֶׁר פִּרְיוֹ ׀ יִתֵּן בְּעִתּוֹוְעָלֵהוּ לֹֽא־יִבּוֹל וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר־יַעֲשֶׂה יַצְלִֽיחַ׃ 4 לֹא־כֵן הָרְשָׁעִים כִּי אִם־כַּמֹּץאֲֽשֶׁר־תִּדְּפֶנּוּ רֽוּחַ׃ 5 עַל־כֵּן ׀ לֹא־יָקֻמוּ רְשָׁעִים בַּמִּשְׁפָּט וְחַטָּאִים בַּעֲדַת צַדִּיקִֽים׃ 6 כִּֽי־יוֹדֵעַ יְהוָה דֶּרֶךְ צַדִּיקִים וְדֶרֶךְ רְשָׁעִים תֹּאבֵֽד
2. William J. Holladay. A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. E.J Brill. Leiden. 1988. Page 276
3. Ibid. page 146.
4. Ibid. page 303
5. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., Bruce K. Waltke. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody Press. 1980. Page 753
6. The full parsing of this verb is a qal active participle masculine singular meaning “he continually knows”