“….for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1:6, ESV).
For. Sadly, it is a word too often ignored or skipped in a hurry. In our previous entry we talked a little about the word therefore; it is a transitional word, it is the logical conclusion of a premise/s preceding it. In this case, we have the context for the word for in v. 5,
“….the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.”
There is a logical collection of thoughts in this Psalm. Part of this harmony of thinking was discussed in our previous entry as meaning that because the wicked are not as the blessed, who walk and stand on the law of the Lord, they will not prosper but will be judged with heavenly fire by the Lord himself. But there is a further conclusion or explanation to draw from the statement made in v.5, namely that because the wicked will not be able to stand in the judgment when they are raised and they will be separated as weeds from wheat and as goats from the sheep, we can conclude that they are not known by the Lord because they “will perish” (v.6). Contrary to the fate of the wicked, the righteous live and have their promise in God of glorification because they are known by the Lord.
This is huge.
The Hebrew word for “know” used in this Psalm is the word “יָדַע (yada).” It is a verb, not a noun. 1
Because it is a verb we can conclude that this is not talking about having knowledge of something, but rather, that the Lord actively, intimately, and specifically knows those who are His and those who are not because of His eternal decree of election and predestination; those who are not foreknown by the Father will perish because the Lord does not know them.
This is the same word used in Genesis 4:1, ESV,
“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.””
Did Adam merely have knowledge of his wife Eve? If so, how can the fruit of that knowing have been the conception of Cain? Again, the word does not simply mean “to have knowledge of,” but rather, something much deeper, beyond our human understanding, as used in Psalm 1:6.
Some Scriptures where this can be seen,
“I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul….” (Psalm 31:7, ESV).
“ The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble;he knows those who take refuge in him.” (Nahum 1:7, ESV).
“But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and [the logical outcome or expectation of someone who is known by the Lord], “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity [which is what the first verse of Psalm 1 speaks about].”” (2 Timothy 2:19, ESV).
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15, ESV).
Did the Psalmist say in Psalm 31:7 that the Lord merely had knowledge of his soul’s distress? How could that be a cause for him to “rejoice and be glad in [His] steadfast love” if the Lord took no action about his distress? The Psalmist calls upon an active God, not upon a passionate God that only knows about His distress but cares not to aid His saint. What about Nahum 1:7? Is the prophet merely stating the fact that God has knowledge of the number of those who are his? If so, how can he say that He is “good, a stronghold in the day of trouble”? The prophet is calling upon the God of Psalm 18, who comes down from heaven to aid and protect His own.
What about 2 Timothy 2:19? Is the Apostle Paul merely stating the fact that the Lord has knowledge of those who are his? How can that be considered by the Apostle himself the seal of “God’s firm foundation”? The Apostle is attesting to the fact that the Lord actively enters into a loving, saving relationship with His own because of His decree of election from before the foundation of the world (Romans 9).
What about John 10:14-15, that wonderful declaration of the effectiveness and power of the atonement of Christ and of the fact that He will keep His own and never lose them? Is it merely stating that Christ has a knowledge of those who are his own? Is He merely saying that He has knowledge of the Father as the Father has knowledge of Him? Christ is clearly proclaiming His sovereignty in choosing His own flock, His own bride.
Is it important to differentiate between a noun and a verb? Is it really worth spending time making that distinction clear? Four passages and a brief comment on each have been enough to prove that it is important; no, rather, essential.
How deep the mystery of God knowing those who are His! How wonderful and absolutely mind-blowing!
NOTE: It is not the purpose of this specific blog entry to exegete (interpret from Scripture) the four passages given above. All I intended to do was to show the usage of the verb “know.” John 10:14-15 will be addressed more fully in a future entry.
In our next entry we will deal with an objection that may be raised to the interpretation given thus far to the verb “know.” Many would say that I am not reading Psalm 1:6 entirely and correctly because it says that “the LORD knows the way of the righteous,” not the person; if it is affirmed that God intimately and sovereignly knows (foreordains) to His salvation those whom He wills, then He is not a loving God because He is not thus with all; if, however, it is said that the Lord merely knows (ordains) the way of the righteous and their righteousness (making Christ’s atonement merely a possibility, not a certainty because it is contingent upon man’s will), then He is loving because He takes no action unless we mortal creatures use our Almighty free will and allow Him to save us. This objection naturally springs forth from rejecting the wonderful truth of Scripture that God is Sovereign and He “has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Romans 9:18, ESV). Oh, the arrogance of such belief! Stay tuned!