who walks not in the counsel of the wicked…
Psalm 1:1 ESV
Last week we began our meditations through Psalm 1 by focusing upon the very first phrase, “Blessed is the man…” As we noted, blessedness in the Bible flows from being favored by the Blessed One. Thus, to be blessed is a state that reflects God’s shining face upon us. However, this psalm also shows us that the blessed man can be known by their actions and way of life. Within verse 1, we are given three examples by negation, three declarations of how the blessed man does not live. Let us consider the first one.
Those who are blessed by God do not walk in the counsel of the wicked. We would do well to remember that walking in Scripture is a figurative way of saying how we live our lives. We see this quite clearly in Paul’s “walk commands” in Ephesians. He does not warn us against walking like Gentiles because there is a particular stride that ought to mark God’s people. No, he was declaring that, since we have been grafted into God’s people, we must no longer live as we used to live. In the same way, the psalmist is not forbidding us from taking physical directions from a known sinner while on a walk. Instead, he is warning us against living our lives according to the wicked’s counsel.
I believe that it is quite easy to pass over this phrase by thinking that we both naturally and successfully avoid the counsel of the wicked. I mean, most of us do not turn to our local drug lord for advice, so we’re good, right? Not so fast. You see, we tend to have a rather narrow idea of who constitutes the wicked. In fact, Adolf Hitler increasingly appears to be our secular society’s only definable measure of wickedness.
The Bible, however, tells us a different story. Speaking of all of humanity, Psalm 53:3 says, “They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” We are all wicked by nature until Christ replaces our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. Because of this, the only counsel that is free from wickedness is God’s Word, which is also what Christians are called to speak to one another (1 Peter 4:11). The only way not to walk in the counsel of the wicked is to walk according to the counsel of the Scriptures. The world is by default hostile to the things of God, so if we model our lives upon the people around us or on our screens, we are following wicked counsel.
Those who are blessed set their eyes higher upon the radiant purity of God’s Word and strive, however imperfectly, to conform their lives to its truth.