“Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” (Psalm 1:5, KJV).
Therefore. How often do we overlook this small yet extremely important word? It is a word that connects the previous idea with one following it; it strengthens the passage by giving it unity and harmony of thought.
For example: “You did not do your homework today, therefore you will not eat ice cream today.”
A simple example, yet enough to convey the meaning and importance of the word. It is a word that connects cause with effect, first and last, action with consequence, and it should not, therefore, be read in a hurry. Every time you see the word “therefore,” stop and consider what is before this word so you can understand what will come after that word.
What the Psalmist is saying here is basically this: “Because the wicked are not like the blessed and the godly in the sense that they are not trees firmly planted by streams of living water (the law of the LORD) and have not made it their delight or their daily and nightly meditation, because they follow their own counsel and live in open rebellion to God and mock His law by saying, “your law is insufficient and lacking, I shall follow my own law and counsel,” because of this, the wicked will not be able to stand in the judgment of God, because of this they will be excommunicated from the congregation of the righteous, and because the LORD knows those who are His and those who are not, the wicked will perish.”
Strong words from the Psalmist. The modern church’s softening and “sissifying” of Jesus and His message would do well to take out large portions of Scripture like this out of it if they intend to maintain their twisted presentation of God’s Word.
“Therefore the wicked will not stand….”
The Hebrew word for “stand” is the word “קוּם (quwm).” Srong’s Lexicon (1) gives us the following definitions of this word:
In short, the verb here means two things: to arise or to be fixed in place. In light of the context of the Psalm, I favor both definitions to be in use in Psalm 1.
What would this mean, then? That this can be interpreted as meaning the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked, one unto eternal life and the other unto eternal torment, respectively.
“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” (Psalm 5:4-6, ESV).
“But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused? From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth. Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.” (Psalm 76:7-10, ESV).
“Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.” (Nahum 1:6, ESV).
“But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36, ESV).
I believe that Psalm 1 is largely eschatological (referring to end times) because of its sharp contrasting and immediate language of awards and punishment. There are many passages that could be addressed regarding this aspect, but we will look at only one in this entry:
Parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13): it is assumed that the wicked and the righteous share this world in this life, but that in the judgment they will be separated and judged accordingly.
When verse 5 of Psalm 1 says that “sinners…[will not] stand in the congregation of the righteous,” it is obvious both by the testimony of Scripture and experience that they, in fact, do stand among the righteous in this life. Churches are filled with false converts, believers go to work and school with unbelievers, etc. Lest this be another opportunity for us believers to single ourselves out of the category of “sinners,” we would do well to remember the previous metaphor of the tree as a metaphor of grace; undeserved, unmerited, free, effective, life-giving, grace to miserable wretched sinners such as ourselves. Those who are considered “righteous” in this Psalm are only considered so because the Father looks at them through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, so keep that in mind as the distinction is made between the righteous and the wicked.
But the truth remains that we do share this world with the ungodly. Matthew 13:24-30 (ESV) is clear about that. Let’s read the parable first before addressing it,
“He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”
The Lord Himself commands His angels to let both the weeds and the wheat (wicked and righteous, respectively) grow together until judgment day. This is the day when, as we saw before, the rethorical question is asked “who shall stand when your anger is roused?” The answer is, clearly, no one.
Both grow together, and the weeds appear to flourish and prosper and have a firmness of their own in their own counsel; but when the harvest time comes, the reapers (angels) of God will easily pluck out the weeds from the soil, bind them, and deliver them to the Lord for judgment. The wheat, however, the righteous, the blessed, the forgiven, they will be gathered in to His barn forever.
We see the same thing being spoken about in Psalm 1:5. The Lord delays his judgment upon the wicked because He still has His elect among those who are still wicked. He must save them, they are His sheep. As the very familiar (but twisted) verse 9 of 2 Peter 3 (a passage that also deals with the Lord’s judgment) says,
“ The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
Which also reminds me of Romans 9:22-23 (ESV),
“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.”
We see, then, that the Lord is merciful and patient, slow in wrath and judgment. But the day will come when He will pour out His wrath on the ungodly, and that is what both Psalm 1:5-6, Matthew 13, and 2 Peter 3 talk about.
So, when judgment day comes, the wicked will not be able to stand when they are risen up for judgment before the Lord. For they, like chaff, will be burnt up by the Lord himself, as we have previously seen. They will be excommunicated from among the righteous, as weeds and wheat are separated. The result of this excommunication is punishment, and that punishment is eternal and real. Because sinners have offended a thrice holy, eternal God, their punishment must likewise be eternal.
It is a hard doctrine to come to terms with, that of the justice and holiness of God. It has vexed the saints throughout millennia. The early Martin Luther comes to mind as one who hated and fought against God for what he believed was an unjust, arbitrary, wrathful and vengeful God. The problem with the early Luther lay on His misunderstanding of the justice of God and the depravity of man. Man deserves not to be saved, but to be condemned. If God, by sheer mercy grants faith to a person to believe, that is mercy indeed; if God, by sheer justice and will to “show his wrath and to make known his power” (Romans 9:22, ESV) wills to damn a person, He does so justly and righteously, and who are we, men, to talk back against God? (Romans 9:20).
Martin Luther understood, after the Holy Spirit opened his eyes, that the justice of God was poured out on His Son for the atonement of His people. God is holy, but He is also merciful and “patient toward you, not willing any to perish but all [of you] to come to repentance.” And those whom God wills to save will be saved. His will cannot be thwarted. Psalm 1:5 teaches us that a day will come when God will separate the weeds from the wheat, the sheep from the goats, the sinners from the righteous, the godly from the ungodly.
Why have I placed so much emphasis on these last entries on judgment and God’s wrath? Because the Psalmist places as much emphasis on it as he does God’s mercy, love, and patience. We ought to be faithful to what the original writers intended, always!