Updated: Aug 14
A global pandemic, an economic crisis, high racial tensions, violent protests, godless philosophies that are trying to tear apart the fabric of our society by undermining the framework of the Christian home and advancing anti-police agendas — it’s like the perfect storm. It’s without a doubt that we live in challenging times. The convergence of these crisis are leaving experts dumbfounded and no one knows for sure how to solve them. The future seems bleak. The world is grieving, angry, scared, and confused. Suffering is a horrible threat to faith. How can we, as followers of Christ, weather this perfect storm?
We weather the storm in the same way the saints of old endured through their times of suffering: by holding fast and delighting in the future graces of God revealed through His Word. The book of Psalms in the Bible serves as a glorious reminder that God has a future for His people because God has a future for the house of David (this is important because God promised to bring the Messiah through the house of David!). One commentator rightly notes that Psalms provides a ready response to the pressing realities of our days. This is evident in the very first chapter of Psalms which invites us to know and be confident that those who delight in God’s law will go on flourishing, even during harsh seasons, because God sets his eye and favor on them. However, the same cannot be said for the wicked.
The Two Ways: Wicked Chaff-Like Way and Righteous Tree-Like Way
In Psalms 1, the psalmist distinguishes two ways in which every single person is walking in: the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous — and the way of the righteous is the blessed way. What does a blessed man look like? By way of contrast, the psalmist gives a description on what a blessed man is not like in verse 1: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” The wicked man “walks,” “stands,” and “sits.” This is a negative progressive description of the downward spiral of a man into deep darkness. First, the man “walks” in the counsel of the wicked. That is, he walks in the perspective, values, and worldview of the ungodly. Second, the man “stands” in the way of sinners. At first glance, “standing in the way” may appear to be “standing against.” However, the psalmist is describing the exact opposite. Stand means “establish.” That is, if a man continues to walk in the counsel of the wicked then he will establish a habitually sinful lifestyle. Third, he “sits” in the seat of scoffers. That is, if he stays on this course long enough then he will not only live an ungodly lifestyle but will also be a danger to society like a disease because he scoffs at righteousness.
This description of the wicked way in Psalm 1 paints very clearly of the world around us. There are people in the world who buy into these godless philosophies and worldviews (e.g., postmodern secular humanism, critical theory, etc.) from the robes of society (i.e., professors, judges, and pastors). Since thinking informs living, these beliefs create deeply ingrained sinful lifestyle that quick-fix behavior modifications will not overcome. As a result, these people become a danger to others in society because they scoff and deter others away from the source of all that is good — God himself — and his good design. These are the people who try to ignite a race war, advance anarchy, undo the very notion of male and female, advocate for the mass genocide of babies, and burn down churches.
The way of the righteous is not like this at all. On the contrary, verse 2 informs us that the righteous man’s “delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.” The law of the Lord means God’s word, and verse 3 provides a metaphor to illustrate what the righteous man who delights in the law will look like. He looks like a tree that’s planted along the streams of water that gives its fruit in its seasons, even in harsh weather conditions. His leaf does not fall off and all that he does, he prospers. This man will be like a planted tree who draws on the life-giving streams of God’s word (cf. Ezek. 47:12). Why? It’s because those who delight in God’s law will go on flourishing. Therefore, the psalmist declares that the righteous man is the blessed man and “blessed” means permanently happy. This interpretation makes sense because of the clue found in Psalm 1:6: “for the Lord knows the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked will perish.” Meaning, that God sets his eye and favor on the righteous because God’s knows them and they will not perish.
However, the same could not be said for the wicked! They do not delight in the law (1:4). Although there may be some prosperity for the wicked in this lifetime, God wants us to know that their prosperity is not permanent. God knows their ways and knows their eternal destination. They are not tree-like. On the contrary, they are chaff-like. They may be standing today (1:1). But in the day of judgement, they will not stand (1:5). Therefore, the wicked are not truly "blessed" (1:1) because their time is short (1:4) and because they will ultimately “perish” (1:6). These are future graces. God promises to sustain the happiness of the righteous and bring judgement upon the wicked.
Christ is the Truly Blessed Man and New Joshua
However, there’s a problem. Scripture tells us that no one is righteous (Psalm 53:2–3; Rom. 3:10–11). We are all sinners and cannot call ourselves righteous before God. If we are wicked (and we are), then how can we expect to weather through the perfect storm? How can we expect to stand in the day of judgment? Who are the righteous if there aren’t any? Who can fulfill Psalm 1? Jesus Christ, who descended from the royal line of David, fulfills Psalm 1. He is the truly blessed man. The man who delights in God’s law is the new “Joshua” who succeeds in fulfilling what first Joshua was called (Josh. 1:8; cf. Heb. 10:7; Psalm 40:6–8). Joshua was called "to meditate on the law day and night" and in doing so will bring the community into the promised land. The result is that he “prospers.” Jesus is the new Joshua and devoted and delighted in God’s law because it’s about him (John 5:39; Luke 24:25–27). The only way we can rest in the promises of Psalm 1 and have the capacity to delight in this God is by taking refuge in Jesus. What does that mean? It means we stop, turn, and trust in Jesus. When we place our faith in Christ, we are justified (Rom 5:1), become like the blessed man, and share in his blessings. However, those who are not in Christ cannot delight in God’s word. It’s impossible for them. They cannot taste and see that the Lord is good and that divine statutes are a gift to us (John 15:11).
Delight in God’s Word in Christ
So, how can we weather the perfect storm? By delighting in future graces of God revealed in his word. John Piper brilliantly articulates that the Christian life is living moment by moment from the strength of future grace. In other words, trusting in God’s promises is the key to weather the storm. Trust that God is at work even in the dark time of a global pandemic and social unrests. See that he is at for his glory and for the joy of his people, and he will see to it that the wicked will not stand in the day of judgement and that the happiness of his people will sustain forever. He will see to it that his glory will fill the earth and that in him we find everlasting joy. Therefore, be encouraged! Join the way of the righteous one. The so-called blessings of this world are short lived. Delight in his word. Meditate upon it. Read it daily. In a world filled with vague spirituality and godless philosophies, why not offer the world something hard, old, and firm like the law in which we stand and delight in?
Tuezong Xiong (BS, University of Northwestern–St. Paul) received his bachelors degree in Pastoral Ministry and Bible at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul. He is currently studying at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, MN for his Masters of Divinity. He is the husband of Pa Kou. He also blogs at www.tuezongxiong.wordpress.com.