Like Chaff That the Wind Drives Away | Psalm 1:4

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Psalm 1:4 ESV

After three verses of describing the blessed man, verse 4 then presented us with this psalm’s great contrast by simply declaring, the wicked are not so. When reading each characteristic of the blessed man, we can simultaneously understand that the wicked are not so. They do not avoid the company of those who actively walk in sin, nor do they delight in and meditate upon God’s Word. Yet just as verse 3 gave us the figurative comparison of the blessed to a tree, we now read a fitting simile for the wicked: but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

First, the imagery of chaff is the exact opposite of the rooted and unwithered tree that represents the blessed. Chaff, of course, is the outer husk that must be removed from grains before they can be eaten. Harvesters would do so by first threshing the grain to loosen the husk and then winnowing it remove the chaff. To winnow the grain, the harvester would toss the grain into a light wind, which would carry the chaff away as the grain fell back to the ground. Thus, chaff was so insubstantial that the slightest wind was enough to blow it away from the useful grain.

This is the picture of the wicked. They are not rooted in the eternal streams of God’s unfailing Word as the blessed are. Instead, because their highest counsel comes from sinners and scoffers, they are doomed to be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). Even when the wicked appear to prosper, we should remember the truth that Asaph confessed: “Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin” (Psalm 73:18).

Second, because chaff is driven away by the wind, it was often used to describe something that was useless. Compare such chaff with the fruitful tree of verse 3. Again, we should remember that a tree does not bear fruit for itself but for others, which is the fruit that the gospel works in us. Just as Christ “came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45), so does Paul command us to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Again, the wicked are not so. They do not yield fruit in season for the benefit of others; instead, they only hinder the good of others until they are at last driven away.

Which describes you? Are you like chaff? Can others only enjoy the grain whenever you have been removed from the equation? Or do you imitate Jesus’ resolve to serve others, to bear fruit for their good?


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