Written by Joanne Beckley
“You say you are a Christian. Well, what does that mean? Here in Africa, this is a valid question. Have you ever been asked to describe what a Christian is? We might fumble around, perhaps reciting Acts 2:38, or say it is someone who is obedient to Jesus Christ. But there is an excellent description, a fine beginning point, in the book of Psalms, the very first psalm.
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;
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
The righteous man is first described negatively. Sometimes when we want to define or describe something, it can be very useful to first talk about what it is not. A righteous man is NOT like the ungodly for he does not walk by the principles and rules of their counsel. He acts with integrity, and is open and honest toward all men. This is obvious by the company he keeps. They too are righteous. (A reminder: the company we keep is a test of character. Actions fix habits, habits firm up character, and character decides destiny, 1 Corinthians 15:33)
Did you notice the progression of sin–walking, standing, sitting. Walking down the wrong path, pausing and ignoring the conscience (1 Timothy 4:2), and then sitting down at the sumptuous banquet of any and all sin, openly despising God (Hebrews 10:29). Sin does indeed take us down a path that can only broaden and embrace more and more evil until no one can snatch us from the fires of hell (Jude 22,23). It reminds me of the Israelites’ condition described in the book of Isaiah: “Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts The land is burned up, And the people shall be as fuel for the fire; No man shall spare his brother. And he shall snatch on the right hand And be hungry; He shall devour on the left hand And not be satisfied; Every man shall eat the flesh of his own arm” (Isaiah 9:19-20). And yet the passage ends with hope, offered from God himself. “But His hand is stretched out still” (v21b). What stunning mercy!
The righteous man has one very clear, recognizable mark. He delights in God’s law, meditating on the words, the deep spiritual truth, the strong principles. This man recognizes that this, THIS is what will be the practical guide for his life. He will be like a tree that is purposefully plant near the source of living water (ring a bell?), planted by God’s own hand. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (Jas 1:17-18). Good fruits that are always in season. (Try a search of “good works” with your Bible software and you will be amazed at the variety of fruit you and I need to produce!) Fortunately, neither the fruit nor the leaves will wither, but remain vigorous–practice makes perfect.
Why? Because through the Lord (Proverbs 2:6-9), he gives diligence and maintains love, wisdom, courage, and integrity. A righteous man can face sickness, losses, hard times, even stabs in the back by those professing to love Christ. In fact, it is these adversities that strengthen him for he is “planted by the rivers of water”. Thus, he is blessed–happy! The righteous man is not seeking happiness, but rather the law of God, and therefore finds joy and peace–“the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
“The ungodly are not so.” With them there is no true life. Everything is shifting and uncertain, like chaff which the wind drives away. Of no worth, without heart, dead. “What is truth?” they ask, not realizing that they are unwilling to see truth because truth requires accountability. Therefore, God cannot know them.
“Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal:
‘The Lord knows those who are His," and,
‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity’”
(2 Timothy 2:19).